Print
  • Hold down Ctrl key and select the sections you want to print. If using a Mac, hold down the Cmd key.
  • Use Ctrl + A or on Mac, Cmd + A to select all sections (if you are using the Chrome browser).
  • Click "Apply" and the site will customise your print guide in the preview below.
  • Click the "Print" button and a print pop up should appear to print to your printer of choice.

Moving to Calgary

With its cowboy character and well-preserved frontier history, Calgary is recognised as the ‘most American’ Canadian city. Expats moving to Calgary will enjoy picturesque views and exciting outdoor adventures, thanks to the city’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains.

Living in Calgary as an expat

Living in Calgary is, by all accounts, more of a pleasure than a chore. Calgarians enjoy a wide range of outdoor winter pursuits such as skiing and snowboarding, while summers are usually for mountain biking, fishing and horse riding. 

Calgary is often considered less cultural than other Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. Although, this perception is rapidly changing as areas such as International Avenue grow in popularity. Calgary also boasts a thriving theatre industry and a rich heritage of country folk music.

Since the oil crash in 2014, unemployment in Calgary has unfortunately risen, forcing the city to diversify its economy. The job market in Calgary is notoriously competitive, so it is recommended for expats to secure a role before relocating. That said, low taxes have stimulated the city's economy by incentivising many businesses to set up shop in Calgary. Skilled and qualified expats should be able to find opportunities across many fields, including engineering, geology, tourism, agriculture, financial services and IT.

Professionals looking to commute needn't worry, as Calgary boasts an extensive and efficient public transport system consisting of the CTrain and buses, making getting around a breeze.

Cost of living in Calgary

The cost of living in Calgary has been impacted by the exorbitant cost of accommodation, driven by a growing population and a lack of adequate infrastructure to support the growth. Childcare is another significant expense facing working expat parents. Fortunately, permanent residents and expats on work or residence visas are eligible for Alberta's highly subsidised health insurance scheme, allowing expats to reduce their expenses.

Expat families and children in Calgary

Calgary is a wonderful city for raising a family. Education in Calgary is generally excellent and there are plenty of options to suit expats from all walks. Moreover, public schools in Calgary are free to attend for expats who are permanent residents and those on work visas. Expat parents will also have the option of sending their children to private or international schools. 

Owing to Calgary’s fantastic green spaces and mountainscapes, expats moving to Calgary with children will always have something new and fun to explore. The annual event calendar in the city is also jam-packed with festivities for the whole family to enjoy. Parents may also benefit from joining one of the many lift clubs and playgroups for extra support.

Climate in Calgary

The weather in Calgary is categorised as a humid continental climate. The summers in the city are warm, while winters are ice-cold with lots of snowfall. The only reprieve for residents in winter comes from the occasional warm winds called Chinooks. The city's weather also fluctuates considerably.

Expats moving to Calgary will soon find themselves falling in love with the city's energetic yet peaceful way of life, with many choosing to settle permanently.

Weather in Calgary

Calgary experiences a humid continental climate with warm summers and icy winters, with the mercury often dropping below freezing. The mountains in and around the city cause dry conditions, but summers (June to August) do bring a little rainfall.

Winters (December to February) are long and cold, but are occasionally relieved by warm winds called Chinooks. Average daily temperatures in Calgary are 62°F (17°C) in summer and 20°F (-7°C) in winter. The weather in Calgary fluctuates considerably and the daily predictions are often off the mark.

 

Pros and cons of moving to Calgary

Famed for its breathtaking views and well-preserved frontier history, Calgary is fondly known as ‘the Texas of Canada’. The city boasts a fantastic quality of life, yet the cost of living is much gentler than in Vancouver or Toronto. Be that as it may, just like any destination, there are some advantages and disadvantages to life in Calgary. 

Below is our list of pros and cons.


Lifestyle in Calgary

+ PRO: Great sports and outdoor activities

Thanks to Calgary’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains and its abundance of green spaces, lakes and rivers, residents can enjoy a wide range of summer and winter activities. The popular pursuits include snowboarding, mountain biking, horse riding and skiing.

