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Moving to Ottawa

Located in southeast Ontario at the nexus of three rivers, Ottawa is the Canadian capital and the country's political and economic powerhouse. Expats moving to Ottawa will appreciate the fact that, while at the forefront of technological advances, the city also prides itself in conserving its heritage and culture.

Living in Ottawa as an expat

A cosmopolitan and multicultural city with a welcoming environment, Ottawa attracts expats from all over the world, thanks to the abundance of employment and academic opportunities.

The city is home to a highly educated workforce – boasting more engineers and scientists per capita than any other Canadian city. The diverse job market encompasses a variety of sectors ranging from information technology to life sciences and academia. That said, newcomers seeking employment should note that competition for jobs in Ottawa is quite fierce, so it's best to secure a role before arriving in the city.

Fortunately, new arrivals can enjoy a high quality of life in Ottawa. Expats will benefit from one of the world’s most highly regarded healthcare systems and social benefits There is also an endless stream of things to see and do in Ottawa. ByWard Market is a particular favourite among young expats due to its trendy bars and restaurants and buzzing nightlife scene. The bold Gothic Revival architecture in the nearby Parliament Hill is a must-see as well.

It’s also easy to get around the various areas and suburbs in the metropolis, owing to the city's extensive public transport network and infrastructure for cycling and walking.

Cost of living in Ottawa

Despite being Canada’s capital, Ottawa enjoys a gentle cost of living. Accommodation in Ottawa is abundant and among the most affordable in Canada. Residents of Ontario also have most of their healthcare needs covered by the province at no cost, further reducing expats' expenses.

Expat families and children in Ottawa

Expat families relocating to Ottawa with children can rest assured that the city has a range of affordable, high-quality and bilingual public and private education options. Public schools in Ottawa are free for all children in the city to attend, and parents also have the option of sending their children to faith-based institutions.

Ottawa is one of the world's safest, greenest and cleanest cities, making it ideal for raising a family. With protected forests, parks and wetlands, children can participate in many outdoor pursuits. The city has many museums, markets and nature centres, so expat families will never run out of things to discover. Moreover, Ottawa is brimming with exciting festivals, concerts and parades expats can attend throughout the year.

Climate in Ottawa

Ottawa’s climate is semi-continental, with surprisingly warm summers characterised by plenty of sunny days. The winters come with extreme snowfall for at least 120 days of the year, and spring and autumn usually invite unpredictable weather conditions.

Overall, expats moving to Ottawa are guaranteed a rich yet affordable quality of life thanks to the city's welcoming community and the inclusive and extensive social benefits on offer.

Weather in Ottawa

The climate in the Canadian capital of Ottawa is semi-continental. The summers are warm and humid, while the winters are frigid. Snowfall in Ottawa is severe, with snow depths exceeding more than a centimetre for 120 days of the year.

In winter (December to February), the mercury often drops below zero, with lows reaching 5°F (-15°C) at night. Fortunately, the summer months (June to August) are more pleasant, with an abundance of sunny and warm days.

The weather fluctuates considerably during spring and autumn, with an increased chance of unseasonal heatwaves and early or late snowfall.


Pros and Cons of Moving to Ottawa

One of the cleanest and greenest cities in North America, Ottawa is an idyllic expat destination with a plethora of protected green spaces and waterways. The Canadian capital also boasts an affordable cost of living and an unmatched quality of life. Newcomers will agree that the advantages of living in Ottawa far outweigh the disadvantages.

Our list of pros and cons offers a snapshot of what expats can expect.

Lifestyle in Ottawa

+ PRO: Incredible cultural and entertainment scene

Whether expats prefer concerts, galleries or museums, Ottawa has something for everyone. The city hosts many annual festivals and is also home to the National Gallery of Canada and Parliament Hill, with beautiful Victorian architecture. ByWard Market District will see expats shopping for farm-fresh produce during the day and returning for a night of debauchery at one of the centre's many eclectic bars and clubs.

