Letters page: Groceries, apartments, cars and more

Patrick asks…

“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.




3 responses to “Letters page: Groceries, apartments, cars and more

  1. Pingback: Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills » Blog Archive » “Inuvik…”

  2. Funny, I just got similar questions. I’ve linked here in my response.

  3. A note for Patrick. I lived in Vancouver for years and now I’m in a remote NWT community. From what I observed in Inuvik the groceries are generally double of what they are in Vancouver. They are 4x the price in the community I’m in so now Inuvik prices seem like a deal.

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