- CON: Limited arts and culture scene

While fitness enthusiasts may feel right at home in Calgary, art lovers may be disappointed by the city’s decidedly low-key cultural scene. Nevertheless, this is slowly changing as Calgary’s theatre industry grows and culturally diverse neighbourhoods like International Avenue become more popular.


Working in Calgary

+ PRO: Favourable tax policies

Calgary is well known for its business-friendly policies with lower taxes and less government intervention than anywhere else in Canada. These favourable policies have enticed many corporations and small businesses to set up their operations in Calgary, which has helped diversify the city’s economy.

- CON: High unemployment rate

Calgary’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. The city’s economy relies largely on the oil and gas industry, which has been in decline in recent years, leading to a boom and bust cycle. Despite this, skilled expats can still find opportunities in the architecture, agriculture, IT and finance sectors.


Accommodation in Calgary

+ PRO: Impeccable standard of accommodation

Accommodation in Calgary is in the form of both furnished and unfurnished stand-alone houses, apartments, condos, and townhouses. The housing is generally good quality, with some apartment buildings offering modern and highly sought-after amenities.

- CON: Competitive housing market

Housing in Calgary is becoming increasingly expensive due to a rise in demand. This has led to a fiercely competitive housing market, where properties don't stay on the market for long.


Getting around in Calgary

+ PRO: Exceptional public transport infrastructure

Getting around in Calgary is fairly easy with an integrated travel pass, allowing access to the CTrain and buses. The city also has e-hailing and taxi services readily available.

+ PRO: Cycling in the city centre is encouraged

With off-street bike paths and a pedestrian-friendly city centre, Calgary is a cycling enthusiast's dream. The city has two shared micromobility programmes, which provide residents with access to bikes and e-scooters for short trips.


Cost of living in Calgary

+ PRO: Free education

Expat parents on permanent residence visas will be eligible to enrol their children in one of Calgary’s top-tier public schools for free.

+ PRO: Publicly funded healthcare

Thanks to Canada’s excellent social development programmes, citizens and expats on permanent residence and work visas can access the excellent Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) at no cost.

+ PRO: Low entertainment costs

As much of the entertainment in Calgary is focused on outdoor physical activity, which is usually free or fairly low cost, expats can significantly reduce their monthly expenses.

- CON: Exorbitant accommodation costs

The cost of housing in Calgary has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. Accommodation is likely to be the biggest expense expats will have to contend with, as prices in the city are now comparable with those in Toronto.


Safety and security in Calgary

+ PRO: Calgary is extremely safe

Voted North America's most liveable city in 2018, Calgary has significantly low crime rates. Still, residents are encouraged to use common sense, lock their doors and keep their personal items safe. 

Working in Calgary

The province of Alberta is famous for its extensive oil resources, but Calgary has also diversified its economy significantly which, combined with Alberta’s non-restrictive economic policies, has led to a remarkably robust economy. 


Job market in Calgary

Despite the oil crash in 2014 and the echoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic activity in Calgary still centres around the petroleum industry. Petroleum companies such as BP, EnCana, Imperial Oil, Suncor Energy, Shell, TransCanada and Nexen Inc all have their headquarters in Calgary. That said, while Calgary was once a great place for expats with expertise in the oil and gas sectors, landing a job in this field has become increasingly difficult. However, expats with the right qualifications and skills can also find opportunities in the city’s other industries, including the services, agriculture, IT, tourism and financial sectors.

The growth of Calgary, especially over the past decade, has also had far-reaching effects on the city’s infrastructure, with a considerable number of suburban and inner-city development taking place. This has created plenty of opportunities for those in architecture, urban planning and construction. The population growth in the city has also increased the need for teachers and healthcare professionals.

Additionally, as Calgary seeks to shake its image as the most ‘cultureless’ major Canadian city, there has been considerable investment in media and the arts.


Finding a job in Calgary

Expats who want to work in Calgary must ideally have permanent residence or a work permit linked to a specific job offer before arriving in the city. Many people are fortunate enough to relocate through an intra-company transfer.

For those without a firm job offer, the best way to start the search in Calgary is to consult local job listings online. There are plenty of good job portals and social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, to assist job seekers. Alternatively, expats can also consult a professional recruitment agency to support them.


