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Moving to Waterloo

Waterloo is a small, vibrant city situated in southwestern Ontario, 70 miles (113km) west of Toronto. The city is part of the Waterloo Region, which is comprised of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, and four townships – Wellesley, Woolwich, North Dumfries and Wilmot. These cities are commonly referred to as KW or the Tri-City (which includes Cambridge).

Kitchener-Waterloo has a cosmopolitan community. Kitchener was originally known as Berlin (reflecting its Mennonite and German origins) but was renamed for Field Marshall Lord Horatio Kitchener in 1916 at the height of World War I. Waterloo was named after a place just south of Brussels, Belgium, where the Allied armies defeated Napoleon and the French army in 1815.

Expats moving to Waterloo will find it safe and welcoming. In fact, the wider Waterloo area is regarded as being one of the safest regions in Ontario.

Waterloo and its neighbouring cities in the Tri-City area have seen a significant level of development in recent years. Many expats moving to Waterloo take up employment in the technology, financial and manufacturing sectors.

Those moving to Waterloo with children will be pleased to learn that there are a number of good public schools in the city, which their children can attend at no cost. There are, however, no international schools in the city, so expat children may have to contend with the challenge of adjusting to a new school curriculum. Waterloo is also a thriving university town, home to both the Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

Finally, when it comes to leisure time in Waterloo, expats will find plenty of activities to keep themselves busy. The city has lovely parks and waterways, and offers easy access to the towns and beaches on Lake Huron. Those looking for a livelier party scene can head to the bright lights of Toronto.

Working in Waterloo

Waterloo and its surrounding region has a strong knowledge-based and service-based economy. The city is part of Canada’s Technology Triangle (CTT) and boasts vibrant education, manufacturing and financial services sectors.

Job market in Waterloo

The technology sector, in particular, is dominant in Waterloo and contributes almost half of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Before the growth of the technology companies in Waterloo, the region was known for its insurance and financial services. These industries continue to employ a large number of Waterloo residents.

Education plays a significant role in Waterloo’s economy. The city is home to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, as well as a number of think tanks such as the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Institute for Quantum Computing.  

Finding a job in Waterloo

The majority of expats who relocate to Waterloo are transferred through a company they have worked for in their home country or elsewhere. Highly-skilled expats are often headhunted or manage to secure a job before moving to the city.

For those without a secure job offer, the best place to begin the job search is online. Job portals and online classifieds are useful sources of information.

It is, however, important to remember that Waterloo is a small, developing city and its economy is not on the scale found in other Canadian cities. For this reason, networking is especially important. Having established contacts in one’s field of work will certainly help when it comes to finding a job in Waterloo, as networking provides expats with the opportunity to find out about jobs before they are advertised publicly.

Work culture in Waterloo

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. New arrivals will be pleased to know that Canada has strict laws in place which protect the rights of workers.

Expats working in Waterloo should ensure they have permanent residence or are in possession of a valid work permit.

Accommodation in Waterloo

The standard of accommodation in Waterloo is generally high and in line with what one would expect throughout Canada.

All homes have heating systems to ward off the worst of Ontario’s weather. Home security is not a major issue, and as long as they exercise some basic common sense, expats are unlikely to experience any problems.

Types of accommodation in Waterloo

There's a wide range of housing options for expats moving to Waterloo. Rental prices for accommodation in Waterloo are reasonable and generally more affordable than in Toronto.

Many modern apartment complexes and condos are being built in the Waterloo-Kitchener area and rental prices for these luxury properties are more expensive.

Most couples and families rent houses rather than apartments. An option for those on a tighter budget is renting a basement apartment attached to a large house or renting a room as part of a house or flatshare.

Both furnished and unfurnished properties are available to rent in Waterloo. Properties that are advertised as unfurnished can usually still be expected to include a refrigerator and stove, and perhaps even a washing machine, dryer, dishwasher or microwave.

Finding accommodation in Waterloo

Expats planning a move to Waterloo should ideally begin their search for accommodation before they arrive. We recommend that expats do some research to pinpoint the areas and suburbs in Waterloo that offer the best range of housing within their budget. It's important to also consider an area’s proximity to public transport, road links and good schools.

