Home to the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia is one of America’s most popular cities. Popularly known as the City of Brotherly Love, it is the second-largest city on the east coast and the 6th most populated in the entire US. If you’re looking for big city living without the major price tag, then it is the perfect place. Moving to Philadelphia is an excellent choice. The city has a rich history, great food, and affordable housing. Whether you’re at the early stages of deciding if Philadelphia is the right place for you or if you’ve already committed to moving, we’ve got a handy relocation guide to make things a little easier. Check out our tips, tricks, and advice on the best way to prepare for and settle into the beautiful city of Philadelphia.
Choosing the perfect neighborhood
One of the best things about the city of Philadelphia is how widely it varies. From downtown areas to more relaxed, historic neighborhoods - the city has it all! Some neighborhoods are more dangerous than others but the same is true for most major cities.When looking for a neighborhood in Philadelphia, consider your personal circumstances - the size of your family, access to personal transportation and current job status should all play a factor in deciding where to settle in Philadelphia. Apartment and housing prices will vary by neighborhood. However, the housing prices are more affordable than places like Boston, New York CIty, and D.C. Here’s a breakdown of some of Philly’s most popular neighborhoods:
- Chestnut Hill - With an average rent of 1,399 per month, this area is a safe place to live with lots of activities. It is close to the downtown area but still manages to maintain a level of safety and security for its residents, which gives it a residential feel
- University City or West Philadelphia - If you’re a Fresh Price fan, you’re already familiar with this area. If you’re looking for urban living, then you’ll love this area. Renting an apartment here will set you back about 1,250 per month. It is close to universities and has a happening art and culture scene.
- Point Breeze - One of the best features of this neighborhood is its rent-controlled apartments. Snag one starting as low as $1,100 a month. Keep in mind that it is a developing neighborhood. If you’re willing to be patient while the neighborhood grows, it’ll pay off in the end. It’ll be hard to find lower rent in the city.
- Graduate Hospital - Don’t let the name fool you - there is nothing clinical about this beautiful neighborhood. It is one of the best places in the city for families and it comes at a reasonable price. Rent a home here for as low as $2,100 each month. It is also very close to some of the best places to eat in Philly.
- Washington Square West - Known for its diversity and welcomeness, this is one of Philadelphia’s longest standing LGBTQ communities. Rent here costs around $1,700 each month and it has a host of small businesses that you can support.
Jumpshell’s Best Neighborhoods in Philadelphia is a great place to start learning about the various options for places to settle once you move.
Sorting out your taxes
No one wants to know the terror of owing money to Uncle Sam. Therefore, it is better to get a handle on your finances and taxes well in advance of moving to Philadelphia. Taxes vary from state to state and this is one area where you will not like any surprises. One unique feature of the tax situation in Philadelphia is that there is a city income tax. In fact, it is the highest in the nation at 3.8809 percent. Non-residents who work in the city pay 3.4567 percent. It dates back to the 1930s when Philadelphia became the first city to implement such a tax at 1.5 percent. At its highest in 1985, it reached 4.96 percent. Mayor Ed Rendell lowered it in 1995 in order to stimulate competition and encourage job growth in the economy.
Residents have mixed feelings on the wage tax but refunds may be coming to Philadelphia’s lowest earners soon. A recent study showed that 50 percent of Philadelphia’s residents thought the tax should be lowered or eliminated entirely. It is a hotly debated topic but there is no indication whether or not it will be revised any time soon. It is If you are living in a state like Wyoming or Nevada that does not have an income tax, then you will need to consider how the rise in taxation will affect your budget and ability to afford your various living expenses. If you are confused about taxes in your new state once you move, then TurboTax has a helpful guide. If your situation is more complex (e.g. if you self employed), consult a financial advisor or accountant to ensure that you are maximizing your income once you move to Philadelphia.
Learn to talk like the locals
Philadelphians have long been known for their unique language and it make take some time before you will be able to fully understand and participate in it. Be prepared to hear words like “wawa”, “jeet”, and “wit whiz” used in everyday life. It may take some practice on your part to but the more time you spend in your new city, the easier it will be to figure out people mean when they refer to oddities like “water ice” - that’s italian ice, by the way. To fit in like a local, make sure to pronounce it as “wood-er”. Here are a few Philly phrases to start learning and add to your vocabulary before the big move:
- Youse - Think of this as the Philly version of “ya’ll”. E.g. What are youse up to?
- Jimmies - Known everywhere else as “sprinkles” E.g. I’d like some jimmies on my ice cream cone
- Jawn - This is used as a noun and can describe just about any person, place, or thing. E.g. Where is that jawn?
