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Living in Calgary

More and more people are drawn to life in Calgary, this young city in the south of Alberta, Canada. The InterNations Expat Guide tells you all you need to know about living in Calgary, including info about the healthcare system, Calgary’s schools, as well your local transportation options.
Expats living in Calgary can visit such stunning sites as the Vermilion Lakes in the nearby Rockies.

At a Glance:

  • Calgary offers a wealth of outdoor activities and stunning scenery, as well as numerous parks and green spaces in the city.
  • In the low-lying areas of the city there is a flood risk, but you can use the Flood Hazard Map to identify which areas are safer.
  • The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) provides coverage for all healthcare services for all permanent residents of Alberta. Expats are also covered if they can show that they will be staying there for longer than a 12 month period.
  • The standard of education in public schools is very high.

Astounding Nature during All Four Seasons

Thanks to its location and the two rivers running through the city, expats living in Calgary have plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. The city offers beautiful walks along the river banks and numerous green spaces, such as the Olympic Park, Edworthy Park, Elliston Park, Nose Hill Park, the Weaselhead Flats, and many more. Additionally, there are also quite a few golf courses in the city itself.

Nested along the Elbow and Bow Rivers and established at the edge of the wide and open prairie, the city is also only an hour's drive away from the Canadian Rocky Mountains. There, expats living in Calgary can enjoy various outdoor activities, from skiing in winter to hiking in summer. 

During your life in Calgary, you will experience very distinct seasons with both winters and summers usually clear and sunny. In fact, Calgary has the most hours of sunshine when compared to other cities in Canada! As such, summer days are long, and temperatures typically range in the mid-twenties or more. Winters in Calgary, on the other hand, can get — as one would rightly expect from a Canadian city — extremely cold with temperatures known to drop below minus 30°C on occasion.

However, expats living in Calgary need not fear, for milder winter days with temperatures up to 10°C or more are just as common — thanks to the westerly “Chinook” winds and the fact that the weather is prone to change quickly. Nevertheless, with snowfall sometimes as early as in September, expats moving to Calgary should not forget to pack their long underwear and make the most out of winter: take advantage of the numerous local opportunities for winter sports, from tobogganing to cross-country skiing.  

Fun Activities en Masse

Winter sports are not the only leisure activities that you can participate in while living in Calgary, though. The city and its surrounding countryside have — next to the aforementioned parks and golf courses — a number of fun and recreational places to offer. The Calgary Tower, for example, is one of the tallest buildings in the city. As such, it serves as a widely visible landmark and visitors to its observation deck or restaurant can enjoy a 360° view of Calgary.

Calaway Park, on the other hand, lies less than half an hour’s drive west of the city and is the self-proclaimed largest outdoor amusement park in Western Canada. It has more than 30 rides, various live shows, as well as street performers; making for a great day out, particularly for expats who are living in Calgary with their family.

Even further afield to the west, but all the more beautiful for that, expats living in Calgary will find the beginnings of the Canadian Rockies and such natural gems as Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park, Peter Loughheed Provincial Park, as well as Canada’s oldest national park, Banff National Park. In these stunning natural surroundings, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to camp, hike, climb, mountain bike, ski, or even go horseback riding.

Back in Calgary itself, there are also lots of things to do. From night clubs and nearly 20 indoor ice rinks, to arts centers and museums, as well as comedy clubs, there’s bound to be something for everybody who is living in Calgary. And every July, Calgary goes back to its Wild West roots during the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day outdoor cowboy festival. During this event, Calgary does its best to live up to its nickname as “Cowtown” with various parades, a rodeo, and much more.

Safety in Calgary: Beware of Floods!

Expatriates who are about to start life in Calgary will be glad to hear that there is a relatively low crime rate, and police statistics show that it declined further in 2016. Even Downtown East Village — the city’s neighborhood that was once declared the Skid Row of Calgary due to the prevalence of prostitution, homelessness, and illegal drug use — is currently turning over a new leaf with the help of major investment and development in the area.

There is, however, a certain flood risk for quite a number of low-lying areas in the city, as the severe floods in 2013 have shown. Heavy rainfall, as well as snow melts in the Canadian Rockies, can cause a number of problems, from sewer backup and basement seepage to plain overland flooding of whole neighborhoods. Therefore, expats should make sure to also factor in the flood risk while searching for their new home and preparing for life in Calgary. The government of Alberta has released an interactive Flood Hazard Map.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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