The best place to begin a search for property in Waterloo is online. There are plenty of online portals where properties are advertised.

Nevertheless, new arrivals may prefer to enlist the services of a real-estate agent. Estate agents can provide extra assistance and help house hunters find a property to suit their needs and budget.

Renting accommodation in Waterloo

Expats who wish to rent a property often require a copy of their passport, employment contract and references from previous landlords.


Lease agreements are usually followed to the letter in Canada. Tenants should read their contract carefully, as its conditions are legally binding once signed.

The duration of the lease is usually 12 months. The agreement will also cover any forfeiture conditions, explaining how any breach of the contract leaves the tenant liable for eviction from the property.


The deposit is usually two months’ rent, refundable at the end of the lease.


After securing a rental property and signing the lease, expats will need to ensure that the utilities are turned on and transferred into their name. Water is usually included in the rental charge, but tenants generally pay for gas and electricity usage.

Areas and suburbs in Waterloo

The best places to live in Waterloo

Finding the right area or suburb is one of the initial challenges expats face in their search for a home in Waterloo. While it is a relatively small city, new arrivals should find that various neighbourhoods will meet their requirements.

It is generally more desirable to live within Waterloo city itself, but many expats choose to settle in Kitchener or the wider Tri-City area and commute to Waterloo each day.

Here are some of the areas and suburbs of Waterloo that are popular among the expat community.

Popular expat neighbourhoods in Waterloo



Situated on the Grand River on the northeast edge of Waterloo, Eastbridge is a family-friendly suburb that offers several good public schools and plenty of activities for children. There is easy access to Waterloo’s city centre via public transport and road links. Most of the housing in Eastbridge is modern, but the plots are relatively small.


This is one of Waterloo’s most desirable suburbs. Beechwood is home to excellent schools such as the Mary Johnston Public School, the Centennial Public School and the Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School. The area is close to malls and restaurants, as well as all the facilities in Uptown Waterloo. Properties in Beechwood are large traditional family homes, many of which are on streets lined with beech trees.


Westmount is situated between Downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo and retains a strong village feel, with character homes and tree-lined streets. The Westmount Golf and Country Club is highly popular, along with nearby Belmont Village and Waterloo Park.

Colonial Acres

Colonial Acres is right in the centre of Waterloo and is one of the oldest and most desirable neighbourhoods. There are no schools in the immediate vicinity but buses take children to nearby suburbs. Colonial Acres is generally more popular with single professionals and young couples with higher disposable incomes who wish to live closer to their place of work and entertainment facilities.

Rural Waterloo

Those with a car who are prepared for a slightly longer commute could also look at houses in the rural villages and more distant suburbs of Waterloo. The countryside to the city's northwest is stunning and features Mennonite farms with men driving horse-drawn carriages. Naturally, the properties here are larger and residents experience a more relaxed pace of life.


Downtown Kitchener

Expats can find Victorian properties located along leafy streets in Downtown Kitchener and the rents are more reasonable compared to those in other parts of Waterloo. While the area is a little run down, there is a greater range of budget accommodation and it can be a good option for those looking to save money during their time in the city.

Healthcare in Waterloo

Canadian healthcare is first class and medical care in Waterloo, as in the rest of the country, is largely funded by the national health insurance system.

The doctors in Ontario are highly educated and medical staff are highly competent, so expats can rest assured they will be well taken care of in Canadian hospitals. 

Health insurance in Waterloo

Waterloo falls under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP extends coverage to all residents of the Ontario province at a monthly premium (automatically deducted from a person's salary in tax).

The insurance covers doctors, specialists and all necessary medical surgery. Co-pays are extremely low or non-existent. Note that OHIP does not cover prescription medication, while dentistry and optometry are only covered under certain conditions.

Eligibility for access to OHIP depends on an expat's length of stay. Additionally, there is a three-month waiting period before OHIP coverage starts for new arrivals. We advise expats to apply for their OHIP card on arrival in Waterloo, and to invest in private insurance for their first three months.

