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Moving to Houston

Expats moving to Houston may find this former Western Frontier's urban sprawl overwhelming. For starters, it is the second-largest city in the USA, and the wider metropolitan area has a population of more than 7 million people.

The city's newfound cultural conscience has engendered a buzz of innovative restaurants, quirky art galleries and a downtown revitalisation that's transforming blighted neighbourhoods into attractive residential and entertainment areas.

As a result, expats living in Houston will find that the city is what they make of it. Those coming to work and save can take comfort in an economic climate that's known for its enterprising spirit. The energy capital of Texas is home to several Fortune 500 companies and, aside from oil and gas, sectors like IT, business services, aerospace, medical and biotechnology attract workers from around the world.

Whether they're moving to Houston with kids or relocating on their own, expats will enjoy the relatively low cost of living, affordable accommodation and the well-maintained infrastructure. Healthcare in Houston is excellent, boasting one of the best medical centres in the world. In addition, the city's school system is large enough to satisfy even the most demanding parents.

Its extensive system of superhighways makes getting around effective but not always so efficient. Rush hour traffic is admittedly an issue. Expats are likely to need their own car since public transport is slow and doesn't service the Greater Houston area comprehensively.

Expats may also have trouble adjusting to the spiking humidity and high temperatures. Summer days can especially be sweltering. Luckily, there are plenty of places to cool off as air conditioning is available almost everywhere, and the mild winters make up for any weather-related discomfort in June, July and August.

Not to mention, many expats are surprised to find that the city is actually bursting with greenery, with tree-lined streets, urban forests and manicured parklands in and around its neighbourhoods.

What’s more, expats will stay entertained with numerous annual festivals, professional sports teams, music and theatre performances. Galveston Bay's beaches and lakes aren't far away. Even expats who are used to living in a more cosmopolitan city get over the initial growing pains of relocating to Houston quite quickly.

Weather in Houston

Those living in Houston often joke that the city only has two seasons – hot and hotter. Summers can be swelteringly hot and humid. Between June and August, temperatures hover between 73°F (23°C) and 94°F (35°C). However, it isn't unusual to have days that reach up to 100°F (40°C). These temperatures can be overwhelming for those from countries with milder summers – making airconditioning a necessity rather than a luxury for most. Summers are also characterised by afternoon thunderstorms.

Houston also has a hurricane season between June and November. Torrential rain batters the city during these months which can cause severe flooding at times. Tornadoes are also a reality.

On the other hand, Houston has pleasant winters. Temperatures are mild and range between 43°F (6°C) and 66°F (19°C). Houston isn't known for receiving snow during the winter, but rain isn't unusual.

 

Pros and cons of moving to Houston

Houston has long since been a popular city for expats and American citizens moving from other states. Many people are drawn to the city’s excellent healthcare system and vibrant nightlife. However, living in Houston does have it’s negative points, like a lack of good public transport options and expensive electricity. Though most residents will agree that the positives far outweigh the negatives. Below are some of the pros and cons of living in Houston, Texas.


Weather in Houston

- CON: Weather can be extreme in summer.

The locals claim Houston has two seasons; hot and hotter. The summer months can be exceptionally hot, with temperatures often reaching almost 100°F (40°C). This can be overwhelming for expats hailing from countries with milder summer temperatures. 

Hurricane season (June to November) can often bring torrential rain and severe flooding. Houston doesn’t have a great drainage system, so when it rains, it usually takes a while for the water level to recede. 

+ PRO: Winters are mild.

Balanced with a scorching hot summer and a soggy hurricane season is a beautiful fall and spring and a mild winter. From November through April, Houston tends towards much more reasonable temperatures and beautiful weather – be warned, however, this is also construction season. Diversions and road closures may be in place.


Eating out in Houston

+ PRO: Huge eating out culture.

The eating out scene in Houston is huge – ranging from an exceptional food truck scene to vibrant and plentiful casual dining options and everything in between. With cuisines from every corner of the world, residents won’t find themselves at a loss for something new to try. Eating out typically won’t break the bank either.  

- CON: Restaurants close down frequently.

Consistency can be an issue in many places. Expats will often find themselves arriving at a favourite restaurant only to discover that it has closed down or been replaced. Turnover for restaurants is quite high in Houston. 


Cost of living in Houston

+ PRO: Cheaper than the rest of the USA.

Cost of living in Houston is generally cheaper than the US average, with fuel and accommodation prices being on the lower end of the scale. Houston also stayed pretty insulated from the recession, so employment levels weren’t hit nearly as badly as in other states across the US. 

- CON: Electricity can be costly. 

Electricity is expensive. Prices are often even higher during the summer months. This is due to air conditioning constantly running thanks to the overwhelming heat.


Healthcare in Houston

+ PRO: Excellent healthcare options.

Healthcare in Houston is exceptional. Houston is one of the medical care centres of the world. If someone is sick, Houston is the place to be. The wealth of options available for treatments is extensive. There’s no shortage of second opinions, and wait lists are often non-existent or short. 

- CON: Healthcare can be expensive.

