Due to the high volume of comments this thread is getting too complex to be useful. I am now redirecting people to the Reddit discussion thread about Inuvik.
Please ask and post your questions on that thread.
So you’ve decided to move to Inuvik. Congratulations! This is a very welcoming town (pop. 3,500) and an interesting region of Canada.
Surely you will enjoy life in this town: no traffic jams, no parking metres, no Christmas madness at the malls….
Here’s some responses to questions sent my way:
“My wife and I will be moving to Inuvik in the next couple of months, and I/we have tons of questions! As there isn’t all that much information on Inuvik online, it’s been a bit tricky finding out much. We live in Vancouver at the moment, so this will certainly be a big move for us. Mostly, I am interested in making sure we bring everything that we’ll need. What sort of vehicle is best for Inuvik? Where should we look for an apartment? Is there even such a thing as a “bad” part of town? How expensive are groceries really, I mean, should we try to bring tons of food? Do you know of any good resources for finding work in Inuvik (we are moving for a job for my wife; I am a recently graduated teacher with restaurant experience, I am crossing my fingers to find work shortly after our move). Anyhow, I just wanted to get in contact with someone who actually lives in Inuvik. Thanks for your time, I look forward to any insight you can offer. Bye for now,
Thanks for the letter, Patrick!
Let’s break it down by question.
1. What sort of vehicle is best for Inuvik?
Inuvik is small enough that you don’t need a vehicle. Something with some ground clearance — a pickup truck, let’s say — would be best if you expect to be travelling outside of town in the winter.
However, there are all sorts of cars here and they travel without any problem. There are even a few sports cars; I think someone in town has an old Charger. Any car that’s running should be fine.
A while back some people even brought Smart Cars to Inuvik to film a commercial, and they seemed to be doing fine. There isn’t a lot of snow here, so the problem is slick ice, not snowbanks.
Also remember you can take a cab anywhere in town for $5, so it might not be worth it to have a car at all.
(Just remember to bring a spare tire if you’re driving up, and equip yourself for the Dempster HIghway. It’s not like AA can come and save you in 15 minutes.)
2. Where should we look for an apartment?
Northern Properties pretty much has the monopoly on places to rent in town. They own the Nijaa, Boot Lake, Lakeview, Nova, and other apartment buildings.
You can expect to pay a minimum of $1,000 a month for any place to live, and to be honest most of the places are average at best with loud neighbours who party, and do idiotic things like steal fire extinguishers from the hallways. (Pretty much everyone I know who lives in Lakeview, Parkview and Nijaa complains of the late-night parties, etc.)
There are also rooms to rent in private homes, and some in-house apartments that people use to offset the cost of utilities. You can see ads at the post office.
Finally, you can rent a row house for about $1,500 a month.
I recommend looking around for a place first, and going to the Northern Properties apartments as a back-up, second option. They’re not terrible, but they force you to sign a six-month lease which is often a trap. (ie: you move in, then realize your neighbours are loud. Too late, sucker!)
The nicest apartment building in town are Boot Lake Apartments, and they apparently have some kind of vetting process. (Here is an image found on Google Image Search)
Is there even such a thing as a “bad” part of town?
Inuvik’s history is marked by a deep division between sides. The west side has always been poorer.
Even today, some parts of Inuvik look like an Ontario suburb and others are rougher; this is where you find trailer homes with plywood instead of windows and scary dogs on big chains.
This being said: There are some beautiful homes which are trailers. It all comes down to the resident’s maintenance of the unit and their pride in where they live. Some of the insides of the trailers are very very nice and are kept very clean.
I have not heard of any part of town being dangerous. It’s too small of a town to really have a problem with things like random muggings. My suggestion is that anywhere is fine!
How expensive are groceries really, I mean, should we try to bring tons of food?
Groceries are more expensive, it’s true, but most of the stories you hear are from unreasonable people —– those who are shocked (shocked!) that somehow the arctic circle doesn’t sell things for the same price as a No Frills in Toronto or Ottawa.