+ PRO: Fantastic outdoor and sports activities

Ottawa is situated at the meeting point of the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau Rivers, and with this ideal location comes plenty of opportunity for outdoor pursuits. The Rideau Canal transforms into the world’s biggest ice rink during winter. The forests, parks and wetlands in the ‘emerald necklace’ are scenic arenas for cycling, jogging, rafting and kayaking.

- CON: Challenging weather

The weather in Ottawa can be challenging as snow covers the ground for at least 120 days of the year. Fortunately, expats can use this opportunity to hone their ice skating and skiing skills.

Working in Ottawa

+ PRO: High average salaries

Ottawa claims some of the highest average salaries in Canada, as the city’s workforce is among the most educated in the country. This factor, combined with relatively low and stable unemployment, makes for an attractive job market.

+ PRO: Plenty of job opportunities

Ottawa is Canada's political hub, and therefore the federal government employs most of its workforce. Foreign embassies, non-profit organisations and national institutions are also big employers and job creators in Ottawa.

- CON: Competitive job market

While Ottawa may have a stable job market and an abundance of employment opportunities, competition for well-paid roles is fierce, thanks to the unusually high supply of qualified workers.

Accommodation in Ottawa

+ PRO: Wide range of neighbourhoods

Ottawa offers a wide variety of neighbourhoods, all of which are unique in architectural styles and facilities. New arrivals are sure to find something perfectly suited to their preferences and budget.

Getting around in Ottawa

+ PRO: Excellent public transport infrastructure

Getting around Ottawa is fairly easy as public transport, which consists of buses and a light rail system, is efficient and extensive. Passengers looking for a quick door-to-door service can also readily access taxis and ride-hailing services.

+ PRO: Cycling and walking are encouraged

Thanks to the dedicated cycle paths and a pedestrianised city centre, Ottawa is a paradise for cycling and walking enthusiasts. Nevertheless, the city is yet to revive its bike-sharing programme, so cyclists should invest in a set of wheels.

Cost of living in Ottawa

+ PRO: Free primary and high school education

The province of Ontario has mandated attendance for all children from kindergarten to grade 12 and offers good quality public education at no cost to all residents.

+ PRO: Publicly funded healthcare

Canada is well known for its extensive social support programmes, which include publicly funded healthcare. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) offers subsidised healthcare for citizens and permanent residents, as well as expats on work visas.

+ PRO: Affordable accommodation

Accommodation usually takes the biggest chunk out of expats’ incomes, while this may still be the case in Ottawa, expats will be delighted to know that housing prices in the city are some of the lowest in Canada. House hunters will likely get more bang for their buck in Ottawa in terms of property sizes and quality.

Working in Ottawa

Ottawa prides itself on being a global centre for learning and now boasts one of the most educated workforces in Canada, thanks to substantial investment in schools and universities. Ottawa also offers some of the highest average salaries in the country. Expats will also find that the city's unemployment rate is fairly low and stable.

Despite this, competition for well-paid jobs is quite fierce, and it is therefore best to secure a suitable role before moving to Ottawa.

Job market in Ottawa

As Canada’s capital and seat of power, Ottawa’s biggest employer is the federal government. Canadian citizens usually get first preference for government jobs, though. Expats typically find work in one of the many major national institutions, foreign embassies and non-profit organisations.

Ottawa is also a thriving business and technology hub, with sectors such as health, social services, education, manufacturing and tech leading the charge.

Expats should note that fluency in French or English is a requirement for working in Ottawa. Proficiency in both will be advantageous.

Finding a job in Ottawa

A good starting point for finding a job in Ottawa is online. Job portals and social-networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are valuable resources where expats can research the local job market and apply for work. 

Expats looking for jobs in Ottawa may face some obstacles, including the language barrier, having no previous work experience in Canada, and possible complications of having their skills and foreign qualifications recognised by Canadian employers. 

That said, Ottawa supports expats in overcoming these challenges. For instance, several organisations offer courses in English or French as a second language. Expats will also benefit from approaching Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). ESDC has created a Foreign Credential Recognition programme to evaluate qualifications achieved abroad and helps internationally trained workers transition into the Canadian workforce. 

Expats moving to Ottawa should be aware that the province of Ontario requires a licence to work in specific sectors. Professionals who are teachers, healthcare providers, architects, social workers and engineers will need to obtain the relevant licence or certificate to practise in the city, along with a work permit, before applying for a position.

