Baltimore may not be the first place that comes to mind when one considers moving to the East Coast of America. Surprisingly, though, increasing numbers of people from across the country and beyond are starting to see the value of life in the Charm City. Much of this is thanks to the efforts of local government authorities and industry who've come together to improve the city's infrastructure and public image.
Some of the major drawcards for those looking to Baltimore include its great location close to the US capital of Washington DC, teamed with a relatively low cost of living and excellent schools. On the flip side, Baltimore does have its issues with crime, poverty and homelessness, which are reason enough for some to disregard the city’s potential.
Here is a broad overview of the advantages and disadvantages that prospective residents should consider before deciding to relocate to the Charm City.
Accommodation in Baltimore
+ PRO: Plenty of housing options and neighbourhoods
Baltimore is known as a ‘city of neighbourhoods’ and with over 100 communities to choose from, newcomers are sure to find an area or suburb to suit their lifestyle. In terms of housing, prospective residents can take their pick from modern apartments and luxury condos to historic row houses and converted factories. There is bound to be something to suit every budget.
Getting around in Baltimore
+ PRO: Good public transport infrastructure
Baltimore has an extensive public transport network. Buses, light rail and the MTA subway cover the most prominent areas and suburbs of the city. The Charm City Circulator is also a nice way to get around the city centre.
- CON: Traffic
Baltimore, like most big cities in the world, suffers from traffic congestion. The average driver will spend at least 30 minutes commuting to work. While it isn’t really necessary to drive, those that need to should avoid rush hour on busy routes such as the I-695, I-95, and I-395.
Safety in Baltimore
- CON: Crime
Popular HBO TV series The Wire could be blamed for creating an image of Baltimore as a gritty city plagued by drugs, poverty and violent crime. While this dramatisation is wildly exaggerated, there is some truth in the portrayal. Crime rates do remain high in neglected parts of Baltimore but, that said, most middle-class Baltimoreans go about their daily lives without being affected. So new arrivals who stick to recommended areas and take sensible precautions should be just fine.
+ PRO: There are initiatives in place to rid Baltimore this unfavourable reputation
The city authorities are determined to have people see Baltimore in a more positive light and have made a real effort to address the issue of crime. They’ve implemented the Safe Streets programme and invested in various intervention schemes to alleviate the problem, which are slowly but surely seeing results.
Working in Baltimore
+ PRO: Job opportunities
Baltimore’s economy is on the rise and unemployment is steadily falling. New arrivals with a background in education, healthcare and finance shouldn’t struggle to find employment in the Charm City. Entrepreneurs will also learn that this is a great place to launch a start-up because of the support offered to small businesses by local authorities.
- CON: Employment packages aren’t all that lucrative
While Baltimore is a great place to launch a career, those who are fairly well-established in their field of work and looking for more lucrative job opportunities may struggle to find something suitable. Compared to nearby New York, Boston and Washington DC, Baltimore is home to few Fortune 500 companies and has a less dynamic economy.
+ PRO: Work culture promotes a positive work-life balance
Prospective residents who want to take a step back from their career and prioritise other elements of their life will find that Baltimore is a great place to do so. The work culture in Baltimore is not overly cut-throat and people aren’t regularly expected to work long hours. Many companies have measures in place to encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Education and schools in Baltimore
+ PRO: Excellent public schools
Those moving to Baltimore will be pleased to find that the city boasts many excellent schools. There are also a number of charter and magnet schools which are a great option for students with strengths in selected subject areas. Bear in mind, though, that public school admission is often based on catchment areas, so the proximity of good schools should be considered when choosing where to live in Baltimore.
- CON: No international schools
While Baltimore’s community is certainly diverse, it hasn’t traditionally been a popular expat destination. As such, the city doesn’t have any international schools which follow foreign curricula. A handful of public and private schools in Baltimore do, however, offer the internationally recognised International Baccalaureate programme. Foreigners who want their children to study the curriculum of their home country can explore a wider range of schooling options in Washington DC, which is just a short drive away.
Cost of living in Baltimore
+ PRO: Living expenses are reasonable
As one of the few major cities where middle-class families can comfortably afford to live in the downtown area, Baltimore is the East Coast’s best bargain as far as quality of life and cost of living are concerned.
- CON: Taxes
As a ‘politically independent city’, income tax in Baltimore is slightly higher than rates in the surrounding county. Prospective residents who are considering buying a home in Baltimore should bear in mind that property taxes are also much higher than those further west.
Weather in Baltimore
+ PRO: Temperate climate
Thanks to its location on the East Coast, Baltimore benefits from a temperate climate. Winters are relatively mild and the summer months aren’t scorching. Rainfall levels are moderate throughout the year so it is never really a bad time to get out and about in Baltimore.
- CON: Risk of hurricanes
While Baltimore’s climate is generally pretty good, the city happens to stand in the path of Pacific storms. Thankfully, in the recent past, none of these hurricanes have caused much destruction. Hurricanes do, however, bring heavy rains and strong winds which have the potential to cause damage to property.
Lifestyle in Baltimore
+ PRO: A foodie’s paradise
While seafood is the focus of Baltimore’s Chesapeake Bay cuisine, foodies will find everything from award-winning restaurants to eclectic ethnic eateries in the Charm City. Baltimore also has its fair share of annual food festivals which provide a great opportunity for local food producers to showcase their offerings.
+ PRO: Thriving nightlife
While it may not quite compare to New York City, Baltimore’s nightlife offerings are varied and vibrant. Most of the action takes place in Federal Hill or Fell’s Point but each individual suburb has its own quirks when it comes to bars, restaurants and live music venues.
+ PRO: Attractions galore
New residents will enjoy getting acquainted with their new home. There is plenty to see and do in Baltimore, especially near the waterfront. From the wealth of shops, restaurants, and bars along Inner Harbour to nearby attractions such as the Maryland Science Center or the USS Constellation as well as Baltimore’s numerous galleries and museums, there is sure to be something to keep everyone entertained.
- CON: Baltimore’s Blue Law
Liquor stores in Baltimore aren’t allowed to trade on Sundays which is a little inconvenient for some. That said, most Baltimoreans manage to easily navigate the city’s Blue Law. Residents either stock up ahead of time or take a quick drive to nearby Anne Arundel County. Alternatively, many bars now have off-sale licences that allow them to sell liquor for people to take home, albeit often at an inflated price.