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Moving to Pittsburgh

Located in western Pennsylvania in the United States, the beautifully scenic and often undersold city of Pittsburgh is positioned at the confluence of three rivers. The city therefore has quite a number of bridges – more than 400, in fact, and it's thanks to this that Pittsburgh is often fondly referred to as the 'City of Bridges'.

Though, for the same reason, it can take new arrivals a while to figure out how to navigate the complicated network of roads and bridges.

The second most populous city in the state, Pittsburgh is a major centre of steel production, education and technology. Apart from steel, other thriving industries include glass, aluminium and petroleum. There are over 1,600 technology companies with a presence in the city, including industry giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple. 

Pittsburgh also has dozens of higher education institutions, including Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, both of which are industry leaders in research and development.

Parents moving to Pittsburgh with children will be glad to know that the city's reputation for high-quality education extends to its public schools, with magnet and charter schools being especially highly regarded. While there are no schools in Pittsburgh offering a foreign curriculum, there are language-immersion schools and schools that teach the International Baccalaureate.

Pittsburgh locals are generally friendly and welcoming, so new arrivals shouldn't find it too hard to settle in. There is also plenty to see and do, and the city has a brimming events calendar. Sports fans will enjoy Pittsburgh's fanatic sports culture, and supporting local teams can be a great way to meet people.

The city offers a laid-back lifestyle and for those who enjoy a drink or two, there are new breweries, wineries and distilleries constantly springing up all over the city. Culture vultures will have plenty of museums and galleries to keep them occupied.

There's a lot to love about life in the City of Bridges. Pittsburgh offers a good quality of life while maintaining a low cost of living, and, as a proudly diverse region with a multicultural heritage, new arrivals will have no trouble settling in quickly. 

Weather in Pittsburgh

Newcomers to Pittsburgh will discover that the city's climate fluctuates between humid continental and humid subtropical, with four distinct seasons. Pittsburgh winters, between December and February, are cold, with average temperatures between 21°F (-6°C) and 39°F (4°C), although the mercury often drops much lower.

In spring, things warm up quickly, while summers, between June and August, are hot and sunny with temperatures averaging between 58°F (14°C) and 82°F (28°C). Pittsburgh receives heavy rainfall, which is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, but late spring and summer tend to be the wettest. Some snow does fall in winter.

 

Cost of living in Pittsburgh

While it would be somewhat misleading to call Pittsburgh a cheap place to live, expats are likely to be pleasantly surprised at the cost of living in the City of Bridges.

In Mercer's 2020 Cost of Living Survey, Pittsburgh was ranked 91st out of 209 cities surveyed. This puts it well below other major cities in the US, and ranks it far lower than the likes of New York City (6th), San Francisco (16th) and Los Angeles (17th).


Cost of accommodation in Pittsburgh

Though accommodation costs are rising in Pittsburgh, it is still a relatively inexpensive place to rent or buy property. However, new arrivals should be aware that utilities are fairly pricey in Pittsburgh and can add a fair bit to monthly expenses, especially during the cold winters.


Cost of transport in Pittsburgh

Most areas are well connected to well-priced public transport, and those who live a few miles from the downtown area have the option of cycling or walking.

Thanks to the good public transport system, it's not a necessity to own a car in Pittsburgh. That said, those with children or who live far out from the central area might need to invest in one. This can be pricey, especially as gas (petrol) is more expensive in Pittsburgh than in many other US cities.


Cost of education in Pittsburgh

There are plenty of excellent public schools in Pittsburgh, which children can attend free of charge. This includes charter and magnet schools. Private schools, on the other hand, charge school fees and can be expensive.


Cost of living in Pittsburgh chart

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

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,260

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 900

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,980

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,420

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

USD 2

Milk (1 litre)

USD 1.05

Rice (1kg)

USD 4

Loaf of white bread

USD 3.20

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 10.80

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 9

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2

Cappuccino

USD 3.70

Bottle of beer (local)

USD 4

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

USD 60

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

USD 0.14

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 75

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water and refuse)

USD 180

Transportation

Taxi rate per km

USD 1.55

Bus fare in the city centre 

USD 2.75

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 0.75

Accommodation in Pittsburgh

Newcomers looking for accommodation in Pittsburgh will discover that the city has something to suit everyone. Whether new arrivals are in search of a family-friendly home in the suburbs or a studio apartment in the city centre, they're bound to find something that fits their budget and needs.