New arrivals should note that regardless of their industry, anyone working in Ottawa needs to have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).

Work culture in Ottawa

As Canada's political hub, Ottawa's work culture is often thought of as bureaucratic and inflexible. This couldn't be further from the truth, as the city has earned global recognition for its fantastic work-life balance.

Workers in Ottawa enjoy an informal and relaxed work culture, though this varies across different companies and industries. Ottawa’s tech companies have a reputation for having a friendly and fun working environment where hard work is valued. Business dress across most sectors is casual or smart casual, although employees can always choose to wear more formal suits.

Cost of Living in Ottawa

Though Ottawa is Canada's capital, the cost of living in the city is one of the most affordable in the country. The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranks Ottawa as 137th out of 227 cities surveyed, making it Canada's fourth most expensive city.

Cost of accommodation in Ottawa

Renting accommodation in Ottawa is far more affordable than in other major Canadian cities such as Vancouver or Toronto, depending on the areas and suburbs expats choose to live in. Property prices in Ottawa are also lower than the national median, while housing is generally of an excellent standard.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Ottawa

Ontario's designated culinary tourism destination, Ottawa, boasts exquisite and diverse gastronomy. With myriad cuisines on offer, it's easy to see why eating out is a favourite pastime among locals, even though it doesn't always come cheap. Eating out at one of the many top restaurants in the city can be quite steep. That said, expats on a budget are sure to find great restaurants that won't break the bank.

The nightlife in Ottawa is lively, with plenty of bars and clubs in the ByWard Market District, but costs can add up quickly. Expats who enjoy a regular night out on the town can reduce their expenses by visiting the student watering holes, where prices are usually lower. Alternatively, adventure-loving expats can access the city's parks, forests and wetlands at little to no cost.

Cost of groceries in Ottawa

Although the cost of groceries in Ottawa is among the most affordable in Canada, it is rising, and residents are spending more for basic goods such as fruit and vegetables, protein and wholegrain goods. Still, expats will find that their dollars will go far in Ottawa, especially if they stick to discount stores and buy seasonal produce. Meal planning, buying directly from the store rather than online, and purchasing produce with imperfections are some other ways to save money while shopping. 

Cost of transport in Ottawa

Ottawa has a relatively affordable, efficient and clean public transport system. Regular commuters can boost their savings by purchasing an integrated Presto smart card for accessing public transit across Ottawa and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas. Cycling is another cheap and healthy way to get around the city.

Cost of healthcare in Ottawa

Expats living and working in Ottawa are eligible for coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). The public health insurance plan is funded through automatic tax deductions but does not cover prescription medicine, optometry or dentistry services. 

Luckily, most expats will have employer-provided private health insurance to cover these costs. Expats who do not have this benefit should shop around for the best deal. 

Cost of education in Ottawa

Public schools in Ottawa are free for all students from kindergarten to grade 12 and offer good-quality education in either English or French. Expat parents also have the option to send their children to international or private schools, but the tuition fees tend to be steep.

Cost of living in Ottawa chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for June 2023.

Accommodation (monthly)


One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 1,800

One-bedroom apartment outside of centre

CAD 1,600

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 3,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of centre

CAD 2,430



Milk (1 litre)

CAD 2.77

Loaf of white bread

CAD 2.39

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CAD 15.15

Rice (1kg)


Dozen eggs

CAD 4.37

Pack of cigarettes

CAD 15

Eating out


Big Mac meal 

CAD 13

Coca-Cola (330ml)

CAD 3.21


CAD 5.55

Bottle of local beer


Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

CAD 100



Mobile phone monthly plan with data

CAD 55

Internet (Uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month) 

CAD 84

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment) 

CAD 230



Taxi rate/km 

CAD 2.75

City centre bus fare/train fare 

CAD 3.75

Petrol/gasoline (per litre) 

CAD 1.70

Accommodation in Ottawa

Expats moving to Ottawa will have a wide range of accommodation options to choose from. No matter their budget, expats should be able to find a home close to essential amenities and within commutable distance of their place of work.