Work culture in Calgary

Canada has a large and thriving free-market economy, and though there is more government intervention here than in the US, there is far less than in many European countries. Locals tend to be open minded and tolerant, and expat businesspeople can look forward to a welcoming working environment.

Despite its size and diversity, Canada nevertheless has a few consistencies in its business culture, and Calgary is no exception. Canadians value punctuality, and being more than a few minutes late is considered rude. Canadian companies generally have egalitarian management structures. Managers prefer to be seen as part of the team and less as aloof authority figures. Decisions ultimately rest with the senior management, but input across all levels is highly valued.

Cost of Living in Calgary

While not quite as expensive as Toronto's or Vancouver's, Calgary's cost of living is still relatively high in some aspects. Mercer's 2022 Cost of Living Survey placed Calgary 141st out of 227 cities surveyed, making it the fifth most expensive city in Canada.


Cost of accommodation in Calgary

Housing is likely to be the biggest expense expats in Calgary will incur. There is a significant shortage of affordable accommodation in the city, which has driven up rental prices in the city centre and forced many families into the outlying areas and suburbs of Calgary.


Cost of entertainment in Calgary

Luckily, most of what Calgary has to offer in terms of lifestyle is focused on the outdoors and is therefore relatively inexpensive. With an abundance of green spaces, expats in Calgary will likely spend most of their time on the hiking and biking trails in the Rockies instead of splurging their hard-earned dollars at a shopping mall.


Cost of eating out in Calgary

In terms of dining opportunities, Calgary lags behind the more cosmopolitan Canadian cities. While much of the cuisine is American, expats can explore the city to discover some of its hidden culinary gems. Those who like to eat out will find the cost quite reasonable.


Cost of education in Calgary

Expats relocating to Calgary with children will be glad to know they have the option of sending their child to a public school in the province at no cost. Alberta’s education system benefits from extensive government funding, and some of the province’s best performing public schools are in Calgary. Nevertheless, childcare outside of school hours can be eye-wateringly expensive, and expat parents with little ones will have to budget for this.


Cost of transportation in Calgary

The cost of travelling in Calgary is relatively affordable, especially compared to other major Canadian cities. A monthly integrated travel pass is the most cost-effective means of getting around in Calgary. While taxis are readily available in the city centre, they are not cheap. Running a vehicle is also becoming increasingly expensive, so expats should consider car ownership carefully.


Cost of living in Calgary chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for August 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 1,372

One bedroom apartment outside city centre

CAD 1,160

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 2,630

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

CAD 1,989

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

CAD 2.32

Loaf of white bread

CAD 2.88

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CAD 13.82

Rice (1kg)

CAD 3.12

Dozen eggs

CAD 3.77

Pack of cigarettes

CAD 16

Eating out

Big Mac meal

CAD 11.99

Coca Cola (330ml)

CAD 2.25

Cappuccino

CAD 4.89

Bottle of beer (local)

CAD 7

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

CAD 82.50

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)  

CAD 0.28

Internet (average per month)

CAD 86.63

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

CAD 237.33

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

CAD 2

City centre bus/train fare

CAD 3.60

Petrol (per litre)

CAD 1.78

Accommodation in Calgary

Calgary has seen significant suburban development in recent years. Unfortunately, despite this development, the competition for good-quality housing remains stiff, and with high demand comes high prices. Although still not nearly as expensive as Vancouver's, accommodation prices in Calgary are now almost on par with those in Toronto.


Types of accommodation in Calgary

Expats moving to Calgary will find a range of accommodation options, so most house hunters should be able to find something suitable for their budget and lifestyle. The city has a wide variety of housing types, including apartments, condos, townhouses, as well as detached and semi-detached houses.

Most Calgarians live in stand-alone houses, with apartments, row houses, duplexes and semi-detached houses making up the balance. Once expats have found something they like, they should be quick to act as listings don't stay on the market for long. 


Finding accommodation in Calgary

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation options are available in Calgary – with the former generally being much more expensive than the latter.

It is highly recommended that expats do pre-departure research about the various areas and suburbs in Calgary to familiarise themselves with the city before starting their search for a home.

When searching for accommodation in Calgary, it's always a good idea to start with online listings, as these are updated regularly. Expats should also check out their desired suburb's community pages and forums on social media for listings.