Cost is an issue. However, this is an issue nationwide. Houston actually falls short of both the state and national average cost of healthcare. The insurance system can also be incredibly confusing and time consuming to figure out. 


Accommodation in Houston

+ PRO: Loads of options available.

Whether searching for a one-bedroom apartment, or a five-bedroom house with a pool and yard, Houston has a plethora of accommodation options available. There seem to be constant new-builds sprouting up across the greater Houston area. There’s also a wealth of choice of more established properties for those looking for something a little older. 

- CON: Heavy traffic will influence where one lives.

Pay attention to the traffic and congestion when picking a home. Working in the city means one may wish to commute to a neighbouring subdivision. However, Houston rush-hour can leave residents stuck in traffic for upwards of an hour depending on where they live. 


Education in Houston

+ PRO: Excellent options available.

Houston certainly has some excellent international school options available, offering a strong academic portfolio with options for International Baccalaureate, French Baccalaureate and British A-Levels. In many of the neighbouring cities (like Katy) the public schooling is also highly rated and a choice many expats are making when it comes to their children’s schooling.

- CON: Private education can be expensive.

As in many cities, the cost of private education in Houston can be expensive. Though there’s a wide range of prices, most schools are costly. Many private schools and international schools will also have extra fees to keep in mind like uniforms and school excursions.


Entertainment in Houston

+ PRO: Wide range of activities available.

Houston is an alive and vibrant city. It has both pro- and minor league sporting teams, great venues for music concerts and shows, a renowned museum district and no limit of options for family-friendly things to do with children. The city has a number of international festivals every year which draw crowds from neighbouring cities and states. A lot of these events and activities are low-cost or free. 

- CON: It can be hard to get around.

Houston is one of the top five biggest cities in the USA, as such, everything is pretty well spaced out and walking in many areas isn’t an option. Poor public transport links are also an issue in the city, and grabbing an Uber can be costly. So, most expats who live in the greater Houston area own and drive their own cars. Those who decide to take a walk somewhere that isn’t a designated walking path may get some strange looks or get asked if they need help. 

Working in Houston

Expats planning on working in Houston can anticipate becoming part of one of the USA’s fastest-growing business climates. Though the largest city in the Lone Star State isn’t often the first destination that comes to mind when imagining grand working opportunities, it's nonetheless one of America’s most consistent job creators. It claims a pioneering spirit that can contend with the likes of New York City and Chicago.


Job market in Houston

There are numerous multinational and Fortune 500 companies in Houston, not to mention the world’s largest medical complex and a prestigious aerospace facility. Needless to say, there are positions available across any number of industries.

Houston has historically been known as a global oil and gas capital. And although its economy has diversified in recent decades, its backbone is still built with 'black gold'. Those looking for a job in this sector would do well to move west to this former frontier. Otherwise, the healthcare industry is burgeoning, and jobs continue to increase in this sector.


Finding a job in Houston

There are many job portal sites online that expats can utilise to find a job in Houston. For those looking for a job prior to settling in Houston, recruitment agencies can assist with the process. 

For expats already in the city, networking can go a long way towards finding one's ideal job.


Work culture in Houston

Regardless of which sphere of employment expats are interested in, Houston is home to a diverse population of local transplants and internationals, so they won’t find themselves limited by their ethnicity.

It may take some adjusting to the traditionally conservative outlook that aligns with Southern American values. Otherwise, the general belief seems to be that if a person works hard in Houston, they are bound to be successful. A strong can-do attitude prevails in the city, and a well-maintained infrastructure and transport system eases the difficulties associated with settling into a new workplace.

Cost of Living in Houston

Expats moving to Houston will be glad to know that their hard-earned dollars will have a higher buying power here than in many other major metropolitan areas in the USA. The cost of living in Houston is significantly cheaper than other major US cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2019, Houston is ranked 59th out of 209 cities worldwide. 

While the cost of living in Houston is more economical in comparison to other US cities, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved in various activities and recreational pursuits – naturally, this can cut into one's budget a bit. Therefore the ultimate cost of living in the city is likely to vary according to each individual expat's priorities and lifestyle choices.


Cost of accommodation in Houston

Accommodation in Houston is plentiful, though in some areas the cost of purchasing a house is outpacing salaries. An alternative is renting, which tends to be much more affordable.

For some, renting may even be preferable if they're only planning to be in Houston for a limited time. Most rental accommodation in Houston comes fully furnished. Even rental homes that are advertised as unfurnished will include some basic appliances such as a washing machine, dishwasher and fridge. 


Cost of nightlife and entertainment in Houston

Entertainment and nightlife are cheap in Houston and there are lots of activities that new arrivals can do without paying a fortune, such as visiting one of the city’s many parks. Houston is also home to a number of outlet malls which allow expats to purchase designer clothing at discounted rates.

The cost of eating out is reasonable in Houston. Furthermore, expats are likely to find that portions at restaurants in Houston are large and therefore good value for money.  