Ottawa has various unique residential neighbourhoods to suit people from all walks. The central areas such as The Glebe or ByWard Market are popular among young professionals, while the affluent Rockcliffe Park is home to the city’s diplomats, politicians and businesspeople. 

Whether expats are looking for a modern apartment in the heart of the city or a larger family home in the countryside, they are sure to find the perfect accommodation in Ottawa.

Types of accommodation in Ottawa

When it comes to the types of housing, Ottawa has everything from compact city apartments and townhouses to condominiums, duplexes and multiplexes. Furnished, semi-furnished and unfurnished accommodation is also available. Furnished properties will often come at a higher price, although these may be the most convenient option for expats in Ottawa on a short-term assignment.

New arrivals should consider the condition of a property before committing to an agreement. Many prospective tenants like the idea of moving into a historic apartment or home full of character, but expats should consider the fact that many older properties require renovation and a great deal of maintenance.

Property size and proximity to good schools will certainly be key criteria for families moving to Ottawa with children. Fortunately, many schools in Ottawa offer bus services. Expats may also be able to find a home within walking distance of a local school. We also recommend that those who will be regular commuters look for accommodation near a bus stop or O-Train station.

Finding accommodation in Ottawa

The best place to start the house hunt in Ottawa is online using portals such as PadMapper and RentSeeker. Online listings allow house hunters to tailor their searches based on rental costs, property type and size, and accommodation suited for students, families and senior citizens. Some websites can filter accommodation searches based on parking availability and pet-friendliness.

Many new arrivals prefer enlisting the services of a real-estate agent, who is usually familiar with the local property market. They can connect expats with landlords and advise them on the best areas and suburbs for value for money.

Renting accommodation in Ottawa

Making an application

Once expats find a property they like, they will need to complete a preliminary application. Generally, prospective tenants must include a letter of employment from their company stating their salary, position and length of employment. In addition, some landlords or rental agents request a reference letter from a previous landlord. Expats may also have to provide their Social Insurance Number (SIN) for a credit check.


Most landlords in Ottawa require tenants to sign a rental agreement for at least a year. The lease should state the monthly rental costs and the separate charges, which often include water and electricity.


Prospective tenants looking to secure a rental property in Ottawa mostly have to pay the first and last month’s rent upfront as a security deposit.


Typically, utilities, such as water and electricity, are not included in the rental price. With the frigid Ottawa winters, expats should budget for these costs carefully. That said, with some condominiums, expats will find that the rental is inclusive of electricity.

Areas and suburbs in Ottawa

The best places to live in Ottawa

Ottawa is a patchwork of different neighbourhoods, each with unique styles and characteristics. From young professionals climbing the corporate ladder to expats arriving with their children, Ottawa has something for everyone.

The decision on where to live in Ottawa is critical in allowing expats to transition well into their new life. Luckily for new arrivals, Ottawa is a welcoming and hospitable city. Particularly in the suburban neighbourhoods, expats will find that the locals are quick to get new arrivals integrated into the community.

City living in Ottawa

Most of Ottawa’s nightlife and entertainment centres are in the downtown area. The city has some great accommodation options for young expats with a large chunk of disposable income and those that want quick access to Ottawa's many exciting amenities.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa by M Sidhu - Unsplash

ByWard Market

ByWard Market lies in the heart of Ottawa’s city centre and is popular with young professionals thanks to its proximity to office buildings and entertainment facilities. Most of the accommodation in ByWard Market comes in the form of luxury high-rise complexes with pricey apartments.

The area is full of trendy bars and restaurants and is at the core of the city’s nightlife. Those who enjoy cultural activities will be close to some of Ottawa’s best art galleries and museums. Fitness enthusiasts will love ByWard Market's proximity to the river and green spaces.

Westboro Village

Westboro Village is an up-and-coming area of western Ottawa. The neighbourhood’s street scene is lively and animated, with plenty of boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Westboro is particularly popular among young professionals and couples, owing to the fantastic lifestyle on offer and access to public transport links.

The range of housing options includes loft apartments and townhouses, and many residents in this area enjoy stunning views of the Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River.

