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Life in Calgary: Cost of Living, Lifestyle, & Challenges

Life in Calgary: Cost of Living, Lifestyle, & Challenges

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A metropolitan hub nestled in Alberta's stunning landscapes, Calgary is known for its dynamic blend of urban energy and natural beauty. From breathtaking parks to bustling downtown districts, Calgary is a city that truly offers something for everyone. But what is life really like in Calgary? Whether you're contemplating a move to this energetic city, or you're just curious about the daily life in the heart of Alberta, this comprehensive guide is for you.

In the following sections, we delve into the realities of living in Calgary, exploring the city's cost of living, lifestyle, nightlife, and even the not-so-glamorous challenges it holds. We'll also focus on the experiences of new immigrants and the costs associated with utilities, providing a well-rounded insight for those considering this city as their new home.

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Cost of Living in Calgary

We've pulled data from Expatisan for the average cost of living in Calgary for 2023 and summarized our findings below:


The cost of food varies greatly depending on where you choose to eat and what items you buy. For example, a basic lunchtime menu in the business district costs around C$22, while a combo meal at a fast food restaurant is roughly C$12.

Groceries are generally affordable; a litre of whole-fat milk costs C$2.30, a kilogram of tomatoes is C$4.98, and a kilogram of potatoes costs C$2.99. If you're a fan of beverages, a half-litre of domestic beer in a supermarket is about C$3.71, and a good-quality bottle of red table wine costs C$16.

Housing & Utilities

Housing expenses can vary depending on the location and size of the accommodation. The monthly rent for an 85 m2 furnished accommodation in an expensive area is about C$2,695, while the same size in a normal area is approximately C$2,075.

Utilities for two people in an 85 m2 flat are around C$275 per month. Internet service costs about C$83 per month. If you need home appliances, a 40” flat screen TV is priced at around C$457, and a microwave from a popular brand like Bosch, Panasonic, LG, or Sharp costs C$327.


Clothing prices in Calgary are on par with other large cities. A pair of jeans from a popular brand like Levi's costs around C$75, while a summer dress from a high streets stores like Zara or H&M is priced at C$66. Sport shoes from brands like Nike or Adidas come in around C$106, and a pair of men’s leather business shoes cost about C$139.


Transportation costs can also vary. A new Volkswagen Golf, for example, is priced at C$31,504. A litre of gas costs C$1.58, and a monthly public transport ticket costs C$112. A taxi trip of about 8 kilometres (5 miles) on a business day has a basic tariff of C$23.

Personal Care

Personal care expenses also vary widely. A short visit to a private doctor, lasting 15 minutes, costs C$79. Cold medicine for 6 days costs C$11, while a box of antibiotics with 12 doses costs C$20. Basic toiletries are also reasonably priced; a roll-on deodorant is C$6, and a tube of toothpaste is C$3.09.


Entertainment costs depend on the activity. A basic dinner out for two at a neighbourhood pub costs about C$61, while two tickets to the movies are priced at C$32. If you're into theatre, the best available seats for two tickets will cost you around C$182. A gym membership in the business district costs C$77 per month. For tech enthusiasts, an iPad Wi-Fi 128GB is priced at C$591.

Calgary Nightlife

From upscale cocktail bars and trendy breweries to spirited dance clubs and laid-back pubs, there's something for everyone when the sun sets over the city of Calgary.

The city's nightlife is mainly concentrated in a few popular areas.

  • Downtown Calgary, especially along Stephen Avenue, is packed with some of the city's trendiest bars, clubs, and restaurants, making it an ideal spot for those looking to bar-hop or find a great meal before heading out for the night.
  • 17th Avenue, often referred to as "Red Mile", is another bustling hotspot with an array of pubs, bars, and eateries. It's particularly vibrant during hockey season when Calgary Flames fans fill the area, creating an electrifying atmosphere.
  • Inglewood, one of Calgary's oldest neighbourhoods, is known for its more laid-back and artsy atmosphere. You'll find quirky bars, live music venues, and charming bistros lining its streets.
  • Breweries like Last Best Brewing & Distilling, Village Brewery, and Tool Shed Brewing Co. offer an array of craft beers, brewery tours, and tasting events.
  • Furthermore, the city's nightlife has a strong emphasis on live music, with venues like the Ironwood Stage & Grill and the Palace Theatre regularly hosting local and international acts.

Calgary Lifestyle

Outdoor Activities

Calgary is known for its outdoor lifestyle, thanks to the city's close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and numerous parks. Residents and visitors can explore the Bow River pathway for biking or running, enjoy fly fishing in the Bow River, or head to nearby Banff National Park for world-class skiing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. In the city, Nose Hill Park and Fish Creek Provincial Park provide urban hiking and nature experiences.

Arts and Culture

The city's commitment to arts and culture is evident in its diverse offerings. The Glenbow Museum houses significant art and cultural collections, while the Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, celebrates Canadian music. The annual Calgary Stampede includes a large arts and crafts fair, and the Calgary International Film Festival and Folk Music Festival also attract global attention. Public art installations are also a common sight around the city.


Calgary's food scene is a melting pot of cultures, with a selection of restaurants offering everything from local Alberta beef to authentic international cuisines. Calgary's food scene is enriched by events like Calgary Stampede Pancake Breakfasts, Taste of Calgary, and YYC Food and Drink Experience. Local farmers' markets, including the Calgary Farmers' Market and Crossroads Market, offer fresh produce, artisanal products, and unique local foods.


