- Download our Moving to Chicago Guide (PDF)
Newcomers to the Windy City are sure to have queries about their soon-to-be-home. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Chicago.
I don’t want to send my child to a bad school, but I want to live in the city centre. I’m afraid private school will cost too much. What should I do?
Many schools in Chicago are great; parents just need to do some research to find the best ones and try to enrol their child in one of these. There are also programmes and public schools for gifted students, many of which are among the best schools in Chicago. Also, some private schools offer financial aid or scholarships, so it's well worth researching.
Chicago is called the 'Windy City', but is it really that windy? Is it going to be cold?
Winter gets downright freezing, but to make up for it summer can be scorching hot. People tend to prefer the spring and autumn for milder climates. For all its reputation as a windy city, the Chicago winds aren't too bad. It does stay breezy next to Lake Michigan though.
What is the cost of living in Chicago?
Chicago can be more affordable than other major US cities like New York or San Francisco, but that doesn't mean it's cheap. Housing tends to be the most significant expense, with prices varying depending on the neighbourhood. Central areas are typically more expensive, while outlying districts can be more affordable. Dining out, entertainment and groceries can also add up, but cost can vary significantly depending on personal preferences and lifestyle. Utilities, including internet, gas and electricity, are fairly consistent.
Am I going to need a car?
Owning a car is certainly not necessary for getting around in Chicago. There are efficient commuter rails from the suburbs to the city centre, a good subway line in town and buses run frequently throughout the city. Traffic is also horrendous during rush hours and parking is minimal. That said, many people drive to the commuter trains if not living near a stop, and those with children or who work outside of the city centre could find a car useful. Newcomers to the city should assess the amenities nearby their home and their work commute before deciding whether to purchase a car.
Is there free public healthcare available to expats in Chicago?
Unfortunately there is no free public healthcare system in the USA. While there are some assistance programmes for children and those who cannot afford private insurance, expats do not qualify for this. It's highly recommended that newcomers take out a private health insurance plan or try to negotiate one into their employment contract. That said, those with health insurance will have access to some of the best medical care in the world in the USA.
How safe is Chicago? I've heard reports about crime there.
Like any large city, Chicago does have its share of safety issues. It's important to note that crime is not evenly distributed throughout the city. Certain neighbourhoods are known for being safer than others. Areas like Lincoln Park, Hyde Park and the Gold Coast tend to have lower crime rates. Unfortunately, there are also areas with higher crime rates, usually in the city's South and West Sides.
As with any large city, basic safety precautions should be taken but hypervigilance isn't necessary.
What attractions and activities can I look forward to in Chicago?
Chicago is known for its vibrant culture, and there's no shortage of things to see and do. Art and history buffs will enjoy the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum. There's Millennium Park, the Navy Pier, and the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline for those who enjoy outdoor activities. Sports fans will be in their element with the city's iconic sports teams like the Chicago Bulls, Cubs and Bears.
Foodies will love the city's famous deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, and a plethora of international cuisines. Music lovers will relish the city's jazz and blues scene. For shopping, you have the Magnificent Mile, a premier commercial district, among other options. There really is something for everyone in the Windy City!
►Learn about Chicago's housing market in Accommodation in Chicago
Are you an expat living in Chicago?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Chicago. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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