Family-friendly suburbs in Ottawa

Expats moving to Ottawa with children will certainly prioritise finding a home close to good schools. New arrivals needn't worry, as Ottawa boasts many family-friendly suburbs.

Hog’s Back, Rideau Canal, Ottawa by Yamine Kettal - Unsplash

The Glebe

The Glebe in central Ottawa is one of the city's most affluent residential areas. Accommodation in The Glebe includes condos, apartments, single-family homes and townhouses. The neighbourhood is home to many families with children and has plenty of excellent schools nearby. There are also several social services to support the suburb's youth.

Alta Vista

Located in southern Ottawa, Alta Vista is an incredible suburb for expats with children because of its abundance of green spaces that allow the kids to get involved in outdoor activities. Alta Vista has strong community ties which focus on local churches, schools and community centres.

The neighbourhood is also well-connected to the city centre with links to the O-Train, and has numerous bus routes passing through. It is also a great base for frequent local and international travellers due to the nearby Ottawa International Airport.

Rockcliffe Park

Expats living in prestigious Rockcliffe Park are usually ambassadors, diplomatic personnel, politicians or senior businesspeople. The suburb boasts extensive public transport and road links, making for easy commutes.

Properties here are large and luxurious, with enormous gardens. The area is home to some of Ottawa's first-rate public, private and international schools, making it perfect for expat families. Rockcliffe Park claims the highest property and rental prices in Ottawa, owing to the highly sought-after amenities in the suburb.

Healthcare in Ottawa

New arrivals will be pleased to find that Canada’s clean and green capital city of Ottawa offers excellent healthcare facilities and first-rate practitioners. Generally, all doctors and medical staff will speak fluent English, French or both.

Medical facilities in Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health, the city’s arm of government health services, administers public healthcare in the metropolis.

Public hospitals in Ottawa provide a good standard of care, but waiting lists can be long. Another challenge expats face is finding family doctors or general practitioners (GPs). Most family doctors in Ottawa have long lists of patients, and many clinics place limitations on accepting new patients.

We recommend that expats ask co-workers and friends for information on any doctors still accepting new patients. Expats can also contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for assistance in finding a GP.

While waiting to find a doctor, expats can still visit their local walk-in clinic for emergencies or check-ups. Walk-in medical clinics in Ottawa provide prompt medical care for sick patients who do not have a family doctor. Nurses will generally see the patients for most minor illnesses, while those with potentially life-threatening cases will be referred to doctors for further investigation and treatment. Appointments are not usually necessary, but it is best to call before visiting to check the opening hours, as they are subject to change. 

Health insurance in Ottawa

Ottawa falls under the province of Ontario, so expats living in the city can access the province's publicly funded healthcare system, which is available through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Citizens and expats make OHIP contributions through automatic tax deductions from their salaries.

Expats should note that there is a three-month waiting period before OHIP coverage starts. They should therefore apply for their OHIP card as soon as they arrive in the city. Additionally, new arrivals should be sure to purchase private health insurance to ensure they are covered during the waiting period.

Prescription medicines, dentistry and optometry are not part of the OHIP coverage, except under special conditions, so expats will be required to pay for these services. Most expats living in Ottawa will have additional private health insurance, often provided by their employer, to cover these costs.

Patients typically have to pay out of pocket for prescription medicines and submit their receipts to their private health insurance provider to be reimbursed.

Hospitals in Ottawa

Below are some of the most well-respected hospitals in Ottawa.

The Ottawa Hospital 

Address: 501 Smyth Rd, Ottawa

Queensway Carleton Hospital

Address: 3045 Baseline Rd, Nepean

University of Ottawa Heart Institute

Address: 40 Ruskin St, Ottawa

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario

Address: 401 Smyth Rd, Ottawa

Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

Address: 1145 Carling Ave, Ottawa 

Education and Schools in Ottawa

Expats parents moving to Ottawa will be pleased to find that the city has high-quality English and French schools. 

The Ontario Ministry of Education offers publicly funded education from kindergarten to grade 12. Expat parents with young kids will also find that the city supports students throughout their early years, with many centres dedicated to play-based learning.

