- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Calgary Guide (PDF)
Expats will find getting around in Calgary quite straightforward as the city has a fairly reliable public transport network which is made up of buses and trains. While most of Calgary’s residents make use of public transport to commute to and from work during the week, many find it useful to have their own vehicle as well.
Expats will find the cost of purchasing and maintaining a car in Canada is reasonable and having a set of wheels will give new arrivals the freedom to explore the region, surrounding areas and suburbs at their own leisure without being restricted by transport schedules.
Public transport in Calgary
Public transport in Calgary is fast and efficient. The city has an extensive public transport system which is made up of buses and trains.
There is an integrated ticketing system which covers all train lines and bus routes. Single tickets allow 90 minutes of travel on any route. However, for expats who plan on using public transport on a regular basis, the best option is a monthly pass. Both of these options can be purchased at any CTrain station, most convenience stores in Calgary, and online.
Calgary’s light rail transit system is known as the CTrain. The CTrain network is not as extensive as one would find in other cities and in many cases commuters may also need to rely on bus services to complete a journey.
Trains run frequently from 4am to 1am every day. On certain holidays and festival days there will be an extended 24-hour service. Unfortunately, commuters do experience frequent CTrain closures, especially on weekends as a result of construction or maintenance. So, those who plan on travelling over weekends should check online and establish which bus replacement services are heading to each destination.
Calgary’s extensive bus network consists of more than 100 different routes. Buses in Calgary allow people to reach places that are not covered sufficiently by the CTrain network. All of the bus routes are numbered and are generally designed to connect various suburbs to Calgary’s city centre or CTrain stations.
Buses aren’t as frequent as trains in Calgary; passengers can expect to wait on average around 30 minutes between buses, although service frequency does vary from route to route.
Taxis in Calgary
Taxis are readily available throughout Calgary. Expats living in suburbs further away from the city centre will benefit from finding out about smaller taxi providers in their local area.
While taxis certainly aren’t cheap, they do provide a safe and efficient door-to-door service. This is especially useful for those travelling late at night to areas not covered by the CTrain or late night bus service.
Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available in the city.
Cycling in Calgary
While Calgary has a good network of off-street bike paths, expats might find that drivers are not always courteous to cyclists. It is therefore best to be vigilant when sharing the road with cars.
Walking in Calgary
Once someone has travelled into the city centre of Calgary, the quickest way for them to get between points is on foot. In the winter, most people navigate their way around the city using the Plus 15 system which is made up of a number of enclosed walkways.
Driving in Calgary
It is not essential to have a car in Calgary but most expats do choose to purchase their own vehicle. A car is especially useful for expats with children or those wanting to explore the region in their spare time. Expats can drive using their national driver's licence but will eventually have to apply for a local Alberta licence.
Expats who decide to drive in Calgary might find it difficult to get to grips with the city’s quadrant system at first. But one soon learns that it is actually quite logical and systematic. Expats using a car to commute into Calgary’s city centre will experience lots of traffic, especially during rush-hour periods. Drivers commuting to work should be aware of Calgary’s lane reversal rules that are in operation at peak times during the week.
Driving in winter conditions is something expat drivers will need to get used to. The city authorities do take measures to ensure that all major roads are ploughed, salted and sanded, but drivers should be aware that driving on smaller residential streets can be hazardous after a snowfall.