Hospitals in Waterloo

St Mary’s General Hospital

Address: 911 Queen’s Boulevard, Kitchener

Grand River Hospital

Address: 835 King Street West, Kitchener

Lifestyle in Waterloo

The wider Waterloo area offers a range of outdoor fun and cultural activities for local residents, and there are plenty of shopping malls, restaurants, nightlife and entertainment facilities for expats to choose from.

Those with a yearning for the hustle and bustle of a big city will appreciate that Toronto, North America’s fourth-largest metropolis, is just a one-hour drive away. Expats will therefore never be short of entertainment options.

Shopping in Waterloo

Expats will find strip malls at just about every major intersection in Waterloo. Shoppers can find branches of high-street stores as well as a number of chain eateries and coffee shops at the city’s largest shopping mall, Conestoga Mall, located on King Street North in the city centre.

For a less generic shopping experience, expats should head to Uptown Waterloo where they can find artisan goods at the Atrium and upscale designer boutiques at Waterloo Town Square.

Nightlife and entertainment in Waterloo

Considering that it is a fairly small city, Waterloo boasts some excellent nightlife. Regardless of whether an individual is interested in live music, watching an arts performance or simply grabbing a few drinks with friends at a local bar, there is something for everyone.

The range of nightlife venues includes authentic Irish pubs, piano bars and jazz clubs. The city also has a handful of nightclubs.

If expats exhaust all their options in Waterloo, they can easily find more variety in nearby Toronto.

Eating out in Waterloo 

Waterloo is home to a range of dining options. Whether one is looking for a critically acclaimed restaurant at which to celebrate a special occasion or a down-to-earth steakhouse, Waterloo is likely to have something for every diner’s tastes and budget.

Expats will find restaurants serving cuisines from across the world, including Thai, Indian, Chinese, French and Italian.

Sports and outdoor activities in Waterloo

Those that wish to pursue an active lifestyle in Waterloo will find that there is no shortage of activities available. As a low-rise suburban city, there are lots of open green spaces. Waterloo Park in the city centre offers 110 acres of parkland, lakes, sports fields and playgrounds.

The Laurel Creek Conservation Area is adjacent to Waterloo Park and provides locals with a quiet place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Swimming, windsurfing, hiking and bird watching are popular activities, and cross-country skiing is an option in winter.

RIM Park sits on the Grand River to the north of the city and offers various sporting and outdoor activities. These include the Grey Silo, an 18-hole championship golf course.

A favourite winter pastime in Waterloo is outdoor skating and expats can find more than 20 outdoor ice rinks in the city. The Chicopee Ski and Summer Resort offers activities throughout the year. Skiing and snowboarding lessons are available in winter, while summer camps offer tennis, biking, beach volleyball and much more.

See and Do in Waterloo

Visiting local attractions will give expats insight into the culture, history and people of the Tri-City area. Many of its attractions are child friendly, which is a bonus for those relocating with kids, and a number of activities can be enjoyed regardless of the weather.

Here is a list of some of the main attractions in the Waterloo area.

Recommended attractions in Waterloo

Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory

Stroll among thousands of free-flying butterflies in a lush garden that features tropical plants, waterfalls, streams and exotic birds.

Cambridge Farmers’ Market

In operation since the 1830s, the Cambridge Farmers’ Market is one of the oldest markets in Canada. Still in the same location as all those years ago, visitors will find vendors selling fresh food, baked goods, cheese, farm-fresh eggs and home-made crafts, with the highlight being the organic fruit and vegetables.

Churchill Park

Churchill Park has a small animal viewing area with a deer pen, pheasants and waterfowl, a picnic area and nature trails. It also hosts events throughout the year, the biggest of which is the annual Cambridge Scottish Festival, held every July.

Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum

This is the largest community museum in Ontario and its permanent exhibits tell the story of the Waterloo region's history. It also hosts occasional travelling exhibits from around the world.

Laurel Creek Conservation Area

The Laurel Creek Conservation Area is a well-preserved green space at the northwestern edge of Waterloo. It’s a great spot for bird-watching and there are several hiking trails through the woods.

Waterloo Park

A beautiful green space that is popular with families looking to be outdoors, Waterloo Park features picnic areas, sports facilities and an interpretive walk around Silver Lake. The highlight for kids is the Waterloo Park West Splash Pad, where summer crowds cool off thanks to its fountains, waterfalls and water cannons.

