Halifax isn’t just a city in Nova Scotia; it’s the capital and the biggest city in the province. With a metro area population of slightly over 440,000, Halifax is a haven for city dwellers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of larger cities like Toronto or Montreal.
This maritime city has a lot to offer, making it a place many people fall in love with and find hard to leave. But it’s not all sunshine and roses; there are downsides that have led some residents to move away.
So, let’s dig into the good and the bad of living in Halifax to help you figure out if making the move to Nova Scotia is the right choice for you!
Halifax is a Canadian city situated in the province of Nova Scotia, on the country’s East Coast along the Atlantic Ocean.
With nearly 440,000 residents in its metro area, Halifax offers an urban experience without the overwhelming size of cities like Toronto. This is quite significant, especially when you consider that the entire population of Nova Scotia is just shy of 1 million.
The pace of life in Halifax is more relaxed compared to most urban centers. The city is known for its Maritime hospitality and offers a fantastic work-life balance, making it easy to take advantage of all the amenities available.
Life in Nova Scotia: Halifax
When it comes to the cost of living, Halifax offers a more affordable lifestyle compared to bigger Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
Rent and Expenses
Rent in Halifax is considerably cheaper, allowing you to stretch your dollar further. In my experience, I spent around $2,200 per month covering rent, utilities, internet, and food. This budget even allowed for social outings like dinners with friends every other week.
Your cost of living will, of course, depend on your lifestyle and the area in which you choose to reside. If I had a more expensive month, it was usually because I was attending festivals or going out more frequently.
However, many activities in Halifax are free, and even downtown rent is more affordable compared to other major Canadian cities.
Halifax’s weather is another important factor to consider, especially if you’re used to the climate in other parts of Canada. Here’s what you can expect.
Mild but Wet
Generally, Halifax experiences milder weather than the rest of Canada. We do get a fair amount of rain, which can be a bit annoying, but it’s a small price to pay compared to the heavy snowfall seen in other regions.
Winter in Halifax can be quite unpredictable. During my living here, it seemed like we had a blizzard every Wednesday. The following day would typically be sunny and warm, only to turn icy cold again.
This cycle led to persistent ice and snow, affecting driving conditions. Extreme winds sometimes even close the bridges from Halifax to Dartmouth, causing work and school cancellations.
Quality of Life
The quality of life in Halifax is something that truly stands out. The city offers a vibrant community and a plethora of activities, making it a great place to live.
Community and Safety
Halifax has a strong sense of community, and I’ve always felt safe walking around, even at night. Weekends are never dull, with a variety of things to do and places to explore.
The only downside is the challenging winters, but that’s a given when living in Canada. Despite this, I would wholeheartedly recommend Halifax as an excellent place to call home.
Pros and Cons of Living in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Pro: A Nature Lover’s Paradise
Halifax is a hidden gem when it comes to natural beauty. Unlike tourist-packed cities like Montreal and Vancouver, Halifax offers a serene escape right in your backyard.
From the breathtaking Cabot Trail to the charming Lunenberg, and not to forget the Halifax Harbour, the city is a nature lover’s dream. I remember one summer when a whale decided to make the harbour its home for a week! And let’s not forget the seal that went on a pizza quest at Pizza Corner.
The city is also rich in greenery. Places like the Public Gardens and Point Pleasant Park are perfect for a quick nature fix. And if you own a car, you’re just a short drive away from hiking trails, surf spots, and public beaches.
Con: Travel Challenges
While Halifax is a fantastic place to live, it’s not the most convenient when it comes to international travel or even domestic long-distance travel.
If you’re planning to fly out of the country, chances are you’ll have to make a pit stop at another Canadian city like Toronto or Montreal. Direct flights to Europe are few and far between.
Long Drives and Trains
And if you’re thinking of driving to Quebec or Ontario, brace yourself for a 22-hour journey through desolate landscapes. The train isn’t any better; it’s expensive and time-consuming.
Pro: Safety First
One of the most reassuring aspects of living in Halifax is its low crime rate, which is among the lowest in Canada.
Statistics and Personal Experience
According to Statistics Canada, Halifax’s crime rate in 2019 was lower than the national average. Personally, I’ve always felt safe here, whether I was walking back home late at night or heading to those oddly timed 9 pm classes.
Types of Crime
Most of the crime you’ll hear about involves university students getting a little too adventurous, like stealing street signs. But nothing that ever made me second-guess my late-night ice cream runs.
Con: Taxing Times
Living in Halifax comes with the financial burden of high taxes, the highest income tax in the country to be precise.
Income and Sales Tax
Without large corporations to share the tax load, the burden falls on the residents. The sales tax here is a whopping 15% (HST) on most purchases.
