Moving to Virginia
Virginia has much to offer. Northern Virginia is accessible to Washington, D.C., with many options for housing and schools. With opportunities for government jobs, jobs with government contractors and jobs servicing the government and its contractors, the Washington, D.C. area consistently boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
Many people moving to Virginia are moving to the D.C. Metropolitan area, which includes several counties that are close to the Virginia border with Washington, D.C. The quality of homes and schools make moving to Virginia a great choice for many people who get jobs with the federal government or with government contractors.
You may not have a choice about when you are moving to Virginia, but the most pleasant weather is in the spring and fall. Summer can be hot and humid, so be prepared with water on hand for you and your movers.
Winters in Virginia can be icy, and snow occurs infrequently enough that even a few inches can cause major traffic tie-ups and school closings.
If you are moving to Virginia into an apartment building, check to see whether there are specific days for moving in. Some buildings don’t allow moves on weekends, for example. You also may need to reserve a freight elevator or arrange access to a special delivery area behind your building.
Before moving to Virginia, don’t forget to file change of address information so your mail is forwarded at the same time you are moving to Virginia.
Check out our downloadable planners and checklists.
Cities and Metro Areas
Most people moving to Virginia these days are moving to Northern Virginia for jobs with the government or government contractors, or to go to school in the Washington, D.C. area.
Several popular communities in Northern Virginia that are accessible to Washington, D.C. include Arlington, Alexandria, Ballston, Crystal City, Reston and Fairfax. But Virginia is more than just a satellite community for people working in Washington, D.C.
If you have a job lined up before moving to Virginia, consider your likely commute from your workplace. Commuting between northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. can take a large chunk out of your day if you don’t think about location. Consider a neighborhood near a metro line that is also accessible to your job.
Some neighborhoods are more expensive than others, and your budget might not permit you to live along the same metro line as your job. But even if you have to change trains, living in a metro-accessible neighborhood allows you maximum freedom to explore the city without the hassle of driving and parking.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Northern Virginia is higher than in many other parts of the country, but salaries are often higher as well. Other parts of the state are less expensive, but those areas aren’t necessarily where the jobs are. To get a better sense of what the cost of living in Virginia might be for you, check out the cost of living calculator at Payscale.com.
Although the recent housing crises caused home prices to drop, they remain higher in Virginia than in other cities and states where unemployment levels are higher. The cost of living in Virginia for either buying or renting a home or apartment varies by neighborhood. Homes or apartment buildings that are within walking distance of a metro stop are more expensive than those that are less accessible to the metro.
Highways and Public Transport
Public Transportation in Virginia
Moving to Virginia gives you many options for public transportation. If you are moving to Virginia and work in or near Washington, D.C., you’ll want to get to know the metro system, which is how many people get to and from work. If you will be working in D.C., consider buying a house that is relatively accessible to a metro station. Keep in mind that each metro line has a color. The blue, orange and yellow lines access D.C. from Virginia. If your job is near a stop on the blue and orange line (they partly overlap), choose a neighborhood that is on one of those lines so that you won’t have to change trains as part of your daily commute (less time and hassle).
Biking is extremely popular as well, and some Virginia residents ride their bikes to a metro stop for a car-free commute. Check out the D.C. metro rail website to get a sense of the Metro network, which lines serve which areas, fares and schedules.
If you are moving to Virginia but will commute to D.C., you also have the option of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), a commuter rail service that runs from the Northern Virginia suburbs to Alexandria, Crystal City and downtown Washington, D.C., paralleling two traffic-clogged interstates: I-66 and I-95. Consider noting the location of VRE stations before moving to Virginia.
Driving in Virginia
If you are moving to Virginia near D.C., you will become intimately familiar with the Washington, D.C. Beltway. Also known as interstate 495, this multi-lane, monster highway goes through parts of Maryland and Virginia and forms a circle around Washington, D.C.. Traffic routinely slows to a crawl during the morning and evening rush hour, and even a minor accident or bad weather (including rain) makes things worse. If taking the Beltway is in the cards for you, bring your patience (and an audio book).
Air Transportation in Virginia
The main airport in Northern Virginia is Dulles International (IUD). Residents also have the options of other nearby airports:
Of these three airports, only Dulles and Baltimore handle international flights. Depending on where you are in Washington, D.C., allow about an hour (at least) to get to any of these airports by car. All are also accessible by public transportation if you factor in extra time. See the links to the airport pages for more information.
If you are moving to Virginia farther south, Norfolk International Airport will be your go-to for getaways.
For many, a career (or a spouse’s) is one of the main reasons for moving to Virginia. Many Virginia jobs are related to the federal government, either directly or indirectly. Keep in mind that different Virginia jobs with the government are located in different parts of the greater Washington, D.C. metro area. To keep your commute to work as short and stress-free as possible, it’s worth noting the locations of jobs and how they relate to the neighborhoods you are considering in terms of public transportation, parking and the costs of both.
If you are in the military, you might have one of the many Virginia jobs at Fort Belvoir. This Army installation is home to the Virginia National Guard and also hosts many agencies related to the Department of Defense. Check out their website with relocation information for newcomers to the area.
The weather in Virginia is impacted by the mountains in the west and the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean in the east. The mountains direct the effects of storms and weather fronts, and the lakes and shoreline prevent extreme temperatures. Winter is usually mild in northern and eastern regions, but there is the potential for more snow and cold in the mountains to the west. If you are moving to Virginia from the north, don’t get rid of your winter gear. Sometimes stretches of cold temperatures sink in, but spring usually arrives by the end of March.
Spring and fall are the most pleasant seasons, unless you suffer from plant-related allergies, in which case the profusion of flowering trees in the spring will be accompanied by sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. Summer can include stretches of hazy, hot and humid weather, but it lingers through September, when mild temperatures persist but the humidity starts to drop. Fall is usually mild to cool.
Are you moving to Virginia with school-age children? Many public schools in Northern Virginia consistently rank among the best in the country, and most high schools offer some sort of advanced placement classes and international baccalaureate programs that can be used to earn college credit. The Virginia Department of Education boasts a detailed website where interested parents can see statistics about the performance of schools throughout the state. The Virginia DOE site also has information about demographics and enrollment at all Virginia’s public schools, as well as information about school nutrition, gifted programs and special education programs.
Looking for a private school? The Virginia Association of Independent Schools’ website lists schools according to region. Members include schools with and without religious affiliations.
Many government resources for moving to Virginia can be found online at Virginia.gov. However, more detailed information is provided and managed at the county and city level. Google the county you’ll be living in when moving to Virginia for more specifics.
The Virginia.gov site is very comprehensive. Check out these links for the following services to make moving to Virginia easier:
- Driver’s License/Car Registration: The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has all you need to know about getting a driver’s license, registering your car, and meeting Virginia standards for car insurance, safety inspections and emissions testing.
- Voter Registration: You can apply for voter registration when you get your new driver’s license. But you won’t be officially registered until you receive a voter registration card in the mail at your new address. Not registering a car? You can register to vote (and check your registration status online) at the website for the Virginia Board of Elections.
- Trash and Recycling: For specific details on trash and recycling services, visit the website of your new county of residence before moving to Virginia.
- Taxes: The Virginia government website includes links to any tax-related questions you might have, including details about individual and business taxes, and options to live chat with tax experts or pay taxes online.
For more information about moving to Virginia, view or print the Moving to Virginia Guide from the state chamber of commerce.
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