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Moving to Ottawa

Ottawa lies in southeast Ontario where the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau Rivers meet. As Canada’s capital city, the metropolis is a political and economic powerhouse. Expats moving to here can appreciate the fact that, while at the forefront of technological advances, Ottawa also prides itself in conserving its heritage and culture.

A cosmopolitan city with a welcoming environment, Ottawa is home to a diverse mix of ethnic populations. Expats from all over the world are drawn to this North American capital, largely thanks to its attractive employment and academic opportunities. 

The city is home to a highly-educated workforce – boasting more engineers and scientists per capita than any other Canadian city. As such, expat families relocating with children can rest assured that Ottawa affords an excellent range of affordable, high-quality public and private education options. 

The diverse job market encompasses sectors from information technology to life sciences and academia. But expats seeking employment should be aware that competition for jobs in Ottawa is fierce.

Fortunately, new arrivals are sure to enjoy Ottawa’s high quality of life. Expats will benefit from one of the world’s most highly-regarded healthcare systems. Residents of Ontario have most of their healthcare needs covered by the province. Private healthcare and specialist treatment facilities are available to complement the public facilities.

Despite being Canada’s capital, the city has one of the lowest costs of living in the country. House hunters are sure to find accommodation in Ottawa to suit their budget and preferences – from quaint townhouses to high-rise condominiums, and cosy heritage apartments to large country estates located in Ottawa’s leafy suburbs.

Each neighbourhood has something to offer, and there are endless things to see and do. ByWard Market in the heart of the city is a particular favourite among younger expats as it boasts trendy bars and a buzzing nightlife. Nearby Parliament Hill is a must see with its bold Gothic revival architecture.

It’s easy to get around the various areas too, thanks to an extensive public transport network and infrastructure for cycling and walking.

Of course, there are both pros and cons to relocating to Ottawa, and the icy winters are a downside for those who don’t like the cold. However, expats can make the most of it – perhaps they can even experience ice skating on the world’s largest outdoor rink. Overall, expats are sure to benefit from Canada’s inclusive social policies and be rewarded by Ottawa's rich quality of life.

Working in Ottawa

Ottawa prides itself on being a global centre for learning. As a result of the city’s investment in schools, universities and other educational establishments, it now boasts one of the most highly educated workforces in the country. Furthermore, Ottawa offers some of the highest average salaries in the whole of Canada. 

Expats will also find that the city’s unemployment rate is fairly low and stable. However, competition for well-paid jobs is fierce. Therefore, it is best to have secured a suitable position before relocating to Ottawa.


Job market in Ottawa

As Canada’s capital and the seat of power, Ottawa’s biggest employer is the federal government. Canadian citizens are generally given preference when it comes to government jobs. The city is also home to several major national institutions, as well as foreign embassies and non-profit organisations which employ a large number of expats.

Ottawa is a thriving business and technology hub. Other leading industries for employment include health and social services, education, high-tech industries and manufacturing.

For most jobs in Ottawa, expats will be expected to speak fluent French or English. Speaking both will be even more advantageous.  


Finding a job in Ottawa

A good starting point for finding a job in Ottawa is to look online. There are many online portals where expats can look for work. Networking is also an essential element of the job search in Canada, and social networking sites such as LinkedIn are especially helpful to make connections and research the local job market.

Expats looking for jobs in Ottawa may face some obstacles, such as a language barrier, having no previous work experience in Canada, and difficulty having their skills and foreign qualifications recognised by Canadian employers. 

There are facilities and services in Ottawa that assist foreigners in overcoming such challenges. For instance, several organisations offer courses in English or French as a second language. Expats will also benefit from approaching Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). ESDC has a Foreign Credential Recognition programme that evaluates qualifications achieved abroad and helps internationally-trained workers make an easier transition into the Canadian workforce.  

Expats moving to Ottawa should be aware that a licence is required by the province of Ontario to work in certain sectors. Expats working in professions such as teaching, medicine, architecture, social work and engineering will need to obtain the relevant licence or certificate to practise in Ottawa, along with a work permit, before applying for a position.

New arrivals should note that regardless of their field of work, anyone working in Ottawa will be required to have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).


Work culture in Ottawa

As Canada's capital city and a political hub, Ottawa is often thought to have a bureaucratic work culture, though this varies across industries and companies. Ottawa’s tech companies have a reputation for a friendly and fun working environment, but one that also has employees working hard.

