Best Places to Live in Canada: A Guide for Expats and Immigrants

best places to live in canada
best places to live in canada

Canada is the second largest country in the world by area. However, its population is quite small, considering its vast size, with most of the people living around the coastal regions. With an extremely tolerant and liberal policy towards immigration, Canada is a great place for people looking towards finding a new home in a developed country. The country boasts of a great healthcare system and a formidable economy, offering different types of jobs in different sectors. A large immigrant diaspora makes it easier for immigrants from different places to find a home here. In this post we will look at some of the best places to live in Canada, their cost of living, work opportunities, area, population and culture.

Here are the best places and cities to live in Canada:

#1. Montréal


Named the fifth best city in the world for expats, Montréal should be at the top of your list if you are thinking of moving to Canada. Expats in this city are especially pleased with the work-life balance and their options for housing, which are both affordable and easy to find. The general opinion is that the quality of life is high.

Expats seem to agree on one drawback of living in Montréal, the climate. The winters in Montréal are brutal. Temperatures plummet to many degrees below freezing and blizzards are frequent. Finding your car covered with a thick layer of snow every morning isn’t unusual. Such brutally cold, windy and snowy winters make Montréal a tough place to adjust for people who have lived in warm places previously. The level of healthcare support in Montréal is also worse than many major Canadian cities. 

Cost of Living

The annual cost of living (per capita) is roughly 28,000 CAD (21,000 USD) in Montréal. With average rent being around 1,300 CAD per year, the cost of living expenses excluding the rent will come up to roughly about 1,000 CAD (750 USD).   

Housing will take up a big part of your expenses, although the majority of expats still consider it affordable. Exact costs will vary but expect to pay around 1,300 CAD (900 USD) a month for a one-bedroom apartment and 2,000 CAD (1,500 USD) for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center. As with any city’s real estate rates, housing cost goes down significantly as you move away from the center of the city. One bedroom apartments might cost around 800 CAD while three bedroom apartments will cost around 1300 CAD. Utilities would add around 90 CAD (67 USD) to that, plus 45 CAD (33 USD) for internet.

Work Opportunities

Montréal’s most prominent industries are:

  • commerce
  • transport
  • finance
  • pharmaceuticals
  • technology
  • design
  • education
  • art, culture, and film
  • tourism
  • food
  • fashion
  • gaming

Because of the number of Francophones, English speakers may not find the same job opportunities as French speakers in Montréal. In fact, unlike the rest of Canada, work permits for Quebec require speaking some level of French.

If you are planning on using the public transportation system there, budget for an additional 86.50 CAD (65 USD) a month.

City Area and Population

Montréal is the second most populated city in Canada, and the most populated in the province of Quebec. It has an area of 431 km squared (4,639 square miles), and a population of 1.7 million. Despite the city’s relatively small area, it has the second highest number of consulates in North America.

Life and Culture 

As one of the most bilingual cities in the country, you can get away with speaking both English and French. The official language, however, is French, with the Francophone community making up 65% of the resident population. For that reason, English-speaking expats can sometimes struggle to integrate with the local culture.

However, you will still find the city to be multicultural and home to a growing community of expats. Montréal enjoyed the tag of Canada’s cultural capital for a long time. As a result, the city has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment and leisure options. 

#2. Ottawa


It’s the capital of Canada, but not the country’s largest or most populous city. You won’t find it as dynamic as other cities in Canada, but it is still a popular expat destination. You can expect to find plenty of work opportunities, reasonable house prices, a low crime rate, considerable cultural life, and plenty of green spaces for leisurely picnics and bike rides.

Cost of Living

Ottawa is third on Canada’s most expensive cities list. A single person living in Ottawa should expect a monthly expense of approximately 2,700 CAD (2,000 USD). If you choose to take an apartment in an expensive area, it can set you back by 2,000 CAD (1,500 USD) per month on average. Utilities add 130 CAD (98 USD) to that, and 50 CAD (37 USD) more for internet.

Purchasing a home there can be quite expensive. Expect to pay between 3,000 and 5,000 CAD (2,260—3,770 USD) per square meter (11 square feet) for an apartment—the closer to the city center, the more expensive it will be.

If you are going to be driving in the city, you can purchase a mid-level car for 23,000 CAD (17,350 USD). Gas is quite affordable, at 1.17 CAD (0.88 USD) a liter. If you choose to use the city’s public transportation options, it will end up costing you about 117 CAD (88 USD) per month. 

Work Opportunities

The top industries in Ottawa are:

  • technology
  • federal government
  • finance
  • insurance
  • real estate
  • trade
  • health
  • education

Their technology sector is particularly advanced, making Ottawa one of the main high-tech centers of North America. There are more than 70,000 jobs in this area alone.

The average salary in Ottawa is typically between 60,000 and 70,000 CAD (45,000-52,800 USD) a year.

City Area and Population

Ottawa is the fourth most populated city in Canada, even though it is superior in size to Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, and Calgary combined. This city, located in the province of Ontario, has a population of 934,000 in an area of 2,790 km squared (30,031 square miles).

Life & Culture

Compared to Montréal, Toronto, or Vancouver, Ottawa may not seem as vibrant or trendy, but you will certainly not find it boring. You can enjoy an active city and nightlife, with plenty of restaurants, galleries, theatres, and museums to choose from. The city’s numerous parks offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

#3. Calgary


Calgary is sometimes known as being the most “American” of Canadian cities, given its cowboy character, conservative leanings, and social policies. The city’s diaspora is quite homogenous and compared to multicultural havens like Vancouver and Toronto, Calgary lacks diversity. Off late, the city has started working towards discarding this image. 

