Print
  • Hold down Ctrl key and select the sections you want to print. If using a Mac, hold down the Cmd key.
  • Use Ctrl + A or on Mac, Cmd + A to select all sections (if you are using the Chrome browser).
  • Click "Apply" and the site will customise your print guide in the preview below.
  • Click the "Print" button and a print pop up should appear to print to your printer of choice.

Moving to Washington DC

Those moving to Washington DC are often surprised by how small the city – arguably the most powerful and influential in the USA – can be. Despite its iconic image as the centre of American power, Washington DC is difficult to define, with ambiguous borders and a contrasting image.

The district is populated by little more than half a million people, yet the huge DC metro area borrows from neighbouring state land to create a metropolis ten times that size. 'DC' usually refers not only to the District of Colombia but also to parts of Maryland and Virginia that feed into the city.

The massive concentration of agencies, departments, businesses, consulates and young, eager professionals makes Washington DC so dense with potential that people from all ends of the earth seem to be magnetically drawn to it.

Living in Washington DC as an expat

New arrivals in Washington DC will likely discover job opportunities in its thriving service industry, including sectors such as healthcare, education, finance and hospitality. Alternatively, newcomers can get involved in businesses that work alongside federal operations. Being the capital of the US, Washington DC's biggest employer is the US government. 

With such an array of neighbourhoods in Washington DC, new arrivals to the city will certainly be able to find a spot that suits their lifestyle and circumstances. Unfortunately, the city is rife with inequality, resulting in high poverty levels. While newcomers are likely to live in better neighbourhoods, the unfortunate realities of living in a city with such large discrepancies of income, as well as relatively high crime rates, are unavoidably noticeable.

Cost of living in Washington DC

 The cost of living in Washington DC is generally quite high, especially as good quality accommodation is in high demand and therefore expensive. That said, those living close to the city centre will find that public transportation is fairly reasonable and there's really no need for a car when it comes to getting out and about. 

Expat families and children

There are plenty of good schools in Washington. New arrivals can send their children to public schools that fall within certain residential boundaries at a negligible cost, although these schools can vary in quality. There is also a good range of private and international schooling options, but fees are naturally much higher.

Outside of school hours, parents will find plenty to entertain the kids in Washington DC. The city's many parks are wonderful for a day out in the sunshine. Alternatively, educational fun can be had at the Smithsonian, where there are endless things to see and do, such as visiting the zoo or one of the many museums. There are also a host of events in the city each year to entertain the little ones.  

Climate in Washington DC

Washington DC has a semi-continental climate. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures averaging between 86°F and 91°F (30°C and 33°C). During winter, temperatures regularly drop well below freezing and snowfall is common. Autumn and spring are the most pleasant times of the year and draw the most visitors to the city. The weather is generally warm, with clear skies. 

Washington DC, compared to other American cities, is particularly welcoming to newcomers. Most young professionals in DC have recently moved to the city to pursue careers before relocating again. There's a frenetic energy of friendship-making fuelled by a large number of clubs, casual sports teams and nightlife. Newcomers are always welcome here.

Weather in Washington DC

Washington DC has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid, interspersed with frequent rain showers, while winters are extremely cold with the occasional snowstorm. The warmest months are July and August when temperatures average between 86°F and 91°F (30°C and 33°C). Over mid-December to mid-February, temperatures range between 20°F and 45°F (-6°C and 8°C). Probably the best weather is over March to mid-May when temperatures are mild, humidity is low and the city's cherry trees blossom.

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Washington DC

While dwarfed in population by cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Washington DC remains a huge drawcard for visitors to the United States. 
 
As the capital of the US, and home to multi-national organisations like the IMF and World Bank, Washington attracts a large number of international expats. Situated on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia, its location was said to be chosen by President George Washington himself in 1790.

Nowadays, it is perhaps most famous for being the seat of government. DC, as it's sometimes known, has a wealth of history attached to it, meaning the city has developed into a dynamic and complex metropolis where both the past and the future are cherished. That said, there are both positive and negative aspects of life in DC.


Cost of living in Washington DC

 + PRO: Salaries are high 

The high cost of living in Washington DC is often more than compensated for by higher salaries. The average household income is well above what’s earned in many other cities in the US. 

- CON: Living costs are high too

Unless moving from another big city like New York, Boston or San Francisco,  new arrivals will find the cost of living in DC is high. If from out of state, or abroad, they may have to pay a lot more for housing and food than they're used to. Generally costs get lower the further they live from Downtown DC. 

- CON: Wealth inequality

Although many newcomers will find lucrative high-profile employment opportunities in Washington DC, there is a massive divide between the rich and the poor. Figures suggest around a fifth of the city lives below the poverty line. 


