Country Guides August 3, 2023

Moving to Ottawa – What Should You Know About This Amazing Canadian City

Hannah Michaelson

Hannah is a freelance relocation writer from NYC that has become an expert on packing and unpacking.

Prepare for your relocation with this comprehensive guide, designed to help you navigate Canada’s vibrant capital. From the city’s rich history, diverse culture, and stunning outdoors to its promising job market, world-class education system, and friendly community, we’ve got everything covered. Whether you’re moving to Ottawa for work, studies, or simply a change of scenery, get ready to embrace the unique charm and endless opportunities this beautiful city has to offer.

If you’re moving abroad in the near future and your destination is Ottawa, you should learn a few basic facts about this city in Canada. Learn about legal considerations when moving internationally before you start exploring the amenities of this city and its neighborhoods. Familiarize yourself with the cost of living, health insurance, job opportunities, and education system in Canada. Learn about local customs, cuisine, and culture, and inform yourself about the climate. Lastly, be sure to hire movers to help you pull off an efficient relocation.

Get Ready for Moving to Ottawa From the US

Embarking on the living abroad journey from the US to the dynamic city of Ottawa is an exciting chapter in your life. Even though you won’t be moving overseas, this fabulous Canadian city offers countless reasons to relocate. A cultural mosaic, this city offers a unique blend of urban vibrancy, captivating history, and an abundance of natural beauty. However, moving abroad necessitates thoughtful planning and preparations for a move. From navigating immigration procedures and adapting to a new healthcare system to understanding taxation and gearing up for a different climate, you’ll have many considerations to ensure a seamless transition.

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What Documents Do You Need to Relocate to Canada?

Before you move to Canada, it’s crucial to understand the necessary documentation required for this move abroad. These documents form an integral part of the immigration process and are a relocation essential for legal residence, employment, healthcare access, and daily life. Proper preparation and organization of these documents needed to travel abroad can help you avoid any administrative hassles or delays. Here is a list of the critical documents you need:

  • Passport,
  • Visa/Permit,
  • Proof of relationship (when relocating under the Family Class Sponsorship)
  • Medical records,
  • Police clearance certificate,
  • Educational and work credentials,
  • Driver’s license and international driving permit,
  • Birth certificate.

Remember, each immigration pathway may have its own specific document requirements. Make sure to double-check this information about immigrating to Canada on the official Canadian immigration website or with an immigration advisor.

US passport
Make sure to have the necessary documents in order

How Can You Get Permanent Residency and Citizenship in Canada?

Securing a Permanent Residency (PR) is usually the initial phase in obtaining Canadian citizenship. There are several common pathways to PR:

  • The Express Entry system – This encompasses the Federal Skilled Trades Program, Federal Skilled Worker Program, and Canadian Experience Class. These programs cater to individuals with particular skills or work experience.
  • The Provincial Nominee Program – In this case, individuals are nominated by Canadian provinces.
  • The Family Class Sponsorship – This is applicable if you have relatives already living in Canada.

Once you secure PR status and have resided in Canada for at least three out of the past five years, you are eligible to apply for citizenship. This involves passing a citizenship test that assesses your understanding of Canada and the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen.

Immigration application Canada
The legal aspects of immigrating can be complex - you'll need more than a passport

About the City and Its Neighborhoods

Known as Canada’s capital and one of the best places to live in Canada, this is a city that blends modern vibrancy with a rich history. Nestled on the banks of the Ottawa River, it offers picturesque views and abundant green spaces. There are various vibrant neighborhoods in Ottawa, each with its unique charm.

From the downtown core, teeming with high-rise condos and bustling commerce, to quieter suburban areas like Nepean or Gloucester, there’s a locale for everyone. The ByWard Market is popular for its vibrant food scene and nightlife, while Westboro Village is known for its indie shops and art galleries. Glebe offers a mix of historic homes and contemporary condos, all within close proximity to shops and eateries.

A view of the canal in Ottawa, Canada
There are numerous stunning neighborhoods and areas in this city

What Is the Cost of Living in Ottawa?