Cost of getting around in Houston

One expense that people relocating to Houston should budget for is the cost of owning and maintaining a car. While Houston does have a public transport network which is reasonably cost-effective to use, it is limited and most of the city’s residents find that having their own car is essential to life in Houston.


Cost of education and schooling in Houston

There are a number of good public schools in Houston, which children can attend free of charge. However, expat parents planning on sending their children to a private or international schools will need to shoulder high fees.


Cost of living in Houston chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for March 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

USD 1,500

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

USD 1,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

USD 2,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

USD 1,700

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

USD 2

Milk (1 litre)

USD 1

Rice (1kg)

USD 3

Loaf of white bread

USD 2.50

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 7

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 7

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 7

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2

Cappuccino

USD 4

Bottle of local beer 

USD 5

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

USD 60

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)  

USD 0.25

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

USD 50

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

USD 140

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

USD 1.50

Bus/train fare to city centre

USD 1.25

Petrol/gasoline per litre

USD 0.65

Accommodation in Houston

Expats looking for accommodation in Houston will find they have many varied, but affordable, options. Despite being one of the USA's largest cities, Houston's housing market doesn’t mirror the astronomical prices found in places like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.

Housing availability isn't an issue either. Demand for rentals has increased over the past few years, but there are enough apartments and houses in Houston to ensure new arrivals should be able to find something that suits them.

Although expats can both buy and rent property in Houston, most new arrivals rent while they get acquainted with the Bayou City's many neighbourhoods.

Each area of Houston has its own pros and cons, and many are associated with specific styles of housing. Proximity to the workplace and schools in Houston should also be considered when choosing a place to put down roots. Rush-hour traffic can be treacherous and students attend public schools based on catchment zones, so parents often look in the areas around good schools.


Finding rental properties in Houston

After picking an area to live in, finding a rental property in Houston is a matter of looking through listings, attending viewings and applying for tenancy. With its robust rental market, many realtors in Houston have departments that cater to the letting population. Expats can consult one of these professionals or choose to look for a place on their own.

Many locals insist that newspapers are still the best place to find rentals. It’s also worth looking at online listings since they’re updated regularly.

Expats shouldn’t count out driving through an area either, since 'for sale' and 'to rent' signs constantly materialise on front lawns and in front of apartment buildings. This is often the best way to find a property which hasn’t yet made it onto formal listings.


Renting property in Houston

With countless apartments, gated communities and near-town bungalows, expats have ample opportunity to find a property to rent in Houston that suits their budget and priorities. They can also save money by looking for sub-letting options and negotiating leases for larger family homes.

Furnished or unfurnished

Furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available. In both cases, basic fittings like light fixtures, blinds and some white-label appliances (such as a stove, refrigerator or washing machine) are often included.

The rental process

Most estate agents will require house hunters to sign a rental application providing certain information about themselves. This application form will be used to determine a person’s eligibility. The rental application acts as a contract between the potential tenant and the property owner.

A nonrefundable application fee, administrative fee and an application deposit are all typical expenses one can expect. Once prospective tenants have been approved, they will go on to negotiating and signing the rental lease.

References and background checks

Credit history, employment history, rental history and criminal history may all be checked, depending on the landlord or letting agent.

Leases

As with elsewhere in the USA, leases in Houston are typically for 12 months.

Tenant should be careful when breaking their lease. Renters should always ensure the rules set out by the rental contract are followed and that they give proper notice when moving out early.

According to Texas regulations, tenants are liable for any expenses that the landlord incurs when a lease is broken. This means tenants can incur way more expenses than just losing their deposit.

Deposits

Deposits are generally required but vary in amount. Expats moving with a pet should note that landlords can charge a pet deposit on top of the security deposit to cover potential damages caused by their pet.

Landlords in Houston have 30 days from the day their tenant moves out to refund the security deposit. If the landlord retains the security deposit, they need to send the tenant an itemised list and explanations for all deductions and costs. 

New arrivals are advised to photograph each part of the property when they move into their rental and also on the day they move out. This will prevent losing their deposit unfairly and will act as proof to fight unfair fees.

Utilities

New arrivals in Houston may be surprised at how many different ways there are to handle their utilities. It's important to ask the landlord or real estate agent upfront how each property will handle utilities. There are four common ways in which utilities are paid for in Houston:

  • All utilities included – This simply means that the landlord pays for all utilities. This may make a tenant’s life easier, however, it usually also means higher rent and the inability to shop around between service providers.
  • Master-metered utilities – This usually applies to apartment complexes. Here, the complex receives one bill then divides the cost among the apartments. This can apply to all utilities or only some (like electricity or water).
  • Sub-metered utilities – This is similar to the previous option. However, here a sub-meter is installed to regulate each apartment’s exact usage. So, tenants still won’t be able to choose their own service providers, but they can keep their bills low by conserving energy and water.
  • Tenant is responsible for utilities – This is usually the case for services like internet, phone and cable television. Tenants will have to choose their own provider. The city of Houston provides water service, and natural gas is serviced by Center Point Energy. However, there are multiple providers to choose from when it comes to electricity, internet, television and telephone services.