Lifestyle in Washington DC

+ PRO: Cultural diversity

A wide variety of people live in Washington DC and the surrounding areas. Politicians, diplomats and military personnel live alongside people working for banks, non-profit organisations and all kinds of other industries. The population is generally well educated and the blend of backgrounds, nationalities, religions and ethnicities makes it an interesting place to live.   

+ PRO: An Abundance of cultural attractions

There's plenty to see and do in Washington DC. History and culture buffs will feel right at home among all the attractions on offer. Many of the city's museums and galleries offer free entrance to residents.

+ PRO: Plenty of weekend break opportunities

Washington DC's central location means that it’s easy get out of the city and head to places like New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia for the weekend. The surrounding countryside is also stunning and offers loads of opportunities for those needing a dose of fresh air. There is hiking in the Shenandoa National Park, rafting on the Shenandoah River, and sailing in the Potomac or at nearby Annapolis. Virginia Beach is also a four-hour drive from DC, for those looking for a getaway on the coast. 

- CON: Traffic and tourists

In contrast to the pace of life in Washington DC, the traffic tends to be slow. Public transport is good, but those stuck in suburbs that aren't well serviced by transport routes are doomed to drive. Additionally, because of all the great attractions, there are a huge number of tourists which can make the central areas around National Mall and Capitol Hill crowded. 


Family life in Washington DC

+ PRO: Variety of neighbourhoods

Those working in DC have a wide variety of neighbourhoods to choose from, with housing varying from centrally-located apartments to suburban townhouses and family homes. Those relocating to Washington can therefore choose to live in an area that suits their lifestyle and family circumstance, provided they can afford it.

- CON: Poor public schools

Unfortunately, the public school system in DC is not up the standards of other major cities in the US. That said, there are some excellent international schools in the city. Many families move out to Maryland or Virginia to find better public schools for their children.


Weather in Washington DC

+ PRO: Spring and autumn are pleasant

Autumn brings a welcome respite from often stifling summers in DC, while spring happily ends the cold winters. Pleasant balmy evenings and mild temperatures accompany these seasons, although spring can often change from warm to cold in a few hours. Spring is, however, also accompanied by gorgeous blossoms which brings the city back to life after winter. 

- CON: Humid summers

During the summer months, the weather can get hot, humid and uncomfortable. Air conditioning is a must, which unfortunately drives up electricity prices in the summer months. 


Working in Washington DC

+ PRO: High ceilings for career growth

There is a strong, diverse and dynamic job market in the capital as a result of the presence of government employers and contractors. While many may see the high competition for jobs as a negative, it breeds equally competitive salaries and benefits.

- CON: Demanding work environment

The salaries and room for career progression are certainly high in Washington DC. That said, the demanding work environment can come at the expense of time spent with friends and family. Many employees work long hours, and those who value time with their loved ones may suffer.

Working in Washington DC

Washington DC has a strong economy, bolstered by federal operations based in the city which account for more than 12 percent of the city's employees. That said, because only US citizens can take up government jobs, expats will need to look to other industries if they wish to find work in Washington DC. Luckily, there are other options, with sectors such as tourism and services also making up a significant part of the city's economy. 


Job market in Washington DC

Though the largest employer in Washington DC is the US government, there are also several top area industries closely related to, but not actually part of, the government. This opens up potential jobs for expats in sectors such as defence contracting, lobbying, non-profit organisations and publishing. In addition, many expats work closely with governmental agencies and are employed by overseas companies or foreign governments.

Professional and business services are increasingly becoming top employers in Washington DC, with important sectors being healthcare, technology, hospitality and education. The city is also home to multinational corporations such as the IMF and Wold Bank, making it an attractive city for those working in finance. 


Finding a job in Washington DC

Online portals are a good way to find a job in Washington DC as most major employers advertise vacant positions online, either on their own websites or through recruitment agencies. But above all else, networking is probably the most important aspect of a job search in DC. In a city of politicians and lobbyists, it’s often who one knows, rather than what they know, that will go a long way to securing that dream job.

It's worth noting that the cost of living in DC is one of the highest in the US and wages should be adjusted to compensate for this. All expats working in Washington DC must have a valid work permit for the USA.


Work culture in Washington DC

While most companies follow the typical 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, work schedule, this is not always the case in DC as, for example, federal operations do not have such hours. Much of DC's population works incredibly hard and often continues their day into overtime. That said, there are companies in DC that afford a good work-life balance and offer a vibrant work culture, and new arrivals should therefore do their research when applying for any company. 

Business culture in the US is incredibly individualistic. The working world rewards 'go-getters' while those who lack independence, initiative and self-reliance lag behind. Status and age are largely obsolete and instead, merit, experience and past achievement are the vehicles for advancement. New arrivals coming from societies where seniority is a consequence of social class, length of service or maturity may find acclimating to this idea especially challenging.