We have three grocery stores and a visiting fruit and vegetable truck; while you might pay a little more, there is no need to pack supplies like you were moving to a desert island. Groceries are expensive, but you have to look at a map and realize it’s actually amazing considering where we live that you can get bananas, tomato or pineapple any time of year.
My advice is that moving is enough of a hassle, without shipping up boxes and boxes of non-perishables. You can do it to save money if you like, but eventually those boxes will run out, and you’ll join us in paying northern food prices. It’s tough if you’re raising a family, sure, but for two people you’ll be fine. Especially if you know how to cook.
Personal opinion? Concerns about food prices in the north are exaggerated by people with unreasonable demands. You live in the arctic circle, of course it will be more expensive! The federal government already spends millions on a food mail program to subsidize food.
Interesting fact here, the average NWT resident spends $3,000 a year on junk food and only $600 a year on fruits and vegetables.
Do you know of any good resources for finding work in Inuvik?
I would suggest that you subscribe to NNSL’s publications online and start looking at classified ads in advance. (www.nnsl.com) They are the territorial newspaper and they carry a lot of classified advertising.
You mention you are a teacher with restaurant experience, I would say your odds are very good! A high turnover of people in Inuvik (since a lot of people are transient) means there are often jobs available. That being said, the economy is in a slump right now and some restaurants have closed.
What about the bugs? not that bad. They are pretty bad for a short short season. Otherwise, the cold takes care of them. It’s a few weeks of swatting but then it’s done.
What about sewage, for regular living – laundry and such. Is there a town system? Yep, it’s above ground, but you can have a washing machine in your house, no problem. Plumbing is good, the drinking water is fine to drink.
How about the real issue with produce in the winter? Prices availability? Could we grow and freeze our own? Produce is not examplary and you will pay extra. However, it’s not the end of the world really. We have 3 grocery stores and they all do their best, considering the distance. The best fruit and veggies come from Bill Rutherford the “fruit man” who travels and sells the produce right off the 18-wheeler.
As for growing your own, you’d be surprized at what you can grow at the greenhouse over the summer.
Housing for a family of five, possibly or not?
Rent is expensive but you should be able to find a place. I think a house for five will be about $1,500 rent monthly.
Does everyone get the northern living allowance? Does it really cover most of your housing rent?
No, the living allowance is a tax deduction, which amounts to about $7 a day. It’s a big amount at tax time, but it does not cover your rent at all. Also, you need to claim it, so visit and accountant at tax time and make sure that’s done!
Do you need a vehicle? I don’t have a vehicle. You can walk across the entire town in 20 minutes, and cab rides are $5 flat rate which works for me.
What about the school calendar? School years are normal, with students getting the summers off. We have excellent school facilities here and good teachers.
I’m assuming no snowboarding? No big hills for that, no.
What about cost for house objects, paint, window covering and heat tapes?
We have a big Home Hardware store and they have pretty reasonable prices. Things are more expensive, yes, but considering where we are it’s kind of amazing those things are even available year-round.
$36 for a pizza isn’t bad if really have a craving….any kind of 24 hour market or 7-11 type store?
Yes, we have 3 convenience stores which are open late. The Alfornos fast food will make you a pizza at 2am on a Sunday.
Should we bring medication and vitamins? Costly up there?
Sure, you could stock up and save money. But we also have two pharmacies for when you run out.
What are the apartments like?
There are furnished and unfurnished apartments in town, as well as a variety of places to rent such as rooms and houses.
I live in Lakeview on Boot Lake Road and it’s close to everything. Rent is high in comparison to other towns — don’t expect to pay less than $1000 a month for a one-bedroom — and buying a house is very expensive also. Best bet is to rent a furnished place. (Lee Thomas, a pilot who writes dustysensor.ca, moved here earlier this year and he now lives in Mountainview, he likes it.)There is a moving company which can help carry furniture, but the cost is $90 an hour.
-Can I buy a car there?
There actually is an order-based dealership in town as well as a garage that sells used vehicles. But the usual method is buying in Whitehorse and driving the dempster highway (16 hours drive) Do you need a car? That’s debatable. The town is very small and all cabs are $5 flat rate (1 ride anywhere in town = 5 bucks) so I would certainly say you can do without.