If expats don’t want to go this process alone, they can enlist the services of a real-estate agent. These professionals can be helpful, as they are familiar with the local property market and the leasing and negotiation logistics.

Since many landlords in Canada choose not to bother with the hassle of finding tenants, estate agents often have a mandate over the best rental properties in the country. That said, as helpful as agents can be for new arrivals, they will expect a fee for this service, ranging between 10 and 100 percent of the monthly rent.


Renting accommodation in Calgary

Lease agreements in Calgary and greater Canada are strictly adhered to. Expats should be sure to read their contracts carefully, as once they’ve signed the agreements, their conditions will be legally binding.

Leases

Standard lease agreements are generally for 12 months. Expats may negotiate shorter agreements directly with the landlord but most property owners may be reluctant. Leases can vary depending on the landlord and usually require one month's notice prior to moving out.

Deposits

The security deposits on rentals in Calgary are usually two months' rent. When viewing a house or an apartment, expats should take inventory of any issues or changes that may be necessary before moving in. The full deposit should be refunded if there is no damage to the property upon the tenant’s departure.

Utilities

The lease will state whether the tenant is liable to pay for utilities such as gas, water, electricity, cable and so forth, which will vary between landlords.

Areas and suburbs in Calgary

The best places to live in Calgary

Calgary has undergone considerable sprawl, and expats will find that housing is low-density and generally consists of separate, detached dwellings rather than the high-rise apartment blocks found in most cities. Living in a neighbourhood close to the centre tends to be more expensive than living in the suburbs. That said, expats who opt to live in the suburbs away from downtown Calgary will find the properties are more modern and spacious.

There’s something for everyone in Calgary. Expats with children tend to pick family-friendly neighbourhoods where the kids can walk to school and partake in extra-curricular activities, while single professionals and younger couples who prefer an urban lifestyle usually live close to the downtown core of Calgary.

Generally, the more popular neighbourhoods of Calgary tend to be in the northwest and southwest areas because of the attractive mountain views and proximity to the Rockies. Naturally, rent and property prices are higher in these areas.

Below are some of the most popular areas and suburbs in Calgary.


Suburban life in Calgary

Calgary suburbs

Arbour Lake

Arbour Lake residents have the best of both worlds thanks to the relaxed lifestyle associated with lakeside living combined with the area’s excellent amenities, including all manner of shops, quaint cafes and lovely eateries. 

Haysboro

Owing to the easy commute to the city centre and Hayboro’s various attractions, the area is popular among families, especially those looking to purchase property and settle in Calgary long term. Other drawcards include Hayboro's access to several Calgary landmarks, such as Heritage Park, Glenmore Reservoir and the Southcenter Mall, as well as its strong community spirit and regular community events.

Fairview

This is a family-friendly neighbourhood in Calgary that is perfect for busy people who want easy access to all the city’s main attractions. Shopping hotspots lie within blocks of Fairview and the commute to the city centre is fairly reasonable. The properties are large, there is easy access to a number of good public schools and the area is extremely safe, which makes it an attractive location for expats with children.

Cougar Ridge

Cougar Ridge is a family-friendly area of Calgary located just above Canada Olympic Park. It is a relatively new community, and one of the main factors drawing people to the neighbourhood is the spectacular views of the Rockies and the Calgary city skyline. Getting into downtown Calgary is easy, thanks to the excellent public transport networks servicing the area.


City living in Calgary

Calgary suburbs

Hillhurst

This is a popular inner-city neighbourhood in northwest Calgary with breathtaking views of the Bow River. Residents enjoy being just a few minutes from the downtown core and its amenities. Housing mostly consists of restored heritage homes, low-rise condos and modern townhouses. Expats living in Hillhurst will have access to many restaurants, coffee shops and excellent schools. 

Walden

Just a few years old, Walden is a neighbourhood close to downtown Calgary. Residents enjoy the exceptional facilities in the area, including shopping centres, restaurants and bars within short walking distance. 

Capitol Hill

Residents of Capitol Hill get to strike the perfect balance with a host of amenities and services on their doorstep and easy access to Calgary's great outdoors. The area boasts multiple good schools and excellent transport links, making it perfect for families.