Cost of Living in Washington DC

Washington DC is among the most expensive destinations in the USA, outranked only by a handful of cities. It's therefore important that those moving to Washington negotiate a suitable employment package to offset their expenses. Here are some of the major costs expats can expect to encounter while living in Washington DC.


Cost of accommodation in Washington DC

Accommodation costs in Washington are high. That said, as the city is home to lots of young professionals and university students, there are a number of cheaper accommodation options such as studio apartments and house shares on offer for those on a budget. 

Where new arrivals choose to live can also impact their rental costs. Living in a neighbourhood outside of the city or even in a town on the border of a neighbouring state will hugely decrease their costs. Although they will have to commute to work, it may be worth it for the cheaper housing options outside of Washington DC. 


Cost of transport in Washington DC

Luckily, there isn’t much need for a car in Washington, especially if living close to the city centre. Most residents opt not to have a car and use public transport or cycle to work instead. The cost of using public transport is based on the day, time and distance travelled, so those travelling long distances at peak travel hours will find themselves shelling out a fair amount to do so. To save on travel costs, it's a good idea to purchase a weekly or monthly travel card.


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Washington DC

There are lots of opportunities to enjoy the nightlife, entertainment and eating out in Washington but prices are high and these leisure expenses do add up over time. That said, for those on a budget or looking to save their hard-earned dollars, there are lots of free cultural attractions available in Washington which can enhance the quality of one's experience without breaking the bank.


Cost of education in Washington DC

Expats relocating to Washington with children will also need to factor in the cost of schooling. While expat children are eligible to attend public schools, many expat parents choose to send their children to a private or international school. Fees at these schools can be extremely high, so parents would be wise to double-check that their budget can accommodate this cost.


Cost of living in Washington DC chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Washington DC in August 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,800 – 2,800

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,400 – 2,100

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 3,500 – 5,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 2,500 – 4,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

USD 2.70

Milk (1 litre)

USD 0.90

Rice (1kg)

USD 5.30

Loaf of white bread

USD 2.80

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 10.70

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 11

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2.30

Cappuccino

USD 4.65

Local beer (500ml)

USD 6

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

USD 80

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

USD 0.16

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 62

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water and refuse)

USD 160

Transportation

Taxi rate per km

USD 1.45

Bus fare in the city centre 

USD 3.25

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 0.72

Accommodation in Washington DC

Washington DC offers a variety of housing options. That said, the actual city limits are considerably smaller than most expect and many people who move to Washington DC for work end up living in neighbouring Virginia or Maryland. These nearby states generally offer better options for suburban family living and cheaper accommodation.

Many neighbourhoods in Washington DC are full of students attending the assortment of nearby universities, or young professionals who have recently moved to the city to start their working life. Residential family homes are usually found further out of the city centre, and vary in terms of quality and price, depending on their neighbourhood and proximity to public transport.

Because property becomes more expensive closer to the city centre, commute times via car are long. Accommodation near public transportation routes, such as the bus or metro lines, is therefore highly sought-after.

Property prices and rent in Washington DC are among the most expensive in the country. It'll likely be the largest monthly expense for people planning to relocate there.


Types of accommodation in Washington DC

Apartments

Apartments are the most common type of housing in the city and range from single-room studio apartments to luxury multi-bedroom lofts and penthouses. Rent will naturally vary according to size and location, with the more expensive apartments being closer to the city centre. Practically all apartment buildings are equipped with modern facilities and amenities.

Townhouses

Another option for new arrivals to rent in Washington DC are townhouses, which are cheaper than single-family homes but also generally have separate entrances and multiple storeys. These are often historical Victorian homes built in a row along one street, hence referred to as rowhouses.

Single-family houses

Single-family houses are fully detached residences which may be best suited for a family, as they normally include a garden and are located away from the city centre. Despite being predominantly in the suburbs, single-family detached houses are particularly expensive. It's therefore advised that new arrivals realistically asses their housing budget before making any commitments.


Finding accommodation in Washington DC

Due to limited space in the city, newcomers are advised to begin the search for accommodation as early as possible. Knowing one’s price range and desired accommodation type is essential as it will clarify the search and simplify the decision-making process. It is worth considering factors such as space requirements, amenities and proximity to shopping hubs, public transport and schools.

New arrivals may want to find a local real-estate agent who understands the local area and can help identify a home suited to their requirements. If considering living in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, new arrivals should keep in mind that agents require separate licences to work in different states. It may therefore be necessary to employ several realtors to scout the surrounding areas thoroughly.


Renting accommodation in Washington DC

With DC being such a small city, it follows that accommodation is in high demand. This has made accommodation expensive and harder to come by than in some other American cities. If a newcomer has their heart set on a place, they should act quickly as good properties don’t tend to stay on the market for long.

