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Relocating to Washington D.C.: A useful guide

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Photo Credit: W. Scott McGill

Washington D.C. is a great city with lots to offer, but it is likely to be a whole new experience from wherever you are currently living. Whilst moving can be scary or stressful, the outcome is that you are going to have lots of new things to discover and some great memories to be made. Every city is different, so here are some things you should probably know first before you move in:

Your Car is Not Needed

If you need to get to work every day and you’ve relied so far on your car, things are going to change quite a bit for you. Your car isn’t completely redundant, as taking a drive out of the city will require a car, but inner-city traveling with your car should be avoided. Most people make use of the great public transport options available because sitting in traffic jams is not fun, and Washington D.C. has plenty of those. To avoid stand-still traffic, you should instead opt for buses, taxis, or the new and well-loved Metro system.

The Metro can be intimidating at first, but if you abide by the rule of ‘walk left, stand right’, then you should be fine. Being heavily populated by people commuting to work every day, the Metro can get busy, so people in a rush like to have the left portion of escalators not blocked by idle tourists. It’s a straightforward system and when busy commuters are in a rush, you don’t want to risk getting in their way!

Money and Taxes

As far as money goes, things cost a lot more in D.C., so unless you are moving from NYC, be prepared for that. Living costs are much higher than average, so the cost of housing and food may come as a big shock. There are a lot of wealthier residents living in downtown D.C. and incomes are higher for many people too, so be prepared to scrimp and save wherever possible if you aren’t one of the lucky ones.

Taxes also work differently in Washington D.C. so be sure to fully read up on how they work to avoid any confusion. Expect to pay a 5.75% sales tax and 10% on restaurants and alcohol. Luckily, you don’t have to worry as much about things such as medicines and utilities, as they are exempt from the sales tax.

Look Smart or Stand Out

Whilst some cities are known for their fashion, Washington D.C. is mostly populated by people who wear suits every day. If you want to avoid standing out, then formal, conservative attire is your go-to. Any work interviews and business-related duties require you to be dressed super formal and conservatively, so what might be considered ‘smart’ in your previous city won’t necessarily cut it here. Washington D.C. is also incredibly popular with tourists, so if dressing smart is not your thing, then you can always blend in with the people who aren’t rushing to their next meeting.

Finding a House

Unlike other cities, D.C. isn’t teeming with skyscrapers, due to its height-rules that prevent developers from constructing tall buildings. Whilst this may seem like unrelated information, it does affect housing development throughout D.C. and has repercussions on housing costs in the inner-city. Without being able to build up and make use of the vertical real estate, there is less space overall to meet the demands of new housing.

Finding a house can be tricky due to costs, and you also have to factor in down-sizing. Properties aren’t as spacious as other cities, so if you have too much stuff, you may need to factor in storage costs also. Get to know the different neighborhoods and what they have to offer, as different neighborhoods offer different things.

Some areas, such as Brookland and Mount Pleasant are more affordable than more popular neighborhoods such as Georgetown or Capitol Hill, so choose wisely and make sure that you find somewhere that suits your needs and budget.

If you are relocating for a shorter time period, you might want to consider renting furnished apartments and keeping your current property. Finding furnished apartments Washington DC is relatively easy when you use companies such as Blueground. Blueground have furnished apartments available in different parts of D.C. and are flexible on different stay-lengths, so whether you only need an apartment for one month or you need it for six months, you can find the perfect home to suit you. They also offer pet-friendly suites, so bringing along your cat or dog whilst you stay in D.C. won’t be a huge issue.

Furnished rentals are absolutely worth considering if you want to avoid the stress of finding a new property, and using a company or provider often includes perks and makes the process much less stressful.

Enjoy the Attractions

Whilst there are seemingly plenty of cons to living in D.C. such as prices and taxation, there are plenty of perks too. Washington D.C. is a hugely popular city for visitors, and for good reason! Whilst you’re living in D.C. you should take your time to enjoy all the free museums and galleries, which includes the Zoo and all 19 Smithsonian museums. Spring is the perfect season to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival and admire the stunning views as all 3,000 trees bloom – yes, 3,000!

Whatever reason brings you to Washington D.C, there are lots of things to enjoy and take in. It might be a wildly different lifestyle to experience versus your current hometown, but it’s an experience you won’t forget. Hopefully, these tips help you to settle in without any big surprises.


Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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