Regardless of where expats choose to enrol their children, all students in Ontario must provide proof of immunisation. Expats can visit the Ontario government website for a full list of vaccine requirements.

Public schools in Ottawa

While most public schools in Ottawa instruct their students in English, there are a fair few French language schools in the city. Some public schools offer English as a Second Language (ESL) programmes, which can be especially helpful for non-English-speaking children.

The general standard of education in Ottawa’s public schools is good. However, we recommend expats consult with the school and network with other parents to get an accurate picture of the teaching standards and facilities.

Private schools in Ottawa

Most Canadian citizens living in Ottawa send their children to public schools. Nonetheless, the city has plenty of private schools, which may be a good option for expats who prefer for their children to access more facilities or learn a particular curriculum.

The standard of education at private schools in Ottawa is generally better than in public schools. Private schools in Ottawa have excellent facilities that allow students to excel in extra-curricular activities, such as sports and music. The classes are also smaller, meaning students receive more individual attention.

Faith-based schools in Ottawa

Ottawa has plenty of schools with religious affiliations. These institutions fall somewhere between the public and private school systems. Most religious schools in Ottawa are associated with the Catholic faith, but there are also Jewish and Islamic schools.

Tuition fees at faith-based schools in Ottawa are often more reasonable than at private schools, while those that fall within the public system are free. The standard of teaching is fairly high, and student discipline is considered much better than at public schools. While religious schools follow the national curriculum, they integrate an element of their religious values into the teaching.

International schools in Ottawa

Despite the city’s substantial expat population, Ottawa only has a handful of international schools, with most following the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.

Expats who intend to send their children to an international school should be aware that competition in Ottawa is fierce.

Students are usually expected to write entrance exams and attend an interview. Expats should start the application process as soon as possible, as there are relatively long waiting lists. Fees at international schools in Ottawa can be exorbitant.

There is also the option to send children to a bilingual school. Bilingual schools are not international schools in the traditional sense. They generally follow the province’s prescribed curriculum, but offer lessons in French and English, allowing children to become fluent in both languages.

Homeschooling in Ottawa

Homeschooling is legal in Ontario, but expat parents must follow the correct procedures. Parents must notify the school board of their decision to homeschool their children annually before the start of the academic year. 

Homeschooling families can still access resources in the public school system, including assessments administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. Additionally, parents can opt for distance learning through the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). The ILC offers full-, half-, and non-credit courses via distance learning.

Furthermore, expats can also find schools in Ottawa offering both mainstream classes and distance learning opportunities.

Special-needs education in Ottawa

All children have the right to receive an education in Ottawa, and this extends to special needs students. Schools in Ottawa support students with behavioural, communication, intellectual and physical problems. 

Ottawa’s special-education programmes are inclusive and involve adapting instruction and assessments to students' needs where necessary. Assistive devices can be made available, and educators are generally well-trained to apply specific teaching strategies.

We suggest expats consult with schools and the school board to assess their child’s needs. The school board will then develop an Individualised Education Plan to outline the specific services required by the student.

Tutors in Ottawa

Expats can easily find a tutor in Ottawa. The city boasts several private tutoring companies and online platforms that allow families to search for a specialist tutor with expertise in particular academic subjects. These include TutorBright, Superprof and FirstTutors: Canada.

Lifestyle in Ottawa

Expats living in Ottawa will have their pick of leisure pursuits. Thanks to the abundance of galleries, music festivals and dynamic exhibitions in Ottawa, expats can immerse themselves in the city's arts and culture. The locals also enjoy an active lifestyle throughout the year.

Whether expats prefer shopping, eating out or partying the night away, Ottawa has it all.

Shopping in Ottawa

From Ottawa’s large malls and outlet centres to the expensive designer stores and quirky boutiques, the city has myriad shopping options.

Most of these lie in the downtown area. Shoppers who want everything under one roof can head to the CF Rideau Centre. Those looking to find unique pieces or special gifts can visit the boutiques, craft stores and stalls at ByWard Market or the historic Sparks Street.

