Is Ottawa a cheap city?

When considering a move to a new city, one of the key factors to consider is the cost of living. Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, is often praised for its quality of life and thriving job market. However, is it truly a cheap city to live in? In this article, we will explore the various aspects of the cost of living in Ottawa to determine whether it lives up to its reputation as an affordable city.

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Cost of Living in Ottawa

Ottawa is generally considered to have a moderate cost of living compared to other major Canadian cities. While it may not be as expensive as cities like Vancouver or Toronto, it is not the cheapest city either. The cost of living in Ottawa is influenced by factors such as housing expenses, transportation costs, food and groceries, entertainment and recreation, education and healthcare expenses, as well as the job market and average salaries.

Housing Expenses

Housing expenses in Ottawa can vary depending on the neighborhood and the type of accommodation. Rent prices for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center can range from $1,200 to $1,800 per month, while outside the city center, the prices can be slightly lower, ranging from $1,000 to $1,500 per month. If you are considering buying a house, the average price for a three-bedroom house is around $500,000 to $600,000.

Transportation Costs

Transportation costs in Ottawa are relatively affordable. The city has an extensive public transportation system, including buses and light rail, with fares ranging from $3.65 for a single ride to $119.50 for a monthly pass. If you prefer to drive, the average price of gasoline is around $1.30 per liter. Additionally, Ottawa has a well-connected cycling network, making it a bike-friendly city.

Food and Groceries

The cost of food and groceries in Ottawa is comparable to other Canadian cities. A basic lunch at a local restaurant can cost around $15, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant can cost around $70. Groceries for a week for one person can range from $50 to $100, depending on personal preferences and dietary choices.

Entertainment and Recreation

Ottawa offers a wide range of entertainment and recreational activities for its residents. From museums and art galleries to outdoor parks and festivals, there is always something to do. The cost of entertainment can vary, with some attractions offering free admission and others charging entrance fees ranging from $10 to $25. Additionally, Ottawa has numerous recreational facilities and sports clubs, which may require membership fees.

Education and Healthcare Expenses

Ottawa is home to several prestigious educational institutions, including the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. Tuition fees for international students can be higher, ranging from $20,000 to $35,000 per year, depending on the program. In terms of healthcare, Ottawa has a publicly funded healthcare system, which means that most basic medical services are covered. However, additional health insurance may be necessary for certain medications and specialized treatments.

Job Market and Average Salaries

Ottawa has a diverse job market, with opportunities in various sectors such as government, technology, healthcare, and education. The city boasts a relatively low unemployment rate, making it an attractive destination for job seekers. The average salary in Ottawa is around $60,000 per year, although this can vary depending on the industry and level of experience.

Comparing Ottawa to Other Canadian Cities

When comparing Ottawa to other Canadian cities, it is important to consider the specific factors that are important to you. While Ottawa may not be the cheapest city overall, it offers a good balance between affordability and quality of life. Cities like Vancouver and Toronto may have higher costs of living but also offer higher salaries. On the other hand, cities like Montreal and Halifax may have lower living costs but also lower average salaries. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preferences and priorities.

Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa

  • Pros: Affordable housing options, low unemployment rate, vibrant cultural scene, access to nature and outdoor activities
  • Cons: Harsh winters, limited public transportation options outside the city center, higher taxes compared to some other provinces


While Ottawa may not be the cheapest city in Canada, it offers a reasonable cost of living and a high quality of life. The city's job market, cultural scene, and access to nature make it an attractive option for many. Ultimately, the affordability of Ottawa depends on individual circumstances and priorities. It is recommended to carefully consider the various factors discussed in this article before making a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How affordable is housing in Ottawa?

Housing in Ottawa is moderately priced, with rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranging from $1,000 to $1,800 per month, depending on the location.

2. Are groceries and food expenses reasonable in Ottawa?

Groceries and food expenses in Ottawa are comparable to other Canadian cities, with weekly grocery costs ranging from $50 to $100 for one person.

3. What is the average cost of transportation in Ottawa?

Transportation costs in Ottawa are relatively affordable, with public transportation fares ranging from $3.65 for a single ride to $119.50 for a monthly pass.

4. Are there good job opportunities in Ottawa?

Ottawa has a diverse job market, with opportunities in sectors such as government, technology, healthcare, and education. The city has a relatively low unemployment rate and offers competitive salaries.

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