Sports are a significant part of life in Calgary, home to the NHL's Calgary Flames, the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, and the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. The city annually hosts the Calgary Stampede, known as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," which features rodeo events and chuckwagon races. For amateur athletes and sports enthusiasts, there are numerous sports leagues, golf courses, and the Olympic Oval, a legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary.

Life in Calgary for New Immigrants


Calgary is a multicultural city and is often regarded as a welcoming place for newcomers. With a high quality of life, it offers diverse employment opportunities, particularly in the energy, technology, and healthcare sectors. New immigrants in Calgary enjoy a vibrant cultural life, outdoor recreational activities, and an inclusive community feel.

Resources and Community Support

The city provides numerous resources to assist new immigrants in adjusting to life in Calgary. Organizations such as the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association, Immigrant Services Calgary, and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society offer programs including language classes, employment services, and community connection programs. Additionally, Calgary Public Library offers free resources and services to help newcomers settle in the city.

Disadvantages of Living in Calgary


While Calgary enjoys more sunny days than most Canadian cities, its weather can be unpredictable due to the 'Chinook' – a warm, dry wind that can cause temperature fluctuations. Winters in Calgary can be very cold with heavy snowfall, which might be a challenge for those accustomed to milder climates.

Cost of Living

While Calgary is more affordable than cities like Toronto or Vancouver, the cost of living can still be relatively high, especially in terms of housing. New residents should be prepared for the costs associated with living in the city.

Distance from Other Major Cities

Calgary's location means it's a bit isolated from other major Canadian cities. While it's close to natural attractions like the Rocky Mountains, it requires a significant drive or short flight to visit cities like Vancouver or Edmonton.

Employment Dependent on Oil and Gas

Calgary's economy is heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry, and job market fluctuations often align with the performance of these sectors. This can lead to instability in employment opportunities, especially during downturns in the energy market.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Calgary a good place to live?

Yes, Calgary is often rated as one of the best places to live in Canada due to its high quality of life, job opportunities, and access to outdoor activities. The city is safe, clean, and boasts a diverse and welcoming community.

Is life expensive in Calgary?

Compared to cities like Toronto and Vancouver, the cost of living in Calgary is generally lower, particularly in terms of housing. However, it's still a major city and expenses like food, utilities, transportation, and entertainment can add up.

Is it better to live in Toronto or Calgary?

This depends on individual preference. Toronto has a larger population, more cultural diversity, and a more robust job market in fields like finance, technology, and media. Calgary, on the other hand, has a lower cost of living, more access to nature, and a smaller, community-oriented feel.

What salary do you need to live in Calgary?

The salary you need to live comfortably in Calgary depends on your lifestyle and expenses. On average, a single person would need around C$3,000 to C$4,000 per month after tax to cover all expenses including housing, food, transportation, and entertainment.

What is the average monthly cost of living in Calgary?

The average monthly cost of living for a single person in Calgary, not including rent, is estimated to be around C$1,000 to C$1,500. For a four-person family, this could increase to around C$3,500 to C$4,000, excluding rent.

Is it cheaper to live in Calgary or Ontario?

Cost of living can vary greatly within Ontario, but on average, it's generally cheaper to live in Calgary, particularly when it comes to housing.

What street has all the bars on it in Calgary?

17th Avenue, also known as "The Red Mile," is famous for its numerous bars, restaurants, and nightlife establishments.

Where to avoid in downtown Calgary?

While Calgary is generally a safe city, it's advised to be cautious in areas like East Village and parts of Forest Lawn, particularly late at night.

How much is the average monthly utility bill in Alberta?

The average monthly utility bill in Alberta, which would typically include heating, electricity, and water, can range between C$150 to C$250 depending on the size of the home and the number of occupants.

How much is the average monthly water bill in Calgary?

The average monthly water bill in Calgary for a single-family home is around C$50 to C$75.

How much does electricity and heating cost in Calgary?

For a typical apartment or small home in Calgary, electricity and heating costs can range from C$75 to C$150 per month, depending on usage and the time of year.

How much does it cost to maintain a house in Calgary?

The cost to maintain a house in Calgary can vary widely depending on the age and condition of the home. On average, homeowners should budget around 1-3% of the home's overall value per year for home maintenance and repairs.

Where do most immigrants live in Calgary?

Immigrants in Calgary live throughout the city, but certain neighbourhoods like Northeast Calgary, Forest Lawn, and Marlborough are known for their diverse immigrant populations.

Need a hand moving to Calgary? Consider Top Move

All in all, Calgary is a vibrant city that offers a high standard of living, rich cultural experiences, and a plethora of outdoor activities, making it a desirable place to call home. Its varied dining scene, dynamic nightlife, and wide range of recreational opportunities reflect a city full of energy and diversity.

Whether you're drawn by the city's economic opportunities, its natural beauty, or the welcoming community, Calgary has much to offer both longtime residents and newcomers alike. Yet, like any city, it has its challenges, including the weather and certain aspects of the cost of living. However, for many, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, making the decision to move here an easy one.

For those considering the move to this fantastic city, consider reaching out to Top Move. Top Move can provide professional, efficient, and hassle-free moving services, ensuring that your transition to Calgary is as smooth and stress-free as possible. After all, moving to a new city is an adventure, and it's one that should start on a high note. Welcome to Calgary!

Need a moving company in Calgary?

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