Most new arrivals rent property at first in order to get to know the city and its neighbourhoods. It’s generally cheaper to rent than buy property in Pittsburgh, although buying can be a good investment in the long run as housing prices continue to rise.


Types of accommodation in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is fast-growing city and as such, an eclectic mix of housing styles can be found. There are plenty of new developments popping up, including luxury condos and apartments. Most of these are in the city centre. Further out, housing is more spacious and not as modern.

Apartments

Apartment living tend to be most common close to the downtown area. Apartments are a good choice for young people who want to live close to the action in the city centre. Generally, apartment complexes in Pittsburgh are in good condition.

Condos

Condos are similar to apartments but with a wider range of communal facilities such as gardens, swimming pools, fitness centres and laundry facilities. Condo living is a great option for new arrivals, as these complexes have a noticeable sense of community, which is conducive to making friends.

Duplexes

Duplexes and fourplexes consist of either two or four living units attached to each other in some manner. These are often found in areas located close to the central areas.

Houses

When it comes to houses, there is huge variety in Pittsburgh. Sure, one will need to move further away from the city centre to have the best pick, but houses in Pittsburgh tend to be spacious and good value for money. These mainly consist of ranch, American foursquare and row houses.


Finding accommodation in Pittsburgh

When looking for accommodation in Pittsburgh, the internet is a great place to start. Online property portals can give expats a good idea of what’s available at what price. Most newcomers to the city will rent a property via a local real-estate firm.


Renting accommodation in Pittsburgh

Once new arrivals have narrowed down their preferences in terms of the type of housing and suitable suburbs, finding a property shouldn’t prove too difficult.

The rental process

When prospective tenants have found a property they’d like to rent they’ll need to start by filing an application. Depending on the situation, they can either do this directly through the landlord or via the agent overseeing the property. As long as all the relevant checks and references are verified, a lease can be signed. Foreign nationals moving to Pittsburgh will benefit from having their US bank account and social security number set up as this will speed up the whole rental process.

Leases

A standard rental contract in Pittsburgh is usually valid for a year with the option to renew at the end of the initial term. Depending on where in the city one hopes to live, it may also be possible for tenants to negotiate a shorter lease.

Deposits

According to the Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law, a landlord may charge a tenant the equivalent of two months' rent for the security deposit for the first year of renting and the equivalent of one month's rent during all subsequent years of renting.

Some landlords may also require tenants to take out renter's insurance.

Utilities

Renters need to carefully check the terms of their lease to determine which utilities are included and what additional expenses they’d be liable to pay for. In most instances, the landlord covers standard utilities such as gas, electricity and water, while tenants will be expected to pay for telephone services, internet and TV.

Areas and suburbs in Pittsburgh

The best places to live in Pittsburgh

With such a wide variety of areas and suburbs in Pittsburgh, expats will have loads of options when it comes to deciding which neighbourhood suits them best. There’s something for everyone – from buzzing inner-city areas to tranquil family-friendly suburbs.

Below are some options worth considering.


City living in Pittsburgh

Liberty avenue

Bloomfield

Affectionately known as the ‘Little Italy of Pittsburgh’, Bloomfield is popular among students and young professionals. Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh are both nearby, while the downtown area is just a 15-minute drive away. Public transport links are good, and the area is home to numerous authentic Italian restaurants and cafés.

Lawrenceville

Lawrenceville is considered by many to be Pittsburgh’s major up-and-coming area. Its trendy industrial aesthetic and artsy atmosphere is a major draw for residents, not to mention the very reasonable cost of rental homes in this area. As a bonus, expats moving to Lawrenceville will find they have some of Pittsburgh’s best nightlife right on their doorstep.


Family-friendly suburbs in Pittsburgh

Mount Washington

Mount Washington

Hailed by many as Pittsburgh’s most scenic neighbourhood, Mount Washington offers a stunning panoramic view of the city below. The area has plenty of green spaces and excellent schools. All sorts of accommodation can be found here, from humble apartments and townhouses to spacious family homes and even a few mansions for the well-heeled.

Squirrel Hill

With a number of highly rated schools and over 1,100 acres of parks, Squirrel Hill is the ideal place to raise a family. This lush and affluent neighbourhood is pricey but offers a high quality of life – it’s also one of the most culturally diverse areas in Pittsburgh.

Education and schools in Pittsburgh

Home to the renowned Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh values education highly. The quality of local public schools is high, with options including charter and magnet schools. There are also private schools that base their teaching on religious or alternative education methods. While there are no schools teaching foreign curricula in Pittsburgh, a handful of schools in the city and its surrounds do offer the globally recognised International Baccalaureate.