The cost of living is relatively more affordable compared to other major Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver. This includes costs for housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation. However, your cost of living in Canada will depend on personal factors, such as your lifestyle, housing choice, and the neighborhood you choose to live in.

What to Expect Regarding Housing Costs?

Housing costs vary considerably depending on the type of accommodation (house, condo, or apartment) and its location. Downtown areas and popular neighborhoods generally command higher prices.

If you’re looking for an apartment, the median rent is about $1,700 a month, but keep in mind that the rent in the city center can range significantly. If you’re considering buying property, the average home price also varies depending on the neighborhood and type of home.

According to AgentInOttawa, the average price for a home in Ottawa in August 2023 is about $697,000

Health Insurance in Canada – Is There Free Public Healthcare?

Canada is known worldwide for its universal healthcare system, offering essential medical services to its residents largely free of charge at the point of use. The system is publicly funded, which means it is paid for through taxes. However, it’s important to understand that “universal” does not mean “all-inclusive” and that healthcare coverage can vary across provinces and territories.

In Ontario, where this city is located, the system is known as the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP covers a broad range of health services, including appointments with family doctors, specialists and necessary hospital stays. It also covers some surgical-dental procedures when performed at a hospital.

However, it doesn’t extend to certain areas like prescription drugs, most dental care, eye care, and physical therapy. As a result, many individuals and families opt for supplementary private insurance to cover the gaps. It’s crucial to note that there is usually a three-month waiting period for OHIP coverage for new residents, so it’s advisable to get private health insurance coverage for this period.

a doctor signing a paper
Public healthcare in the country covers a wide range of medical services

Job Opportunities in Canada’s Capital

Ottawa offers a robust job market with plenty of opportunities spanning numerous industries. The city’s economy is diverse and resilient, offering promising prospects to both local and international job seekers who are relocating without a job. One of the largest employers is the federal government, providing roles across a multitude of departments and agencies. These encompass a wide range of disciplines, from policy and administration to research and technology, offering rewarding career paths for professionals with various skills.

In addition to government roles, the tech industry is particularly vibrant. Often referred to as “Silicon Valley North,” the city hosts several tech companies, both large multinational corporations and promising startups. Other thriving sectors in the city include healthcare, education, and the nonprofit sector. For job seekers with bilingual skills, particularly in English and French, the job market can be particularly attractive. Given the city’s bilingual nature, these skills are often highly valued, providing a competitive edge in job applications.

job application and a resume
Finding a job in such a diverse job market won't be difficult

What’s the Education System Like Compared to the US?

Canada’s education system, much like the US, is split into primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. However, curriculum and grading scales can differ. One significant difference is the role of provinces in education. In this country, education is a provincial responsibility, leading to some variations across provinces.

Post-secondary education is renowned for its quality and is generally more affordable than in the US. Ottawa is home to several reputable institutions, including the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, offering a wide array of programs. Primary and secondary schools also offer high-quality education, with numerous public, private, and bilingual options. If you want to learn more about the Canadian education system, check out the video below:

Local Customs You Should Be Aware Of

Learning about the customs of a new country before you move is one of the crucial things on every relocation to-do list. Canadians are known for their politeness and strong sense of etiquette. Saying “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry” is common practice in daily interactions. Punctuality is valued for both social and business events. Canadians are also generally modest, and self-promotion is often downplayed. This country is known as one of the friendliest countries in the world.

As in many parts of Canada, the population in Ottawa is largely bilingual. While English is widely spoken, you’ll find that French is commonly used, reflecting the country’s dual linguistic heritage. Moreover, Canada’s rich multicultural fabric means respecting diversity, and inclusivity is a key part of the Canadian ethos.

What’s Canadian Cuisine Like?

Canadian cuisine is a delightful blend of indigenous traditions, British and French influences, and more recent multicultural flavors. Classic dishes include tourtière (a savory meat pie), poutine (fries topped with cheese curds and gravy), and butter tarts. Ottawa boasts a diverse food scene, with numerous restaurants and food festivals showcasing global and local cuisines.

