Moving to DC? Here Are 10 Things You Need to Know

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Relocating to any new area can come with 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, 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. area.

This guide will help soon-to-be D.C. residents understand what to expect from their new home.

What to Know Before You Start a Life in Washington, D.C.​

the washington monument surrounded by cherry blossoms

1. 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. 

As with any city or state, the higher cost of living corresponds to higher wages. For example, D.C. has the highest minimum wage in the country.

2. Learning the DMV Lingo

Those who reference the “District” are talking about all of D.C., which has city limits that straddle the dividing line between Maryland and Virginia.

Likewise, the “DMV” area refers to the District and its neighboring regions in Maryland and Virginia, a moniker commonly used when discussing local events or happenings.

Not all of Maryland or Virginia is considered to be part of the DMV, though. Just Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland, like Prince George’s and Montgomery county.

Because this area is so interconnected, the ‘DMV’ has become its own entity. Not quite D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, but a bit of all three.

If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is. But after a few years here, you’ll know it like the back of your hand.

3. Narrow Streets Make Parking a Challenge

It might be time to consider selling or storing your car.

Some people find they never need their cars, what with an excellent public transportation system running throughout much of the DMV.

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.

4. 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 – northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest.

We recommend a map or GPS until you learn how to navigate your new home area. And take note of which quadrant you live in.

5. 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.

6. Public Transportation is a Must

Traffic is almost always heavy. It can still take an hour or longer to drive across the city.

D.C. is always full of the 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.

Around town, you’ll find political figures and their many staff members, college professors and students, government employees, and museum workers.

And let’s not forget about the tourists from all over the world. It’s no wonder the streets are so crowded.

Learn public transportation routes to avoid sitting in traffic, or consider taking up biking, one of D.C.’s favorite hobbies.

bird eye view of washington dc

If the list above makes your decision to move to seem a little bit daunting, don’t worry. These next few points 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.

7. 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.

8. Plenty of Museums and Galleries

People are often very familiar with the National Mall and Smithsonian Institute. But D.C. is home to more museums, theaters, galleries, and gardens than you probably thought possible.

Many are free, making them must-sees, and those with admissions charges likely support good causes, making the entrance fees well worth it.

And when you think of memorials, you probably think of the enormous statues of past presidents like Lincoln or Jefferson. But the truth is, there are memorials scattered all over D.C.

You may even pass one while walking down the block without even realizing it.

Some of the most influential leaders in the history of the world walked these streets. So it’s no surprise that there’s plenty to see.

9. If you’re into fitness and being active, D.C. is definitely the town for you

The District has a plethora of outdoor activities that will keep you moving, including a growing biking population, hiking trails, and massive parks.

D.C. is also home to walking and running trails throughout the city and along the Potomac River. These are perfect for early morning workouts. You can get your steps in while you watch the sunrise.

If you’d like to meet some new people while you get fit, you can join any of the numerous athletic clubs or adult sports teams in the area.

Want a front-row seat to the waterfront? Take advantage of the kayak rentals throughout the city. Ready to find your center? Check out the thriving yoga scene.

And if you need a little time away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Chesapeake Bay and the Shenandoah Mountains are within a short drive.

Best of all, these are only a few of the options available here! In D.C., you can find almost anything you’re looking for.

10. Move to DC 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 historical events and living.

There truly is a little something for everyone. And the number of events, celebrations, and culture you can experience grow if you don’t mind traveling in and around the greater DMV area to take part in them!

The nearby Maryland and Virginia areas are just as incredible to experience. And thanks to the metro system, you will have easy access to it all.

Do you have questions about D.C. living? Call for tours of any of our properties. We can’t wait to show you our unique selection of apartments for every taste and style.

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