- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Ottawa Guide (PDF)
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.
►For an overview of life in Ottawa, check out Moving to Ottawa
"Overall, Ottawa is an easy city to live in. It’s safe, clean, family-friendly, and it’s arguably one of the most picturesque cities in Canada. I can’t compare it to France, it’s just different. I do think the job market is better here than in Europe, though, especially if you’re bilingual."
Read about the expat life in Ottawa in our interview with French expat Juliette.
Are you an expat living in Ottawa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ottawa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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