Generally, the work culture in Ottawa is informal. Business dress across most sectors is casual or smart casual, although employees can always choose to wear more formal suits if they prefer.

Accommodation in Ottawa

Expats moving to Ottawa will find a wide range of accommodation options. Depending on an expat’s budget and preferences, it could be fairly easy to find a home close to work, school, shops, medical facilities and public transport links.

Ottawa consists of various residential neighbourhoods that are suitable for a range of demographic groups. Central areas such as The Glebe or ByWard Market are popular with young professionals, while the prestigious Rockcliffe Park is home to the city’s diplomats, politicians and top businesspeople. 

Whether expats are looking for a modern apartment in the heart of the city or a larger family home in a country setting, there's plenty of choice in Ottawa.


Types of accommodation in Ottawa

When it comes to different types of housing, Ottawa has everything from compact city apartments and townhouses to condominiums, duplexes and multiplexes. Furnished, semi-furnished and unfurnished housing is available. Fully-furnished properties will come at a higher price, although are often more convenient for expats who move to Ottawa for only a short while.

It is important to consider the condition of a property when house hunting. Many prospective tenants like the idea of moving into an apartment that is part of a historic building or an older house that is full of character. However, bear in mind that many of these older properties will require renovations and maintenance.

For families moving to Ottawa with children, property size and proximity to good schools will certainly be important. Fortunately, many schools in Ottawa offer bus services. It may also be possible to find a home within walking distance of a local school. We also recommend that expats look out for accommodation near to a bus stop or O-Train station if they prefer getting around by public transport.


Finding accommodation in Ottawa

It is possible to find a good number of properties to rent using online portals, such as PadMapper and RentSeeker. Online listings allow tailoring housing searches based on rental costs and property type and size, as well as accommodation suited for students, families and senior citizens. Some websites allow searches based on the availability of parking and if accommodation is pet friendly.

Many new arrivals prefer to enlist the help of a real-estate agent who is familiar with the local property market. They can connect expats with landlords and advise on the best place for money.


Renting accommodation in Ottawa

Making an application

Once expats find a property they are interested in, they will need to complete a preliminary application. Generally, prospective tenants must include a letter of employment from their company stating the salary, position and the length of the employment contract. In addition, some landlords or rental agents request a letter of reference from a former landlord. Expats may also be asked for their Social Insurance Number (SIN) so a credit check can be completed.

Leases

Most landlords in Ottawa will want their tenants to sign a contract for at least one year. The lease should state the cost of rent per month, along with inclusions such as water and electricity.

Deposits

To secure a rental property in Ottawa, expats will often be expected to pay the first and last month’s rent upfront.

Utilities

Generally, utilities such as water and electricity are not included in the rental price. However, with some condominiums, expats will find that rental is inclusive of electricity.

Areas and suburbs in Ottawa

The best places to live in Ottawa

Ottawa is a patchwork of different neighbourhoods, each with its own unique style and characteristics. From young professional expats climbing the corporate ladder to those arriving with their children, there are areas and suburbs in Ottawa to suit expats of all kinds.

The decision on where to live in Ottawa plays a central role in allowing expats to settle into their new life in the city. Luckily for new arrivals, Ottawa is a welcoming and hospitable city. Particularly in the more suburban locations, expats will find that the locals are quick to get new residents involved in the community.


Areas for young working professionals in Ottawa

Most of Ottawa’s nightlife and entertainment can be found in the city’s downtown area. For young expats with a large disposable income, and for those that want to be in the heart of the city and enjoy socialising, Ottawa has some great living options.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa by M Sidhu - Unsplash

ByWard Market

ByWard Market lies in the heart of Ottawa’s city centre and is popular with young professionals thanks to its proximity to office buildings and entertainment facilities. Most of the accommodation in ByWard Market comes in the form of high-rise apartment complexes.

The area is full of trendy bars and restaurants and much of the city’s nightlife is centred here. Those who enjoy cultural activities will be close to some of Ottawa’s best art galleries and museums in ByWard Market. Residents of this area have the opportunity to spend time relaxing by the river or in one of the city’s green parks.

Most accommodation options in this part of Ottawa are pricey apartments in luxury complexes.