Parents looking at schools in Pittsburgh will have to consider many factors, such as proximity to home and work, particular neighbourhoods, the specific educational needs of the child, and budgetary concerns.


Public schools in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s public schools generally have a good reputation, though naturally some outperform others. Since school attendance is assigned based on residential zones, it’s a good idea to do thorough research before deciding where to live. If unsure about a school, parents should check its Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) score, which measures reading, writing, mathematics and science achievements.

Charter and magnet schools

Like public schools, charter and magnet schools receive state funding. However, they are generally considered to be more culturally diverse, offering a more personalised education. Charter schools follow the state curriculum but are self-managed, meaning they are typically more innovative and flexible in their teaching styles than traditional public schools. Magnet schools, on the other hand, have specialised curricula in fields such as the arts, science and languages.

Magnet schools offering language immersion are a decent substitute for the lack of international schools in Pittsburgh. These schools are not bilingual but do teach a foreign language daily. From Pre-K to Grade 5, there are various schools offering this programme for Mandarin, Spanish and French. From Grade 6 onwards, students at these schools usually continue at the Obama Academy of International Studies, which teaches the International Baccalaureate.


Private schools in Pittsburgh

There are a number of private schools in Pittsburgh offering a high standard of education. These schools are often based on alternative education models, such as Montessori or Waldorf, or are religious schools.

Unlike public schools, private schools charge fees, so expats planning on taking this route should ensure there’s enough budget for it. A distinct advantage of private schools is that they aren’t zoned, so families have more options of where to live.


Homeschooling in Pittsburgh

Newly arrived parents in Pittsburgh will be pleased to know that they can legally homeschool their children. It's important, though, that they make sure they comply with the education laws of Pennsylvania.

The person who will be acting as the educator needs to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Parents also need to file a notarised affidavit with the local superintendent before they start the homeschool programme. The affidavit should, among other points, assure that subjects will be taught in English and outline the proposed education objectives by subject area. Parents of children with special needs need to also get their education plan approved by a state-certified special education teacher or licensed clinical or school psychologist.

Children need to be taught 180 days in a year. There are various compulsory courses that need to be taught depending on the student's school level. Parents are also required to keep a portfolio that includes documentations such as a log, student work samples and standardised testing. This portfolio needs to be submitted annually to be evaluated by a licensed psychologist or a teacher certified by the state.

Alternatively, parents can choose to employ a private tutor to take on the homeschool responsibilities. They can also choose to enrol their child in a satellite of an accredited day or boarding school. These two options still allow children to be taught at home, but it lowers the responsibility placed on parents.


Special-needs education in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh provides an extensive range of educational services and support for students with special needs in public schools. These services include learning support, emotional support, autistic support, life-skills support and multiple-disabilities support.

Outside of the public school system, the city has a number of excellent private schools that practise inclusive education. Pittsburgh also has several schools that cater to specific disabilities such as schools for the deaf, the blind, and students with other special education needs.


Tutoring in Pittsburgh

Many Pittsburgh parents choose to have their children tutored. There are a vast number of options available to students who require extra help with specific school subjects. Some of the top tutoring companies in Pittsburgh include Pittsburgh Tutor and Pittsburgh Prep. Parents who don't want to work through a tutoring service will find that there are also a number of private tutors in the city ranging from retired teachers to university students.

Lifestyle in Pittsburgh

Those moving to the City of Bridges will have plenty to keep themselves busy during their downtime. Pittsburgh has something for everyone, whether expats prefer to shop up a storm, party the night away or dine out at excellent eateries.


Shopping in Pittsburgh

The downtown area is the shopping hub in Pittsburgh and is home to the city's 'diamond district', a collection of high-end jewellery stores. The area has a range of well-known department stores as well as boutique clothing stores.

For expats on a budget, outlet shopping is a great way to spruce up one's wardrobe at a fraction of the usual price. Grove City Premium Outlets is less than an hour outside of Pittsburgh and has more than 130 outlet stores for the ultimate shopping experience. There's also Tanger Outlets in Washington County, south of the city, which has over 80 outlet stores.


Eating out and groceries in Pittsburgh

From local legends to elite fine-dining restaurants, foodies are sure to find something to tickle their taste buds. Pizza lovers can weigh in on a decades-old debate by trying the pizza at both Mineo's and Aiello's, two legendary pizzerias located just a few doors down from each other in Squirrel Hill. Throughout Pittsburgh, there are also plenty of excellent upscale eateries to be explored.

