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Moving to Columbus

Columbus is the stunning capital city of the state of Ohio in the US, and is attracting more and more newcomers every year. It's easy to see why too. With the shimmering Scioto River and its tributaries filtering in through the city, Columbus is an urban paradise. Ravines and creeks dot the landscape as skyscrapers jostle for space in the city centre. Just beyond the Downtown area, the 19th-century brick houses of the German District and the ornate historical homes in the Victorian district add a unique flavour to the city.

Columbus has a robust and diverse economy with the tech industry being the largest contributor. There’s a thriving start-up culture and innovation is the name of the game. There are also job opportunities in areas such as education, healthcare, insurance, retail and construction.

The cost of living in Columbus is reasonable and new arrivals will soon find their dollars stretching further here than in many other American cities. Accommodation is well priced, offering value for money, and public schooling can be accessed free of charge.

One downside of living in Columbus is the limited public transport. With just a bus system and no form of rail transport, new arrivals will find it tough to get by without a car, an extra expense that can absorb a fair chunk of one’s budget.

Those needing a break from the rat race need not go far to find some serenity – the city’s various green spaces offer respite in the midst of the bustle and provide a great place for playing sports, picnicking and enjoying the sunshine.

Some overlook Columbus in favour of Cincinnati or Cleveland, but this thriving metropolis has something for everyone and is well worth exploring. The lifestyle, with plenty of options for nightlife, entertainment and dining out, is the cherry on top.

Weather in Columbus

The climate in Columbus is characterised by cold, dry winters from December to February and hot, humid summers from June to August. Spring and autumn, meanwhile, are much milder and more pleasant than winter and summer.

Summer temperatures tend to hover around the 86°F (30°C) mark. Winter is chilly with daytime temperatures rarely rising above 41°F (5°C) and winter nights typically below freezing.

Weather hazards to look out for include lightning and large hailstones. Like much of the Midwest, Columbus is also vulnerable to tornadoes. To stay safe, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest weather news and follow any warnings or alerts issued.

Cost of living in Columbus

The cost of living in Columbus is one of the city's biggest drawcards, and new arrivals will be glad to know that they can get more bang for their buck here than in many other major US cities. Most expenses in Columbus come in at well below US and Ohio averages. In Numbeo's 2020 Cost of Living Index for the USA, Columbus held a middling rank as the country's 36th most expensive city out of 76 cities analysed.

Among these expenses, the largest portion of a person's salary will likely go to accommodation and utilities. Transport expenses will also have to be budgeted for, as a vehicle is more or less a necessity in Columbus.


Cost of accommodation in Columbus

When it comes to accommodation, Columbus has plenty of high-quality options at exceedingly reasonable prices. Rental prices are low compared to the US average, and buying property in Columbus is generally considered a good investment thanks to the continuous healthy growth of the real-estate industry.

The cost of utilities won't break the bank either, as they tend to hover around the same price as the US average.


Cost of transport and driving in Columbus

Options for public transport are few in Columbus, and those living outside of the city centre will almost certainly need to own a car to get around. The combined cost of purchasing, maintaining and insuring a car makes transport a pricier endeavour than in cities with good public transport systems.


Cost of healthcare in Columbus

Healthcare in Columbus is of a high quality. While generally cheaper than in other major cities, healthcare costs in Columbus can quickly add up, which may come as a surprise to those relocating to the US from countries with publicly-funded healthcare systems. In order to access the good quality of care offered in Columbus, we recommend newcomers invest in a good health insurance policy so that costs are covered.


Cost of entertainment in Columbus

While lifestyle preferences will have a significant impact on entertainment expenses, those keeping a close eye on their budget will still be able to find great bargains thanks to the wide variety of options on offer.

With seemingly boundless natural attractions in the form of parks, rivers and lakes, alongside cultural attractions such as galleries and museums, there's plenty to do in Columbus without spending a cent. On the other hand, a night out at a high-end cocktail bar or at one of Columbus's top notch eateries can result in a hefty bill.


