Halifax Life: What Is It Like Living in Halifax, Nova Scotia?

Richard Payne
Richard Payne
Published on March 10, 2024
Beautiful Halifax Skyline captured by @adrian_mclean on IG


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. A new high speed ferry service that will link Halifax to Bedford has recently been approved and should be completed by 2028 which will certainly ease the burden of traffic travelling into the City.

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 cities with the highest crime rates in 2022 to see where Halifax ranks. This database is also another good resource to assist with your due diligence.

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 $15.00 per hour  and will increase again on 1 April 2024 to $15.50, 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/real estate, utilities and food.

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 4 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 $594.040 (February 2024) compared to $302,677 (December 2019). Source: CREA

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. This is a good read if you are looking at industry sectors and career opportunities in Halifax

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 very expensive here although it is very possible to buy fresh food on a budget, but it will require you to shop around comparing prices and buying items on sale. Here’s a comparison tool you might find useful to compare the cost of living in Halifax to other parts of Canada or where you currently live.

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 Waterfront Nova Scotia

Halifax Waterfront: The Stubborn Goat IG

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. An estimated 43 family physicians in NS retired in 2023 — more than the total who opened new practices over almost two years (Doctors Nova Scotia). This is not solely a NS problem. According to a national survey, 6.5 million people in Canada, more than one in five, don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner they can see regularly. The share of the population on a waitlist for a family doctor has climbed considerably. More information on wait list and doctor shortages can be found here

As a former RN, my experience of obtaining care (both primary and secondary) has been good. There is clearly a need for more doctors and nurses as morale is low and staff are overworked. We have a family doctor that is wonderful, but it can be a wait to get an appointment. 

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 nurse practitioners 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. 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. The Maple app is another option for accessing healthcare. There is a lot of really great information on how to access primary care here.

The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia (PANS), in partnership with the Government of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Health, is piloting new primary care clinics at select pharmacy locations. Clinics are located in areas with the highest number of people without a family doctor.

These pharmacist-led clinics will provide an extended suite of pharmacy primary care services at no charge to people with a valid Nova Scotia Health Card. You can find more details here

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 with minimal humidity, 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 do have the tail end of tropical storms and hurricaines which can cause significant damge and widespread power outages.

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 us any questions about living here. We’ve been in your shoes and we will do our very best to answer all your questions honestly and as objectively as possible 🙂

Richard and Jane 


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