The rental process

As in most of the US, potential tenants will need to obtain an application form from the landlord. Subsequently, the landlord will contact their chosen tenant and together they will sign a standard lease agreement. Having a US bank account will act in one's favour when applying to rent accommodation in Washington DC, especially for expats without a social security number.

Furnished or unfurnished

Most accommodation tends to be unfurnished in Washington DC, though furnished apartments are also available. Furnished accommodation usually includes everything from appliances to bedding and cutlery. Furnished accommodation is usually more expensive and is typically let on a shorter lease term. Unfurnished accommodation rarely means a completely bare apartment or house. Properties usually still come with large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and fridges.

Leases

Rental contracts are traditionally valid for a year with the option to renew when the term is over.

Deposits

Usually, new tenants will be required to put down an amount equivalent to a month’s rent as a security deposit. This deposit is refundable once the lease has come to an end. If any damage has been done to the property, the deposit will be used to cover the cost of repairs.

Utilities

Newcomers renting accommodation in Washington DC should check the conditions set out in their lease to find out the details on utilities. In some cases, the landlord may assume responsibility for utilities such as gas, electricity and water, but tenants will usually be expected to pay for extras like telephone services, internet and cable TV packages. New arrivals should spend some time looking into different service providers as one can often find a good range of inclusive deals for telephone and internet services.

Areas and suburbs in Washington DC

The best places to live in Washington DC

The capital offers a range of accommodation options. There are areas and suburbs in Washington DC to suit every lifestyle, from those wanting to experience the buzz of city living to those preferring a quiet life in the leafy suburbs. Where a new arrival chooses to live in DC will ultimately depend on their lifestyle preferences and their budget.

Areas close to the city centre such as Adams Morgan and Georgetown are perfect for young professionals and students, while Dupont Circle and Anacostia are ideal for those moving to Washington DC with a family.

As a result of the city's unique location and proximity to the neighbouring states of Virginia and Maryland, newcomers will find that it's even possible to live outside of DC and commute to work in the city on a daily basis.


Young and trendy areas of Washington DC

Young and trendy areas of Washington DC

Washington DC has a fairly large student population and plenty of young graduates flock to the capital to start their careers. There are lots of areas close to the city centre that cater well for this demographic.

There are always new bars, eateries and trendy fashion boutiques springing up to serve the younger market. Rent tends to be higher close to the city centre and these areas are most suitable for those with a higher disposable income.

Adams Morgan

Close to Washington DC city centre, Adams Morgan is a cosmopolitan part of Washington which has traditionally been popular with expat communities hailing from Central America, North Africa and the Caribbean. 

Although much gentrification has taken place and high-cost housing complexes built, a strong multicultural atmosphere remains in Adams Morgan. This is evident in the diverse range of international shops and eateries that can be found in the area. 

There are lots of rental options in this neighbourhood. This is a popular area for young professionals as it's close to most workplaces in the city centre. It's also a popular nightlife spot and home to some of Washington DC’s top nightclubs and bars. The area is served well by public transport as it has a number of subway stations in close proximity.

Georgetown

Georgetown is a historic area in northwest Washington DC which is known for great shopping, nightlife and dining options. This neighbourhood is characterised by old houses, cobbled streets and trolley tracks, which are all part of Georgetown’s historic charm.

Georgetown is located close to the Potomac River. It's common to see residents walking, jogging and cycling along the canal path. The fact that this area is also home to Georgetown University means that there is a large student population, and always plenty going on in terms of entertainment, sporting events and lectures. The area is also home to many foreign embassies, making it a popular neighbourhood for newcomers working in the diplomatic sector.


Family-friendly neighbourhoods of Washington DC

Washington

Each year, large numbers of people are transferred to Washington DC through companies that allow them to bring their families along. The city is a great place to set up a family home. 

Washington DC has some of the USA’s top schools and universities. For those moving there with children, being close to good schools will certainly be a priority.

Dupont Circle

This is a great neighbourhood in which to set up home as a new family in Washington DC. Dupont Circle has many different accommodation options on offer, from large apartment communities to spacious family homes and condos. Dupont Circle is therefore an area suitable for a variety of people, from professionals to those with young children. 

This neighbourhood has a vibrant entertainment scene and people come to Dupont Circle from all over Washington DC to eat at some of the city’s top restaurants. There are also lots of coffee shops, bookstores and art galleries in the neighbourhood.

There is a strong community spirit in this area and residents are often seen relaxing, playing chess or walking their dogs at the grassy circle. Good public transport links make travelling anywhere in Washington DC from Dupont Circle easy.

Due to the popularity of this area, however, rent is high. 

