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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 cost of living in Calgary isn’t all that far behind when it come to these 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.

What Can You Expect to Pay for Housing in Calgary?

Calgary was previously one of the most affordable major cities to live in, but the cost of renting in Calgary increased pretty dramatically in 2023. If you’re looking to live on your own downtown, you’ll find studio apartments starting from $1,300. 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 starts at around $2,100 (as of March 2024), which is comparatively low when you consider the costs of living in Vancouver or Toronto. Rent will be on the higher end of that scale if you’re looking for accommodation in the popular Southwest and Northwest areas.

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.

In brief, when it comes to living costs in Calgary around housing you should be prepared to pay more than you would in most other Canadian cities but less than if you were in Toronto and Vancouver.

How is Transportation in Calgary?

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 ($115) is good value. An individual bus or train fare sets you back $3.70 per journey, but the C-Train is free to use between downtown stops.

Living costs in Calgary when it comes to running a car are relatively cheap, and a litre of gas costs around $1.56 (as of March 2024). 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.

Cost of living in Calgary at a glance

ExpenseEstimated total cost per month
Three course meal for one in a mid-range restaurant twice a month.$100.00 CAD
A couple of domestic beers twice a week$125.00 CAD
Cappuccino each weekday morning$105.00 CAD
Groceries, monthly spend, per person$400.00 CAD
Basic (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage) for 85 m2 apartment in city center $310.00 CAD
Cinema ticket for one person$18.00 CAD
Monthly transport pass$115.00 CAD
Fitness club, monthly fee for one adult$79.00
One bedroom apartment in city center neighbourhood$1,936.28 CAD
Total$3,188.28 CAD

What is Dining & Nightlife like in Calgary?

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. Like many aspects of life in Canada, the cost of living in Calgary can be higher in some metrics and more affordable in others.

A standard main course meal in a mid-range Calgarian restaurant will set you back between $25 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 15 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.

What is Healthcare Coverage in Calgary?

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 in Calgary 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, plus equipment costs 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. A monthly pass for a fitness club averages around $78.95, so living costs in Calgary can be quite low for sport and leisure activities. 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 $100-150 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.

About the author

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Hugo O'Doherty

Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
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