In addition, Canada is renowned for its seafood, especially Atlantic salmon and lobster, as well as its high-quality beef. Another notable staple is the deliciously sweet maple syrup, used in many desserts and breakfast dishes. Excellent food is surely one of many benefits of relocating to this wonderful country.

Pancakes with blueberries, banana slices, and maple syrup on a plate
Maple syrup is one of the most famous foods in Canada

Climate in Canada – How Cold Is It?

This country is well-known for its cold winters, and Ottawa is no exception. Winter temperatures can drop below freezing, often accompanied by snowfall. However, the city is well-equipped to handle the winter weather, with efficient snow removal and heated public transportation. Winter also brings a host of outdoor activities, such as skating on the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Summers are generally warm and humid, with temperatures often reaching above 25°C (77°F). Spring and autumn are transitional seasons, with mild temperatures and beautiful foliage, which is particularly striking during the fall. Despite the cold winters, the distinct seasons and natural beauty throughout the year make Ottawa a picturesque city to live in.

Ottawa in winter
Winters in this city are lovely, even though the temperatures can drop below freezing

Things to Do and See in Ottawa

As Canada’s capital, this city is rich with cultural experiences, historical landmarks, and outdoor activities that cater to all interests. History buffs will enjoy exploring Parliament Hill, where they can tour the stunning Gothic revival suites of Canada’s government and the Canadian War Museum, which provides insightful historical exhibitions. The National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History are must-sees for art and culture enthusiasts, showcasing Canadian and indigenous art, as well as international collections.

The city also hosts vibrant festivals throughout the year, such as the Winterlude in February, featuring ice sculpture competitions, snow mazes, and the opportunity to skate on the world’s largest outdoor rink, the Rideau Canal. In spring, the Canadian Tulip Festival transforms the city into a colorful spectacle.

Nature lovers won’t be disappointed either. Gatineau Park offers a vast natural playground, ideal for hiking, biking, and camping in summer and skiing in winter. The park’s panoramic views from Champlain Lookout are breathtaking. For foodies, a visit to ByWard Market, one of Canada’s oldest public markets, offers a range of local produce, artisan products, and a lively dining scene. In essence, the city is brimming with activities and sights that promise an enriching and varied lifestyle.

This city has something to offer to everybody

If You’re Set on Moving to Ottawa, Contact Shepherd International Movers for Relocation Assistance

If you’ve decided that Ottawa is your future home, it’s essential to have professional and reliable assistance to make your move as smooth as possible. That’s where Shepherd International Movers comes in. As a reputable international moving company, Shepherd International Movers offers comprehensive moving services designed to cater to all your relocation needs. Whether it’s packing assistance, shipping your belongings with care, managing customs clearance, or arranging transport logistics for your move across borders, we’ve got it covered.

Our team brings to the table a wealth of experience and in-depth knowledge of the relocation process. We understand the challenges and nuances of international relocations, ensuring you can move efficiently and stress-free. We provide personalized service, addressing your specific needs and helping you navigate the intricacies of relocating to a new country. Contact us to get your free estimate and embark on this exciting relocation journey!


What Is the Cost of Living in Ottawa?

Ottawa has a varied cost of living depending on your lifestyle and living choices. While it can be more affordable than cities like Toronto or Vancouver, factors such as housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation need to be considered.

How Is the Job Market in Ottawa?

The job market in Ottawa is diverse and dynamic. It’s especially known for its opportunities in the public service, tech industry, health care, and education.

What Is the Weather Like in Ottawa?

Ottawa experiences four distinct seasons. Winters can be quite cold with heavy snowfall, while summers are typically warm and humid. Spring and fall are moderate and feature beautiful foliage.

Is It Necessary to Speak French to Live in Ottawa?

While Ottawa is officially bilingual, the majority of the residents speak English. However, knowledge of French can be an asset, particularly for certain job opportunities.

What Are the Education Options in Ottawa?

Ottawa boasts excellent educational facilities. It is home to several highly regarded institutions, including the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, and offers a variety of quality public, private, and bilingual primary and secondary schools.

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