ottawa guide for students

The Ultimate Guide for New Students in Ottawa

As an international student who spent the last year navigating life in Canada’s capital, I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned with you. From finding a cozy spot to call home to figuring out the best ways to get around, securing part-time work, and making the most of Ottawa’s vibrant culture and social scene, this guide is packed with firsthand insights. Whether you’re worried about the costs of living, finding your community, or just looking for the best places to study or unwind, I’ve got you covered

Let’s get started on making your transition to student life in Ottawa as smooth and enjoyable as possible.


Affordable Rent in Ottawa as International Student

The first thing you’ll need to consider as you embark on your student journey in Ottawa is finding a place to call home. It’s crucial to find a comfortable and convenient place to live, as it will greatly impact your overall experience in the city. Your choice of accommodation should ideally suit your lifestyle, budget, and proximity to your school. So, you should consider those things before finding rent:


If you’re someone who likes to be in the heart of the city, close to all amenities and the vibrant city life, then downtown Ottawa might be the place for you. However, it’s important to note that convenience comes with a price. A private studio in downtown Ottawa can cost you between $1,000 to $1,600. If you’re looking for more budget-friendly options, consider areas a bit farther from downtown or even the nearby town of Gatineau. Gatineau offers similar living arrangements at a more affordable rate, with studio prices around $700. Plus, with your student transportation card covering both Gatineau and Ottawa buses, commuting won’t be an issue.

Living with Colleagues

From my own experience, a great way to enjoy a balance of a calm and social lifestyle is to team up with fellow students and rent a house in areas like Vanier. These neighborhoods offer the tranquility of a residential area while still providing easy access to the city’s offerings. Sharing a house not only helps with budgeting but also fosters a sense of community and support among students. If you decided to do that, the rent could cost around 600$ and 1000$ in Ottawa for each one of you (If you managed to find a house with 3 bedrooms) and maybe cheaper in Gatineau.

Student Campuses

For those who prefer a more private living situation but still want to be in a student-friendly environment, student campuses could be the ideal choice. Living on campus provides a unique opportunity to be immersed in the student community, with easy access to university resources and events. But its not cheap.

Best Way To Find Rent in Ottawa

A great way to look for a place to live is by using websites that show rental ads. Sites that focus on places for students are really helpful because they list homes that are good for students and usually close to schools. One of the best sites to use is, where you can find lots of options.

Social media, like Facebook, is also a great place to find a place to live. If you join Facebook groups for students from your university, you can meet other students who need roommates or have rooms to rent.

These groups often share ads for places to live and rooms to share, which can be cheaper and let you live with other students.

Some Facebook groups:

You can also look at Facebook Marketplace, where people often post houses and apartments for rent.

How To Find Rent in Ottawa with no Credit History?

If you want to rent a place on your own but don’t have a rental history in Canada, try reaching out to landlords directly. When you talk to them, explain your situation clearly and let them know how you plan to pay the rent. This is important because landlords need to be sure that they will receive their rent on time. While this approach might not work with everyone, there’s always a chance you’ll find someone who understands your situation. I found this to be true from my own experience, so don’t lose hope. There are understanding landlords out there who might be willing to rent to you even without a Canadian rental history.

Also, you can think about sharing a place with friends or colleagues who have rented before and have good credit. Renting with someone who knows how things work in Canada can make it easier for you to get a place to live because landlords will feel more comfortable if at least one person living in the house has rented in Canada before. This way, you can also learn a lot about life in Canada from someone who has been living it.

Transportation in Ottawa for Students

In Ottawa, each ride on the bus or train costs around $3.85, and your ticket is good for 1 hour and 30 minutes. This means you can switch between buses and trains on the same ticket, which is pretty useful. You can buy tickets at train stations using any payment method you like, but on the bus, they only take credit cards and cash.

If you’re going to use public transport a lot, you might want to get a Presto card. You can load money onto it at any train station or online, making it super easy to just tap and go. A monthly pass costs $128.75, but as a student, you might get it for less, thanks to student discounts.

The good thing about these tickets and the Presto card is that you can also use them on buses in Gatineau. So, if you need to cross over there, it’s no problem.

But even with all this, I found the public transport here a bit tough to rely on. Buses and trains can be late or really crowded, and sometimes they’re not the cleanest. Plus, the train only has two lines, which don’t cover the whole city. That’s why I ended up buying a car. It just made everything a lot easier for me, without having to deal with the hassles of public transportation.

Employment for Students

Finding a job as a student in Ottawa can be a bit tough these days, I won’t lie. But from my own experience, there are ways to make your job search a bit easier. The website Indeed has been super helpful for me. I actually found 3 different jobs through it! It’s a great place to start because lots of companies post job openings there, including part-time work and internships that are perfect for students.

Another cool tool to check out is the Gig Hound app. It’s handy for finding short-term or shift work, which can fit really well with a busy student schedule. You can pick up shifts when you have the time, making it a flexible option for earning money while studying.

Remember, finding a job might take some time, so don’t get discouraged. Keep checking these online job portals and apply to positions that match your skills and schedule.

