Getting Around in Ottawa

public transport in ottawaGetting around Ottawa is fairly straightforward. Public transport is safe and it is easy to travel from one corner of the city to another.

Most expats will not find it necessary to own a car, as it is often more convenient to use public transport in Ottawa due to limited parking and traffic congestion. However, having a car does provide greater opportunities for exploring the Canadian outdoors.

Ottawa has the infrastructure in place to make cycling and walking around the city centre feasible for residents.

Public transport in Ottawa


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

OC Transpo operates an integrated ticketing system. Single tickets can be bought on board buses or in bundles of six at O-train stations or local stores. Single tickets allow commuters to travel on any O-train or bus service and transfer between services for a period of one and a half hours. Single fares are relatively expensive so expats who plan on using public transport regularly will save money by purchasing daily, weekly or monthly passes.

Buses

OC Transpo has a fleet of more than 1,000 buses that operate on over 200 routes. Travelling by bus is a comfortable and convenient way to get around Ottawa and the bus network tends to cover many of the suburbs that are not in easy reach of an O-Train station. 

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

O-Train

The O-Train is a light rail transit service which complements Ottawa’s extensive bus network. While the O-Train network does not cover as much ground as the bus network, the major advantage of using the O-Train is that it is isolated from road traffic and so often gets to a destination much faster.

The O-Train consists of just one line which runs from Greenboro to Bayview, stopping at a number of stations along the way. Trains are fairly frequent and stop every 10 to 15 minutes.
 

Taxis in Ottawa


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

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 is advisable to have cash for shorter journeys.

Expats will find that most cab drivers know their way around Ottawa’s city centre very well. However, passengers may need to provide more specific instructions if they plan on travelling to a suburban location.

It is worth noting that Ottawa-registered taxis are not permitted to pick up customers from the side of the road on the Quebec side and the same applies to Quebec cabs in Ottawa. However, it is possible for those living in Quebec to pre-book a taxi in Ottawa and vice versa. 

Cycling in Ottawa


Ottawa is a cyclist-friendly city with over 105 miles (170km) of cycle pathways, making getting around Ottawa by bike relatively easy. Some cycle lanes are shared with motorists and others with pedestrians. However, cycling is fairly safe in Ottawa and motorists are generally aware of cyclists on the road.

Travelling on public transport with bikes is accommodated for as bike racks are available on all buses and O-Trains in the city. While many regular commuters invest in bicycles of their own, they can also use Ottawa’s bike-sharing scheme.

Capital BIXI, Ottawa’s BIXI scheme consists of 250 bikes which can be picked up and a dropped off at one of the 25 docking stations scattered throughout the city.

BIXI offers a number of subscription packages starting from 24-hour access to monthly and annual packages. Cyclists are initially charged a flat rate for the duration of their subscription and then charged a usage fee depending on how long they've used the bicycles for; the first 30 minutes of any journey are free and for each additional 30 minutes a fee will apply.

It is important to note that Ottawa’s BIXI scheme is not operational throughout the year because of the city’s harsh winters. BIXI bikes are not available for hire from mid-November through to early April.
 

Driving in Ottawa


While it is not essential to own a vehicle as an expat living in Ottawa, it is useful for those who live on the outskirts of the city or have children that need to be transported around town.

Driving is fairly easy in Ottawa as the road infrastructure is of an excellent standard and signage is very clear. However, parking is limited and hard to find in the city centre and parking fees are high. For these reasons, most of Ottawa’s residents opt to use public transportation rather than drive on a daily basis.

Expats in Ottawa are only allowed to use their foreign driver's licence for their first 60 days in the province, after which they are required to obtain an Ontario driver’s licence.

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