Healthcare in Calgary

Expats moving to Calgary will be delighted to know that, by being legal permanent residents of Alberta, they have access to free healthcare during their stay in Canada.

It is fair to say that Canada prides itself on providing quality, universal and accessible healthcare. Be that as it may, a growing population and healthcare worker shortage continue to stifle the country’s healthcare system, meaning doctors and hospitals often have long waiting lists.


Public healthcare in Calgary

As an expat relocating to Alberta from outside of Canada, the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) coverage will start from the date of their arrival in the province. However, it's important to note the following:

  • To qualify for AHCIP coverage, a person must be a legal permanent resident of Alberta. As an expat, one must possess a valid residence or work visa and be physically present in Alberta for at least 183 days of the year.

  • Although coverage technically begins from the first day of an expat’s arrival in Alberta, they will not be officially covered until their documents have been submitted and their application for the AHCIP card has been processed and approved, which can take up to a month. That said, if expats need to pay for any medical expenses during this waiting period, they will be reimbursed as soon as their coverage is approved. We recommend having private medical insurance for the first few months in Calgary.

  • Note that if someone decides to opt out of AHCIP coverage at a later stage, as permanent residents of Alberta, expats living in Calgary must apply for it.

  • If expats do not apply for AHCIP coverage within 90 days of their arrival in Canada, the Alberta Health and Wellness department will have to determine the effective coverage dates. This could mean that new arrivals might be ineligible for reimbursements.

How to apply for healthcare in Calgary

Applying for AHCIP coverage is fairly easy. Simply download an application form from the Alberta Health and Wellness department's website, complete, sign, and mail it off with the following supporting documents:

  • Proof of Alberta residency (such as a rental agreement or utility bill)

  • Government-issued photo ID (such as a copy of a passport)

  • Proof of legal entitlement to reside in Canada (such as a copy of a working visa)

Coverage and types of care

The coverage offered by the AHCIP is extensive and includes services such as GP visits, hospital stays and surgeries, palliative care, and limited community-based rehabilitation services. Additionally, the coverage extends to optometry for children under 18.

While the AHCIP coverage is comprehensive, prescription drugs collected at pharmacies and dental care, mental healthcare, ambulance transport and midwifery are not covered. Expats who need these services should consider purchasing private insurance to supplement the AHCIP.

Expats should note that another great feature of Calgary's healthcare system is the existence of walk-in clinics. There are many in the greater Calgary area, most of which are open in the evenings and on weekends. Staffed by committed professionals, these clinics can supply patients with basic drugs and treatments.


Private health insurance in Calgary

Expats who don’t have permanent residency in Alberta and reside in the province for less than 183 days a year will need to invest in private health cover.

Leading reputable private healthcare companies include Manulife, Sunlife and Great-West Life. It might be necessary to engage the services of one of these companies to help pay for dental care, psychological counselling, physiotherapy and the like.


Hospitals in Calgary

Below are some of the most reputable hospitals in Calgary:

Alberta Children's Hospital

www.childrenshospital.ab.ca
Address: 28 Oki Dr NW

Foothills Medical Centre

www.albertahealthservices.ca
Address: 1403 29 Street NW

Sheldon M Chumir Health Centre

www.myhealth.alberta.ca
Address: 1213 4 Street SW

Education and Schools in Calgary

Expat parents relocating to Calgary with children of school-going age will be delighted to find that their children will have access to high-quality education at an affordable cost. The Alberta education system benefits from extensive government funding, and schools in Calgary rank as some of the best in the province. 


Public schools in Calgary

Most Canadian children attend public schools, thanks to the excellent standard of education in these schools, as well as the fact that government subsidies guarantee free attendance for all children (including expats with permanent residency).

Alberta’s public schools offer a standardised curriculum, which parents can investigate online. These schools have an excellent reputation, and focus not only on 'book learning' but also offer extra-curricular activities and field trips. In almost all cases, school placements will depend on a child’s residential location – schools will only accept a child from a different catchment area if they have space.

Expat parents looking to enrol their children in one of Calgary’s public schools should schedule an appointment with the public school board’s admission office. Following a brief interview, students will be tested on their language and numeracy skills, and be placed in a grade based on their results and age. We recommend bringing along a copy of the child’s curriculum from the previous school to provide some context of their educational background.

