Alberta’s most populated city falls into the middle-ground when it comes to cost of living calculations compared to its major Canadian counterparts. Toronto and Vancouver are more expensive places to live, especially when it comes to housing, but Calgary isn’t all that far behind in the cost of living rankings.
The cost of housing is, of course, one of the primary financial concerns when it comes to choosing a city to set up roots. Calgary relies heavily on the oil and gas industry, and housing costs generally fluctuate according to the economy’s performance. The industry is recovering from recession at the moment, making rent and house prices very competitive.
So, what else can you expect if you’re interested in making a move to this vibrant city by the Rockies? From housing to nightlife, and from healthcare to recreation, here’s the Moving2Canada guide to cost of living in Calgary.
It’s a good time to rent or buy in Calgary right now, with prices at relatively low levels. If you’re looking to live on your own downtown, you’ll find studio apartments for anywhere between $750-1,000. A full month’s deposit is standard for most listings (which might come as a surprise to former Quebec residents), while you’ll also need to budget to get the accommodation furnished in most cases.
A three-bed rental property in the city averages at around $1,200-1,800 (as of late 2018), which is very reasonable. Rent will be on the higher end of that scale if you’re looking for accommodation in the popular Southwest and Northwest areas.
It’s also a buyers market at the moment, with plenty of supply if you’re looking to set up long term roots. Average house prices are generally between $420,000-470,000, and there’s little or no house price growth at the moment.
Bills are also fairly reasonable here. You should expect to be paying between $200-250 per month in a three or four bed property for heating and electricity, even in winter. Monthly broadband costs set residents back anywhere between $50-70 per month.
Having a car in Calgary is a significant asset because the public transport system isn’t as comprehensive as that of other major Canadian cities, and this can add significantly to your overall cost of living expenses in the city. That said, if you find yourself near C-Train or bus routes, a monthly pass ($103) is good value. An individual bus or train fare sets you back $3.30 per journey, but the C-Train is free to use between downtown stops.
Car running costs in Calgary are relatively cheap, and a litre of gas costs around $1.25 (as of November 2018). The city is well served with Uber and taxi services, while you should also consider Car2Go if you want to drive but don’t feel like buying a car. Hiring one of these shared cars for short journeys can work out much cheaper than a taxi alternative.
Dining & Nightlife
The cost of food in Calgary, as well as Canada in general, can come as one of the bigger surprises to newcomers. Groceries, particularly meat and some dairy products (e.g. cheese), tend to be more expensive than what you might be used to. On the other hand, a trip to a quality restaurant tends to be quite good value so there’s no need to view it as a luxury dining option.
A standard main course meal in a mid-range Calgarian restaurant will set you back between $14-20 generally, but you can get even better deals by keeping an eye on the daily specials which are very common across the city’s eateries. A standard burger meal in a fast food joint will set you back around ten bucks as well.
A pint of beer is around the same price as what you’ll see in Canada’s other major cities. Most beers will cost between $6-9 before tip, which you’ll soon learn is almost mandatory. Nights out can therefore wind up being quite expensive, so make sure to budget carefully if you like to live it up.
Even if you’re only on the International Experience Canada (IEC) two-year working visa, residents are immediately able to apply for Alberta healthcare coverage. This can be done by visiting one of Calgary’s many registry agencies, where you’ll just need to provide identification, proof of residence, and proof that you’re an eligible worker.
The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) covers a wide range of medical services, including visits to the doctor. A short appointment with a doctor could end up costing up to $100, if you’re not covered under this plan. Acquiring this healthcare coverage offers terrific peace of mind, and the healthcare card arrives in the post only a few weeks after applying.
Skiing & Recreation
Calgary, with its proximity to the Rockies, is a hub for winter sport enthusiasts, but beware that it’s not a cheap pursuit, and can add to your cost of living greatly. Newbies who want to give it a go for the first time will probably have to fork out at least $200 to cover lessons, equipment and access to the slopes for a single day. This, of course, becomes cheaper if you buy your own gear and head for the mountains on a more regular basis.
There are lots of publicly owned swimming and fitness centres dotted around the city too, where a one-off entry fee sets adults back around $6-8. The Calgary Sport & Social Club (CSSC) is also a great group to get involved with if you want to play a wide range of team sports. Expect to pay around $100-120 for spring, summer, fall or winter league action. If you’re paying on a one-off basis for an evening kick-around, it’s around $10-15 per person but beware that match locations have a habit of changing very frequently on a week-to-week basis.