Lately it seems like more and more people who I know from various parts of life are relocating to DC, which is super exciting and has also allowed me to be the resident “expert” in a number of cases. I love browsing apartment listings and scouting things out for friends, so I definitely have zero complaints when people come to me with questions! Plus, now that I’ve lived in a couple of different neighborhoods and housing situations, I feel like I can offer a little more perspective than I could have last year–my go-to line is that while I loved how quaint and beautiful Georgetown was, I’m much, much happier living over in Dupont where there’s just so much more going on AND there’s easy access to public transportation!
Since graduation time is around the corner and even more people will likely be moving to the city, I put together a quick logistical guide for new Washingtonians featuring the top 3 questions that people have been asking me!
1) Do I need a car?
If you’ve been living in a drivable city and can’t imagine life without your car, definitely go ahead and bring one. Plenty of people drive here, especially if they don’t live right in the city, and certain neighborhoods are almost impossible to live in without a car (like Glover Park, for example). However, parking generally isn’t free, and even if you find a spot on the street, it can be complicated if you have out of state plates (and from what I’ve heard from friends, changing the plates can prove to be a hassle). A girl I carpooled with at my old job ended up just buying a spot from a friend and parking there instead of changing her plates because it was going to be an extensive process and she wasn’t sure how long she’d be living in the area. That said, while having a car can be convenient, especially in certain areas, you absolutely don’t NEED a car by any means to live in DC (for starters, I don’t even have a license and I’m managing just fine! Cough cough, thanks, Uber…). If you live and work in the city and are comfortable taking the bus/metro every day, it’s much, much easier to just use public transportation. The metro is super efficient and everyone takes it! However, if your job isn’t on the metro and you have access to a car, you have a little more flexibility in terms of where to live, whereas since I rely on public transportation, I always had to live somewhere with some kind of access to a train or bus.
2) Which areas are “safe”?
I put safe in quotation marks, because aside from the obvious “no no’s” (which will become apparent from a quick Google search/crime map) every place can have a bit of good and bad (even in Georgetown, which most people would probably consider the nicest/”safest” spot, there are still muggings and loiterers). DC is still a city no matter where you go, and you always need to be vigilant! That said, I’ve always tended to veer toward pretty “traditionally safe” areas and have been happy with my choices. I did have one friend from growing up who lived in an area that seemed nice enough when she moved in but ended up being full of muggings and stabbings, and she decided to move back home with her parents as a result. Obviously, not everyone has that option, so doing research ahead of time is key. DC has so many unique and diverse areas that each have their own vibe, so I’d recommend going out and exploring as many places as possible. Take public transportation to get around and try to recreate your routine/commute as much as possible. Also, note that what’s safe or preferable for one person may not be for another. For example, as a girl living alone, I always opted for second floor or higher units that were a quick walk from the bus/metro stop, whereas a guy may not factor these aspects into his decision-making. You just want to choose something that’s practical and won’t inconvenience you or make you feel nervous as you go about your day-to-day routine. To get more specific with locations, I have friends/acquaintances who live or have lived in the following neighborhoods and seem to enjoy them: Dupont, Logan Circle, Eastern Market, Woodley Park, Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Georgetown, Glover Park, Columbia Heights, Navy Yard…these are all pretty popular areas among 20-30-s0methings!
3) What’s meeting people/dating like?
It’s what you make of it. In my experience, it’s pretty much the same as in any East Coast city, although there are a TON of transplants (whereas when I lived in Philly, it felt like there were a lot more locals). This is a good thing if you’re also new to DC, and even as a “native,” I actually really like it because it makes the city so much more interesting. There is definitely a big political presence as to be expected, but people work in all types of different fields so if that’s not your thing, you’ll be able to branch out. Some of my coworkers do social sports leagues or there’s always Meetup and similar groups, though I personally haven’t tried them. I’ve actually met most of my new DC friends through blogging, but I have friends living in major cities who have joined running groups/yoga studios, volunteer, and the like!
As always, feel free to DM me or email me with more DC questions…I could literally write a novel about living in this city!