Catholic schools in Calgary

The other major government-funded education system in the city is the Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District.

There is a greater focus on religion (and religious instruction) in the Catholic public school system – though in terms of the quality of education students receive, there is not much of a difference between the two. To enrol a child in a Catholic school, at least one of the parents must be a (practising) Roman Catholic.


Private and international schools in Calgary

A small minority of children in Calgary attend private schools. The tuition fees for these institutions (which include international and charter schools) are often eye-wateringly expensive. Although, many Canadian private schools offer scholarships for gifted children.

Though these private schools enjoy famous reputations, the quality of education at public schools is of an equally high standard. An advantage of the private school system is that parents can meet and interview their child's prospective teachers before enrolling. For parents with children who don't speak English or French or those with special needs, the private school system may be worth considering, as it boasts more resources than either of the public schooling systems.

While Calgary doesn't have international schools that follow a foreign curriculum, many good Canadian private schools offer the International Baccalaureate programme.


Tertiary education in Calgary

There are some excellent tertiary education options for expats moving to Calgary. Despite being a relatively small institution, The University of Calgary is fast gaining a reputation as an excellent research and interdisciplinary academy.

Located in Edmonton, about three hours from Calgary, The University of Alberta is particularly well known for its health sciences faculty and consistently ranks as one of Canada's premier tertiary education institutions.


Special-needs education in Calgary

The Calgary Board of Education is committed to educating students with diverse learning needs in inclusive settings as far as possible. The province provides flexible programming that is responsive to the learning and wellness needs of all students. Students with disabilities receive additional support from multi-disciplinary team members based on each student’s unique strengths and needs.

Following collaborative discussions between the school learning team and the students’ families, The Board offers several complementary opportunities and specialised means of learning for students with physical, mental and learning disabilities. These include students who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing and those with learning, emotional or medical needs; giftedness; learning disabilities; and mental health issues.


Tutoring in Calgary

Many parents in Calgary, locals and expats alike, opt to employ tutors for their children. Parents will find that their children’s school and other expat parents may be a good starting point for sourcing good private tutors.

For expat families, tutors are great for helping children adjust to a new curriculum, learn a new language, assist in specific subjects or prepare for university entrance exams. The Calgary Tutoring Centre and My Tutor are both reputable tutoring companies in the city.

Lifestyle in Calgary

The lifestyle in Calgary is focused more on outdoor recreation rather than urban entertainment. With over 8,000 hectares of green space, Calgary is perfect for nature-loving expats. The best part is that all the outdoor activities are a quick drive from the city, so it's easy to see why the city is becoming an increasingly popular choice among expats. 


Outdoor and sports activities in Calgary

The main attraction – and the lifeblood of Calgary's outdoor leisure scene – is its proximity to the majestic Rocky Mountains. Just 50 miles (80km) from downtown Calgary, the Rockies are celebrated the world over not only for their pristine beauty, but also for the diverse range of activities on offer on the mountain's snowy peaks. Skiing and snowboarding are the most popular pursuits, but for expats looking to relax and soak up the alpine atmosphere, there are plenty of resort towns to explore.

Expats should be sure not to miss Lake Moraine – a turquoise-blue body of water hemmed in by towering pine trees. In the warm summer months, expats can enjoy fishing on the gorgeous Bow River, go horse riding or mountain biking. For winter sports enthusiasts, Canada's Olympic Park offers plenty of space and expert coaching on the slopes for novices. Expats who prefer to remain spectators will enjoy supporting the Calgary Flames and Calgary Stampeders at their annual hockey and football games.


Entertainment and eating out in Calgary

Alberta is known as the 'most American' Canadian province. An important aspect of the lifestyle in Calgary is continuing pride in the city's frontier history, hence the plethora of rodeo shows, steakhouses and 'western wear' outlets. 

Calgary is not well known for its culinary exploits, but there are a few restaurants worth noting and most are concentrated in three main areas: Prince's Island's Eau Claire district; 4th Street and 17th Avenue Mission district; and the downtown area, including Chinatown, International Avenue and the Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall.

Expats should note that all restaurants in Calgary are smoking-free – even outdoor dining areas.


