A newcomer’s guide to making Calgary home

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: January 13, 2024

Calgary, Alberta’s biggest city and home to over 1.6 million Canadians, is notable for being among the top 10 most livable cities (seventh) in the world according to the Global Livability Index 2023.

Part of Calgary’s livability is highlighted by how the city ranked on this index, including their overall score – 96.8, the second highest of any city in this country – and their perfect 100.0 rating in four different categories*.

*Calgary scored a perfect 100 for Healthcare, Infrastructure, Stability and Education

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In addition, Calgary is also the third most diverse city in all of Canada, where residents speak more than 120 different languages and nearly 25% of the city’s current population are immigrants themselves. This makes it easier for immigrants to fit in across Alberta’s largest city.

The following guide provides newcomers with essential insights into settling in the "Heart of the New West" and embracing its vibrant, sun-soaked spirit.

Get to know Calgary and its Major Neighbourhoods

The city of Calgary gets 333 days of sunshine per year, more than any other major Canadian city. This means that residents of this city will get plenty of opportunities to experience everything Calgary has to offer.

Several key neighbourhoods make up the city of Calgary, a few of which will be discussed in detail now.

Calgary’s downtown core is its most city notable neighbourhood/area, largely because this part of Alberta’s largest city is a hub for everything from some of the province’s top-rated restaurants to live entertainment, museums, shopping and iconic monuments such as the Calgary Tower. Offering a bit of everything for everyone from families to young international students, downtown Calgary is one of this city’s most prominent neighbourhoods. Click here to learn more about this famous area in Calgary and everything it has to offer.

Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood, located directly south of the city’s downtown core, is renowned for its urban culture and nightlife. From its showcases of astounding art at the Chinook Arc and during the Beltline Urban Mural Projects (BUMP) festival to its wintertime BIG Winter Classic festival – a festival “pairing arts and entertainment with local craft beer” – Beltline is a characteristically vibrant Calgary community that is ideal for the city’s increasingly youthful population*.

*Calgary had a median age of just 38 in 2021, making it one of the youngest cities among all major cities in Canada

Inglewood, Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, is a small town that caters to those who enjoy walking and biking around the area they live. This part of Calgary is a diversion from the hustle and bustle of the city’s more urban areas. Often referred to as Calgary’s original downtown, Inglewood offers a mix of local restaurants, shops and historic buildings that truly showcase the most unique and special things about Calgary as a whole. This page can help you learn more about Inglewood.

Public Transportation in Calgary

Calgary Transit handles public transport around this city, including a network of buses and Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines, known as the CTrain.

Public transportation in this city can be accessed through single-fare purchases as well as ticket bundles or passes (day or month), depending on the needs of different commuters.

The cost of fares, tickets and passes depends on your age at the time of purchase and Calgary Transit also offers special student pricing for youth who present their student identification (ID).

In addition, Calgary Transit offers special pricing for weekend group day transit passes and discounted monthly and annual transit passes for low-income residents and seniors. Click here to learn more about those options.

Calgary Transit provides residents with a website and a My Fare mobile app that they can use to plan their commute, as well as purchase certain transit passes.

The Calgary Transit website includes tools and resources related to rider information such as accessibility and provides commuters with up-to-date service updates and information about disruptions they may experience while moving around the city.

Thriving Industries in Calgary

One of Calgary’s most prominently thriving industries is its technology sector. In fact, Calgary is home to the fastest tech workforce growth in North America, meaning that Calgary is quickly becoming a premier Canadian tech and innovation hub, ideal for those who want to find work in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) sector.

Alberta has over 38,000 combined job vacancies in the five occupational categories that Canada has chosen to prioritize in the federal government’s new category-based draws. In addition to STEM, these categories also include healthcare, agriculture/agri-food, transport, and trade. Most of these vacancies are likely to be found in Calgary, Alberta’s most populated city.

With over 40,000 tech workers in the city, Calgary has enjoyed over 20 percent job growth in the tech sector between 2017 and 2021.

Other industries and sectors that are vibrantly present in Calgary include:

Agribusiness

Calgary plays a significant role in Alberta being the third largest exporter of agri-food products in the entire country. This is because Calgary is intersected by the Trans-Canada Highway (east/west) and Highway 2 (north/south), known as the CANAMEX corridor. This allows companies to “reach millions of consumers within a one-day trip”, making it easy to access a wide range of consumer markets in a highly efficient manner.

Entertainment

Calgary has shown a commitment to improving its position as an arts and culture hub in Canada. The Calgary Economic Development website projects that the city’s “creative industries sector will spend $566 million on ‘digital transformation’ between 2022 and 2024, making way for gaming, esports, immersive technologies, animation, and visual effects to be key engines of growth”.

Recent evidence of Calgary’s emergence as an entertainment hub can be seen in the increasingly prominent use of this city as a backdrop for major television and film productions. As an example, in the last several years alone, Calgary was used as a filming location for the film Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) and HBO’s The Last of Us (2023).

Learn more about Calgary’s key sectors here.

Calgary’s Education System

Calgary offers several education options for parents, including public school and a range of private education options as well.

Note: This resource can help parents better understand what their child is learning in the province’s public education curriculum, which guides how students learn in publicly funded institutions across Calgary

Private education options in Calgary include private schools and boarding schools, although all private options will require parents to pay for tuition out of pocket. This is a key difference between public and private education in Calgary, as public education can be obtained for free (funded through taxes).

As the educational curriculum in public schools across Calgary is guided by the province, this provincial government webpage breaks down the curriculum that your child will undertake from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Calgary’s post-secondary education system includes over 60 Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs).

DLIs are particularly important for newcomers who arrive in Canada as international students. This is because foreign nationals must obtain an acceptance letter from a DLI before seeking a Canadian study permit.

Among Calgary’s many DLIs are renowned educational institutions such as the University of Calgary, which was once the place of learning for notable figures such as Uber co-founder Garrett Champ and James Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language.

To learn more about the education system in Calgary and Alberta as a whole, visit this dedicated webpage.

Emergency Services in Calgary

One of the most prominent areas of awareness for newcomers to Calgary is emergency services.

This is because newcomers must be aware of how they can contact help when they need it, whether they need assistance from the police, ambulance or fire services.

In an emergency, Calgary residents are urged to dial 911. This will connect them to emergency service providers who can quickly get them the required help.

The Alberta Health Services website contains key information for residents in the province, including in Calgary, about emergency services, including hospitals, facilities, programs and services available to them.

Newcomer Services

Calgary has an extensive network of service providers ready and capable of aiding newcomers with everything they need. These service providers work in areas ranging from settlement and integration and education to employment and general immigrant services.

Note: It is important to keep in mind that eligibility for these services will depend on your Canadian immigration status and who is funding the settlement service organization (government-funded or private); it is advisable to check with the specific service provider to confirm your eligibility for the service

A sample list of these organizations is available below.

Note: Contact information and websites for all listed organizations can be found in the above hyperlink

  • Newcomer Services for Women: Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association
  • Education: The Immigrant Education Society
  • Employment: Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council

In addition, several of these organizations in Calgary also service newcomers in French. These institutions include:

  • Settlement and Integration Services: Portail de l’ Immigrant Association de Calgary
  • General Services and Community-Based Programs: La Cité des Rocheuses

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