Living on a Budget

With current circumstances making life in Ottawa more expensive and difficult, it’s important to find ways to save money, especially on everyday essentials like groceries. Costco can be a great option for those with a membership, allowing you to buy in bulk and save on the overall cost. It’s particularly useful for stocking up on items you use regularly.

For those interested in Arab and Mediterranean foods, Adonis supermarket for example offer a wide selection at competitive prices. Adonis, in particular, is known for its fresh produce and diverse international offerings.

However, don’t just settle for the convenience of nearby grocery stores, as they often come with higher prices. Taking the time to visit larger supermarkets that suit your tastes and budget can lead to significant savings and a more varied diet.

What-To-Do in Ottawa

If you’ve ever heard rumors that Ottawa is boring, well, those rumors not wrong. But, before you jump to conclusions, let me share some of the cool activities and places that can make your time here a lot more interesting, especially for students.

Outdoor Adventures

Ottawa has lots of fun things to do outside, even if it might seem quiet at first. In the winter, people love to skate on the Rideau Canal, which turns into a big ice rink. But, in the last two years, it hasn’t been cold enough for the canal to freeze properly, so skating has moved to special spots like the one in front of City Hall.

If you like skiing (if not, try it like me, you will like it), there are mountains close to Ottawa where you can go. These places are great for skiing and are not too far from the city.

When it gets warmer, there are so many places to explore in Ottawa. You can go for bike rides, hikes, or have picnics in the many parks around the city. No matter the season, there’s always something fun to do outside in Ottawa.

Cultural Exploration

When it comes to exploring different cultures, Ottawa is a little global village. I stumbled upon this amazing Arabic café, Café Bab el-Harra, where they serve authentic Arab drinks and even offer shisha. It’s places like this that give you a taste of international cultures without having to leave the city.

College Life

Being active in university clubs is key to making the most of your student life. These clubs are not just about meeting people with similar interests but also about participating in organized events and activities. It’s a fantastic way to engage with the student community and make lasting memories.

Stay Updated with Local Events

To keep up with the latest happenings in Ottawa, follow local Instagram pages like @613trending, @613ottawatv, and @ottawalist. They’re your source for updates on events, festivals, and cool new spots to check out in the city.

OttawaJr Blog Events

Our blog, OttawaJr, is more than just a guide; it’s a community. As students ourselves, we’re always on the lookout for ways to bring everyone together. Drawing from my experience organizing events in other places, we’re planning some exciting gatherings for Ottawa’s student community this summer. Keep an eye on our blog for updates, and if you’re interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you! Contact Us [email protected]

Must-Visit Places

Ottawa is full of cool spots that you should definitely check out. Here are some you can’t miss:

Parliament Hill

This is where Canada’s government works. The buildings are really old and beautiful, and you can take tours to learn about Canada’s history.

ByWard Market

This place is always buzzing. You can find lots of shops, places to eat, and markets selling fresh food. It’s a great spot to hang out with friends.

Rideau Canal

Besides skating in the winter, the canal is a lovely place for walks and bike rides. In the summer, you can even go boating.

Gatineau Park

Just a short drive from Ottawa, this huge park is perfect for hiking, swimming, and enjoying nature. The views are amazing!

National Museums

Ottawa has lots of museums. The Canadian Museum of History and the National Gallery of Canada are two big ones that show cool art and tell interesting stories about Canada and the world.

Canadian War Museum

This museum is all about Canada’s military history. It’s really interesting and has lots of cool things to see.

Rockcliffe Lookout

I added this spot because I personally love it. It’s where I go to relax and just escape the city for a bit. Rockcliffe Lookout has a covered area where you can look out over the Ottawa River and see Gatineau. There are also boards that tell you about the history of the area. It’s a peaceful place to enjoy the view and learn a bit about Ottawa’s surroundings.

Staying Safe in Ottawa

Ottawa is a place full of different cultures and friendly people. It’s a city where lots of people from all over the world come to live, study, and work, so you’ll hear many languages and see all kinds of traditions. This mix makes Ottawa a really interesting and welcoming place to be.

Even though most people in Ottawa are nice and helpful, it’s important to remember to be careful, just like in any big city. Not everyone you meet will be your friend, so it’s good to be a bit cautious. Watch out for scams and theft, and if you have a car in Ottawa, know that it might not be safe all the time. Last year, there were 1,857 cars stolen in the city, so always lock up and be mindful about where you park.

In places like Rideau and downtown Ottawa, it’s a good idea to be careful about talking to people you don’t know. Sometimes, people might come up to you wanting to trade something or ask you something strange. If this happens, it’s best to just say “I’m sorry” and walk away. Try not to get into arguments with homeless people or those who might be using drugs, as things can get out of hand quickly. I wish someone had told me this earlier, haha!


As we wrap up this guide, I want to remind you that everything shared here is based on my personal experience as an international student in Ottawa. While I haven’t covered school-specific details, I aimed to give you a comprehensive overview of living in Ottawa, from finding affordable housing and navigating the city, to working part-time and embracing the local culture and activities.

For more specific information on a wide range of topics, I encourage you to explore our blog. We strive to provide honest, practical advice to help you make the most of your time in Ottawa.

Remember, this city has so much to offer, and with a little guidance and exploration, you’re sure to find your place in it.

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