Or maybe it's the festivals that draw visitors from around the world for events such as the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, the Scallop Days Festivals, Celtic Colours International Festival or the Stan Rogers Folk Festivals.
Whatever it is, there’s something magical about Nova Scotia – and Halifax in particular – that draws students, artists, professionals and tourists to this lively Maritime province.
Halifax is laid back, with a population of 413,000 (45% of Nova Scotia's entire population!). If you’re planning on renting a house or apartment in Halifax, be prepared for a city with a very distinctive feel and character, with several universities and colleges in a rather small radius.
With this kind of community spirit, you’d be best to make nice with your Haligonian neighbours. Quiet hours in Halifax are from 9:30pm to 7am on weekdays, and it's always a good idea to introduce yourself to neighbours and let them know if you're planning a party, especially with the extensive Neighbourhood Watch program here.
Haligonians are serious about their composting and recycling. Once you find your apartment in Halifax, you might at first be a little befuddled by the use of blue bags, green carts, black sacs, and more when it comes to garbage disposal. For newbies, there’s the What Goes Where guide and information for new residents.
Renting in Halifax: neighbourhoods
Halifax Metropolitan Area, the Dartmouth Metropolitan Area, and the Bedford-Sackville areas together make up most of Halifax Regional Municipality (often referred to by locals as simply HRM), the largest urban area east of Quebec.
The cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, now amalgamated, consist of the urban zone of HRM, which spills over into the suburban Bedford and the Sackville area to the north, Mainland Halifax to the west, and Cole Harbour to the east.
Downtown Halifax area is the core area around the harbour, including the popular Quinpool district and Spring Garden Road. The downtown core is quite diverse and quite exciting, with lots of amenities, year-round festivals and great live music, and will thrill foodies and pub-goers.
Transit: getting around in Halifax
Halifax is relatively easy to get around. While there’s no train or subway, buses and ferries run quite often (see Halifax Metro Transit schedules). It’s quite a walkable city, and for those who don’t fear the rain, it’s quite possible to bike around too.
There are two routes for the ferries between downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, which is integrated with the bus system and park & ride options. From the commuter areas, there are two direct-service routes to get you to Halifax and Dartmouth.
Rental costs are not surprisingly higher near the centre of the city, but as always, you’ll have to balance with commuting costs and lifestyle preferences if you decide to move beyond the urban core. You can always place an ad and find a good roommate to share the bills (and some fun!).
Remember to budget for internet, cable, food, and household incidentals when you’re looking for your Halifax apartment. With some apartments, heat and hot water are included in the rent; if not, you’ll have to budget a good $100-$150 for utilities – make sure you winterize your rental apartment as much as possible to keep the cost down.
Most rental agreements in Halifax are for a 12-month period, and the apartment may come furnished or not (usually not).
Landlords will probably do a credit check, and can ask for a deposit for your Halifax rental, which is no more than half of the first month’s rent. This deposit is returned to you when you move out if you’ve left the flat in a good condition. Make sure you try to negotiate with your landlord before you sign your lease.
It’s smart to get rental insurance for your home and your belongings, even as a tenant, in case fire, theft, flooding, or other problems affect you and more seriously, a neighbour.
Resources for Halifax tenants
If you’re having trouble with your landlord, use these resources to get some help!