Garbage removal

Tenants should check with their realtor, landlord or property manager regarding refuse removal services. Many neighbourhoods in Houston have contracts with private garbage pick-up services to service homes under specific jurisdictions.

However, many cities and towns within the Houston Metro area work with their local city or town’s garbage pick-up. If one’s garbage pick-up is serviced by the city of Houston, the service can be set up when setting up a water and sewer account.

Areas and suburbs in Houston

Picking the right area or suburb of Houston to live in is one of the most important decisions expats will make. Those that don’t mind commuting and want to escape the frantic pace of city life can opt for one of the surrounding satellite towns.

However, when deciding where to live, it’s important to bear in mind that although there is public transport in Houston, most people have their own cars and expats should expect to spend a lot of time driving.

Houston’s city centre is separated from its suburbs by the Interstate 610, or ‘the Loop’ as it’s more commonly known, and neighbourhoods are usually referred to as being either inside or outside the Loop.

The Loop contains the heart of Houston’s business world and a few residential areas that tend to contain modern, densely packed housing. More and more homes are being built in these areas to accommodate the growing population. Outside the Loop, expats will generally find more affordable accommodation and larger properties.

While there’s plenty of available housing in Houston, there are some parts of the city where demand is high and competition for properties is fierce.


Recommended neighbourhoods in Houston

Houston

Afton Oaks and River Oaks

These are two of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Houston. Perfectly located for shopping, working and dining, residents of Afton Oaks and River Oaks have easy access to the Interstate 610, the Southwest Freeway and the Interstate 10. It’s common to see active residents exercising at the nearby Memorial Park or enjoying a healthy brunch at one of the many patio cafés.

One downside to living in this part of Houston is the fact that most employers are located in and around this area, which results in heavy peak-time traffic congestion.

The demographic of these neighbourhoods is varied and includes young families, retirees, college students and young professionals. There are several good private schools close by, which means that the areas are popular with affluent families.

Lazybrook

An older area with smaller homes, Lazybrook is relatively affordable and located just inside the Loop in northwest Houston and is conveniently located close to Highway 290 and the Interstate 10.

While there are plenty of restaurants in the neighbourhood, residents can also take a quick drive to Northwest Mall for more choice and late-night shopping.

Lazybrook is popular among young professionals who value living close to the office and having amenities within easy reach.

Greenway and Upper Kirby

Greenway and Upper Kirby are great options for living just inside the 610. Trendy areas brimming with eateries, cafés and boutique shops, they also boast entertainment venues like comedy clubs, jazz bars and theatres. Upper Kirby also has a number of nightclubs.

Properties here tend to be smaller than those just beyond the Loop, so they aren’t the most suitable for expats with children. But they are perfect for young people who enjoy an active lifestyle as there are numerous opportunities to hike, bike, run or stroll through the local parks.

Montrose

In Montrose, expats will find housing options that range from elegantly restored mansions to contemporary condos and bungalows. The streets are walkable and the area is full of boutique stores, bars and acclaimed restaurants.

Remnants of the area’s bohemian roots are still apparent in its architecture and communal culture, but it has become more mainstream thanks to increasing property prices and the growth of modern housing complexes. In the summer, Montrose residents enjoy get-togethers and festivals in the local parks.

The Woodlands

The Woodlands is located about 30 minutes outside Houston. The area is suited to expats with children because of its spacious properties and its proximity to good public schools. Despite being a little isolated, it's a self-sufficient planned community with plenty of restaurants, boutique stores, galleries and bars, and many residents find little reason to leave.

As the area continues to expand, so do the types of housing available, which includes lofts, townhouses and modern housing complexes.

Clear Lake

Clear Lake is historically a popular suburb in Houston with accommodation that includes quaint townhouses and luxury apartments.

The area houses the University of Houston and has a large student population that gives it a youthful energy. Residents will find excellent shopping opportunities in the area.

Residents in Clear Lake range from students to young professionals, couples and small families. There are several good schools in the region which makes it a great option for expats moving to Houston with children.

Washington Corridor

In recent years the Washington Corridor has become popular with upwardly mobile young professionals. The area is close to Memorial Park, so joggers and cyclists are a common sight. It’s also close to good schools, making it popular among families.

The area’s nightlife can be found along Washington Avenue, which is full of eclectic restaurants and lively bars. It’s also located close to major roadways which makes getting around easy. 

Healthcare in Houston

Healthcare in Houston is usually associated with the Texas Medical Center (TMC). This world-renowned facility is the largest of its kind and is made up of dozens of institutions that include hospitals, medical schools, nursing colleges and research facilities.

Foreigners and citizens from across the USA travel to Houston to receive treatment, which in turn entices some of the foremost medical professionals in America.

Those moving to Houston will have access to the TMC’s high-ranking medical services. They'll also have the benefit of living in a city where the standard of healthcare is high in general.

Urgent care centres, walk-in clinics, assisted living facilities for the elderly, comprehensive women's care hospitals, and even a healthcare programme that caters to homeless people are all part of Houston’s push to provide residents with the best healthcare possible.