Westboro Village

Westboro Village is an up-and-coming area of western Ottawa. The neighbourhood’s street scene is lively and animated, and there are plenty of boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and bars located here. Westboro is particularly popular with young professionals and couples.

The range of housing options includes loft apartments and townhouses, and many residents in this area will be treated to stunning views of the Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River.

Westboro Village is served well by public transport, with links to the O-Train and several regular bus routes.


Family-friendly suburbs in Ottawa

For expats moving to Ottawa with children, finding a home close to good schools will be a priority. New arrivals in Ottawa need not worry, as there are lots of family-friendly suburbs.

Hog’s Back, Rideau Canal, Ottawa by Yamine Kettal - Unsplash

The Glebe

The Glebe, in central Ottawa, is one of the city's wealthiest residential areas. The neighbourhood is mostly populated by families with children. As a result of the area's demographics, expats will find that there are a large number of good schools nearby, and a good deal of social services in the neighbourhood are geared towards youths.

The range of accommodation in The Glebe is varied, with everything from condominiums and apartments to older single-family homes and townhouses.

Alta Vista

Alta Vista is located in southern Ottawa. It is a great suburb for expats with children because of its abundance of open spaces and opportunities for the kids to get involved in outdoor activities. Alta Vista is residential and has strong community ties which focus on local churches, schools and community centres.

Alta Vista is well connected to Ottawa’s city centre with links to the O-Train, and several bus routes also pass through the suburb. It's also an excellent base for those who need to travel nationally or internationally for work because of its proximity to Ottawa’s international airport.


Luxury living in Ottawa

Property prices in Ottawa are generally reasonable, but Ottawa does have areas that cater to those with a bigger budget.

Ottawa by Alessio Patron - Unsplash

Rockcliffe Park

Expats living in prestigious Rockcliffe Park tend to be ambassadors, diplomatic personnel, politicians or senior businesspeople. The suburb is well connected to other parts of the city by public transport and road links.

Properties here tend to be large and luxurious with big gardens, and the area is home to some of the city’s best public, private and international schools. It's therefore not surprising that rent and property prices are incredibly high, and more than double what one would expect to pay elsewhere in Ottawa.

Healthcare in Ottawa

Expats moving to Ottawa will soon see that health and wellness are a priority for the residents of Canada’s clean and green capital city.

New arrivals will be pleased to find that, as is the case in the rest of the country, Ottawa offers an excellent standard of healthcare facilities. Generally, all doctors and medical staff will speak fluent English and/or French.


Medical facilities in Ottawa

Public healthcare in Ottawa is administered by Ottawa Public Health, the city’s arm of the federal government plan responsible for delivering public health services.

Public hospitals in Ottawa provide a good standard of care but waiting lists can sometimes be long. Another problem expats experience with the public health system in Canada is that, while the city has lots of hospitals and medical clinics, it is difficult to find a family doctor or general practitioner (GP). Most family doctors in Ottawa have long lists of patients and many clinics put limits on accepting new patients.

It is a good idea to ask co-workers and friends for recommendations on any doctors that are still accepting new patients. Expats can also contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for help in finding a GP.

While waiting to find a doctor, expats can still visit their local walk-in clinic for emergencies or check-ups. Walk-in medical clinics in Ottawa provide prompt medical care for people who are sick but do not have a family doctor. While patients will generally be seen by a nurse rather than a doctor, they do treat most minor illnesses and will refer patients to a doctor if they suspect something more serious. Generally, appointments are not needed but it is best to call before visiting to check the opening hours, as they are subject to change. 


Health insurance in Ottawa

As Ottawa falls under the province of Ontario, expats living in the city will be entitled to access the province's publicly funded healthcare system, which is available through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP contributions are automatically deducted from an individual’s salary in taxes.

Expats need to be aware that there is a three-month waiting period before OHIP coverage starts for new arrivals. Expats should apply for their OHIP card as soon as they arrive in the city and ensure that they have purchased some form of private coverage for their first three months in Canada.

Expats should be aware that they will be required to pay for any prescription medicines, as these are not covered by the state’s public health insurance policy. Dentistry and optometry are also not usually covered by OHIP, except under certain conditions.

Most expats living in Ottawa will have additional private health insurance coverage, which is often provided by their employer. This will cover expenses not included in the government health scheme.

Most private health insurance policies will cover the cost of medicines, but patients should keep all receipts to be reimbursed.