Anacostia

Anacostia is a previously neglected residential neighbourhood that lies alongside the Anacostia River in southeast Washington DC.

Anacostia is popular with families because of its proximity to some of DC’s best schools and the availability of spacious housing. It is also a good option for those who prefer to be further away from the hustle and bustle of the city, or those on a tight budget. Getting around Washington DC from Anacostia is easy as there are regular Metrorail services to the city centre.


Outside Washington DC

Areas outside of Washington DC

For those who work in Washington DC but prefer a quieter suburban life, there is also the option of living in parts of Virginia or Maryland.

New arrivals will find that certain parts of these neighbouring states are well connected to Washington DC by both road networks and public transport.

Rockville and Bethesda

Owing to their proximity to the capital, the suburbs of Rockville and Bethesda, which are located in Montgomery County in the state of Maryland, have become popular spots for those working in DC. Rockville and Bethesda have diverse populations and offer a variety of housing options from high-rise condos to modern family homes.

Rockville is only 25 minutes' drive from Washington DC’s city centre and is well placed on the I-270. Bethesda is located 20 minutes' drive from DC and is connected to the capital by the I-495. Both areas are also well served by public transport. While rental costs are not cheap in Rockville or Bethesda, many newcomers choose to live in these areas because the properties tend to be more spacious. In addition, these areas are located close to several good schools.

Alexandria

Alexandria in Virginia is an independent city located just seven miles (11km) south of Washington DC. It's a charming area steeped in history and there are lots of old buildings, churches and museums here. While the area doesn’t have the buzz of Georgetown or Adams Morgan, Alexandria does have a fair number of good restaurants and entertainment facilities.

This city is well located on major roads such as the I-95, I-395 and Route 1. When it comes to public transport, bus services link the city to Washington DC.

Healthcare in Washington DC

Washington DC offers a high standard of healthcare, but as with all American cities, it's important to have medical insurance. Long-term care can be denied to those without proper medical insurance, although all DC hospitals are required to administer emergency care. That said, the cost of treatment is exorbitant and, without insurance, the payment of these costs falls to the individual. 

Many of DC's best hospitals are teaching hospitals connected to the city's top universities. Residents of the greater metro area can also find quality medical care in the neighbouring states of Maryland and Virginia. There are also plenty of pharmacies across the city, with many open 24/7.

Below is a list of some of the most reputable hospitals in Washington DC and its surrounding areas.


Hospitals in Washington DC

George Washington University Hospital

Websitewww.gwhospital.com
Address: 900 23rd Street NW, Washington DC

Holy Cross Hospital

Websitewww.holycrosshealth.org
Address: 1500 Forest Glen Road, Silver Spring, Maryland

Ivona Fairfax Hospital

Websitewww.inova.org
Address: 8110 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, Virginia

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Websitewww.hopkinsmedicine.org
Address: 1800 Orleans Street, Baltimore, Maryland 

Mary Washington Hospital

Websitewww.marywashingtonhealthcare.com
Address: 1001 Sam Perry Boulevard, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Education and Schools in Washington DC

Washington DC boasts a variety of schooling options, including public, charter, private and international schools. Expats are eligible to attend every type of school, though those opting for a public school may find their choices limited based on their neighbourhood of residence. 

Being the capital of the United States, DC offers some of the best education in the country. It's also home to world-class tertiary institutions such as the internationally acclaimed Georgetown University.

Nevertheless, public elementary and secondary schools have faced challenges when it comes to funding and staffing. This has led to inconsistent quality among schools, which frequently correlates with the average income level of the surrounding area.

Both Maryland and Virginia, while being extremely close to DC, have separate respective school systems.


Public schools in Washington DC

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) governs all traditional public schools in Washington DC. Public schools accept students based primarily on their location of residence. New arrivals should, therefore, consider carefully where they settle in the city.

While there are public schools that are not up to the standards offered in other major US cities, despite numerous challenges, the city does have some public schools that are among the most reputable in the country. Parents who wish to send their child to a public school should therefore find out where the best schools in the city are located and make sure to find a home in one of these areas. 

Charter schools

New arrivals also have the option of sending their children to a charter school in Washington DC, which function independent of government regulations, despite being publicly funded. Such schools are run by the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board and have more flexible academic programmes than traditional public schools, although they do uphold the state curriculum.

Charter schools have grown in popularity over the past decade, largely due to the perceived flaws of the traditional public schooling system. That said, they too can be inconsistent in terms of quality and many have been closed down in the past for failing to maintain sufficient standards. Parents can rest assured, however, that the ones that remain offer a higher standard of education than traditional public schools. 

Competition for a place at a charter school can be quite high. If more students apply than there is space available, a lottery is held to determine who is admitted. 