Health insurance is a must-have in Houston. There's no universal coverage in America and, as a result, those without insurance who need treatment often have to pay exorbitant fees out of their own pockets. Furthermore, with no system of compulsory coverage, the onus falls on individuals to negotiate with their employers for health insurance or to organise it independently.

Most employers in Houston do provide healthcare in association with employment packages. It's also commonplace for dependants and spouses to be covered by these packages. Most employer-sponsored coverage is limited to a certain type of plan, so expats with complicated medical issues may still need to organise health insurance independently.


Hospitals in Houston

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital

Websitewww.houstonmethodist.org
Address: 18220 State Highway 249 

Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital

Websitewww.memorialhermann.org
Address: 6700 Beechnut Street

St Joseph Medical Center

Websitewww.sjmctx.org
Address: 1401 St Joseph Parkway

The Woman's Hospital of Texas

Websitewww.womanshospital.com
Address: 7600 Fannin Street

West Houston Medical Center

Websitewww.westhoustonmedical.com
Address: 12141 Richmond Avenue

Education and Schools in Houston

Given its size, there's no shortage of options when it comes to education in Houston. There are several school districts in the Greater Houston area which contain numerous public and private schools.

With so many choices, expat parents will need to carefully evaluate their priorities before choosing a school – including their budget, the proximity of the school from home and the workplace, the curriculum they would like their child to learn, and the kind of teaching environment that's best for their child.


Public schools in Houston

The greatest perk of public schools in Houston is that the Texas education system doesn't charge tuition, and expats and locals alike can take advantage of it. However, that doesn’t mean parents shouldn't do preliminary research. Even though all public schools teach a state-mandated curriculum, the standard of each institution can vary immensely.

Some districts are consistently associated with high standards, while others aren't. Since students attend schools based on attendance zones, it’s important for parents to consider the quality of an area's schools when looking for accommodation in Houston.

To determine the standard of educational facilities in a district, parents can consult Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) reports, which evaluates school districts and individual schools. After selecting a few schools that seem to fit the bill, it’s always a good idea to visit them in person, preferably during school hours, and meet with an administrator to learn a little more about them.

Charter schools and magnet schools

The public school system in Houston also includes charter schools and magnet schools. Charter schools receive state funding and uphold the state curriculum, but tend to be more innovative and flexible than traditional public schools. Magnet schools also use state funding but typically have specialised curricula. They're associated with high achievement and cultural diversity.

Both are good options for parents looking for an affordable but elevated standard of education for their children. That said, admission can be competitive and waiting lists can be long – lottery systems are often used to confirm enrolment.


Private and international schools in Houston

As in most destinations, private schools in Houston are assumed to provide a wider array of extra-curricular activities, better facilities, smaller student-to-teacher ratios, and a higher level of instruction. 

Private schooling is a broad category that includes international schools, religious schools and alternative-learning schools like Montessori. Some schools uphold the state curriculum, while others follow foreign curricula or offer the International Baccalaureate.

These schools charge tuition and, in the case of international schools, fees can be steep. Parents should also apply as early as possible since the best schools usually have long waiting lists.


Homeschooling in Houston

Parents in the state of Texas don't need special permission to homeschool their children. It's therefore possible for children to be homeschooled in Houston. Texas law requires that the instruction be bona fide. A visual curriculum must be followed – in other words, children need access to books, workbooks, video monitors, etc. The curriculum also needs to include basic subjects including reading, spelling, grammar, maths and good citizenship.

Expat parents will be able to teach their children in the privacy of their own homes, at another family's home or make use of a tutor. Homeschool centres aren't regulated by die state. Local school officials have the right to check in and make sure that children are receiving proper education.


Tutoring in Houston

Tutoring is widely available to students in Houston. There is a range of options available. Parents will find that many older students make themselves available for tutoring. Tutoring companies like Suprex Learning also have options that include private in-home one-on-one sessions, small group sessions, and online tutoring.

Parents may find it useful to enquire at their child's school or from other parents to find out which tutors are dependable.


Special needs education in Houston

Parents of children with special needs in Houston can choose between public schools, private schools and homeschooling. It's up to the parents to decide what type of education would suit their child's needs best.

Parents should connect with friends, other parents and neighbours to learn about experiences they may have had at different schools. Once parents have identified a number of possible schools, read about the school online by visiting the school's state accountability rating on the Texas Education Agency's website.

Public schools in Houston must give a child a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This means the school must assist parents in finding out if their child has a disability and then develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Public schools aren't allowed to discriminate against children with special needs.

Many parents prefer to send their children to a private school. These schools still allow inclusive education, but with the added benefit of smaller classes which means more individual attention.

There are also a number of specialised schools in Houston. These schools are aimed at children who need to learn in specialised environments. Schools like the Arbor School and Briarwood provide learning environments that encourage the total development of each student.

Lifestyle in Houston

It’s fair to say that the lifestyle in Houston is whatever expats make of it – from oil-baron ostentation to a quiet existence rich in culture. 