Cost of education in Columbus

Apart from minor expenses such as stationery and school lunches, public education is available at no cost to both US and foreign residents of Columbus. As is the case in most cities, public schools can be a mixed bag with some performing poorly while others are high achievers.

Since school attendance is determined by zoning, securing a place at a good public school does depend on where the family lives. More expensive areas tend to have better schools. Still, with the high-value, low-cost accommodation on offer in Columbus, even comparatively expensive areas are well priced.

Private schools are another option and aren't bound by catchment areas, which gives families more freedom in choosing where to live. Private school fees and obligatory extras are usually pricey, though, so parents should ensure their budget can accommodate the cost before committing to sending a child to private school.


Cost of living in Columbus chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for February 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,130

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 860

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,770

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,330

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

USD 1.70

Milk (1 litre)

USD 0.66

Rice (1kg)

USD 3.70

Loaf of white bread

USD 2.40

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 8.60

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 7

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 1.90

Cappuccino

USD 4

Bottle of local beer

USD 4

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

USD 57

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

USD 0.20

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

USD 57

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

USD 178

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

USD 1.84

Bus/train fare in the city centre

USD 2

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

USD 0.62

Accommodation in Columbus

More and more people from elsewhere in the US and beyond are deciding to put down roots in Ohio's lovely, lively capital. Columbus boasts a vast range of accommodation options to suit just about every taste and budget and, though rising, rental costs in the city are still well below the US average. Most newcomers rent rather than buy, at least initially, as this gives them time to get to know the local areas and suburbs before committing to a long-term solution.


Types of accommodation in Columbus

There are a variety of housing options in Columbus to suit everyone from young singles to large families. Here are a few of the types of housing expats will be able to choose from in Columbus.

Standalone houses

The most common type of accommodation in Columbus is standalone homes. These are most commonly found in the suburbs and are generally spacious with a front and back yard, making them perfect for families.

Apartments

Though apartments are mostly concentrated in the city centre, they can be found throughout Columbus. Some apartments are housed in purpose-built buildings, while others are part of a larger house split into smaller units.

Rowhouses

Rowhouses are multi-storey homes that share one or more walls with houses on either side of them, forming a line. These are prevalent in historical areas throughout Columbus, such as Italian Village, German Village, Olde Town East and University District.

Townhouses

Some use the term "townhouse" interchangeably with "rowhouse". The term "townhouse" generally implies a more spacious abode, perhaps connected with only one other house. This applies loosely in listings, so expats who specifically want the space of a townhouse should be aware that an ad for a supposed townhouse might, in fact, be for a rowhouse.

Residential complexes

Residential complexes usually house a variety of different accommodation types at various sizes. Tenants living in these complexes typically have access to a host of on-site facilities such as pools, fitness centres, clubhouses and media centres.


Finding accommodation in Columbus

The most common way of finding a place to rent in Columbus is to make use of one of the many popular online property portals. It's a good idea to start browsing ahead of the move to get an idea of the various options and general price ranges. We'd advise that prospective residents never agree to rent a property without seeing it in person first. 

Those newcomers who prefer not to do too much of the legwork themselves can consider making use of a real-estate agent. There are a lot of advantages to doing so, including the benefit of a local agent's knowledge of Columbus's residential market and the pros and cons of various areas.


Renting accommodation in Columbus

Making an application

Once a suitable home is found, the next step is making a rental application. Applicants will usually have to undergo a credit check and provide proof of income to show that they're in good financial standing and able to afford the cost of rent. References from previous landlords are often also required.

Expats with no rental or credit history in the US may be able to bypass these requirements by having their employer act as a guarantor instead.

Leases

Most leases are for 12 months by default, but some landlords are fairly flexible on this, offering either shorter or longer options depending on the needs of the tenant.