When shopping for groceries, Pittsburgh has all the nationwide chains that one would expect, but expats looking for a taste of home should head to The Strip, which is well known for its selection of speciality and international grocery stores.


Nightlife in Pittsburgh

With a wide variety of local wineries, breweries and distilleries, Pittsburgh is a great city for those who enjoy a drink. There are also cocktail bars, rooftop lounges and beer gardens scattered throughout the city. Top areas for a fun night out include trendy Lawrenceville, student-friendly Oakland and local favourite Bloomfield.


Arts and culture in Pittsburgh

Culture enthusiasts will be in seventh heaven with all that the Steel City has to offer. The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh are a must-see and are comprised of an art museum, a natural history museum, a science museum and the famed Andy Warhol Museum. Dedicated to the renowned pop culture artist from Pittsburgh, the museum showcases his legacy and influence on modern culture.

Those interested in theatre will be pleased to know that Pittsburgh is a regular stop for touring Broadway productions. In addition, the city has its own thriving theatre scene, where theatre buffs can enjoy high-quality productions of plays, musicals, ballets and operas.


Outdoor activities and sport in Pittsburgh

There's plenty to keep outdoorsy residents occupied in Pittsburgh. The city has a number of excellent parks and trails that lend themselves to excellent hiking and cycling. For those who prefer to exercise indoors, Pittsburgh has a wide selection of gyms offering all sorts of equipment and classes, ranging from boxing to aerial yoga and more.

With a number of stadiums in Pittsburgh, sport fans moving to the city will be in a prime spot for taking in some world-class sporting games. Locals love to support the city's three major teams – the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL), the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (Major League Baseball). Joining Pittsburghers in cheering on their teams is a great way to make some friends.

See and do in Pittsburgh

New arrivals to Pittsburgh will discover a wealth of things to see and do in this buzzing Pennsylvania metro. Culture vultures will have no shortage of museums, galleries and historical attractions to explore, while the kids will also have plenty to keep them entertained, including the exciting Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Zoo.


Popular attractions in Pittsburgh

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Enjoyed by both young and old, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History educates and entertains in equal measure. The museum explores our planet’s natural and cultural past and features exhibits ranging from dinosaurs, geology and wildlife to Ancient Egypt and Native American history. The little ones will love the interactive Discovery Basecamp exhibit and the Bone Hunter's Quarry, where they can dig up their own replica fossils.

Carnegie Science Center

A winner with the kids, the Science Center offers more than 250 hands-on exhibits that explore everything science and tech, from cars, planes and energy to the solar system and space exploration. There’s also plenty to do here, and visitors will need an entire day to take full advantage of attractions such as the indoor climbing and zipline courses, the four-storey Omnimax Theater, and the Henry Buhl Jr Planetarium and Observatory. Don’t miss out on the Miniature Railroad and Village, which exhibits Pennsylvania’s history with animated miniature horse-drawn carriages, cars, trucks and aeroplanes. Visitors can also marvel at the USS Requin, a World War II submarine, with guided tours by former submariners.

Phipps Conservatory

Situated in Schenley Park, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a popular family outing that boasts gorgeous gardens and a 13-room Victorian glasshouse with seasonal exhibits such as orchids, bonsai trees and other intricate flora. The gardens also contain a Tropical Forest Conservatory and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, which address issues such as water conservation and energy use. The kids will enjoy the Discovery Garden, which offers children's activities, and the Garden Railroad, where they can explore the tropical Treasure Island.

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium make up five animal habitats that include everything from marine life and coastal wildlife to forest dwellers, island animals and plains game of the African savannah. Kids adore interacting with the animals, and environmentally concerned parents can rest assured that it is a responsible zoo with great focus on the rescue, rehabilitation and conservation of animals.

Duquesne Incline

A fun activity for the whole family, this funicular is also a working museum that has been running since 1877. It takes passengers to the affluent Mount Washington neighbourhood atop the hill, and the cars offer spectacular views over the city on the way up. Once arrived at the upper section, riders can look at photos and displays on the history of the incline, as well as the inner workings of it.

What's on in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's calendar is chock-full of events, and new arrivals will have no shortage of festivities to pick and choose from. They're also a great way to meet people and make friends, and newcomers to the city should take full advantage. 

Below are some of the more prominent events on Pittsburgh's calendar.


Annual events in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week's Winter Celebration (January)

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is a great time for new arrivals to discover all the eateries in their new city. Discounted prices, special offers and a festive atmosphere make this a week not to miss out on. 

