Updated 6 months ago

Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States and the centre of the federal government. It is one of the country’s largest cities, and ranks as the eighth most expensive city in the U.S. Loads of government jobs means that it is quite diverse and has a transient population from all over the world. Although life in Washington D.C. is fast-paced and pricey, the city boasts lots of parks, impressive monuments, and lots of opportunities for expats.

For general advice on searching for a home and signing a lease in the United States, see the article Accommodation in the USA.


 Important: Location is one of the most important factors when choosing where to live in Washington D.C. Even though the city is compact, it can take an hour or more to get from one side of the city to the other. When selecting a neighbourhood, carefully consider your commute time and how it will impact your quality of life.

The Washington D.C. metropolitan area is a small zone comprised of several neighbourhoods as well as some outlying areas adopted into the D.C. region. A “good” neighbourhood can mean different things depending on personal preferences, and D.C. neighbourhoods are just as diverse as the population. Expats will find many areas catering to young professionals, government workers, and families.

Capitol Hill is the political centre of the city and one of its most exclusive neighbourhoods. Public transportation is excellent, and there are lots of historical sites, shopping, restaurants, and parks.

Dupont Circle is an upscale neighbourhood with luxurious high rises. This area is full of chic shops, restaurants, and exciting nightlife.

Palisades runs along the Potomac River and offers small homes as accommodation, which can be quite costly. However, there are also some moderately-priced apartments and townhouses mixed in. This area has a weekly farmers’ market and some of the city’s best dining.

Georgetown is probably the most famous area of Washington D.C. apart from Capitol Hill. Picturesque and walkable, it has a beautiful promenade and plaza lined with shops and restaurants.

Fairfax is technically a distinct city, though many consider it an outlying Washington D.C. neighbourhood. It’s a desirable place to live because of the excellent schools.

 Good to know: Washington D.C. used to be one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. That has changed considerably, but it's still important to understand the safety risks in your neighbourhood as crime rates vary by neighbourhood. Crime maps can help you decide which areas are right for you.

Accommodation and cost of living

Like many dense urban cities, accommodation size will shrink, and costs will increase as you get closer to the centre. Washington D.C. is no different. In metropolitan D.C. most people live in apartments. Depending on the neighbourhood, monthly rent for an 85m² (900 ft²) apartment averages from USD 2200 to USD 2800. A smaller apartment of about 45m² (480 ft²) averages between USD 1600 to USD 2160.

Generally, leases in Washington include charges such as water, gas, trash service, and building maintenance. Most accommodations in this area have a heating system and air conditioning and include major appliances such as a refrigerator and stove/oven. However, be aware that many rentals do not come with designated parking.

Life in Washington D.C.

Those living in Washington D.C. will find lots of positive things waiting for them. The city’s diversity means that almost every type of cuisine is available. A plethora of sites such as the Lincoln Memorial, White House, and the Washington Monument, as well as the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Museum make this city a culture lover’s dream. The cost of living may be higher than average, but there are lots of free and almost-free activities to check out.

D.C.’s Mid-Atlantic location is also a benefit. This area has relatively mild weather and only occasionally experiences natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes that plague other parts of the U.S. Additionally, there are many nearby places suitable for weekend getaways such as Virginia Beach, Shenandoah National Park, and New York City. Bear in mind that summers in D.C. are quite humid and hot, and while winter tends to be milder than in New York City, D.C. does experience snow and cold winters.

 Useful Links:

Washington Post housing ads
Washington D.C. cost of living calculator
Washington D.C. crime map
Lists of 100 free and almost-free things to do in Washington D.C.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.