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Vancouver, Canada

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William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Feb 01, 2023

Summary: People often describe Vancouver, Canada as a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with stunning natural beauty. Expats love the city's diverse culture, its proximity to the ocean, and its mild climate. The weather in Vancouver is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s in the winter to the mid-60s in the summer (Fahrenheit). The average cost of living for an expat is estimated to be around $2,500 USD per month. The cost of a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver is around $1,500 USD per month, while a two bedroom apartment is around $2,000 USD per month. The population of Vancouver is estimated to be around 631,000 people.

What do I need to know about living in Vancouver?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Vancouver, they said:

"Vancouver is known for its mild temperatures, clean air and beautiful scenery, making it a great place to retire. Before retiring in Vancouver, it is important to determine what type of lifestyle you want to maintain. Consider factors such as residence requirements, climate and terrain as they will affect the cost of living and the lifestyle you want to live. It is also important to look into the local job market and education opportunities, as well as the transportation options and recreational activities in the area. Additionally, consider the tax implications of retiring in Canada, as Vancouver has some of the highest taxes in the world. Lastly, explore the various government subsidized and private health care services available in Vancouver," said another expat in Vancouver.

"Retiring in Vancouver can be a great experience. Before you make the decision, you should consider the following: cost of living, taxes, housing availability and affordability, healthcare, transportation, and social and cultural amenities. The cost of living in Vancouver is higher than in other Canadian cities, and despite the fact that income taxes are lower than most provinces, sales taxes are somewhat higher. Vancouver can be an expensive place to buy or rent housing, so affordability is an important consideration. Healthcare is provided through the public system in Canada, and there are a variety of options available in Vancouver. Transportation, such as buses, trains, and SkyTrain are widely available throughout the city. Finally, Vancouver has a wide variety of cultural, recreational, and educational opportunities," added another person living in Vancouver.

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What do I need to know before moving to Vancouver?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Vancouver, they said:

"Before moving to Vancouver, it is important to consider cost and living expenses. Rental prices vary depending on size and location, with the most expensive neighbourhoods being Kitsilano and Kerrisdale. Property taxes in Vancouver are relatively high for Canadian standards and sales tax is 12%, so it is important to budget for these costs. Additionally, Vancouver has no real public transport system, so relying on a car or bicycle is a more practical way to get around the city. Furthermore, Vancouver is well known for its wet and unpredictable weather, so it is important to be prepared for rain and snow. To get the most out of living in Vancouver, try to experience the city’s nature and the great outdoors, or find a stunning view of the ocean or inland mountain range," added another person living in Vancouver.

"Where you move to will depend on your work. Visit first and decide which localities you like that might offer the type of employment you are engaged in. Then go job hunting or start your business. If the latter, make sure there is enough of a market to provide your business with critical mass. Too many people move to the gulf islands, stay a year then move out because they find they can't earn a living," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

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How do I find a place to live in Vancouver?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"When looking for a place to live in Vancouver it is important to research what area best suits your needs and lifestyle. Factors to consider include the cost of rent, the crime rate, access to transportation and amenities, availability of housing, the proximity to your desired workplace, and average commute time. There are a variety of websites that will provide insight into different parts of Vancouver such as whatcombc.ca, housingsearchbc.ca and bcrentals.com. Additionally, by researching neighbourhoods and connecting with locals you can get a more detailed understanding of different parts of Vancouver. Once you have narrowed down your search, it is recommended to visit the area in person, since online photos may not always give you a full sense of the area. Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook buy and sell groups and local newspapers are potential sources you can use to search for available rentals in the area. You can also find shares, rooms and suites advertised through family and friends. In order to choose the best option for you, it is important to complete the necessary paperwork such as references, credit checks and contact information, and to familiarize yourself with the security deposit and other tenancy requirements before signing a lease. Other resources you can use to find a place to live in Vancouver include government housing websites, property management companies, and real estate agents that specialize in rentals," remarked another expat in Vancouver.

"I bought a house near where my daughter initially wanted to go to school. She changed her mind before we moved in, wanting to attend school in a different town. So we moved 4500 miles together only to live 30 miles apart. She boarded, came home at weekends. Soon as my residency permit came through, I sold the house and bought one in the gulf islands," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Vancouver?

"Expat homes and apartments in Vancouver tend to vary widely in terms of aesthetic and size, though they generally emphasize convenience, comfort, and accessibility. Many modern buildings contain a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments, while more traditional buildings are usually made up of two- and three-bedroom homes. Flats generally contain clean, modern appliances and fixtures, while houses tend to offer a more homey and spacious atmosphere. Accessibility is an important feature that accompany most expat homes and apartments, as the public transit network is quite extensive in the area. Additionally, various amenities may be found in expat homes, from heated indoor swimming pools and hot tubs to shared gardens and playgrounds," remarked another in Vancouver.