Even property taxes are on the higher side, although the lower housing costs do provide some relief.
Pro: Never a Dull Moment
Halifax is a city that knows how to have fun. During my four years here, I never ran out of things to do.
Festivals and Sports
Summer is festival season, especially around Barrington Street. From the Busker Festival to joining local sports teams, there’s something for everyone.
My personal favorite was Point Pleasant Park, perfect for hiking, picnics, and enjoying beach views. And let’s not forget the plethora of water activities available, from kayaking to surfing.
Con: Healthcare Hurdles
While living in Halifax is generally good for your wallet, the same can’t be said for your health, at least when it comes to medical care.
I had a terrible experience when I suffered a concussion. The hospital’s emergency room was a nightmare, with long waiting times and misdiagnosis.
Mental Health Services
Finding a good therapist or psychiatrist is equally challenging. The only silver lining was the excellent physiotherapy services at the Dalhousie clinic.
Pro: Affordable Housing
One of the biggest perks of living in Halifax is affordable housing, both in terms of rent and property prices.
I rented a one-bedroom apartment downtown for just $1,200 per month, utilities included. Even my Wi-Fi and basic TV package.
You can find well-constructed houses with multiple bedrooms for under $500,000. The further you go into rural areas, the cheaper the houses get.
Con: Vermin Alert
Living in Halifax comes with its share of uninvited guests like mice, cockroaches, and ants, especially in older buildings.
The city’s damp climate and wooden structures make it easy for vermin to find their way into homes. Many of my friends had to deal with these issues in their student houses.
Thankfully, living in an apartment spared me from these unpleasant encounters.
Pro: Friendly Folks
Halifax is home to some of the friendliest people in Canada. The community is welcoming, open-minded, and always willing to lend a hand.
People here are proud of their city and are more than happy to share local tips and events. Smiling and waving at strangers is the norm, something that would earn you weird looks in Toronto.
Just be prepared to pick up some local slang to fully understand the Haligonians!
Con: Job Market Woes
The job market in Halifax is not as robust as in other major Canadian cities, making it a significant drawback for many residents.
Major companies that have a presence in cities like Toronto and Montreal often don’t have offices here. And if they do, the positions are usually for senior executives or administrative assistants.
Student and Retiree Population
The majority of people living in Halifax are either students or retirees, which speaks volumes about the job market.
Pro: Smooth Commutes
One of the best things about living in Halifax is the lack of traffic, especially when compared to cities like Toronto.
The public buses are efficient and cheap. The #1 bus route is particularly convenient, connecting Halifax to Clayton Park and even passing near Barrington Street.
Even during rush hour, you’re not stuck in endless traffic jams. The only exception is the Dartmouth Bridge, but even then, it’s not unbearable.
Con: Driving Dilemmas
While public transport is great, driving in Halifax can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re new to the city.
The one-way streets near the boardwalk are confusing, to say the least. Even after four years, I never quite figured them out.
Parking is another issue. The narrow roads and limited parking spaces often mean you’ll pass your destination before finding a spot to park.
Pro: Seafood Galore
If you’re a seafood lover, Halifax is your culinary paradise. And the best part? It’s affordable!
Market and Restaurants
I used to frequent the Halifax Seaport Market for fresh salmon and Digby scallops. Restaurants like the Five Fishermen and The Bicycle Thief offer exquisite seafood dishes.
If seafood isn’t your thing, try the local donair or garlic fingers. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.
Con: Limited Shopping Options
For shopaholics, Halifax might be a bit of a letdown. The city lacks the extensive shopping options available in larger cities.
Malls and Stores
The biggest mall, Mic Mac Mall, has limited stores. Most people prefer to shop in Toronto or Montreal when they get the chance.
Pro: Mild Climate
Halifax enjoys a temperate climate, thanks to its proximity to the ocean. The temperature fluctuations are not as extreme as in other parts of Canada.
Con: Winter Woes
While the temperature may be mild, Halifax does experience its share of extreme weather conditions, particularly blizzards in winter.
Snow and Ice
The city doesn’t plow the sidewalks, making it challenging to navigate through the snow. But on the bright side, it does create a picturesque winter wonderland.
Pro: Affordable Living, Ideal for Students
Halifax stands out as one of the most affordable cities in Canada, making it a top choice for students, retirees, and remote workers.