Private schools in Washington DC

Many newcomers opt to send their children to private schools in Washington DC. Such schools have complete control over their curricula. As such, it's recommended that parents familiarise themselves thoroughly with an institution before enrolling their children. The Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington is a collection of accredited private schools in the DC area, providing parents with a way to determine a suitable establishment. 

Tuition fees vary considerably among private schools in DC and depend on a number of factors, such as location and the school’s financial endowment. Although this is certainly a pricier option than public school, there are significant perks such as high-quality teachers, effective services and a low teacher-to-student ratio.


International schools in Washington DC

There are two primary candidates for parents looking to enrol their children in an international school in Washington DC: Washington International School and the British School of Washington. Both of these institutions offer the International Baccalaureate Programme.

International schools are considerably more expensive than other schooling options, but they're ideal for families who aren't planning to be in Washington DC for a long period or for children moving from an international school in another country. International schools will provide a more familiar environment, interaction with other expat children, and continuity with their previous curriculum.

Thanks to the city's large expat community, particularly within the diplomatic sector, demand for international schools in Washington DC is high. Parents are advised to apply as soon as possible to secure a place for their children.


Special-needs education in Washington DC

Washington DC has a system of inclusion in place for children with learning and developmental difficulties. DCPS aims to uphold this and provide quality inclusive education and special-needs services to assist students with disabilities with their academic outcomes. That said, as public schools vary in quality, this may not always be the best option. Most private and international schools also offer extra assistance and services to provide the best schooling possible for children with special educational needs.

In cases where a child's disability is too severe for mainstream schooling, there are special-needs schools they can attend. River Terrace is Washington DC's public school designed for children needing high levels of support. Alternatively, there are a number of such private schools in the city. 


Tutors in Washington DC

Whether a child has fallen behind in maths class or is in need of additional support to excel in their college entrance exams, there are plenty of private tutors in Washington DC.

It’s wise to start by asking the child’s school or other parents in the area for a recommendation. Alternatively, one could utilise the services of established tutoring companies, such as Applerouth Tutoring Services or Tutor Me Education. These companies offer an array of packages from subject-specific intensive programmes to one-on-one home tuition. 

Enlisting the services of a private tutor is an excellent opportunity for students to address any gaps in their knowledge, excel at a certain subject, or simply build confidence in their new environment.

Lifestyle in Washington DC

The lifestyle in Washington DC reflects the city's vibrant population. As a city filled with politicians and lobbyists, plenty of time and effort are devoted to boasting about one’s expense account. Fat cats and 'yes men' alike pour their entertainment budgets into the DC scene and, at the very least, ensure that a lively lifestyle is readily accessible to locals and expats alike.

New arrivals in Washington can enjoy a wide enough range of entertainment venues, shops, activities and eateries to satiate their own unique cultural appetite while enjoying all the city has to offer.


Shopping in Washington DC

Shopping is a key activity in Washington DC. The city's oldest neighbourhood, Georgetown, hosts several designer boutiques, and new arrivals can enjoy a scenic shopping and dining experience at picturesque local retail centres such as Georgetown Park and the Washington Harbor.

Newcomers should drop in at the Georgetown Flea Market to browse its selection of antiques, jewellery, books, rugs, toys and linens. They could also head to Penn Quarter and Chinatown for a similar selection.

Another great shopping area is the Dupont Circle neighbourhood. It's full of bookstores and designer boutiques as well as vintage shops. Those exploring the area can also enjoy the FreshFarm Market.


Eating out in Washington DC

Those looking to grab something to eat in Washington DC are spoilt for choice. Being an ethnically diverse capital city, the wide variety of restaurants and cafes cater to both local and international tastes, as well as a range of budgets.

For the more enthusiastic foodies, the city hosts some vibrant food festivals throughout the year. Those wanting sizzling summer sustenance can check out the National Capital Barbecue Battle, while others may enjoy familiarising themselves with the culinary elite at the annual Taste of Georgetown festival.


Nightlife in Washington DC

The nightlife in Washington DC is vibrant, with plenty of variety. Atlas District is one of DC's trendiest areas, while other key areas for night-time entertainment include Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Another particularly popular area is the Penn Quarter, which offers several wine and lounge bars.


Outdoor activities in Washington DC

There are many parks throughout Washington DC that are usually bustling with happy families, doting romantics and chatty picnickers. Such parks are an ideal place to get away, enjoy the fresh air and throw a frisbee around.

DC is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, with many exclusive bicycle lanes and trails that elevate cycling to a perfectly valid form of eco-friendly transportation.

The city also caters to sports enthusiasts of all types, with frequent opportunities to spectate not only baseball and American football games, but also soccer, rugby, tennis, ice hockey and even lacrosse. The city boasts several major sports stadiums, such as the RFK Stadium and Nationals Park, which host weekly matches for the city’s various professional teams.