- Boul - This is the Philly word for man. E.g. Do you see that boul over there with the beard?
- Ard - Known to the rest of us as “alright”. E.g. Is everything ard?
You’ll need a lot of practice if you’re going to adjust to this new way of speaking. If you need more phrases and words to add to your new Philly vocabulary, check out Movoto’s 25 Words That Mean Something Different in Philadelphia.
Prepare yourself to deal with traffic
Traffic in Philadelphia is known to be a nightmare. However, it is one of America’s top 5 most walkable cities, with a walk score of 79, so there is no need to fret over the traffic situation. If you currently have a car, then you can consider selling it for some extra cash to help finance your move. Parking in the city is a very tasking experience so you may be better off relying on public transportation or using a ride-sharing service. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates the city’s public transportation network, which includes buses, subways, trolleys, and regional rail lines. Prices start at $2.50 per ride with an additional $1 for transfers. Unlimited rides for the week and month are $25.50 and $96, respectively. To add to its affordability, there are even discounts available for seniors, college students, families, and riders with disabilities. Check out SEPTA’s fare page for the most recent information on discounts and associated costs.
If you feel like you absolutely need your own car for work or personal circumstances, then it may come at a steep price. Lyft estimates that you can spend upwards of $4,000 per year on parking garages alone. When you factor in other costs like fuel, insurance, maintenance, and possibly a monthly car payment, it can get pretty expensive to own a car in Philadelphia. About half of Philadelphia’s residents get around by driving and a quarter rely on public transit. The rest of folks carpool, walk or bike. There is a lot to consider about how you will choose to get around in the new city. The length of your commute will likely play a big role in the mode of transportation that you ultimately end up choosing.
Where and what to eat
People all over the world have heard of the Philadelphia Cheesesteak. It is a staple in the city’s culture and rightfully so. If you have never had one before, then you need to make it your first stop when you move. You’ll need to be tuned into the local lingo when you order one. You indicate whether or not you want onions by saying “with” or “without” You'll get the hang of it soon enough and start ordering your cheesesteaks like a pro. However, the city has other popular and equally tasty food options. The locals love soft pretzels. Water ice (italian ice) is another favorite, along with scrapple, which is a friend loaf of pork scraps and trimmings. Of course, locals will have their favorite spots to get each of those treats so it’ll be up to you to explore and find the ones you like. You’ll have all the time in the world to eat like a true Philadelphia local. The food options are endless so no matter how long you end up living in the city, there is bound to be something new to try. Here are some interesting dishes to delight your taste buds:
- Salted caramel budino - Available from Barbuzzo, this dessert has dark chocolate, vanilla bean, caramel and seasalt.
- Lavender donut with a side of wings - You’ve had donuts and you’ve most definitely had fried chicken. But, have you ever had them together? Federal Donuts serves up this unique pairing.
- Bacon grease popcorn - Yet another iconic pairing - bacon and popcorn. This potential delicious heart attack in a greasy bag comes from the Khyber Pass Pub for only $5.
- Crabfries - While it may sound like another wacky combination, these aren’t fries made from crab. However, Chickie’s and Pete’s signature menu item has a crabby sauce that gives them a special kick.
- Good Dog Burger - Fear not, furry friends are unharmed in the making of this dish. It’s named after the restaurant that serves it - the Good Dog Bar. It is a half-pound sirloin burger with Roquefort and caramelized onions on a brioche bun. Yum!
Still hungry for more Philly dishes to try once you make your big move? Check out the 25 Most Iconic Dishes in Philadelphia by Thrillist and start your ascent into Philadelphia foodie heaven.
There are lots of things to do
Philadelphia has a rich history and lots of places to explore. Many of its attractions are free of cost. Be sure to check our main sights like the Independence Visitor Center, Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall and Congress Hall, The Rocky Statue and Steps, and the Love Sculpture. If exploring history just isn’t your thing, it’s also a very sports-friendly town. The city is also very close to other beautiful sights and attractions. You can easily enjoy the countryside and other sights in Pennsylvania if you happen to want to see something other than the city life. You’ll fall in love with the city once you set foot there. In fact, if you are considering a move, you probably already have a soft spot for it.
A move to Philadelphia can be made a lot smoother by renting a self storage unit. It can help you to organize your items before, during, and even after your move. If you will be moving everything all at once but you still need time to find the right place to live, then a self storage unit in Philadelphia will be especially handy. In addition to our moving to Philadelphia guide, we also have helpful moving tips that will get you on the right track as your organize your move.