With a combination of modernity and outstanding natural surroundings, Vancouver is one of Canada's most desirable cities. While many visitors have openly mused about moving to this amazing metropolis during their time here, it is worth noting that the cost of living in this place is no joke.
Are you prepared to pay the price to live in paradise? Read on below to see if you have what it takes.
What you can expect to earn here
Being the central component to the Canada's Pacific Gateway through which trade with Asia flows, Vancouver has become an important logistics hub for the country. In addition to this, many major corporations have their headquarters or Western Canadian head offices here, which include the likes of Telus, Microsoft, and HSBC to name but a few.
While wages here aren't as inflated as they are in oil-rich Alberta, you can expect to earn a take home a salary that averages around $3,300 Canadian dollars per month. Even with this healthy paycheque, expect to have a fair amount of it go toward the necessities of life, as prices for many things are among the highest in the country.
Going out to eat
One thing that isn't ridiculously expensive in Van City is lunch, as there are no shortage of places where $2 slices of fully-dressed pizza and $5 plates of sushi can be had. For those looking for a more complete meal, the multicultural nature of the greater Vancouver area has made its dining scene one of the best in the nation.
Those looking for a quality alternative to brown bagging every once in a while can find it at places like Hawker’s Delight (4127 Main), Meat & Bread (370 Cambie) and La Taqueria (2549 Cambie), where your total bill will average out at around $12.50 CAD over time.
When the time comes to hit up downtown for some fine dining, Vancouver's best restauranteurs won't disappoint, as Bin 941 (941 Davie), Bistrot Bistro (1961 W 4th Ave), and Chambar (562 Beatty) supply innovative tastes in intimate environments, but watch your bill, as your typical three course meal in Vancouver averages around $70 CAD excluding tip.
The price of a cart of groceries
Living at the head of the Fraser Valley is a dream for those that love fresh, local produce, as the long growing seasons here keep bins full of fresh vegetables and fruit through much of the year. Regardless of this, prices are still higher than in Ontario, as farmland costs up to ten times more per acre in British Columbia than it does there.
As such, many common grocery items will cost 5% to 30% more than back in the T-Dot. One notable exception to this is potatoes, as a one kilo bag is usually 10% cheaper than in Toronto, meaning that mashed and baked potatoes can be a regular feature at your dinner table without bankrupting you in the process.
Getting to and from work
Hosting international events like the 1986 Expo and the 2010 Winter Olympics not only put Vancouver on the global map, they have also given it one of Canada's best mass transit systems. Built shortly after winning the World's Fair and expanded to their international airport once the Winter Olympics were secured, the Skytrain will buzz you around Vancouver and out to suburbs like Richmond, Burnaby and Surrey for $100 a month. While that may sound like a fairly expensive sum, it permits unlimited rides and is a full third cheaper than what a similar pass costs in Toronto, Ontario.
Commuters can expect to pay about $280 a month in rent to park downtown, but with the price of gasoline being elevated above most of the nation by high municipal and provincial taxes, one should consider leaving the car home during the work week if they live anywhere near a Skytrain line or the West Coast Express.
The latter service is a heavy rail commuter line that calls on the suburbs of Coquitlam, Port Moody, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission during peak commuting times during the work week. By making use of this service, it will help you save money and the environment in one of Canada's more expensive places.
The cost of owning/renting your own domain
One of the most challenging aspects of living in the greater Vancouver area is the extortionate cost of housing. Inflated by in-migration from those wanting to claim a piece of this nation's most enviable lifestyle and real estate speculation from overseas sources, and exacerbated by geographic limits to the region's growth (mountain ranges and the US border to the south), paying the rent or mortgage is not a task taken lightly here.
With the average bungalow costing around $1 million dollars, and three bedroom condos selling for $700,000 CAD in working class East Vancouver, buying might not be the best option. If you absolutely must, getting housing in places like Surrey and Maple Ridge might work better, as prices in these places average around $500,000 and $250,000 for houses and condos respectively.
Those seeking to rent in the heart of Vancouver will still have shell out a fair chunk of change for the privilege, but with rents for one bedrooms between $1,000-$1,500 and three bedrooms costing $2,000-$3,000, it is less costly than buying from a lifestyle standpoint.
One bright spot in all this: BC Hydro is one of North America's most robust producers of electricity, resulting in power bills that are some of the lowest on the continent at $0.08 per kilowatt hour.
Being surrounded by nature at every turn, one of the most affordable things to do in Vancouver is to get outside and enjoy it. Stanley Park has been lauded as one of Canada's best urban parks, a distinction that makes sense once you spend an entire afternoon circling its seawall.
While admiring the views and going for a walk in the city's many parks won't cause you anything, participating in activities like skiing needn't be too pricey. While Whistler is one of best ski resorts in North America (and is priced accordingly at $104 for a full day on the hill … and that's not including transport, meals, accommodation), Grouse Mountain on Vancouver's North Shore is a much more affordable option can be reached via a 30 minute bus ride from downtown.
With lift tickets only costing $58, it will allow you to enjoy winter without worrying about dipping into the rent money by accident. Tip: try night skiing at least once at Grouse … the view of the city lights below alone are worth it!