For new arrivals looking to play sports in Washington DC, there are plenty of health and fitness centres in and around the city that offer sporting facilities.

Although the outdoor activities within the city area itself may seem rather limited to especially adventurous new arrivals, the many idyllic camping and hiking spots in neighbouring Maryland and Virginia should be more than enough consolation.

See and Do in Washington DC

There are plenty of iconic sights and must-see attractions in Washington DC. While those living there on a more permanent basis will likely become immune to the grandeur of statues and public buildings that rightfully impress tourists, the city's world-class museums are certainly worth repeat visits. Here's a list of the best things to see and do in Washington DC.


Recommended sightseeing in Washington DC

National Mall

The National Mall is a national park in the heart of the city. It constitutes a tree-lined strip stretching two miles (3km) from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and is surrounded by many of DC's key attractions and monuments.

US Capitol Building

The US Capitol Building is DC’s most popular landmark and is home to the US government. It contains the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the Supreme Court and one of the three branches of the Library of Congress – the largest library in the world. The building is open to the public for tours. 

White House

The White House has been the residence and administrative headquarters of every president of the United States since 1800. Tours are available and provide a fascinating insight into the House’s previous inhabitants.

Washington Monument

Located at the National Mall, this tributary obelisk is one of the tallest masonry structures in the world and offers great views of the city from the gallery.

Lincoln Memorial

Built in the Greek style as a tribute to the fathers of American democracy, the Lincoln Memorial salutes the 16th US president, Abraham Lincoln. A number of important marches and speeches have taken place here, including Martin Luther King’s 'I Have a Dream' speech.

Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum, education and research complex. It's made up of 19 museums and galleries of unparalleled quality as well as a zoo. Receiving approximately 30 million visitors a year, this attraction is a must-see.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is the most popular art museum in North America and houses one of the world’s leading collections of artworks. Art buffs and casual visitors alike are sure to enjoy taking in the work of many of history's most renowned artists, such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet and more.

US Holocaust Memorial Museum

This museum is rated as one of the city’s best museums and is dedicated to studying and remembering the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis on European Jews from 1933 to 1945. The museum is open six days a week and is free to visit. 

What's On in Washington DC

Washington DC is a historical and cultural centre of the United States and there are many great festivals and celebrations highlighting the country's diversity and honouring its heroes and significant achievements.

Here are some of the most popular annual events in Washington DC to look forward to.


Annual events in Washington DC

Martin Luther King Day (January)

The life of Martin Luther King Jr is honoured annually in January, the month of his birthday. A number of commemorative events take place around the city on the third Monday in January. Events include a wreath-laying service at the Martin Luther King Memorial and a parade. The day is also designated as a national day of community service.

St Patrick’s Day Parade (March)

Washington DC’s version of this famous event is a family day out to celebrate the unique culture of Ireland. Expect dancers and singers, Irish musicians, marching bands, pipe bands and floats.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April)

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival Parade is a fun and colourful event that takes place along Constitution Avenue. Floats, marching bands and celebrity performers put on a grand spectacle of music and entertainment in a celebration of spring.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival (July)

This unique Washington DC tradition is the city's largest annual cultural event, attracting around a million people a year. The festival aims to celebrate the heritage of different states and regions as well as international communities. Attendees can enjoy music and dance performances, storytelling, exhibitions, and delicious tastings of traditional foods.

National Independence Day Parade (July)

Washington DC is the place to celebrate the Fourth of July in America. The city comes alive with a huge and impressive parade, numerous music performances, arts-and-crafts festivals, a famous evening performance by the National Symphony Orchestra on the steps of the Capitol Building, and of course a massive fireworks display.

National Book Festival (August/September)

The National Book Festival is an annual celebration of literature, involving a full day of book signings and performances as well as a poetry slam and select film screenings. This festival is a great place for new arrivals to feed their literary appetite and broaden their cultural understanding of the United States through representatives from across the country showcasing books from their states.

National Christmas Tree and Pageant of Peace (December)

This unique festival celebrating the holiday season takes place amidst decorated trees all around the White House Ellipse, with a Santa's Workshop and musical performances from bands, choirs and dancers. The celebration includes a National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, in which the president turns on the decorative lights and ushers in Christmas festivity across the country.

Frequently Asked Questions about Washington DC

People moving to Washington DC are sure to have queries and concerns about their soon-to-be new home. That's why we've answered some of the most frequently asked questions about life in the US capital.

How do I find cheap accommodation in Washingon DC?

Although the cost of renting property is very high in DC, it can also be easier to find affordable short-term rentals at certain times of the year. There's a large student population in DC that usually vacates for the summer. Sub-letting apartments over university holidays is a cheap means of first renting apartments in the city. Universities also often rent out unused student housing during the summer months. 

