Relocating to any new area can be a mixture of anxiety and excitement. A lot goes into moving, including move-out processes at your current residence, finding and securing a new home, contracting a moving company, packing your belongings, and plenty of other odds and ends that crop up along the way.
That process can become even more complex when you’re moving to a relatively complicated area, like the neighborhoods within the Washington, D.C., city limits. This guide will help soon-to-be D.C. residents understand what to expect from their new home area.
What to Know Before You Start a Life in Washington, D.C.
The cost of living is higher, but so are the average wages.
Everything is more expensive in D.C., including groceries and parking, and housing gets more expensive the closer you get to the downtown area. Adjust your expectations about costs before you come, but also think about what you’re getting for the price: a home and a life in one of the most historic spots in America and one of the most influential places in the world.
You’ll also need to learn the lingo.
Those who reference the “District” are talking about all of D.C., which has city limits that straddle the dividing line between two states, Maryland and Virginia. Likewise, the “DMV” region refers to the District and its neighboring regions in Maryland and Virginia, a moniker commonly used when discussing local events or happenings.
Parking is challenging because the historic nature of the city means narrower, quainter streets.
It might be time to consider selling or storing your car. Some people find they never need their cars, what with a great public transportation system running throughout the city, but others like to have their cars for weekend getaways or for traveling anywhere outside of the District. Whether you choose to keep your car depends on your situation, but be prepared for high parking garage storage fees.
On that note, it’s time to rethink what constitutes a city block.
The District is set up like a pinwheel with the U.S. Capitol building at the center and sectioned into four quadrants of unequal sizes. We recommend a map or GPS until you learn how to navigate your new home area.
Taxes here are…interesting…but that’s part of the charm.
Some items are tax exempt, meaning you pay no sales tax when purchasing or using them, but other purchases tack on bizarre sales tax amounts:
- Car rental tax: 10 percent
- Clothing: 5.75 percent
- Groceries tax: 0 percent
- Hotel tax: 14.8 percent
- Liquor and alcohol tax: 9 percent
- Parking tax: 19 percent
- Prescription and non-prescription drugs: 0 percent
- Restaurant meal/prepared food tax: 10 percent
- Sales tax: 5.75 percent
Knowing about these taxes makes a huge difference in how people purchase or budget. The District has one “tax holiday” each winter, though, a period when no sales taxes are collected. That’s a great time to stock up, so keep an eye out for when that tax holiday will be.
Public transportation is a must, and it’s awesome!
Traffic is almost always heavy. It can still take an hour or longer to drive across the city. D.C. is always full of people who work there — political figures and their many staff members, college professors and students, government employees, museum workers and volunteers, and those who work in other businesses around town — as well as tourists from all over the world, so it’s no wonder the streets are crowded. Learn public transportation routes to avoid sitting in traffic, or consider taking up biking, one of D.C.’s favorite hobbies.
If the list above makes your decision to move seem a little bit daunting, these next few focus on some true Washington, D.C., positives, things that will remind you of all the great reasons you’re headed toward this beautiful city:
The food scene is up and coming, and the nightlife is pretty great, too.
New eateries and bars are popping up all the time, and the international options are growing by the day. Be sure to explore the various options your neighborhood has to offer, keep an eye out for food trucks, and visit new and old establishments alike as you come across them.
There are plenty of museums and galleries, many of which are free.
People are often very familiar with the National Mall and Smithsonian Institute, but D.C. is home to more museums, theaters, galleries, and gardens that you probably would have thought. Many are free, making them must-sees, and those with admissions charges likely support good causes, making the entrance fees well worth it.
If you’re into fitness and being active, D.C. is definitely the town for you.
It’s got a plethora of outdoor activities that will keep you moving, including a growing biking population, hiking trails and massive parks, green spaces, walking and running trails throughout the city and along the Potomac River, rowing clubs, athletic clubs, adult sports teams, kayak rentals, a thriving yoga scene, the Chesapeake Bay and Shenandoah Mountains within a short drive, and so much more. There’s truly a little bit of something for every fitness fanatic in the D.C. area.
It’s also the town for you if you like festivals.
There are so many exciting events to take in each year, from the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to holiday markets and beyond. Just a few of the many include those celebrating different ethnic groups, music, food and drinks, food trucks, service people, and historic events and living. There truly is a little something for everyone, especially if you don’t mind travelling in and around the greater DMV area to experience them!Do you have questions about D.C. living? Call DARO Apartments for tours of any of our 10 properties. We can’t wait to show you our unique selection of apartments for every taste and style