Shopping in Calgary

As far as shopping is concerned, there is an assortment of malls in and around Calgary, and some quirky curio shops lining International Avenue. The highlight, though, must be the weekly Calgary Farmers' Market, where shoppers can buy the likes of bison sausage, elk steaks, artisanal bread and fresh dairy products.

While the lifestyle in Calgary does not necessarily cater to shopaholics, expats in need of retail therapy will be happy to know that the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America, is only a three-hour drive away.


Kids and family in Calgary

The only downside to having kids in Calgary is that childcare in the city is not only eye-wateringly expensive but also in extremely short supply. Since all parents in Calgary often find themselves in the same boat, they have built extensive support networks throughout the city. Parents typically set up lift clubs, playgroups and babysitting clubs to ease the hassle of shuttling kids around. The Calgary Public Library is also a wonderful resource, offering pre-school programmes such as story time and finger painting sessions.

Expats moving to Calgary with children will find the well-established support group, Parents and Children Together (PACT), is a great tool for meeting other parents.


See and do in Calgary

Despite being an isolated city, hemmed in by the Rocky Mountains and their surrounding plains, Calgary’s residents will find plenty to see and do. Below are some of the city's best attractions.

Heritage Park Historical Village & Fort Calgary Historic Park

Set on 127 acres of parkland and located 15 minutes from Calgary’s city centre, Heritage Park is a 'living history village', comprised of over 150 exhibitions showcasing life in Alberta in the 19th and 20th centuries. Fort Calgary Historic Park is a reconstructed 1875 fort displaying Calgary’s history through a unique interpretive centre and exhibitions. 

Canada Olympic Park

Canada Olympic Park was a major venue during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and now hosts skiing and snowboarding programmes every winter and also houses the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. 

Calgary Zoo

Canada's second-largest zoo is home to more than a thousand animal species from all over the world, as well as a variety of fish and insects in natural habitat enclosures. It also features a prehistoric park with life-size animatronic dinosaurs on display, guaranteeing a full day of fun for the whole family. 

Calgary Tower

Calgary Tower is a must-see landmark for expats. The attraction features a revolving restaurant and a glass-floored observation deck offering spectacular city views below.

Calaway Park

Canada's largest outdoor amusement park, Calaway Park, is a favourite among children. Open seven days a week – and offering exciting rides and rollercoasters, live magic shows and musical performances – Calaway Park is a perfect family outing.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

A 'buffalo jump' is a ledge of rock traditionally used to steer stampeding buffaloes away. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, proudly displaying exhibitions detailing the life and history of the Blackfoot people, the original inhabitants of the Great Plains region of southern Alberta.


What's on in Calgary

While Calgary may not be a cultural hub like Toronto or Vancouver, there are still some exciting annual events expats shouldn’t miss. 

The Lilac Festival (May)

Voted the 'best free festival in Calgary', the Lilac Festival features a massive market with more than 600 stalls and a full-day line-up featuring the best local artists.

The Calgary Stampede (July)

Undoubtedly the most attended event in the city, The Calgary Stampede draws millions of visitors to Calgary every year. The festival is a celebration of Alberta's frontier history, centred around rodeo events and featuring professional cowboys and authentic frontier cuisine. 

Canada Day (July)

Calgary's Canada Day celebration attracts more than 100,000 people each year. Festivities at the Shaw Millennium Park begin mid-morning and include live performances on the main stage, food stalls, and much more.

Calgary Marathon (August)

The best road race in Alberta, the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, is a challenging and fun event designed for the whole family. The race includes a 50k Ultra, 42.2km, 21.1km, 10km, kids' marathon and 5km family walk or run.

Frequently Asked Questions about Calgary

Often referred to as the 'most American' of Canadian cities, expats will likely find life in Calgary to be quite different to other major Canadian centres. Here are answers to some of the most common questions expats have about Calgary.

What are the best neighbourhoods in Calgary?

The best areas in Calgary are the northwest and southwest suburbs. These are closest to the Rockies, and boast fine views and low crime rates. Popular suburbs in the northwest include Tuscany, Country Hills, Dalhousie, Edgemont and Rosedale; and in the southwest, Springbank Hill, West Hillhurst and Westgate.