-Are there homes for sale in Inuvik?
It’s rare to see houses sell for less than $300,000 in Inuvik, no matter what size. Real estate is very expensive and even trailer homes require a large investment.
-Are there cheap hotels?
All places are expensive, in range of about $100 a night. Mackenzie is the top of the line, it’s very nice but relatively expensive. If you want a real northern kick, try seeing if the Arctic Chalet has places available. It’s a series of rentable log cabins. You can also rent a dog sled there.
-What should I bring?
Clothing! There is no real clothing store here, apart from kids’ stuff at the North Mart and another boutique. Also, Timbits for people once you get off the plane, which is a local tradition.
-How cold does it get, really?
Do not believe the hype. Arctic winters are perfectly fine if you dress up. Wear many layers. It might get cold enough to snap your ipod headphones, but there are ways to cope. On the plus side, you will never deal with slush, soaked boots, or freezing rain.
No matter the temperature up here, nothing is as warm as the fur mittens made by local people.
-Do you have 24-hour darkness?
We definitely get 24-hour sunlight, but 24-hour darkness is a bit of an exaggeration. There is always a “solar glow” visible for a few hours, even in the darkest of winter. So you’ll go on your lunchbreak and see a little bit of pink on the horizon but that’s it.
-What do you do, anyway?
There are plenty of activities in town. We have the Inuvik Family Centre, which has a year-round pool and waterslide, and also squash courts, a sauna and 24-hour gym. Inuvik also has a golf course (small, but getting better) and cross-country ski club which has world-class trails.
There is also a library and, believe it or not, a mini-putt. It is also guaranteed you’ll find a packed dancefloor at the Mad Trapper bar every weekend where a live band plays 6 nights a week.
-Are there jobs?
Yes! There is certainly work to be found in Inuvik. It’s expensive to live alone (rent is about $1000 a month minimum for a one-bedroom) but I know many people who’ve come north to work as hairdressers, bartenders, waiters, hotel staff, grocery store people (North Mart even helps staff with housing) and other jobs. North Mart was looking for cashiers and offering $16 an hour.
-Can you drive to Inuvik?
The answer is yes, most of the year. The Dempster Highway (see Wikipedia entry here) connects our community to Dawson City and eventually Whitehorse, which itself connects south to B.C. and the TransCanada highway.Overall, it takes about 16 days to drive from Ottawa. Be sure to pack some food because you’ll often go hours without a gas station. (The Eagle Plains rest stop, for instance, is hours between Fort McPherson and Dawson.)
The problem of course is that the Dempster Highway is intersected by two rivers, the Mackenzie and the Peel. These are usually serviced by free ferries, but the rivers are allowed to freeze for ice roads. So you cannot drive the Dempster to Inuvik for about 4-5 weeks of time, around November and April.Since ice roads follow the weather, all dates are subject to change.
-Are there a lot of drugs like ‘crack’ in the north? Do people sniff glue and gasoline?
Let me be real with everyone here for a minute — Inuvik has its share of problems, which are we refer to as “social issues.”
There is a surprising amount of homelessness for a community this remote. Some homeless people do drink mouthwash and other products and use drugs, and it’s true that no place is busier than the RCMP’s drunk tank on Saturday night.
For a town of 3,500 we have more than 12 full-time RCMP officers, who process more than 2,500 visits through their holding cells per year.
So, in answer to this question: Yes, we have people who drink and there is homelessness.
You might see a fight outside the bar, or someone passed out on a park bench. You will see vandalism and don’t bother bringing up a nice bicycle because you’ll find it missing.
You might also have neighbours who are drunks and argue loudly, especially if you rent an apartment.
This being said, the overwhelming majority of people in Inuvik are remarkably friendly and you can walk with full confidence you won’t get mugged.
What can I say? It’s a nice place to live, but at the same time the community has a lot of problems which require councillors, social workers, police, tutors, community groups, food banks, youth centres, etc.
-Can I voluteer at the Youth Centre or Food Bank, as a way to meet people and help the community?
You’ll find plenty of company — and plenty of work — if you come to Inuvik with good intentions.
More questions answered in the thread below…