St. Patrick's Day Parade (March)

Like many cities across America, Pittsburgh rises to the occasion when it comes to St Paddy’s Day, complete with a parade, marching bands, floats and a Miss Irish Eyes crowning luncheon.

Pittsburgh Earth Day Festival (April)

Newcomers to Pittsburgh will enjoy the citywide celebration of sustainability, which toasts the city’s evolution from its Steel City past to its green future. Attendees shouldn’t miss out on events such as the Eco Short Film Showcase and the Growing Up Green Festival.

Pittsburgh Pride (June)

One of the biggest parties of the year, Pittsburgh Pride should definitely not be missed. The festival celebrates the city’s LBGTQ+ community, and with more than 185,000 attendees last time round, it keeps getting bigger and better.

Rock, Reggae & Relief (August)

Visitors sway to the sweet rhythms of reggae and rock at this Caribbean-inspired benefit festival, which seeks to promote the city’s culture scene while also giving back to those in need. 

A Fair in the Park (September)

One for the art lovers, A Fair in the Park is held at Mellon Park and celebrates art in a variety of forms, including clay, fibre, wood, jewellery, glass, metal and mixed media, and features the work of more than 100 local and national artists. 

Light Up Night (November)

Newcomers to Pittsburgh will know the holiday season has officially kicked off when the Christmas tree is lit up in Downtown Pittsburgh. A beautiful spectacle, it also gives new arrivals the chance to mingle with locals.

Getting Around in Pittsburgh

Getting around in Pittsburgh is relatively easy thanks to a well-developed public transport system consisting of buses, light rail and inclines. Downtown is a compact area and parts of Pittsburgh are very pedestrian- and cycle-friendly. Anyone living in the city centre is unlikely to need a car, though families and those living in the suburbs might find that driving makes their lives easier.

Pittsburgh's public transport system is run by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which operates an integrated ticketing system mainly based around the ConnectCard smartcard. It can be loaded with credit and is valid for all three modes of public transport, as well as bicycle rental.


Public transport in Pittsburgh

Buses

Pittsburgh's fleet of more than 800 buses is a great way to get around. There are both regular and rapid transit bus services. Rapid transit services have their own busways, allowing them to skip traffic. There are currently three operational busways.

It's worth mentioning that most bus routes terminate downtown, so commuters that need to get from one side of Pittsburgh to the other will likely need to make at least one transfer to get there.

Light rail

Known as 'the T', Pittsburgh's light rail system is clean, efficient and convenient. With three lines and more than 50 stops, the T is fairly comprehensive and is used by many for their commute.

The T can be an affordable mode of transport, given that its downtown route is free of charge from First Avenue to Allegheny.

Funicular

There are two historical funiculars in operation in Pittsburgh: the Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline, both of which run between different parts of South Shore and Mount Washington. The Monongahela Incline is the oldest continuously operating funicular in the United States.

The inclines are great for experiencing a part of history while enjoying a panoramic view of the city. For those living in the area, they can be a useful form of transport, but are mostly a tourist attraction.


Taxis in Pittsburgh

Hailing a cab in the City of Bridges isn't as simple as one might think. Unless riders are in Downtown, hailing one off the street is unlikely and the better option would be to call for one in advance. Most taxis operating in Downtown, called City Cabs, are black and white and can be hailed off the street, but the city does have hundreds of other cab companies one could call.

Ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Lyft also operate in Pittsburgh.


Driving in Pittsburgh

Most new arrivals will find they don't need a car, especially if they live in the downtown area. Parking is expensive, and gas (petrol) prices in Pittsburgh are some of the highest in the US. In addition, downtown can be difficult to navigate, as streets are not laid out in a grid pattern, consist of hundreds of one-ways, 400 bridges and a busy network of crisscrossing freeways.

However, for expats with children or those who wish to travel outside the city, owning a car can be highly useful. For the first year of residency, those moving to Pittsburgh from abroad will be able to drive on a valid foreign driver's licence. It isn't necessary to have an international driving permit, although this can make things easier. After a year, expats are required to replace their foreign licence with a Pennsylvania licence. This often requires going through theoretical and possibly practical testing.


Cycling in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a fairly cycle-friendly city, with several dedicated cycling trails and lanes. It's possible to travel with a bicycle on any form of public transport.

Those who don't have their own bicycle can opt to use the city's bicycle-sharing scheme, known as 'Healthy Ride Pittsburgh'. Holders of ConnectCards are entitled to unlimited free 15-minute trips. Any ride over 15 minutes is charged to the ConnectCard.