Deposits

Before moving in, tenants will be asked to pay a deposit, usually equivalent to one or two months' rent. At the end of the lease, the landlord can make reasonable deductions for past rent due, cleaning costs and any damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. The remainder of the deposit must then be returned to the tenant within 30 days. 

Utilities

Tenants usually bear the cost of home utilities such as water, electricity, gas, sewerage and trash removal. Quoted rental prices usually exclude utilities so we recommend house-hunters make enquiries about this early on.

Pet policies

Tenants who want to bring their furry friends along will often be able to do so within certain limitations. Most residential complexes allow pets but place restrictions on the size and number of pets. A monthly "pet rent" is added to their own rental costs, and tenants will often have to pay a pet deposit and non-refundable pet fee upfront.

Areas and Suburbs in Columbus

The best places to live in Columbus

From lush tree-lined neighbourhoods to bustling city locations, Columbus has a diverse mix of areas and suburbs to offer new arrivals. 

Finding a new place to call home is a process that's different for everyone, but finding somewhere to begin among the wide range of choices can be the trickiest part. To jumpstart the search, we recommend considering the areas and suburbs below.


City living in Columbus

Downtown ColumbusDowntown

New arrivals in Columbus will find the heartbeat of the city in its thriving Downtown area. Those that choose to make this area home will never be short of things to see and do, whether the night calls for cocktails with a view or attending a performance at one of the many theatres in the area. 

In most parts of Columbus, cars are a necessity but Downtown is the notable exception to this. Every amenity a person could need is within walking or cycling distance – especially for the many working in the Downtown area who will have the rare privilege of skipping weekday traffic.

Italian Village

As the name suggests, this area has a strong Italian heritage and those with similar roots will certainly feel at home here. Italian Village is made up of narrow brick streets and beautiful old buildings. Much of the housing in this area is in the form of townhouses.

The vibrant nightlife and eclectic restaurant scene of Italian Village are big drawcards for the young professionals that make up most of this area's population.


Family-friendly areas in Columbus

Dublin, OhioDublin

With its peaceful suburban atmosphere and excellent public schools, Dublin is a great pick for families with children of school-going age. The area has an abundance of public parks with playgrounds, sports facilities and scenic walks.

Property in Dublin can be pricey, but houses and apartments tend to be more spacious here than they are in the city centre of Columbus. Dublin is considered a safe area with little crime, and people that live there generally consider the perks to be well worth the price.

Bexley

Those looking for a neighbourhood that balances a small-town feel with easy access to the city may find Bexley to be just right for them. There's a strong sense of community and new arrivals will have plenty of opportunities to get to know everyone thanks to frequent community events.

Like Dublin, Bexley is known for its excellent public schools. Class sizes are small, so teachers have time to give more attention to each individual child.

Education and schools in Columbus

Columbus is home to a number of good public schools (including charter and magnet schools) as well as private schools (sometimes called ‘alternative schools’). There are no foreign-curriculum schools, though a few public schools teach the International Baccalaureate.


Public schools in Columbus

Government schooling in the USA is free for residents and attendance is determined according to zoning whereby children are assigned a nearby public school based on which ‘zone’ their address falls into. As the quality of public schooling can vary greatly, it’s a good idea to do research prior to moving and consider school ratings when selecting possible neighbourhoods to move to.

Magnet and charter schools

Though government-funded, charter and magnet schools generally offer a higher quality of education than regular public schools. Charter schools are typically focused on academics and magnet schools are based around particular specialist subject areas such as science or the arts. Admission is not based on zoning but is rather determined by a lottery. Some magnet schools have limitations on who can apply for entry – for example, students wishing to attend a music school will need to show proficiency in this area.


Private schools in Columbus

There are numerous good private schools to choose from in Columbus. Most are religious schools, usually Roman Catholic or Christian, though there are also a few other religions represented such as Judaism and Islam. There are also a few private schools dedicated to alternative teaching methodologies such as Montessori.