Alternatively, choosing to live outside of the city centre will decrease accommodation prices. Towns on the border of Virginia and Maryland are also an option for those working in DC but looking for cheaper rentals and don't mind a lengthy commute. 

What is the job market like in DC?

The largest employer in Washington DC is the US government, but there are also opportunities in sectors like defence contracting, lobbying, non-profit organisations and publishing. The service industry is also thriving, and new arrivals may be able to find a job in education, hospitality, healthcare, or finance. 

Is Washington DC safe?

Unfortunately, more crime occurs in Washington DC than might be expected of the capital of the US. This is largely due to the unequal distribution of wealth in the city. Safety precautions, as taken in any cosmopolitan centre, should be used to minimise risks. Newcomers should be vigilant taking the metro late at night. 

What is the weather like in DC?

The summer months of July and August get extremely humid with temperatures hovering around 86°F (30°C). Winters are coldest during December and January when temperatures can drop to freezing. There's also occasional snowfall during this time. Spring and autumn, on the other hand, bring lovely, warm weather to Washington DC and are favourite times of the year for visitors to the city. 

Getting Around in Washington DC

Washington DC is home to one of the USA’s most active populations, with many of the capital’s residents choosing to walk or cycle to work if they live close to the city centre. The city does, however, have a solid public transport network to assist commuters which includes various train and bus services.

New arrivals will find that most places in the city centre are located close to one another and sometimes walking, rather than driving or taking public transport, can actually be the quickest way to get somewhere.


Public transport in Washington DC

Washington DC’s public transport network consists of train and bus services. This network is operated on an integrated ticketing system, which covers all modes of transport.

SmarTrip card

New arrivals who plan on travelling in and around DC via public transport will need to buy a SmarTrip card, which can be purchased online or at a station. The card can be used on the Metrorail as well as on the Metrobus and DC Circulator. It's also possible to load flat-rate passes onto the card which give commuters an unlimited number of trips within a certain period. Otherwise, SmarTrip cards can be topped up online, at any Metro station and selected stores in the city.

Metrorail

The Metrorail lies at the heart of Washington DC’s public transport network. This system consists of six colour-coded lines which run primarily underground to serve downtown, and overground to some of Washington’s surrounding suburbs. The Metrorail operates until midnight daily but begins at 5am,7am or 8am depending on the day of the week. 

While Washington DC’s metro is clean, safe and user-friendly, commuters often complain about the irregularity of services caused primarily by track maintenance and periodic breakdowns.

DC Circulator

Washington DC’s bus system is useful for commuters as it allows them to reach destinations not covered by the city’s metro system.

The DC Circulator buses are shuttle services which operate on six fixed routes and follow a specific schedule. These shuttles primarily connect the main areas in the city centre with some of the popular residential neighbourhoods. The shuttles run approximately every 10 or 15 minutes.

Metrobus

Washington DC’s Metrobus service consists of hundreds of routes that cover the greater Washington DC area and serves areas that commuters can't reach using the Metrorail or DC Circulator services. These buses operate daily, beginning in the early morning until 11pm or 1am on weekends, while specific late night buses operate through the night on certain routes. 


Taxis in Washington DC

There are a huge number of cab companies to choose from in Washington DC, and taxis can be paid for by either cash or card. Taxis use a metered fare system and can be hailed on the street or ordered over the phone. Drivers are required to take passengers anywhere within the Metropolitan area of Washington DC, but most drivers are reluctant to travel out to Maryland and Virginia.

Rideshare services, such as Uber and Lyft, also operate in Washington DC. These services can be cheaper than using a regular taxi and new arrivals will have the advantage of knowing the fare before hand.


Cycling in Washington DC

The residents of Washington love to cycle and new arrivals will find that cycling is a great way to get around the city.

The city has an excellent bike-sharing system. The Capital Bikeshare network consists of more than 6,100 bicycles that can be picked up and dropped off at any one of the 600 docking stations across the city. 

The government has taken steps to make Washington DC more cyclist-friendly by increasing the number of dedicated cycle lanes as well as the amount of safe bicycle storage facilities. This has certainly paid off as the city was named a "Gold" Bicycle Friendly Community in 2018, and it is currently the third most bike-friendly city in the US. Bicycles can also be brought onto both the Metrorail and Metrobuses in DC. 


Driving in Washington DC

Driving in Washington DC is something that's best avoided, if possible. With the many excellent alternatives available, the majority of the capital’s residents opt to use public transport or cycle to work rather than driving, especially in the city centre.

Those who decide to drive in Washington DC will find that parking is expensive and hard to find. Traffic is also routinely congested and navigation is made complex by the one-way roads dotting the city centre.