"I have a small farm, 11 acres, on the ocean. We have 5600 square feet of home, offices and workshops. This isn't typical for expats," explained one expat.

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What is the average cost of housing in Vancouver?

If you are thinking about moving to Vancouver, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The average cost of housing in Vancouver is generally very high due to the city's popularity and lack of available land for new housing. The cost of buying a single family home in the city is typically over $1 million, while rent prices for an average one bedroom apartment are upwards of $2,000 depending on the area of the city," added another person living in Vancouver.

"I live in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. The area includes the towns of Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland, and the rural areas in between. Since Covid began, many newcomers are here and prices have gone through the roof! The average condo is $400,000, average townhouse is $600,000, and single family homes are higher. But prices are starting to fall as interest rates rise, and houses are not selling as fast. I recommend waiting a year to buy. That gives you time to explore the different areas, as each one has its own unique character," explained one expat living in Canada.

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How do I meet people in Vancouver?

When we asked people living in Vancouver about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Meeting people in Vancouver can be easy and fun. There are plenty of great places to meet others, including parks, cafes, libraries, gyms, beaches, and community centers. Joining local clubs and classes or attending networking events or meetups can also be an effective way to meet people. If you reconnect with old friends from school or from hometowns, sometimes an introduction in person can also be a great way to get to know someone and their friends. Joining recreational sports teams, volunteering, or taking a language class are great ways to interact with other people while also learning something new," explained one expat.

"There are many ways to meet people in Vancouver. You could join a club, sports team or group focused on your hobbies and interests. Community centres, churches and fitness centres also offer activities, events and classes which can be a great way to meet new people. Networking events, volunteer activities, festivals and outdoor activities are great opportunities to meet people with similar passions. In addition, you can look for groups on social media or meetup sites to meet friends and like-minded people," said another person in Vancouver.

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What should I bring when moving to Vancouver?

People living in Vancouver were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"Clothes for all seasons, rain gear, comfortable shoes, toiletries, basic kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, bedding and linens, electronics, pet supplies (if applicable), personal documents (driver's license, birth certificate, etc.), credit cards and cash, first aid kit, a digital camera, books and clothing storage boxes, bike, if you plan to ride," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

"I suppose that depends on what country you arrive from. We came from the U.S. to the Comox Valley on Central Vancouver Island. There isn't that much difference but everything is more expensive than it was in California, and the variety of items available is much less than in the States. My recommendation is to rent a furnished place and live here for awhile if you can. Then go back to your home country and make your big move. You'll be better informed about what to bring and what to ditch. Of course, I realize that isn't always possible. The things I really miss are good Mexican food. Hominy is unheard of here, so I bring a case of it back whenever I cross the border. Other things that I miss are good quality spices. That's about it. Canada has pretty much everything," said another expat in Canada.

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Where should I setup a bank account in Vancouver?

We asked expats in Vancouver what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"You can open a bank account in Vancouver at all major national banks, including TD Canada Trust, Royal Bank, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, CIBC, and HSBC. You can also find online banks, such as Tangerine and Simplii, who offer services in Vancouver as well," explained one expat.

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Will I be able to find a job in Vancouver?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Vancouver, they reponded:

"Vancouver is a dynamic city that offers a variety of employment opportunities. The city's high standard of living and strong economy make it a desirable destination for job seekers from around the world. The city is home to many large, international companies, and job opportunities can be found for professionals in industries such as finance, technology, retail, hospitality, and healthcare, among others. Additionally, many smaller businesses in Vancouver offer eligible jobs for those with skill sets in specialized trades and industries. To increase your chances of finding employment in Vancouver, be sure to network extensively, update your resume, and use job search engines to find positions that match your background and experience," replied an expat in Vancouver.

"Yes, it is possible to find a job in Vancouver. The city is diverse and has a thriving economy, offering a range of opportunities in a variety of sectors such as finance, healthcare, hospitality, and tech. Job seekers can use job search websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Workopolis, as well as consult more specific local websites, to explore job openings. Additionally, Vancouver is a hub for entrepreneurship and many people have found success starting their own business," remarked another in Vancouver.

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What is life like in Vancouver?

