Moving to Victoria
Also known as “The City of Gardens”, Victoria is a beautiful city to live in. It’s the capital of the province of British Columbia, and home to much of the country’s history. Its old world charm and architecture was heavily influenced by the British.
Victoria is located on the Pacific coast, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The latest census pegs the population at about 358,700 people for the Greater Victoria area.
For a Canadian city, Victoria has great weather. The region is the most temperate in the country. In winter, the average high is 8°C and the low 4°C. During this season, Victoria rarely sees snow, but tends to be cool and rainy. During the summer months, the weather is dry and sunny. The average high is 20°C and the low is 11°C, making it quite comfortable.
Today, Victoria is known for its access to outdoor adventures. Hiking, cycling, canoeing… the area is like one big alfresco playground for nature lovers. Victoria offers big city living and exciting lifestyle while still having a laid back, small city feel.
The Job Market
The technology industry is the leading economic force in Victoria, BC. More than 800 small and medium size private sector tech businesses have established themselves in Victoria. They generate about $2 billion dollars in revenue every year.
The tourism sector is likely the second most important for the local economy. Another important economic sector is related to education. The city’s colleges and universities employ thousands of residents. Other important sectors include health, construction, agriculture and national defense.
For those immigrating to Victoria, there aren’t many barriers to finding a job here. Most employers are looking for English-speaking employees. Victoria has a low unemployment rate at 5 percent. As a comparison, Canada’s unemployment rate is currently sitting at 6.8 percent.
The cost of living in Victoria is higher than most Canadian cities, behind only Vancouver and Toronto. It was recently ranked 3rd most expensive city by Readers Digest. What makes life here more costly than elsewhere in the country? Housing tops the list. For detailed property and rent prices, see more information in the next section. Luckily, higher salaries help offset the city’s higher prices. Victoria ranked 8th highest in Canada for median family income.
When looking at restaurant prices, Victoria is comparable to the rest of the country. A three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant costs about $35, or about $15 if you grab a bite at an inexpensive one. A glass of domestic beer is about $5.25, an import about $6.50 at the pub. Groceries are on the high side in Canada. For example, in Victoria, a loaf of fresh bread is about $3.14, one litre of milk costs $1.73 and one kilo of chicken breasts rings in at $15.97.
Transportation costs are reasonably priced, with a monthly transit pass costing $85 per month. Internet access is more expensive in Canada than in many other countries, with unlimited data averaging $51.43 per month. Healthcare is quite affordable once new residents qualify for BC’s provincial health insurance plan.
If you prefer to rent, a one bedroom apartment in Victoria’s core costs, on average, $1,106 per month. Three bedroom units cost about $1,836 each month. For those of you who prefer the calm of the suburbs, you’ll save money on rent. One bedroom units outside Victoria’s core costs $847.50 per month, and three bedroom units rent for about $1,425.
With its colleges and universities, there are many apartment rentals available in Victoria. There are also lots of great options for young professionals and families close to the core, as Victoria is a popular relocation destination for those looking for high-paying tech jobs.
The real estate market in Victoria is still seeing modest price increases. The Victoria Real Estate Board’s numbers from April 2015 list the average selling price for single family homes in Greater Victoria at $635,340. Condos sales averaged $343,428 and townhouses $401,511. There has been speculation of a housing bubble and price drop in Canada for several years now, but it hasn’t happened yet. Record-low interest rates are keeping prices high and the market jumping.
Victoria is one of the oldest cities in Western Canada. Many of its historic buildings date back to the first British settlers of the 1840’s. Each neighbourhood has its own distinct charm. Not sure where in the city to live? Here are a few favorites.
- Family-Friendly: Harris Green – One of Victoria’s smallest neighbourhoods. Located close to downtown, it offers families an alternative to living in the suburbs.
- Upmarket: Uplands – One of Victoria’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Uplands is a century old area, home to many mansions and millionaires.
- Hip & Trendy: Downtown – Historical and hip at the same time. This area offers heaps of shopping and a booming entertainment district.
- Up & Coming: Burnside Gorge – A mixed use neighbourhood and one of Victoria’s largest. With Victoria’s expected growth, the city is working on a new plan for the area.
Cost of Moving
Here are a few estimates for the cost of moving to Victoria. The estimates below are in pounds, and are based on an average household move for a family.
|From London||£2,397 and £2,562|
|From Paris||£2,855 and £3,052|
|From New York City||£2,156 and £2,304|
|From San Francisco||£359 and £384|
|From Sydney||£1,661 and £1,776|
|From Dubai||£6,015 and £6,430|
|From Beijing||£2,519 and £2,693|
Schools and Education
In Canada, each province or territory has its own Ministry of Education, and sets its own regulations and standards. Schools in Victoria therefore follow British Columbia’s curriculum. Victoria’s schools offer numerous programs, including English, International Baccalaureate, French Immersion and French for Francophones.
Most children in British Columbia attend publicly funded schools. Schools are often categorized as elementary (from kindergarten to grade 5), middle (from grade 6 to grade 8) or high schools (from grade 9 to grade 12). To graduate, students must pass provincial exams and earn 80 high school credits made up of required and elective courses.
There are dozens of elementary and middle schools throughout the Greater Victoria area. There are several high schools, including seven for the English language Greater Victoria School District and one for Francophones (Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique). There are a few independent schools in Victoria offering specialized faith or language-based educational programs.
There are three well recognized post-secondary institutions in the Greater Victoria area. The University of Victoria, known for its research, has over 20,000 students. It ranked 290th in the world according to QS World University Rankings. The 2014 Times Higher Education (THE) ranked it 173th globally. Royal Roads University, a former military college, is also in the Greater Victoria area. Camosun is the city’s largest college with over 18,000 students in attendance every year.
Ranking against the world
In the Financial Times’ American Cities of the Future Awards, Victoria took first place for Best Business Friendliness Winner (small city category), Overall Winner (small city category) and Top 10 Best Foreign Direct Investment Strategy (small city category). In 2014, the city took 3rd place in a World’s Friendliest City survey by Condé Nast Traveler. It was also named the 5th best city to visit in Canada by the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards.
Like most larger Canadian cities, Victoria is quite multicultural. It has a rich history of First Nation, English and other cultures. British Columbia is actually Canada’s most culturally diverse province. Over 25 percent of BC’s population was born outside of Canada.
A day in the life
The best part about life in downtown Victoria is that it’s so easy to walk or bike everywhere. As you head out the door, slip on your sneakers and you’re good to go! No need for winter boots, heavy parkas and wool tuques in Victoria. The tulips are in full bloom by late February. One caveat… it rains a lot during the winter months. Don’t forget your umbrella!
On the weekend, you can play to your heart’s content. It’s rarely too hot or too cold to enjoy the great outdoors. Many golf courses are open year-round, as are bike trails and other amenities. Grab your best friend and head down to the harbour front. Hop onto a whale-watching tour and go see the humpbacks, orcas, seals and sea lions.
Once you’ve regained your land legs, drop in for afternoon tea at one of Victoria’s best tea rooms. Most offer traditional tea service and finger sandwiches, but some do it with a bit of hipster flair. Then stroll through the Bastion Square Market and browse the local food, arts, and take in the entertainment. Stop at Red Fish Blue Fish for a serving of fish and chips and watch the seaplanes. Ready for some excitement? Finish the evening at one the Victoria’s downtown nightclubs. Check out Irish Times if you like live music or V Lounge to catch the game.