DC Moving Guide Washington, D.C.

11 Tips to Know Before Moving To Washington D.C.

As a major political stage, Washington D.C. attracts people from all over the world. Some are visiting, and some, like you, are looking to make the city their new home. Relocating can be a stressful, frustrating experience, especially when you’re moving into a big city. Larger cities are alive with their own culture and, more often than not, there are sets of unwritten rules that newcomers must learn the hard way.

Although overwhelming, this learning process can be exciting in its own right. But before you blindly jump into the fold, take a look at these ten tips for relocating to Washington D.C.


Image via Flickr by Free HDR and Photomanipulations

Be Prepared for the Cost of Living
It will come as no surprise to you that the cost of living in Washington D.C. is fairly high. In fact, it’s ranked eighth on the list of most expensive U.S. cities.

If you’re moving to D.C. from NYC, the costs might not shell shock you so much. However, if you’re relocating from way, way out of state, expect to pay a lot more for housing, food, etc. As a general rule, housing gets more expensive the closer you move to downtown. So, even if you’re relocating from within the city, don’t expect a two bedroom apartment downtown to cost the same as your two bedroom apartment in Bethesda.

The good news is that the higher cost of living in D.C. tends to be balanced out by a higher-than-average median household income: $70,000 here as opposed to $49,00 in Tulsa, OK.

Know Your Neighborhoods
The first important thing you’ll need to decide is where you’ll live. The D.C. area offers many kinds of neighborhoods with varying rent costs.

Capitol Hill and Eastern Market, for example, are more residential neighborhoods and are some of the best places to live in Washington D.C. if you’ve landed a job at the Hill, since you would be able to walk or bike to work. If you’re interested in a more hip neighborhood, you might look into Logan Circle, with its Victorian-style houses dating all the way back to 1870. The area is particularly good for shopping and dining.

Learn to Love The Metro
If you’re moving to D.C. from a place where public transport wasn’t very common, using the Metro might seem strange or intimidating at first. However, it’s actually an incredibly convenient, easy way to get from point A to point B. And, unlike many other train systems in the country, it’s very clean and safe.

Consider Storing Your Car
When relocating to a bigger, busier city from a quiet, rural setting, many people wonder if they should keep their cars or sell them. While traffic is, of course, heavy in D.C., it’s not quite as frantic as New York City, so there’s really no reason to get rid of your vehicle altogether. It’s nice to have in a bind, and there are a lot of interesting places to visit outside of the city and the Metro’s reach.

Still, parking prices can be a pain in the neck, especially if you aren’t using your car on a regular basis anyway. Instead, you might consider storing your car.

Know How the Local Taxes Work
The city’s taxation system is quite interesting, so be prepared for that. Sales tax is at 5.75%, except for liquor, which is 10%. If you eat at a restaurant or rent a car, expect to see 10% tax imposed, while parking boasts 19% and hotels claim 14.8%.

Thankfully, groceries, medicines, and utilities are exempt from sales tax completely, so that’s one less thing you have to worry about figuring out.

Don’t Dismiss Downsizing
Before you move, consider the possibility that you won’t have the same amount of space as you do now, especially if you’re moving into an apartment on Dupont Circle, for example. Bigger cities sometimes mean smaller spaces, so living in Washington D.C. might mean you need to store some of your belongings.

Self-storage units are well-maintained and offer safety and security features. This service is especially handy when you realize you don’t have room for all of your furniture at your new place. You can even store a boat if you need to!

Moving Within the City
If by chance, you happen to be a native looking to relocate within the city, the task can still be daunting. If you don’t have a truck of your own, you’ll need to seek out a reliable, efficient moving company to help you out. Some places offer a free hour or two to those moving locally, so take advantage of those sorts of deals. You’ll appreciate anything that makes your trip less stressful, especially if you happen to be moving on the first or the last day of the month, like most other people.

Learn Train Schedules and Routes
Getting a firm grasp of the Metro’s schedule and routes will make your life so much easier. The system itself isn’t complicated, but it takes time to adjust to any new transportation method. Figure out which stops are closest to where you live, work, and play so you can save time and feel less frantic as you move about the city.

The Unspoken Dress Codes
The city itself doesn’t have a dress code, of course, but you’ll quickly notice that most people, especially around the Hill, carry themselves very professionally. After all, D.C. is home to some of the most important people in our nation. If you’ve just moved here from a smaller town, it’s important to realize that what you considered professional attire there might not cut it while you're living in D.C. So, if you’re going to a big job interview, always err on the side of more professional.

You may find that many fine dining restaurants or upscale bars enforce dress codes, but don’t let that be a source of anxiety. Before heading out, find out what sort of attire is acceptable where you’re going by asking a friend or phoning the business.

Get Ready to Sit in Traffic
Traveling in the city tends to be fairly slow. There are a lot of people, so car traffic and foot traffic are always on the heavier side. If you’re not used to the hustle and bustle of a bigger city, you’ll need to immediately start training yourself to leave for your destination much earlier than before.

Despite the city’s small size, it can take upwards of an hour or more to get across it. If you have places to be, always plan to wake up earlier than normal, especially if you don’t live close to work or school.

Mini-Vacation Opportunities
Washington D.C. is situated near many excellent weekend getaway activities. The landscape in surrounding areas is gorgeous, making for incredible outdoor adventures such as hiking in Shenandoah National Park or rafting in Harper’s Ferry, WV.  You’ll be glad you kept your car if you’re more of a beach bum. Virginia Beach is around four hours away from D.C., which is quite a trek, but getting away from the noise and bustle of the city can be refreshing.

Moving to a new place is almost never easy, especially if you don’t know anyone there or aren’t used to large crowds and a busier atmosphere. Washington D.C. in particular may seem nearly impenetrable to outsiders, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s a warm city, full of life and culture and history, just waiting for you to become a part of it.

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The Storage Queens

We know a thing or two about moving. Together, we share the best tips in organizing, storage, navigating your city, and more!

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