When we asked people living in Vancouver what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Life as an expat in Taiwan is a unique and exciting experience. There are so many different cultures and experiences to explore. Taiwan is the perfect place to experience local life, with its vibrant cities, stunning scenery, and friendly people. Expats in Taiwan find that the city offers a lot of opportunities to get involved in the local community, from volunteering to joining sports groups or language classes. The cost of living in Taiwan is relatively low and the public transportation system is efficient, making it easy to get around the country. There are a variety of cultural festivals and events throughout the year, which expats can enjoy. There is also a large expat community in Taiwan, which makes it a great place for expats to meet new people and find support," remarked another expat in Vancouver.

"Life as an expat in the area can be quite enjoyable. The people here are friendly and welcoming and make you feel like you're part of the community. The weather is also warm and sunny most of the year, making it a great place to enjoy outdoor activities and the local sights. There are many cultural events and festivals throughout the year, and plenty of shopping, dining and nightlife options to explore. The cost of living is quite reasonable and there are plenty of opportunities to find work. Expats also have access to some of the world's finest beaches and resorts, and a variety of amazing outdoor activities such as diving, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, and much more," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

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What do expats in Vancouver appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expats in Vancouver appreciate the city's diverse and vibrant cultural atmosphere, as well as its unique mix of natural beauty and metropolitan feel. They also enjoy the locals' friendly and welcoming attitude and its emphasis on living an active and healthy lifestyle. Additionally, the abundance of outdoor activities and the multitude of options when it comes to food and entertainment are other points that expats value. The multicultural diversity of Vancouver is also appreciated, with various cultures and ethnicities coming together creating an interesting and exciting atmosphere," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

"Expats in Vancouver appreciate the city's beautiful natural environment, with its stunning views of the North Shore Mountains and stunning beaches. The city is also very diverse, with a mixture of cultures represented in the city's restaurant and shop offerings. The city has an active lifestyle with many activities to explore, from skiing and snowboarding to sailing and cycling. The vibrant city culture has something for everyone, with art galleries, music and theatre venues, festivals, and many other events. Expats enjoy the convenience of the city's well-connected public transit system and its many shops, restaurants, and recreation options. The mild west coast climate also makes it easy to stay active and enjoy the outdoors," said another expat in Vancouver.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Expats often find it challenging to integrate into a new culture, make new friends, learn a new language, find employment, cope with homesickness, adjust to a different climate, and manage the financial requirements of international relocation," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

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Is there a lot of crime in Vancouver?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"No, Vancouver is generally considered to be one of the safest cities in Canada and has a comparatively low rate of reported crime. In addition, police-reported crime in Vancouver has been decreasing since the early 2000s," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

"Vancouver generally scores well in international rankings for safety and low levels of crime. Residents of the city perceive the crime level to be relatively low. However, as with many urban centres across Canada and the world, there are certain areas that experience higher levels of crime. It is important to exercise caution in certain neighborhoods and to observe typical safety precautions," said another expat in Vancouver.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Vancouver accepting of differences?

"Yes, there is a lot of diversity in the city of Vancouver. The city is made up of different cultural backgrounds and lifestyles, including people from European and East Asian backgrounds, first nations and indigenous people, and people from different sexual orientation and gender identities. Generally people in Vancouver are very accepting of differences and learn to work together in harmony," explained one expat living in Vancouver.

"Yes, Vancouver has a lot of diversity. With different cultures, religions, and ethnic backgrounds represented in the city, Vancouver is far more diverse than other Canadian cities. People in Vancouver are generally very accepting of differences and pride themselves on the fact that they are such a diverse city. People of all backgrounds are made to feel welcome in Vancouver, and the city often celebrates its diversity," said another expat in Vancouver.

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What are the schools in Vancouver like?

"Vancouver has a variety of public and private schools, ranging from traditional to alternative, and pre-Kindergarten programs to high school and beyond. Public schools in Vancouver are managed by the local school district, which establishes and maintains standards for curriculum and instruction. Vancouver also has many private schools available to parents who want to provide an alternative educational experience for their children. These schools often focus on smaller classrooms, individualized attention, and specialized curricula. Vancouver also has numerous post-secondary institutions, providing access to specialized and vocational courses, undergraduate and graduate programs, and professional development," said another parent with children at in Vancouver.

"Vancouver is home to many public and private schools. Public schools are well-funded and offer a range of academic, artistic and athletic programs. Fraser River Middle School, Carnarvon Elementary and Eric Hamber Secondary are some of the larger public secondary schools located in the city. The Greater Vancouver area also has numerous private schools, such as Crofton House, St. George’s School and West Point Grey Academy. These schools offer unique programs such as Grade 11 and 12 International Baccalaureate, and French Immersion. The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University are major universities in Vancouver that offer a range of undergraduate and graduate programs," commented one expat when asked about in Vancouver.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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