Of course, everyone will have their own opinion of what it is like living in Halifax, Nova Scotia and here is my personal take on it, having chosen to move my family and start a new life in Halifax back in March 2007 and (mostly) loving every minute living here 🙂
Compared to the big Cities across Canada, Halifax is pretty small. According to the 2021 census, downtown Halifax population has grown at the fastest pace in Canada (Stats Can 2021). Some people will tell you that living in a small City is a negative, however having come from a big, cosmopolitan City prior to moving here, you can access most of the same type of conveniences of larger cities but without the frantic rushing or overwhelming number of people.
The small City vibe that was Halifax when we arrived is certainly changing. There has been record immigration to Halifax over the past few years and the City is growing at a rapid pace. The slower pace and simpler life is still very possible here (for now, anyway 😉
Halifax has a great deal of history both in terms of architecture and museums including the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Canada’s only national Immigration museum.
Although the City is growing at a rapid pace, it remains a very walkable city. Public transportation is often criticised but I have honestly found it to be pretty good for a smaller City, particularly within the downtown core. The ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth is the oldest salt water passenger ferry in North America and is a wonderful way to commute from Dartmouth to the City without the worry of trying to park. As you leave the City, public transport becomes less accessible and in more rural communities, a car is essential.
Halifax is a safe City. Yes, there is drugs, crime (including gun crime) and homelessness here (like in every City) and Halifax is not immune from these social problems. There are certain sketchy areas. The area of Gottingen Street and adjacent streets towards the McDonald bridge (not the other way though, as the area around Scotia Square is totally fine) is a bit of an up and coming area. Many of these so-called sketchy neighbourhoods are undergoing re-gentrification with fantastic new bars, restaurants and condo developments moving into the area and improving it. But again, this area is not a typical area tourists visit, so it’s something you get to know once you live here.
Halifax downtown late at night is relatively safe. Of course, practical precautions are always recommended – keep your wallet safe, don’t get intoxicated and walk around, take care after dark, be careful of keeping your drinks within eye sight at a bar, etc.
Here’s a list of Canada’s Most Dangerous Places 2018 to see where the City of Halifax ranks, which you may be interested to read.
As for finding a good job in Halifax however, it’s certainly not impossible but nowhere near as easy as in big cities such as Toronto or Vancouver but it is improving as our growth continues. Cost of living, like most of Canada has increased tremendously since the pandemic began and Halifax has seen an increase in the cost of basic groceries and utilities. Nova Scotia’s minimum wage has increased to $13.35 (April 2022) which is pretty low compared to the rest of Canada. It can be a struggle for lower paid workers to live comfortably here with the rising cost of rent and real estate.
There was a time, up until mid 2020 when real estate was a good deal here. You could get a lot of home for your money; that all changed over the past 2 years as real estate demand rocketed and pushed house prices out of the league for many people, especially first time home buyers. The average price for a home in the Halifax-Dartmouth area is $597,952 (March 2022) compared to $335,098 (March 2019).
Halifax is on a strong path economically with ambitious long term plans to grow the City over the next five years. More young people are remaining in Nova Scotia after finishing school or university as job opportunities increase. Brand new schools are being built and infrastructure improvements are happening which is always a positive sign of a growing economy.
A downside to living here is the high tax rate; we pay one of the highest taxes in the country and this can certainly make an impact on your day to day living. Cost of groceries (and alcohol) is expensive here although it is very possible to buy good healthy fresh food on a budget, but it will require you to shop around comparing prices and buying items on sale.
If you enjoy good food (including the best lobster and seafood you will ever eat) craft beers or just enjoying a scenic drink, this is where Halifax stands out. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from with new and exciting venues opening all the time. The landscape of the City and the downtown core continues to improve and is a vibrant hub of entertainment.
Halifax is the main cultural center of the Atlantic Provinces. With the number of Universities (4) within the City, as you would imagine, Halifax has an excellent arts, music and entertainment scene. Festivals are held throughout the City all summer long, actually all year long. From Beer Festivals to Rib Fests, and plenty of family friendly festivals such as the Buskers Festival, Halifax comes alive and thrives during the summer months. See what’s going on here
Healthcare and the lack of Doctors taking new patients is an ongoing problem here in Halifax and other parts of Nova Scotia. Personally I find the healthcare system really good. I’ve never had to wait for any tests, other than a CT Scan which was 9 months.
We had no problem registering with a Family Doctor when we landed here but I know many doctors are not taking new patients. There is an ongoing Government initiative to attract and retain new physicians and a provincial Need a Family Practice Registry has been set up which you can register with. When a primary care provider in your area is accepting new patients, the practice will either contact you directly, or Nova Scotia Health Authority will make contact with you. Here’s the link.
In the meantime, those people without a doctor can call in to any Walk in Clinic (see list here) and be seen by a Doctor. A fairly new initiative, VirtualCareNS provides temporary access to medical care for those people on the Need a Family Practice Registry. It’s not perfect but it means you still have access to primary healthcare, even if it’s not your own family doctor.
On the subject of weather, Halifax doesn’t do too badly. If you don’t enjoy a Canadian winter, chances are you won’t like the Halifax climate. We tend to have a good nine months of decent weather, a short Spring, often rainy and cool with the odd warm day thrown in, sunny and warm Summers, a beautiful Fall and snowy, traditional Winters, with a mix of rain, snow and ice which often start around December through to mid March. And wind. We have LOTS of windy days.
We love the climate here. We love the outdoors and the fact that it doesn’t rain nearly half as much as our previous City of Cardiff so we can be out and about a lot more enjoying all that this place has to offer – from stunning beaches to abundant hiking trails to provincial parks and lakes to swim in.
People here are one of a kind, they tend to be very welcoming and friendly. There is a great sense of community and this makes day to day living here a joy. Living in Halifax won’t be a good fit for everyone, but I personally feel that it’s a really great place to live, work and play. There are pros and cons to living here but you’ll only know for certain if Halifax is a good fit for you by trying it out for yourself.
As always, feel free to ask me any questions about living here. We’ve been in your shoes and I will do my very best to answer all your questions honestly and as objectively as possible 🙂