With its mild winters and hot summers, the city celebrates sports and recreation. There are numerous professional teams to support for those who'd rather watch, but for active expats who love the great outdoors, Houston is one of the best major US cities to live in.

Chances are it won’t be long before expats find their favourite patch of greenery and make activities under the wide Texan sky a regular part of their lives. Local government spends large amounts of time and money on maintaining and beautifying its public spaces, and the result is hundreds of kept parks and plenty of bike and walking trails. 

That said, there's plenty for those who'd rather consume calories than burn them off. There's a dizzying amount of award-winning restaurants in Houston, with new ones opening up constantly. And if eating out doesn’t suit their bank balance, expats can forage through weekend farmers' markets for local produce and homemade fare.

As part of the city's burgeoning cultural scene, residents can also visit art galleries in former factory spaces, marvel at downtown Houston's contemporary architecture and enjoy some of the country's best performing arts companies. The city's creative spirit is contagious. New arrivals will likely find themselves incorporating some part of it into their routines.


Shopping in Houston

As can be expected from an energy capital, many residents have money to spend and shopping in Houston is top-notch. Even those with a smaller budget can take advantage of its antique markets, outlet malls and seasonal sales.

The city is home to The Galleria, one of the biggest malls in the USA, as well as a number of shopfront neighbourhoods. Expats will easily be able to find prominent designer labels, department and home décor stores, and the odd high-end speciality boutique. Memorial City Mall is another well-known, but less ritzy, one-stop shopping centre.

Those who'd prefer a shopping experience with more character should try the downtown pavilions and areas like Post Oak, Highland Village and Uptown Park, which offer their own assortments of aisle-cruising options. Antique hunters should try the Museum District, where they can also find galleries selling the work of local artists.

Expats who are keen to make a day out of it should head to the Katy Mills outlet mall on Interstate 10, which is a hotspot for surplus and off-season low-cost shopping and has several well-known brands as outlet residents.

Similarly, Thompson's Antique Center of Texas is located just outside the city and boasts dozens of dealers, affording patient shoppers the opportunity to go home with a piece of the past.


Eating out in Houston

Houstonians love to eat and its most innovative restaurateurs infuse classic Texan flavours with the culinary cultures of its diverse population. The tree-lined Montrose area, the Market Square Historic District and Bayou Place are particularly known for hosting great restaurants and comfortable cafés.

Apart from sampling the local Tex-Mex and barbecue fare, expats should spend some time partaking in a great local pastime – big breakfasts at one of the city's many brunch spots.


Arts and culture in Houston

Many expats are surprised to find that the famed Texan cowboy culture actually gives way to a thriving artistic community in Houston. The city boasts symphony, theatre, ballet and opera companies of national acclaim.

Performances are always on the horizon at venues like the Wortham Theater Centre, Alley Theatre and Jones Hall, as well as outdoor venues like Hermann Park and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Woodlands.

For those who enjoy immersing themselves in the past, there's an entire museum district with establishments that include the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science, the Contemporary Arts Museum and a Children’s Museum. Admission is reasonable at most museums in Houston, and the collections and exhibitions are remarkable.


Sport in Houston

Houston is home to a number of professional league teams that are supported by a sports-loving local culture. And that's not to mention the countless collegiate and high school teams that compete at a slightly lower, but no less exciting, level of play.

The Houston Astros (baseball), the Houston Texans (football) and the Houston Rockets (basketball) all clash against opponents in their world-class stadiums. And even if they aren't necessarily fans, residents can make a day of experiencing these iconic local pastimes.

Kids and Family in Houston

Expat kids in Houston will fall in love with its abundant parks, Disney-designed aerospace centre and the roar of a home run at the Minute Maid Park.

The city is incredibly child-friendly, both in terms of the infrastructure in place to support families and the activities on hand to entertain the little ones.


Expat parents in Houston

Despite being the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston offers expat parents many of the perks of a smaller, suburban community.

Housing and living costs are below the national average. Even families with a single breadwinner can often afford a more spacious home and better quality of life than they're used to.

Most families look for accommodation outside the city centre. And whether they settle into an exclusive neighbourhood like River Oaks, a planned community like Sugar Land or the villages of Woodlands, most have little trouble finding a safe neighbourhood that suits them.

Parents must evaluate the educational landscape of an area before they move. Attendance at public schools in Houston is based on catchment zones, so they'll want to choose accordingly since some school districts perform better than others.

Furthermore, traffic can be treacherous in this ever-expanding metropolis. Parents will want to choose an area with easy-to-reach amenities that's close to work and school.

Parents can also take comfort in the exemplary standards of healthcare in Houston. The Texas Medical Center (TMC) contains multiple nationally ranking institutions, and the Texas Children’s Hospital is internationally renowned. The city's medical professionals are top-notch and expats only have to ensure they find appropriate health insurance to cover what can be high fees.


Expat kids in Houston

With its hot summers and mild winters, kids in Houston can spend most of the year exhausting themselves outside. And there's plenty to do indoors if the summer heat gets unbearable. One of the best things about living in the suburbs of Houston is that kids are likely to find playmates aplenty. Children can make friends fast, and more sociable kids often spend time playing games in their neighbours' yards and houses.