This Canadian city offers plenty of outdoor adventures and activities, along with many arts and cultural destinations. With a bonus of an extremely low crime rate, low sales taxes, and a good transportation system, it is no wonder expats flock to this top metropolis.

Cost of Living

Like Toronto and Vancouver, Calgary also has a high cost of living, although not as soaring. The average cost of living in Calgary is 33,855 CAD (25,276 USD) per year. If you want to purchase a home here, you will need to pay roughly 431,000 CAD (324,260 USD). If renting, you will need to set aside anywhere between 750 and 1,000 CAD (564–753 USD) per month, and that is just for a simple studio apartment, unfurnished. You will also be expected to put down a full month’s deposit.

Heating and electricity costs for a three/four bedroom house will vary between 200 and 250 CAD (151-188 USD). A good internet connection can cost up to 70 CAD (93 USD) per month. 

In Calgary, a monthly transport pass costs 106 CAD (79 USD), and an hour long taxi ride will cost you 29 CAD (22 USD).

Work Opportunities

Highly skilled expats should not struggle to find employment in this Canadian city. Expats should look for openings in the following trades:

  • financial services
  • oil, gas, and petroleum
  • agriculture
  • IT
  • geology
  • tourism
  • architecture
  • education
  • healthcare
  • construction
  • urban planning
  • creative media and arts
  • manufacturing
  • engineering

City Area and Population

The area of Calgary is 825.3 km squared (8,883 square miles). It has a population of 1.3 million and is located in the province of Alberta.

Life and Culture

Expats will find an abundance of art, food, fashion, film, festivals, literary events, and cultural celebrations throughout the year.

#4. Vancouver


Vancouver is one of the best and most popular destinations for expats due to its natural beauty and culture. It is surrounded by not only breathtaking mountains, but the vast and expansive Pacific Ocean as well. It is an excellent place for skiing, snowboarding, surfing, whale watching, and other outdoor activities.

This city ranks high in healthcare, education, culture, and the environment. It is one of the most multicultural cities in Canada, making it an ideal spot for expats from all countries to integrate. Nearly 50% of the population speaks a language other than English.

Cost of Living 

As far as cost of living goes, Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities of Canada. The average cost of living is 40,680 CAD (30,400 USD) per year. For a one-bedroom apartment in the city, you can expect to pay 2,080 CAD (1,550 USD) per month. Because of its compact size and large population, the real estate prices are really high. You can expect to pay an average 1,092,000 CAD (821,555 USD) for a two/three bedroom house.

A monthly transport pass in Vancouver costs between 75 and 95 CAD (57–72 USD). For an hour long taxi ride, you can expect to be charged 34 CAD (25 USD). A standard phone and data plan will set you back by about 75 CAD (57 USD) per month. Finally, for groceries and household items, you will end up spending around 315 CAD (238 USD) monthly.

If you are eating in a restaurant, you are expected to tip (quite like the US). It is expected that you leave a tip that is between 15 and 20% of the bill. 

Work Opportunities

Vancouver ranks high among expats due to its strong economy, making it a prime spot for those looking for employment opportunities. A lot of today’s famous TV shows and movies are filmed in Vancouver because of tax breaks. Expats searching for a job can explore openings in the following industries:

  • personal services
  • cinema and film
  • finance
  • technology
  • telecommunications
  • forestry
  • mining
  • construction
  • tourism and hospitality
  • fishing

The average annual salary for the people of Vancouver is 56,603 CAD (42,682 USD).

City Area and Population

Vancouver has an area of 115 km squared with a population of 675,218 habitants. It is located in the province of British Columbia on the West Coast. The tiny area results in an extremely high population density (especially compared to other Canadian cities).

Life and Culture 

Located on Canada’s West Coast, Vancouver is very tolerant and diverse. It is a great place for immigrants to live. People are amicable with one another. The city also boasts a significantly large LGBTQ community. Vancouver is home to one of the largest gay pride parades in the country. It is important to note that marijuana is also a large part of the lifestyle in this city. The recreational drug is legal in Canada.

#5. Toronto

Just like its multicultural cousin Vancouver on the West Coast, Toronto is also extremely diverse and tolerant, making it a haven for immigrants. There is a significant international community in Toronto. Almost half of its residents weren’t born in Canada. As per a recent survey, Canada’s most ethnically diverse city has people from over 200 nationalities.  

Cost of Living

There is no other way to say it, Toronto is the most expensive city in Canada. Per year, your cost of living will be an average of 45,380 CAD (33,880 USD). The median monthly rent in Toronto is 2,270 CAD (1,700 USD) for a one-bedroom apartment. If you wish to buy a house, you will need an average of 766,000 CAD (576,290 USD).

A monthly transportation pass in Toronto costs around 146 CAD (109 USD). For an hour long taxi ride, you will need to pay 31 CAD (23 USD).

Education in Toronto is also quite expensive. If you wish to enrol your child in an international school, you can expect to pay an average of 1,977 CAD (1,476 USD) per month in tuition fees.

Work Opportunities

There are plenty of job opportunities for expats in this city. The best sectors in which to look for employment are:

  • finance
  • film and cinema
  • biotechnology
  • business
  • media
  • IT
  • engineering

City Area and Population

Toronto has an area of 630.2 km squared and a population of 2.93 million. This is the largest city in Canada and is found in the province of Ontario.

Life and Culture

Toronto’s influx of immigrants has undoubtedly influenced the city’s assorted culture and even its cuisine. The city can be described as a business-minded, conscientious, socially progressive, and pluralistic metropolitan. There are many museums, cultural activities, festivals, and sports events throughout the year. The city is the home of the 2019 NBA Champions, Toronto Raptors.

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