Hospitals in Ottawa

Below are some of the most well-respected hospitals in Ottawa.

The Ottawa Hospital 

Website: www.ottawahospital.on.ca
Address: 501 Smyth Rd, Ottawa

Queensway Carleton Hospital

Website: www.qch.on.ca
Address: 3045 Baseline Rd, Nepean

University of Ottawa Heart Institute

Website: www.ottawaheart.ca
Address: 40 Ruskin St, Ottawa

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario

Website: www.cheo.on.ca
Address: 401 Smyth Rd, Ottawa

Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

Website: www.theroyal.ca
Address: 1145 Carling Ave, Ottawa 

Education and Schools in Ottawa

Expats moving to Ottawa with children will be pleased to find that the city offers a high quality of English and French education in the public, religious and private systems.  

Ontario's Ministry of education offers publicly-funded education from kindergarten to grade 12. Parents with young kids can also find much support for the early years, with many centres dedicated to play-based learning.

Regardless of where one chooses to send their child to school, all students attending school in Ontario are required to provide proof of immunisation. Visit the Ontario government website for a full list of required vaccines.


Public schools in Ottawa

The Ontario government pays for public elementary and secondary school education. All children in Ontario have the right to attend school, and school is compulsory for children from age six.

While most public schools in Ottawa use English as the language of instruction, there is a fair number that caters to the French-speaking population in the province. Some public schools offer English as a Second Language (ESL) programmes which can be useful for non-English-speaking expat children.

The general standard of education in Ottawa’s public schools is good. However, it is best to consult with the school directly and, if possible, network with other families to get an accurate impression of the teaching standards and facilities available.


Private schools in Ottawa

Most Canadian citizens living in Ottawa send their children to public schools. However, the city has a significant number of private schools which may be a good option for expats with employers willing to pay their children’s school fees.

The standard of education at private schools in Ottawa generally tends to be better than in public schools. Private schools in Ottawa have excellent facilities that allow students to excel in extra-curricular activities such as sports and music. Class sizes are smaller and students receive more personal attention.


Faith-based schools in Ottawa

Ottawa has a large number of schools with a religious affiliation. The establishments fall somewhere between the public and private school systems. Most religious schools in Ottawa are associated with the Catholic faith, but there are also some Jewish and Islamic schools in the city.

Religious schools in Ottawa often have more reasonable tuition fees than private schools, while those that fall within the public domain are free. The standard of teaching is fairly high and discipline is generally seen to be better than at public schools. While religious schools are required to follow the national curriculum, they integrate an element of their religious value system into the teaching.


International schools in Ottawa

Despite the city’s fairly substantial expat population, there is just a handful of international schools in Ottawa, with the majority of them following the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.

Expats who intend to send their children to an international school in Ottawa should be aware that the competition is fierce.

Students are often expected to write entrance exams and attend an interview. To stand a good chance of being offered a place at these schools, expats are advised to start the application process as soon as possible. There are long waiting lists of students trying to secure a place at these international schools. Fees at international schools in Ottawa can be exorbitant.

In Ottawa, as in other parts of Canada, there is the option to send children to a bilingual school. Bilingual schools are not international schools in the traditional sense. They generally follow the province’s prescribed curriculum but offer lessons in French and English so that the student can become fluent in both languages. 


Homeschooling in Ottawa

Homeschooling is legal in Ontario, but expat parents must follow the correct procedures. According to law, children must attend school from the age of six, allowing for certain exemptions, such as homeschooling. Parents must notify the school board of their decision to homeschool their children. This must usually be done annually, before the start of the academic year.

Homeschooling families are still entitled to access resources in the public-school system. This includes assessments administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. Additionally, parents can opt for distance learning through the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). The ILC offers full-, half-, and non-credit courses via distance learning.

Furthermore, expats can also find schools in Ottawa which offer both mainstream classes and distance learning opportunities.


Special-needs education in Ottawa

All children have the right to receive a full education, and this includes students with special needs. Schools in Ottawa support students with behavioural, communicational, intellectual and physical problems. 

Ottawa’s special-education programmes involve inclusive education, and adapting instruction and assessments where necessary. Assistive devices may be made available, and educators are generally well trained to apply specific teaching strategies.

We suggest that expats consult with schools and the school board to assess the needs of their child. The school board will then develop an Individual Education Plan to describe the relevant services required by the student.


