- Download our Moving to Chicago Guide (PDF)
Moving to any city has ups and downs, and Chicago is no exception. When deciding whether to take the plunge and relocate, it's best to be realistic about what day-to-day life in the city will be like. Here are some of the pros and cons of moving to Chicago.
Accommodation in Chicago
+ PRO: Range of options
From two-flats and bungalows to high-rise apartments and freestanding family homes, there are plenty of choices to suit any lifestyle when it comes to accommodation in Chicago.
+ PRO: Renting and buying are relatively cheap
Although Chicago has quite a high cost of living on a global scale, accommodation prices are on the lower end. Expats will be able to find a home to suit their budget, although it may come with a commute into the city for work. With such excellent transport options, however, this shouldn't be a problem.
Getting around in Chicago
+ PRO: Major air travel hub
O'Hare International Airport is only 45 minutes from downtown Chicago, making it easy to fly nationally and internationally at the drop of a hat. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and other major cities are only a couple of hours from Chicago by plane.
+ PRO: Good public transport system
Those living in Chicago won't have much need for a car as the city has an affordable, reliable and extensive public transport network consisting of trains and buses, some of which run 24 hours a day. This integrated system is made even more accessible with the use of a Ventra Card, on which credit can be loaded.
- CON: Traffic is an issue
Another reason not to drive in Chicago, other than the excellent transport network in the city, is horrendous traffic. Newcomers should be aware of this and avoid driving or taking a taxi during rush hours, especially if in a hurry. Parking is also limited and hard to find, yet another reason to leave the car at home.
Cost of living in Chicago
- CON: High cost of living
Chicago is one of the most expensive cities in America. Those moving there will need to ensure that they are able to shoulder the high cost of living the city incurs. Luckily, salaries are correspondingly high.
Lifestyle in Chicago
+ PRO: Chicago is a multicultural city
Chicago's ethnically diverse roots make it a fantastic destination for expats, who should have no problem finding others who can commiserate with the highs and lows of the relocation process. Making friends should therefore not be too much of a struggle for new additions to Chicago's population.
+ PRO: Lots of green spaces
The lifestyle in Chicago is fantastic. Those who enjoy the outdoors will have plenty of ways to spend their leisure time, from the famous Lincoln Park to the sprawling vistas of Lake Michigan.
+ PRO: The city has great food
Known for its restaurant and nightlife scene, new arrivals in Chicago should not struggle to find something that tickles their tastebuds. With a range of excellent restaurants, food markets and bars available, newcomers will be spoilt for choice when picking a dining spot on any night of the week.
- CON: The crime rates are high
Sadly, Chicago is notorious for its crime rates, making safety somewhat of an issue for its population. Fortunately, being vigilant of their surroundings and staying away from the more precarious areas should be enough to keep newcomers from having to experience any of the crime portrayed in movies and TV shows about this city.
Education in Chicago
+ PRO: Great educational opportunities
Chicago boasts some of the country's best institutions. From a vast array of quality primary and secondary schools, public, private and international, to world-class universities such as the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, the city offers excellent education opportunities.
- CON: Educational inequality
The quality of education can vary significantly between neighbourhoods. The best schools tend to be in more affluent areas, creating a degree of inequality in educational opportunities. Newcomers with children should consider this when deciding on where to live.
Healthcare in Chicago
+ PRO: Excellent healthcare facilities
Chicago offers top-notch healthcare facilities. The city is home to some of the country's best hospitals, such as the University of Chicago Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
- CON: Healthcare can be expensive
Despite the high quality of healthcare, the cost can be a hurdle. Even with insurance, expenses can be significant, especially for complex treatments or procedures. Expats should ensure they have comprehensive health insurance coverage before moving to the city.
Weather in Chicago
- CON: A long and cold winter
Be prepared: Chicago's winter is freezing with snowstorms and blizzards. Heavy snow tends to pile up overnight, making it necessary to remove snow from doorways, driveways and cars before leaving the house.
►For tips on recommended neighbourhoods, see Areas and Suburbs 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.
Expat Health Insurance
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