Parents can also sign up sporty children for one of the city's numerous youth athletic leagues. Nearly every sport is represented in some way, and teams are organised through churches, community centres and formal leagues – a fantastic way to introduce children to potential friends.

For indoor pursuits, the legendary Space Center Houston and Children’s Museum of Houston are popular attractions. Both offer interactive and educational experiences for kids. And even if expats tire of this routine, there's always an event in Houston to look forward to, such as the Livestock Show and Rodeo or the Renaissance Festival. Not to mention, the freshwater lakes of Galveston Bay are just an hour's drive away. Families can escape from the city's push and pull, rent a boat and spend the day water-skiing, tubing or just relaxing on the water.

See and Do in Houston

Sports fanatics, theatre buffs, nature enthusiasts and culinary connoisseurs will all find countless things to see and do on their weekends in Houston. 

Though Houston’s relative youth as a city doesn’t lend itself to grand, historic facades or memorials to past achievements, it does mean that an impressive collection of modern and entertaining sightseeing is the order of the day.


Attractions in Houston

Space Center Houston

An 'out-of-this-world' journey into the past, present and future of the US space programme. Exhibits, attractions, special presentations and hands-on activities allow visitors to gain some insight into NASA’s missions and what happens behind the scenes.

Downtown Aquarium

A six-acre aquatic wonderland, the Downtown Aquarium features over 200 different species of aquatic life from around the world, and a number of unique and well-maintained environments. It also has alligators, red-bellied piranhas, sharks, stingrays and more. There’s a full-service restaurant on site.

Discovery Green

This 12-acre park in the centre of downtown Houston is a public space with oodles of potential. There’s a one-acre lake, a children’s playground, a public library, an amphitheatre, dog runs and art exhibits. Not to mention, there’s little better than relaxing on the open lawn or strolling along the paths and trails. Stop at The Grove, the park’s rooftop restaurant, for a cocktail while the sun sets.

Houston Zoo

This 55-acre lush zoological garden within Hermann Park is a fantastic opportunity to get acquainted with the natural world. Thousands of animals and special exhibits await those interested in mammals, reptiles, birds and more. The zoo hosts overnight events where kids and parents can interact with the zoo's animal ambassadors and enjoy a guided night hike.

Bayou Bend

Ima Hogg was a prolific philanthropist who devoted her life to the city’s cultural and civic institutions. Bayou Bend is her former home and the resting place of an astounding collection of art dating from colonial times to the mid-19th century. Alongside the impressive interior of the mansion, the 14 acres of meticulously manicured gardens are also worth a wander.

The Houston Museum of Natural Sciences

An outstanding museum which has a stunning collection of mineral specimens, dinosaur fossils, a planetarium, an observatory, an IMAX movie theatre and a three-storey butterfly centre. The museum provides a great day out for visitors of all ages, and parents will be as enthralled by the exhibits as their little ones.

Kemah Boardwalk

This boardwalk overlooks Galveston Bay and is full of entertainment options. The 60-acre megaplex offers a whole host of thrilling rides for the kids, as well as some of Houston's top dining and shopping experiences for their parents.

What's On in Houston

Whether they're celebrating its cowboy past or present diversity, there are a plethora of annual events in Houston for new arrivals to enjoy.

The city's impressive array of green spaces are ideal venues for organisers. Festivals are especially plentiful in spring before temperatures are too warm and residents leave for the summer holidays.


Annual events in Houston

Chevron Houston Marathon (January)

This is Houston's largest single-day sporting event. The annual marathon starts and ends at Downtown’s George R. Brown Convention Center. It has steadily grown to attract more than 20,000 entrants from around the world and 200,000 spectators. 

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (February/March)

Each year, nearly 3 million visitors descend on NRG Stadium eager to see the animal exhibits, cowboy competitions and live music performances associated with the legendary Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. As the largest event of its kind in the world, the festival embraces the area's heritage and agriculture, providing countless competitions and entertainment for people of all ages.

Houston Art Car Parade (April)

This free parade is driven by an urge to create. Artists, organisations, community groups and school students transform old cars into aesthetic masterpieces. Though the spirit of competition has heightened since the introduction of awards, the greatest part of the art car parade is that it's art for its own sake. Spectators gather around a designated location and wonder at the imagination and innovation of the participants.

Houston International Jazz Festival (August)

The Houston International Jazz Festival features well-known artists from around the globe in an effort to create a wider and more appreciative audience of the genre and its history. Thousands of loyal supporters turn out each year to enjoy the top-notch acts and to support a festival that donates its proceeds toward creating educational activities for school-aged youth.

Texas Renaissance Festival (October through November)

Roughly an hour outside Houston, expats and locals alike can step into a different time. The 55-acre recreated English village pays homage to an older time with costumed performers, arts and crafts, hundreds of shops, human-powered rides and delicious food and drink on offer.