Expats looking for a bargain can travel slightly out of town to peruse one of the city's outlet malls, including the Ottawa Train Yards or the Carlingwood Shopping Centre. Other popular shopping malls include the Bayshore Shopping Centre and Place d’Orleans and St Laurent Shopping Centre in east Ottawa.

Nightlife and entertainment in Ottawa

Locals often say that Ottawa wakes up when the sun goes down. Most of the city’s nightlife centres around the ByWard Market district – by day, this area is home to the local farmers, artisans and boutique shops – by night, it transforms as revellers descend upon the district’s many bars and clubs for fun and merriment.

Music lovers will have the opportunity to catch live performances from up-and-coming artists at one of Ottawa's famous music lounges. There are also many opportunities to catch the latest shows and performances at one of the city's theatres, such as the National Arts Centre or Theatre du Casino.

Risk-takers looking to win big should look no further than Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau. With over 1,800 slot machines, poker tables and roulette wheels, expats will have plenty to keep them entertained.

Eating out in Ottawa

Ottawa has a thriving culinary scene, with many top international chefs opening restaurants in the city. Ottawa’s restaurant owners have partnered with local food producers to bring farm-to-table dining to the city through initiatives such as Savour Ottawa.

Whether gourmands enjoy French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian or Fusion cuisine, Ottawa has a plethora of restaurants and cafes to entice every palate and budget under the sun.  

Outdoor activities in Ottawa

The ‘emerald necklace’, a green belt of preserved federally-owned parks, forests and wetlands, is the jewel in Ottawa’s crown. Fitness enthusiasts will enjoy using one of Ottawa’s many green spaces to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The region has hundreds of kilometres of cross-country ski trails as well as a system of parkways along Ottawa's scenic rivers and canals, which are great for cycling, rollerblading and jogging.

Just a short journey from the city centre are some of Ontario’s best beaches, which are a firm favourite among residents during the summer months. For the avid golfer, Ottawa has the most accessible golf courses in Canada. In the winter, Ottawa’s residents fully immerse themselves in the winter-sports scene by ice skating, taking to the slopes or simply being a spectator at the iconic ice hockey games.

Finally, adventurists in Ottawa will have the perfect arena for skydiving, bungee jumping, windsurfing, white-water rafting, scuba diving and kayaking.

See and do in Ottawa

As Canada's capital, Ottawa is a city rich in culture and history. There is also plenty to see and do in Ottawa, no matter the weather. Here is a list of the main attractions in Ottawa.

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park, in the centre of Ottawa, is one of the city’s most cherished natural wonders and is perfect for a family day out. The park has many well-maintained scenic trails and more than 50 species of trees, birds and mammals.

Little Ray’s Nature Centre

Little Ray’s Nature Centre is the largest animal rescue centre in Canada. Children can learn from the live shows and exhibits or interact with the diverse collection of reptiles.

National Gallery of Canada

Dating back to 1880, the National Gallery of Canada holds an excellent collection of European and Canadian paintings, prints, sculptures and photography for art lovers to observe and study.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

The architectural marvel, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, is recognisable by its ornate twin spires. Architecture buffs will enjoy their time in this gothic-style cathedral near Parliament Hill and ByWard Market. 

Rideau Hall and Canal Skateway

Rideau Hall has been the home of every Governor General since 1867. This elegant 19th-century mansion is open to the public for tours. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rideau Canal, is also home to Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest ice rink.

What's on in Ottawa 

Whether expats prefer music concerts, festivals or parades, there are plenty of exciting annual events in Ottawa to keep them busy. Below is a list of the main events on Ottawa's annual calendar.

Winterlude/Bal de Neige (February)

Winterlude is a fun-filled festival that takes place over three weekends in February and celebrates all the joys of winter in Ottawa. Expats can skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway, take in the art pieces at the ice sculpture competitions, or let their inner child out on North America’s biggest snow playground.

Ottawa International Children’s Festival (May/June)

For more than 20 years, the Ottawa International Children’s Festival has staged award-winning performances from young international artists, proving to be a fantastic day out for expat families.

Ottawa Bluesfest (July)

An award-winning music extravaganza, Ottawa Bluesfest is the biggest blues event in Canada. The festival takes place in the heart of Ottawa at LeBreton Flats Parkland and involves hundreds of world-class performances.