What's On in Waterloo

Despite being a relatively small city, there are a number of great events in Waterloo to keep residents entertained throughout the year. Nearby Cambridge and Kitchener also offer a selection of popular events.

These are some of the best annual events that take place in and around the city.

Annual events in Waterloo

Canada Day (July)

The first of July is a national celebration in Canada, and expats are sure to find plenty of events and things to do in the Tri-City area of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo. Downtown Kitchener offers an animated celebration with free live music, lots of food and drinks, as well as a fireworks display.

Blues Festival (August)

Held each year in Kitchener, this is the signature arts and music festival within the Waterloo region and one of the largest events of the summer in the area.

Doors Open Waterloo (September)

This is a free heritage and architecture tour of special and 'secret' places in the Waterloo region. It's held on the third Saturday in September each year. 

Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest (October)

This nine-day festival celebrating the traditional beer-based German Oktoberfest is dubbed as Canada's Greatest Bavarian Festival.

Getting Around in Waterloo

As a relatively small city, expats will find it is quick and easy to get from one point to another in Waterloo. Unlike in larger metropolises such as Toronto, traffic is not much of a problem and, while it is not necessary to own a car in the city, it is an option that can be especially handy for those with children.

While Waterloo’s public transportation infrastructure is basic, it is well established, affordable and efficient. Waterloo is also cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly. In fact, walking is usually the fastest way to get about in the city centre.

Public transport in Waterloo

While public transport in Waterloo is somewhat limited in comparison to larger metropolises, Waterloo’s bus network is efficient and makes it easy for people to get around. In addition, there are rail connections from neighbouring Kitchener to a variety of destinations in Ontario.


Grand River Transit (GRT) is the public transport operator within the region of Waterloo, providing daily bus services in the cities of Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge. GRT buses operate along a number of routes, connecting the suburbs of Waterloo to the main points of interest in the city such as Conestoga Mall and the two universities.

Generally, buses run on schedule in Waterloo. However, service frequency to outlying suburbs is reduced during evenings and some routes do not operate on Sundays, so it is best to consult a schedule before a journey.

Coach Canada offers service from the Charles Street Terminal in Kitchener to McMaster University and Hamilton.


There is a railway station in nearby Kitchener that Waterloo residents can use to travel beyond the Tri-City area. Via Rail trains operate between Sarnia, on the southern shore of Lake Huron, and Toronto. There is also a regular GO train service between Kitchener and Toronto.

Driving in Waterloo

While it is possible to get by using public transport in Waterloo, most expats choose to get a car as it allows them greater freedom and independence when it comes to exploring the rest of Ontario.

It is relatively quick and easy to get almost anywhere in the Tri-City area as distances are short and traffic is never much of an issue. Canadian drivers tend to be courteous and road infrastructure in Waterloo is of a good standard.

King Street is the main thoroughfare that travels north-south through the downtown of Kitchener and Waterloo. The Conestoga Parkway and Highway 8 connect Waterloo and Kitchener to Cambridge, Hamilton and other regional cities.

There are on-street parking restrictions in operation during the evenings and drivers should make sure they are not in violation of these as rules are stringently enforced by the city authorities.  

Cycling in Waterloo

Many Waterloo residents are avid cyclists and the city has taken steps to accommodate them. There are numerous cycle pathways and safe places to lock up bikes. 

The Iron Horse Trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail and connects downtown Kitchener to uptown Waterloo and also links Victoria Park to Waterloo Park. Formerly a railway corridor, the trail became a reality when Kitchener and Waterloo formed a partnership to jointly purchase the abandoned rail line to preserve the corridor as an important part of the two cities' heritage and for use as a recreation and transportation trail linking the two cities.

Air travel from Waterloo

The nearest major airport is the Region of Waterloo International Airport, which has international and domestic flights from Kitchener and is 12 miles (19 km) from the centre of Waterloo. 

Another major airport is the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, which operates domestic flights from Hamilton and is 45 miles (72 km) from Waterloo. Other airports within approximately 60 miles (100 km) of Waterloo include Toronto's Pearson International Airport, Toronto Island Airport and the London International Airport.