Tutoring in Ottawa

Expats can easily find a tutor in Ottawa. There are several private tutoring companies as well as online platforms that allow families to search for a tutor specialised in particular academic subjects. These include TutorBright, Superprof and FirstTutors: Canada.

Lifestyle in Ottawa

Expats living in Ottawa will have their pick when it comes to leisure pursuits. Whether it's shopping, eating out or partying the night away, Ottawa has something to suit everybody.

There are great opportunities to immerse oneself in arts and culture thanks to the city’s abundance of galleries, museums and dynamic exhibitions. As if that wasn’t enough, Ottawa also plays host to a number of top international cultural and music festivals.

The locals enjoy an active lifestyle and the sports scene is vibrant and active throughout the year. Those with an open mind and sense of adventure are sure to make the most of all the leisure activities available in Ottawa.


Shopping in Ottawa

From Ottawa’s large malls and outlet centres to the more expensive designer stores and quirky boutiques, the city has myriad shopping options.

Most of these lie in the city’s downtown area. Shoppers who like having everything under one roof can head to the CF Rideau Centre, while those looking to find unique fashion or a special gift can visit the boutiques, craft stores and farmer's stalls at ByWard Market, or check out historic Sparks Street.

Those looking for a bargain can opt to travel slightly out of town to peruse one of Ottawa’s outlet malls, such as the Ottawa Train Yards or the Carlingwood Shopping Centre. Other popular shopping malls include the Bayshore Shopping Centre to the west of the city and Place d’Orleans and St Laurent Shopping Centre in east Ottawa.


Nightlife and entertainment in Ottawa

The locals often say that Ottawa wakes up when the sun goes down. Most of the city’s nightlife centres on the ByWard Market district – by day this area is home to the local farmers, artisans and boutique shops but by night it transforms as revellers descend for fun and merriment.

A large number of bars and nightclubs are located within ‘The Market’. Music lovers will also have the opportunity to catch live performances from up-and-coming artists at one of the city’s famous music lounges.

For those who want to win big, Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau has over 1,800 slot machines, poker tables and roulette wheels to keep people entertained.

There are also lots of opportunities to catch the latest shows and performances at one of Ottawa’s theatres such as the National Arts Centre or Theatre du Casino.


Eating out in Ottawa

Ottawa has a thriving gastronomic scene with many top international chefs opening up restaurants in the city. It is one of Ontario’s designated culinary tourism destinations and through an initiative called Savour Ottawa, restaurant owners actively work with local food producers to bring diners the best of what the region has to offer.

Whether diners enjoy French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Ethiopian or Fusion cuisine, Ottawa has scores of restaurants and cafes. Expats are sure to find something they like, and can even get a taste of home.  


Outdoor activities in Ottawa

Ottawa is one of the world’s greenest cities and around its urban core lies what is known as the ‘emerald necklace’, a preserved green belt of federally-owned parklands, forests and wetlands.

Expats who enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle will love Ottawa’s abundance of green parks, lush forest, waterways and open spaces. The region has hundreds of kilometres of cross-country ski trails as well as a great system of parkways which provide opportunities for cycling, rollerblading and jogging along the scenic routes of Ottawa’s rivers and canals.

Just a short journey from the city centre there are some of Ontario’s best beaches, which are a favourite for residents during the summer months. For the avid golfer, Ottawa has more golf courses within easy reach than any other city in Canada. In the winter, Ottawa’s residents fully immerse themselves in the winter-sports scene, whether it's ice skating on the world’s largest outdoor rink, taking to the slopes or simply being a spectator at an ice hockey game.

Finally, for those looking for an adrenaline rush, Ottawa offers opportunities to try out adventure activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, windsurfing, white-water rafting, scuba diving and kayaking.

See and Do in Ottawa

As Canada's capital, Ottawa is a city rich in culture and history. In addition to its historic monuments, galleries and museums, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great Canadian outdoors. From ice-skating on the world's largest ice rink to cycling through one of Ottawa's green parks, there is something to keep residents busy through the seasons.

Here is a list of some of the main attractions in Ottawa.


Recommended attractions in Ottawa

Canadian War Museum

This museum boasts a vast collection of artefacts, moving personal stories, works of art and poignant photography documenting Canadian military history. The Canadian War Museum is a spectacular setting for monthly exhibitions, public programmes and other cultural events.