The northeast, where Calgary International Airport is located, is considered an unfavourable location because of the long commute into the city centre; while the southeast features a mix of desirable and less favourable locations, including pleasant suburbs such as Midnapore and McKenzie Lake but also unattractive industrial areas.

Do I need to have a car in Calgary?

Calgary has a well-established public transport system and many locals make use of buses and trains to commute to work during the week. However, buying and maintaining a car in Calgary is reasonable, and it will certainly be useful on weekends and for exploring the wider region, especially for those with children.

How do I apply for healthcare in Calgary?

Applying for the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan coverage is easy to do. Simply download an application form from the Alberta Health and Wellness Department's website, complete it, sign it, and mail it off with the following supporting documents: proof of Alberta residency (such as a rental agreement, or utility bill); government-issued photo identification (such as a copy of one's passport); and proof of legal entitlement to reside in Canada (such as a copy of one's working visa).

What can I do with kids in Calgary during the winter?

If there is one thing that Canadian families don't do, it's allow the weather to prevent them from having fun. There is plenty of entertainment for kids to enjoy in Calgary in the winter. A popular option is the Devonian Gardens, the largest indoor garden complex in Alberta – it remains warm enough to use all year round, and is equipped with an extensive children's play area.

Getting Around in Calgary

Expats will find getting around in Calgary fairly straightforward as the city has a reliable public transport network consisting of buses and trains. While most of Calgary’s residents use public transport to commute during the week, many find it worthwhile to have their own vehicle in order to explore a bit further afield.


Public transport in Calgary

Public transport in Calgary is fast and efficient, with an extensive multi-modal network and an integrated ticketing system. 

Single tickets allow 90 minutes of travel on any train or bus route. For expats who will be regular commuters, the best option is a monthly pass. Both single and monthly tickets are available at any CTrain station, convenience stores or online.

CTrain

Calgary’s light rail transit system is known as the CTrain. The CTrain network is not as extensive as those in other major cities and, in many cases, commuters may also need to rely on bus services to complete their journey.

Trains run fairly punctually from 4am to 1am daily. On special holidays and festivals, there is an extended 24-hour service. Unfortunately, CTrain commuters experience frequent closures, especially on weekends, due to construction or maintenance. So, those planning on travelling over the weekend should check for updates on the CTrain website.

Buses

Calgary’s extensive bus network covers more than 100 routes. Buses in Calgary also service those areas not covered by the CTrain network. All the bus routes are numbered and designed to connect Calgary’s areas and suburbs to the city centre or CTrain stations.

Buses aren’t as frequent as trains in Calgary; passengers can expect an average 30-minute wait time, but this varies between routes.


Taxis in Calgary

Taxis are readily available throughout Calgary. While taxis certainly aren’t cheap, they provide a safe and efficient door-to-door service. This is especially useful for late-night travel and getting to the areas inaccessible by the CTrain or the late-night bus service.

Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available in the city.


Cycling in Calgary

While Calgary has a good network of off-street bike paths, expats might find that motorists are not always courteous to cyclists. It is, therefore, best to be vigilant when sharing the road with cars. Calgary has also contracted two private companies, Bird Canada and Neuron, to facilitate their shared micromobility programme that encourages using e-scooters and bikes for short trips around the city.


Walking in Calgary 

Calgary’s city centre is highly pedestrianised, making walking the quickest way to get around. In the winter, most people navigate their way around the city using the Plus 15 system, made up of several enclosed walkways.


Driving in Calgary

It is not essential to have a car in Calgary, but most expats choose to purchase their own vehicle. A car may be practical for expats with children or those looking to explore the region in their leisure time. Expats can drive using their national driver's licence but will eventually have to apply for a local Alberta licence.

Expats who decide to drive in Calgary may find it initially challenging to navigate the city’s quadrant system. Those using a car to commute into Calgary’s city centre will experience plenty of traffic, especially during rush hour. Drivers commuting to work should be aware of Calgary’s lane reversal rules, which are operational during peak hours of the week.

Driving in winter conditions is something expat drivers will need to get accustomed to. The city authorities do take safety measures, including ploughing, salting and sanding all major roads. That said, motorists should beware of driving on potentially dangerous smaller residential streets after a snowstorm.