Here’s a quick look at the average monthly expenses for a single person living in downtown Halifax:
- 1 Bedroom Apartment: $1,100
- Utilities + Internet: $200
- Groceries and 1 Meal Out: $150/week
- Monthly Transit Pass: $82.50
Total Monthly Cost: $2,082.50
Total Annual Cost: $24,990
Comparisons and Options
When you compare these numbers to the cost of living in Toronto, which is nearly double, the appeal of Halifax becomes clear. Plus, you can further cut costs by opting for roommates or living in more affordable areas like Bayers Lake or Dartmouth.
Con: Lower Earnings Potential
While the low cost of living is a boon, it also comes with a downside: lower wages.
Job Market and Wages
The job market in Halifax leans more towards entry-level positions than executive roles. This imbalance allows employers to offer lower salaries.
Minimum Wage Stats
As of 2021, the minimum wage in Halifax is $12.95/hour, which is lower than many other Canadian cities. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a livable wage should be at least $22.05/hour.
Comparison with Toronto
For context, the minimum wage in Toronto is $14.35/hour. So, while living in Halifax may be cheaper, earning potential is also lower, making it a trade-off to consider.
Where to Live in Halifax
There are a lot of great places to live in Halifax, but it really depends on what you’re looking for.
If you want to be in the heart of downtown, then you’ll want to look for an apartment or condo near the water.
If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, then you can look for a place to live in one of the suburbs like Bedford or Sackville.
No matter where you choose to live in Halifax, you’ll be sure to find a great community that you can call home.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does living in Halifax compare to Toronto?
Halifax offers a more laid-back lifestyle with friendlier locals and abundant outdoor activities. Toronto, on the other hand, provides more job opportunities and a diverse cultural scene but at a higher cost of living.
Is Halifax an affordable place to live?
Yes, Halifax is more budget-friendly than many other big cities. While rent and groceries can still be pricey, the overall cost of living is about half that of Toronto.
Is Halifax a safe city?
Halifax generally has low crime rates, although some areas are safer than others. Most criminal activities involve minor vandalism by intoxicated students.
Can you live in Halifax without a car?
Yes, but it’s challenging. Public buses can be slow and crowded, and you’ll need a car to explore areas outside the city.
How does living in Nova Scotia differ from Ontario?
Nova Scotia offers a lower cost of living and a more temperate climate but fewer job opportunities compared to Ontario. Both provinces boast natural beauty, albeit in different forms.
What’s the winter like in Nova Scotia?
Winters in Halifax are generally mild, but the wind can make it feel colder. If you’re used to warmer climates or snowy winters, be prepared for chilly mornings.
Is Nova Scotia a desirable place to live?
Absolutely, Nova Scotia offers stunning landscapes, delicious food, and a welcoming community. The cost of living in Halifax is also lower than in other major Canadian cities.
What should I know if I’m moving from Ontario to Nova Scotia?
You’ll find Halifax to be a friendly city with great food and plenty to do. The weather can be a bit unpredictable, but that’s part of Canadian life.
Are there any downsides to living in Nova Scotia?
The weather can be harsh, especially in winter. Also, the province is known for its pesky bugs like mosquitoes, blackflies, and ticks.
Is Nova Scotia a safe place to reside?
Yes, Nova Scotia has a lower crime rate than the Canadian average, and Halifax was ranked as one of Canada’s safest cities in 2019.
Should I consider moving to Nova Scotia?
If you value beautiful landscapes, friendly locals, and great food, Nova Scotia could be your ideal home. Just be ready for the variable weather.
What’s life like in Nova Scotia?
Nova Scotia offers a mix of natural beauty, friendly people, and a lower cost of living, especially in Halifax. The weather can be challenging but is part of the Canadian experience.
Why should I choose to live in Halifax?
Halifax is a historical city with a strong sense of community, plenty of activities, and a lower cost of living compared to other major cities in Canada.
What’s the vibe in Halifax?
Halifax is a scenic, culturally rich city on Canada’s east coast, known for its history, friendly locals, and diverse activities.
Is Halifax a good place to settle?
Yes, Halifax offers a great quality of life with its scenic beauty, friendly community, and affordable living costs.
Is Halifax a large city?
No, Halifax is a medium-sized city with a population just over 400,000, but it offers a vibrant lifestyle with plenty to see and do.
Where is Halifax located?
Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, situated on Canada’s east coast.
How do I move to Nova Scotia?
First, secure a permanent resident card or visa through the Canadian government. Then, find housing and employment in Halifax or another city in Nova Scotia.
Is Halifax a dull city?
No, Halifax offers a rich history, a lively arts scene, and plenty of activities in and around the city. You won’t find yourself bored here.
Halifax offers a unique blend of affordability, natural beauty, and community spirit. However, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it’s the right fit for you. Whether you’re a student, a retiree, or someone looking for a change, Halifax has something for everyone.