Ottawa Pride Festival (August)

Ottawa’s colourful Pride Festival celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community with events over 10 days. The events include a Rainbow Party, Health and Fitness Day and the famous Capital Pride Parade.

Ottawa International Animation Festival (September)

The Ottawa International Animation Festival is the largest of its kind in North America and attracts thousands of film buffs, art lovers and cartoon fans from around the world.

Getting Around in Ottawa

Getting around Ottawa is straightforward as public transport is safe, efficient and extensive. The city also has dedicated cycle paths and a pedestrianised city centre.

Most expats will find it unnecessary to own a car in Ottawa, as it is often more convenient to use public transport due to limited parking, traffic congestion and rising fuel prices. Still, having a car provides an opportunity to explore the great Canadian outdoors and may be especially useful for expats with children.

Public transport in Ottawa

Public transport in Ottawa consists of an extensive bus network and a light-rail system, known as the O-Train. OC Transpo is the company that oversees public transit in the city.

Buses and trains are free for children aged five and under. On Wednesdays and Sundays, it is free for seniors aged 65 and older.

OC Transpo operates an integrated ticketing system. Single tickets are available on board buses and at O-train stations and local stores. Single tickets allow commuters to travel on any O-Train or bus service, and they remain eligible for transfer between services for one and a half hours. 

Expats who will be regular commuters can save money by purchasing daily, weekly or monthly passes.

Smart cards, which make paying for and accessing public transport easy, are also available. These include the Presto card, U-Pass and the STO multi-card. The Presto card also allows access to public transit in Greater Toronto and Hamilton. The U-Pass is a bus-pass programme specially designed for students at the University of Ottawa.


OC Transpo has a large fleet of accessible and comfortable buses that connect most of Ottawa's far-flung areas and suburbs through its extensive routes.

The frequency of bus services ranges between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the route and time of day. Frequency is usually reduced in the late evenings and on Sundays.


The O-Train is a light rail transit service that complements Ottawa’s extensive bus system. While the O-Train does not cover as much ground as the bus network, its advantage lies in its isolation from road traffic, so it often reaches destinations faster.

The O-Train consists of two lines. Line 1 runs from the east to west, stretching from Blair Station to Tunney’s Pasture, while Line 2 runs between Greenboro and Bayview.

Taxis in Ottawa

Taxis are readily available in Ottawa’s city centre and can be hailed or found at a designated taxi rank. For those travelling from the suburbs, it is best to pre-book a taxi by phone.

All taxis in Ottawa must have a working meter and charge a base fare and then a set rate per additional kilometre. Most taxis have credit card facilities, but it's advisable to have cash on hand for shorter journeys. 

It is worth noting that Ottawa-registered taxis are not permitted to pick up customers on the roadside in Quebec, and the same applies to Quebec cabs on Ottawa's side. Nevertheless, residents from both Quebec and Ottawa can pre-book a taxi from either side.

Driving in Ottawa

While car ownership is not essential in Ottawa, it can be useful for those living on the outskirts of Ottawa or those with kids. Driving in Ottawa is relatively straightforward, thanks to excellent road infrastructure and clear signage. 

However, parking in the city centre is limited and expensive due to high demand. The city also has Park and Ride facilities to reduce congestion. We advise expats who own a car to look for accommodation with on-site parking.

Expats in Ottawa are only allowed to use their foreign driving licence for the first 60 days in the province, after which they will need to obtain an Ontario driving licence. Depending on their home country, this will involve either a straight swap of their national licence for an Ontario licence or a full driving test.

Cycling in Ottawa

Ottawa is a wonderland for cyclists, with extensive cycle pathways making getting around Ottawa relatively easy. Both motorists and pedestrians use some cycle lanes. Be that as it may, cycling in Ottawa is fairly safe as motorists and pedestrians generally respect the rules of the road.

Buses and trains in the city have dedicated bicycle racks, making travelling on public transport with a bike a breeze. Cycling enthusiasts will have to invest in their own wheels, as Ottawa currently does not have a bike-sharing scheme.