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    Moving to Ottawa

    A guide to moving overseas to the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Important information you'll need to know about living in Ottawa, from the local language to the weather.

    Moving to Ottawa

    Ottawa is the Canadian capital, home to 985,000 people, many of which are British ex-pats.

    Home to Parliament, Ottawa is a friendly, old city located on the Rideau River. The quality of life is high, and yet surprisingly affordable in comparison with other major Canadian cities. Ottawa is clean and well serviced by infrastructure and public transport, making it an ideal location for ex-pat families and professionals alike.

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    Living in Ottawa

    The Public Service of Canada is a primary employer in Ottawa, with the life sciences and technology sectors also driving local employment. In fact, Ottawa is home to more engineers per capita than any other city in Canada. Diplomats are often posted from the UK to Ottawa as well.
    There are a number of excellent schools and hospitals in Ottawa, along with universities offering fantastic post-secondary education. From skating on the frozen Rideau Canal in the winter to enjoying Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in the summertime, there are plenty of things to do year-round in this bilingual city.
    Although Ottawa sits in a known earthquake region, serious quakes are rare. The largest shock in the past 4 years was a 3.8 magnitude which caused barely any damage.

    Local language

    Ottawa is officially bilingual, although English is predominantly used in day-to-day life. It is estimated that 64% of people speak English as a first language, with the remainder speaking either French or another language. If you are a government employee, you will be required to have both, otherwise ex-pats can communicate effectively with English alone. 


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    Weather in Ottawa

    Before moving to Ottawa, it’s good to be aware that the city enjoys hot and humid summers, along with incredibly cold winters. The average temperature in January is −14.8 °C, but temperatures can top 30°C at the height of summer. 

    Transport in Ottawa

    You can drive on your British passport for up to 60 days upon arrival in Ottawa, after which you will be required to get an Ontario license. You may get credit for past years of driving, which means you may not have to start from scratch when testing for your new license, allowing you to obtain it faster.
    If you are moving to Ottawa but want to visit nearby cities, you’re in luck – Toronto and Montreal are only an hour and a half away, and the (predominantly French-speaking) city of Gatineau, Quebec, is the other side of the Ottawa River.

    Healthcare in Ottawa

    You have to apply for health insurance through the provincial Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), and you are eligible to do this after living in Ottawa for three months or more. 

    Education in Ottawa

    There are many technology institutes in Ottawa, alongside six universities offering bilingual tuition. There are world-class MBA and specialist programmes available too, providing plenty of opportunity for university studies and professional development. 


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    page last updated May 2017

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