Living in Kelowna vs. living in Vancouver – are they really that different? What’s the difference between the lower mainland and the Okanagan? What is the weather like in Kelowna vs. the weather in Vancouver? We will be covering our most frequently asked questions about living in two of British Columbia’s most popular cities. Whether you’re moving to Canada for a working holiday visa, immigrating to Canada, or moving to BC from Ontario, this article may be helpful for you!
We are from Vancouver, we met in Vancouver, and we ultimately call Vancouver home. That said, we have been living in and out of the Kelowna / Vernon area for the past year, and we are completely in love with living in the Okanagan Valley as well. As with anything, there are pros & cons to both lifestyles so let’s chat.
Prefer to watch, not read? Find our YT video on the same topic here!
Vancouver is cheaper to live in than Kelowna
If you’re wondering if Kelowna is cheaper to live in than Vancouver, the answer is yet. It’s been said before and we’ll say it again – basically anywhere is more affordable than Vancouver.
Vancouver is Canada’s most expensive city to live in, but Kelowna isn’t in the clear either. According to CTV, Kelowna is Canada’s 6th most expensive city, closely following Victoria BC. The cost of living is undoubtedly increasing in Kelowna, and there are some arguments to say that the cities are almost equally as expensive to live in when we’re comparing Vancouver vs. Kelowna.
One thing that we noticed is that when you’re living in the Okanagan Valley, if you really want to get the most out of your experience, you probably will want to have a car. The truth is not the same for Vancouver. We both lived very happy, eventful lives in Vancouver for over 10 years with no car and solely utilizing the public transit system that the city has to offer. We honestly can’t say the same for Kelowna. It all, of course, depends on your lifestyle. If you’re living in Kelowna, you may save on rent, but are you now making car payments, buying a ski pass and taking drives in and out of the surrounding areas every weekend, your costs pay pile up there too.
Vancouver is much bigger than Kelowna, but Kelowna still has the city feel
The population size of Vancouver is 675,000 people, compared to Kelowna where the population is 132,000 which makes them sound like they’re not comparable at all. That said, Kelowna is one of the biggest cities in BC and definitely the biggest city in the Okanagan Valley.
This is what we love about Kelowna. Kelowna has both a small town and bigger city energy at the same time. Its downtown is obviously much smaller than Vancouver, but you really don’t miss out on flavourful restaurants, fun bars and fashionable boutiques to visit.
Vancouver has a better transit system than Kelowna
The transit system in Kelowna is not great, and the rush-hour traffic can be (quite honestly) unbearable. Highway 97 in particular is a huge stretch of highway controlled by traffic lights with few overpasses, and the lack of thought for cross traffic is….brutal. And yes, everyone complains about it.
The traffic in Vancouver isn’t great either (especially downtown) but for a larger city, it’s expected. That’s why we heavily relied on the transit system while living in Vancouver, and after living in some other big world capitals, we can say the transit system is pretty good. Is it perfect? No. Do Vancouverites complain about it? Yes. But in our opinion, it’s a way more enjoyable commute to work in Vancouver vs. Kelowna.
Both cities have a lot of tourists
… and they often visit for different reasons! Kelowna and the surrounding areas in the Central Okanagan have a thriving industry because well, duh, it’s wine country. Who doesn’t love wine country?! On top of mesmerizing vineyards, the Kelowna area is also home to orchards, lakes galore, and world-class outdoor recreation that you really can’t beat. With the two biggest attractions being the many vineyards and Big White, however, you’ll see a lot more tourists in the summer and winter months.
Vancouver, on the other hand, has tourists year-round. Vancouver has much milder weather than Kelowna, and some of the mildest weather in all of Canada. That means people flock from all day every day, from all over the world, all year ’round.
The tourism industry brings a lot of jobs to both cities, but we find this fact to be more prevalent in Kelowna. In Kelowna, summer workers particularly will find plenty of jobs in agriculture, wine-making, and tourism industries.
Kelowna has lakes, Vancouver has the ocean
Both cities have year-round recreation that you really can’t beat – but now we’re comparing apples to oranges. If you’re asking us which city is better – Vancouver vs. Kelowna – in terms of proximity to nature, you’re asking the wrong question. It’s all about preference!
Vancouver and Kelowna are both very outdoorsy cities, but because of the bodies of water they hold, the activities can be different. Lake culture in the Okanagan is thriving. In the summer, folks in the Okanagan head to the lakes and bring their paddle boards, boats, tubes, water skis, and skidoos.
In Vancouver, people bring their frisbees and footballs to the sandy beach and go for a salty dip in the Pacific Ocean to cool off.
Both cities are home to many gorgeous hikes and within an hour drive of both destinations, you’ll find even more high altitudes to explore.
The weather is very different in Kelowna vs. Vancouver
Kelowna really has all four seasons and Vancouver, well, does not. If you’re looking for a textbook Canadian winter with a hot summer, orange autumn, snowy winter and rainy spring, the Okanagan Valley is the place to be.
If you’re trying to escape or avoid the snow, Vancouver may be your best friend. Vancouver’s winters are typically more mild and wet, with greyer but warmer days. The winters in Kelowna are much colder than the winters in Vancouver, but the sun shines on most days during the winter months. We can’t say the same about Vancouver.
Personally, the grey skies in Vancouver don’t bother us – but some have reported to feel as gloomy as the sky looks during the winter months in Vancouver. Again, it’s all about preference here!
Which do you prefer: sunny & snowy winters? Or wet & mild winters? Vancouver vs. Kelowna? You be the judge!
Both cities have an airport
Some people may not know that Kelowna has an airport! Kelowna International Airport (YLW) offers more than 70 daily non-stop commercial flights with nine airlines. Though it’s much smaller than Vancouver International Airport (YVR), it’s still a very convenient staple in the city of Kelowna.
Vancouver & Kelowna are both absolutely stunning
Kelowna is a beautiful city that expands every day. People from all over the world are attracted to its wineries and orchards, fresh fruit, funky local businesses, and gorgeous lake culture. Surrounding Kelowna are other stunning cities like Penticton, Summerland and Osoyoos, which is Canada’s only desert.
Vancouver is also well-known for it’s beauty. Surrounded by mountains, ocean, and parks, Vancouver is a world-class destination for visitors to marvel at it’s lookouts and scenery.
We can tell you this, you won’t miss out on scenery regardless of what city you choose – and although they are quite different, they are only about 4 hours away from each other! So hop in the car and explore!
If you still want to read more on Vancouver vs. Kelowna – check out our blog here about living in Vancouver and our article here covering what it’s like living in the Okanagan Valley.