Mayor's Official Downtown Houston Holiday Celebration (November/December)

Houston's mayor kicks off the holiday season with an annual celebration. Residents can expect fireworks, entertainment, and choirs as the city goes all out. The event culminates with the lighting of the tree outside City Hall. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Houston

Expats planning to move to Houston often have all sorts of questions, particularly about schools and the best areas to live. Read on for the most frequently asked questions about living in Houston.

What is the weather like in Houston?

Summers in Houston can be intense for new arrivals with temperatures frequently reaching highs of 100°F (40°C). Houston also suffers through a heavy hurricane season from June to November which can lead to flooding.

Other than summer, the weather in Houston is quite pleasant with winter being very mild.

What are the best public school districts in Houston? 

Houston has several school districts, each with a number of elementary, middle and high school options. While many will insist that only certain districts are acceptable, it’s important to keep in mind that certain schools in reputable districts may have poor performance records, and certain schools in districts with a less than perfect reputation may have exceptional performance records. For this reason, it’s highly advised that expats do their research on districts in general, but also to take the time to suss out individual educational institutions. 

Is healthcare accessible in Houston?

Houston is actually know for its excellent healthcare system. Many patients travel to Houston to receive specialist treatments. If a resident feels like they aren't receiving the care they need, they'll have no shortage of a second opinion.

Unfortunately, like in the rest of the USA, healthcare can be exorbitantly expensive. New arrivals are advised to get medical insurance as soon as they arrive in the country.

Can I rely on public transport while in Houston?

Sadly, one of the biggest drawbacks of life in Houston is the distinct lack of accessible public transport. Though the city does have a bus system and the METRORail, neither service the city effectively. This is due to the city being so large and spread out.

Taxis and ride-hailing apps like Uber are popular in the city. Many residents end up renting or buying their own car as driving is the easiest way of navigating the city. New arrivals should avoid driving in rush hour though, as the city is notorious for its heavy traffic.

What is the cost of living in Houston?

The cost of living in NYC, LA and Chicago are significantly higher than living in Houston. The primary reason the cost of living in Houston is lower is that the cost of accommodation in the city is so affordable. Obviously, some options are both lower and higher than this – depending on the level of luxury and the size of the space one will be renting.

Additionally, petrol is cheap in this Texan energy capital. Food is also priced lower than the national average.

What are the best neighbourhoods to live in?

A difficult question that begs a difficult answer. Different neighbourhoods are “best” for different people, depending on priorities, the desired proximity to certain places and budget.

For the young, single professional, it might be best to live somewhere in central Houston, while expat families may be more suited to live just outside of central Houston, in one of the many areas known for high levels of safety and exemplary school districts.

Getting Around in Houston

Expats who are accustomed to using public transport will have to make quite an adjustment when it comes to getting around in Houston. Though the city has made significant improvements to its public transportation networks, it's very spread out, which makes travelling between destinations long and complicated. Most Houstonians own cars and find driving to be the best way to get around in the city.


Public transport in Houston

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, or METRO as it's more commonly known, is in charge of public transport in Houston. METRO operates various local and express services as well as the METRORail light rail line.

METRO has an integrated ticketing system where fares can be paid for either in cash or by using a reloadable METRO Q Card smartcard.

METRORail

Houston’s METRORail network is relatively small, consisting of just three lines: green, purple and red. During the day, trains arrive every six to 12 minutes, beginning in the early morning hours and ending in the evening, with the exception of the red line which runs into the night.

Buses

Buses in Houston are a relatively comfortable way to travel. They arrive at regular intervals and generally run on time in the city centre. However, the network is limited and many suburbs in Houston aren't adequately serviced by METRO buses.

To get around in the downtown area, expats can catch a Greenlink Bus. Though the network is limited in scope, these buses provide localised transport free of charge.


Taxis in Houston

Taxis are readily available at designated ranks or along busy streets in the city centre. However, it's hard to catch a taxi on the street outside of the downtown core, so it may be necessary to book one ahead of time. As destinations in Houston are often quite spread out, travelling by taxi can become expensive. 

Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are another option for getting around Houston and are accessible via their respective mobile apps.


Driving in Houston

Most residents find it necessary to have a car, which allows them greater freedom to access places that are located far from one another. A number of freeways and toll roads make getting around by car fairly easy. Roads and signage in Houston are of an excellent standard, and drivers are usually courteous.

There are, however, downsides to driving in Houston. Construction projects are seemingly always taking place and result in delays due to road closures. Rush hours last between 7am and 9am in the mornings and 4pm and 7pm in the evenings. During these times, highway traffic almost comes to a standstill, so drivers need to have a high level of patience. 


Cycling in Houston

Due to Houston’s hot climate and the fact that the city is so spread out, bikes are best used for recreational purposes rather than daily commutes. The city has several great cycle paths and a number of bike trails that run through its parks.

Houston has a bike-share system, BCycle, which has 75 stations throughout central Houston. These stations are mainly found downtown, in the Museum District and the Med Center. The system has a pay-as-you-go option. Cyclists can also sign up for monthly or annual memberships.