Dominion Arboretum

Ottawa’s Dominion Arboretum, part of the Central Experimental Farm, is a must-see for any nature-loving expat. It provides an oasis of peace away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a great place to relax during any season.

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park, in the centre of Ottawa, is one of the city’s most cherished natural wonders. The park has hundreds of square kilometres of well-maintained scenic trails and more than 50 species of trees, birds and mammals.

Hog’s Back Falls

Officially known as the Prince of Wales Falls, these beautiful waterfalls are located where the Rideau Canal and Rideau River part ways. The falls are surrounded by a serene green park where visitors can relax and enjoy the tranquillity.

Little Ray’s Nature Centre

Little Ray’s Nature Centre is the largest animal rescue in Canada. A well-arranged collection of reptiles are a great hands-on experience for children. Live shows and exhibits provide some interesting and educational information for both adults and kids.

National Gallery of Canada

This Canadian institution dates back to 1880 and the visual arts museum holds an excellent collection of European and Canadian paintings, prints, sculptures and photography.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

This Gothic-style cathedral can be recognised by its ornate twin spires. The Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is centrally located close to Parliament Hill and ByWard Market, and it's well worth stopping by to admire the beautiful architecture.

Peace Tower

This tall tower is located within the Canadian Parliament complex and contains an observation deck which offers stunning views of the capital. The admission fee for entering parliament includes a tour of the building.

Rideau Canal Skateway

One of the major highlights of winter in Ottawa is that the city becomes home to the world’s largest ice-skating rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway. Here, visitors have the opportunity to skate through the heart of central Ottawa on the famous Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rideau Hall

Rideau Hall has been the home of every Governor General since 1867. This elegant 19th-century mansion is open to the public for tours. It is a great opportunity to appreciate the architecture and manicured gardens.

What's On in Ottawa

There are plenty of great annual events taking place in Ottawa that will keep expats busy. The city's diversity is apparent through its various cultural festivals, while music lovers will revel in the fact that Ottawa plays host to some top international gigs and concerts.

Here is a list of the main events on Ottawa's event calendar.


Annual events in Ottawa

Winterlude/Bal de Neige (February)

This is a fun-filled festival that takes place over three weekends in February and celebrates all the joys of winter in Ottawa. Events take place at various venues throughout Ottawa and Gatineau and include skating on the world’s largest ice rink, ice sculpture competitions and North America’s largest snow playground.

Canadian Tulip Festival (May)

Since its inception in 1953, the Canadian Tulip Festival has grown to become the largest tulip festival in the world. Visitors are drawn to this family-friendly, outdoor event to admire over a million tulips that come into bloom in the capital.

Ottawa International Children’s Festival (May/June)

This annual festival celebrates the best of performing arts for young people. For more than 20 years, the Ottawa International Children’s Festival has involved award-winning performances from international artists. It proves to be a great day out for expats with children.

Carnival of Cultures (June/July)

This weekend festival celebrates global folklore traditions through music, dance and theatre from across the world. It’s a wonderful occasion where guests can learn about South American, European, African, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. The festival offers the opportunity to try authentic foreign cuisine and take part in hands-on cultural workshops.

TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival (July)

Ottawa’s International Jazz Festival is one of Canada’s top music events and features the finest jazz musicians from Canada and beyond. Performances are found at various open-air venues and intimate studio spaces throughout the city. It’s a great opportunity for jazz aficionados and regular music lovers alike to enjoy some world-class entertainment.

Canada Day (July)

Canada Day sees hundreds of thousands of people come together to celebrate the country's birthday at concerts, picnics and fireworks displays. The main action in Ottawa takes place on 1 July at sites near Parliament Hill, Major’s Hill Park, Jacques-Cartier Park and Confederation Park.

Ottawa Bluesfest (July)

This is an award-winning music extravaganza. It's the largest blues event in Canada and ranks among North America’s top music festivals. The festival takes place at LeBreton Flats Park in the heart of Ottawa and involves hundreds of world-class performances.

Ottawa Pride Festival (August)

Ottawa’s colourful Pride Festival takes place in August every year. Over a period of 10 days, various events take place to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. These include a Rainbow Party, Health and Fitness Day and the famous Capital Pride Parade.