Entry requirements vary by school but the process often includes personal interviews and tests. Due to high demand, it can be difficult to secure entry to the best private schools. For this reason, parents should apply well in advance.


Special-needs education in Columbus

Columbus City Schools has a dedicated Office of Special Education to manage the needs of students with disabilities. The department aims to enable academic excellence and cultivate life skills in special-needs students.

There are specialised programmes available for various conditions, including hearing or visual impairment, traumatic brain injury and autism, among others.


Tutors in Columbus

Tutors are readily available in Columbus can be hired on a short- or long-term basis. Parents can contact either an individual tutor or one of the city's large tutoring companies, which will assign an individual tutor based on client needs. Popular tutoring companies in Columbus include Varsity Tutors and SuperProf.

Expat children can benefit from tutoring in a number of ways, such as refining English-language skills or helping them adjust to a new curriculum.

Lifestyle in Columbus

New arrivals in Columbus have plenty to look forward to when it comes to the type of lifestyle that Columbus offers. With bounteous opportunities for shopping, dining out, painting the town red or getting some fresh air, there’s always something to do.


Shopping in Columbus

Columbus is considered a fashion capital, home to headquarters of major retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret. So, really, there’s no shortage of places for new arrivals to shop ‘til they drop. Polaris Fashion Place and Easton Center are two local favourites, each of which have more than 200 stores to explore.


Eating out in Columbus

Touted as the USA’s ‘next big food city’, Columbus is packed with restaurants to try out and is rapidly expanding, giving nearby Cincinnati a run for its money when it comes to top-notch eats. With an ever-growing immigrant population, authentic cuisines from all around the world can be found in Columbus, with restaurants offering exotic eats from all corners of the globe from countries as far afield as Somalia, Yemen, Nepal and Pakistan.


Nightlife in Columbus

There’s a thriving live-music scene in Columbus made up of numerous smaller venues as well as larger musical halls and arenas, making it easy to find a performance to attend just about any night of the week.

Those who enjoy craft beer will be right at home in Columbus, with more than 30 microbreweries dotted around the city. There are also a few great cocktail spots.


Outdoor activities in Columbus

There are plenty of green spaces to enjoy in and around Columbus. Places such as Inniswood Metro Gardens, Glacier Ridge Metro Park and Franklin Park Conservatory all offer expansive vistas, greenery and fresh air.

To truly stop and smell the roses, head to the Park of Roses, which covers 13 acres and is home to 12,000 different rose species. Another unique outdoor attraction is Topiary Park, which consists of yew trees carefully placed and shaped to resemble Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte.

What's on in Columbus

New arrivals looking to experience the best of entertainment in Columbus are sure to enjoy these annual festivals and celebrations held in and around the city. With such a jam-packed calendar, the hardest part is often deciding which exciting event to go to.

Here are our picks for the top yearly events in Columbus.


Annual events in Columbus

Ohio State Fair (July/August)

With close to a million people attending over the 12 days of this iconic festival, new arrivals should make sure they don’t miss out on the fun. Concerts are played, food stalls abound and a wide array of contests take place.

Red, White & BOOM! (July)

This Independence Day fireworks display is the largest of its kind not just in Ohio, but also throughout the entire Midwest region. Fourth of July celebrations are the perfect opportunity for new arrivals from other countries to experience American culture at its best.

Jazz and Rib Fest (July)

Hosted on the banks of the Scioto River, this free event combines jazz music’s finest acts with mouthwateringly delicious ribs and other grilled meats like chicken, pulled pork and beef brisket. Prizes are awarded to the best grillers at the festival and attendees can participate by voting in the People’s Choice Award.

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (November/December)

For those looking to kick off the festive season with a bit of Christmas magic, the dazzling light displays of Wildlights are a perfect pick. The festival has more than 30 years of history behind it and the displays around the zoo are made up of more than three million LED lights.