Ottawa International Animation Festival (September)

During September each year, Canada’s capital becomes the centre of the animation universe. The Ottawa International Animation Festival is the largest of its kind in North America and attracts thousands of film buffs, art lovers and cartoon fans from around the world.

Getting Around in Ottawa

Getting around Ottawa is straightforward: public transport is safe, and it is easy to travel from one corner of the city to another.

Most expats will not find it necessary to own a car, as it is often more convenient to use public transport due to limited parking and traffic congestion. Still, having a car does provide greater opportunities for exploring the Canadian outdoors, and is especially useful for those with children.

Ottawa has the infrastructure in place to make cycling and walking around the city centre feasible for residents. 


Public transport in Ottawa

Public transport in Ottawa consists of an extensive bus network and the city’s light-rail system, known as the O-Train. OC Transpo is the company that oversees transport in Ottawa.

Public transit is free for children aged five and younger, and on Wednesdays and Sundays, it is free for seniors aged 65 and over.

Ticketing system

OC Transpo operates an integrated ticketing system. Single tickets can be bought on board buses or in bundles at O-train stations or local stores. Single tickets allow commuters to travel on any O-Train or bus service and transfer between services for a period of one and a half hours. 

Expats who plan on using public transport regularly will save money by purchasing daily, weekly or monthly passes.

Smart cards are also available which make paying for and accessing public transport easy. These include the Presto card, U-Pass and the STO multi-card. The U-Pass is a bus-pass programme specifically for students at the University of Ottawa. The Presto card can also be used on public transit systems in Greater Toronto and Hamilton.

Buses

OC Transpo has a large fleet of buses that operate extensive routes connecting most parts of Ottawa. The bus network covers many of the suburbs that are not in easy reach of an O-Train station. 

Travelling by bus is a comfortable and convenient way to get around Ottawa. Buses are wheel-chair friendly and have air conditioning. 

The frequency of bus services in Ottawa ranges between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the route and time of day. Frequency is usually reduced in the late evenings and on Sundays.

O-Train

The O-Train is a light rail transit service that complements Ottawa’s extensive bus network. While the O-Train does not cover as much ground as the bus network, the major advantage of using it is that it is isolated from road traffic and so often gets to a destination much faster.

The O-Train consists of two lines. Line 1 runs east to west, stretching from Blair Station to Tunney’s Pasture, while Line 2 runs between Greenboro and Bayview.


Taxis in Ottawa

Taxis are readily available in Ottawa’s city centre and can easily be hailed from the side of the road or found at a designated taxi rank. For those travelling anywhere from the suburbs, it is best to pre-book a taxi by phoning ahead of time.

All taxis in Ottawa must have a working meter and charge a base fare and then a set rate per additional kilometre. Most taxis have credit card facilities, but it is advisable to have cash available for shorter journeys. Expats will find that most cab drivers know their way around Ottawa’s city centre very well. 

It is worth noting that Ottawa-registered taxis are not permitted to pick up customers from the side of the road on the Quebec side and the same applies to Quebec cabs in Ottawa. But it is possible for those living in Quebec to pre-book a taxi in Ottawa and vice versa. 


Driving in Ottawa

While it is not essential to own a vehicle as an expat living in Ottawa, it is useful for those who live on the outskirts of the city or who have children that need to be transported around town.

Driving is fairly easy in Ottawa as the road infrastructure is of an excellent standard and signage is clear. 

However, parking is limited and hard to find in the city centre and parking fees are high. There are several park-and-ride facilities that aim to reduce congestion and parking issues. We also advise expats who own a car to look for accommodation with on-site parking available.

Expats in Ottawa are only allowed to use their foreign driver's licence for the first 60 days in the province, after which they are required to obtain an Ontario driver’s licence. Depending on their country of origin, this will involve either a straight swap of their national licence for an Ontario licence or may involve a full driving test.


Cycling in Ottawa

Ottawa is a cyclist-friendly city with extensive cycle pathways, making getting around Ottawa by bike relatively easy. Some cycle lanes are shared with motorists and others with pedestrians. Cycling is fairly safe in Ottawa, and motorists are generally aware of cyclists on the road.

Travelling on public transport with bikes is accommodated for as bike racks are available on all buses and O-Trains in the city. While many regular commuters invest in bicycles of their own, they can also use one of Ottawa’s bike-sharing schemes.