Tips for settling in a new city

November 25, 2014
Juxhina Malaj

I feel like I have never stayed in a place long enough to call it home. I’ve been moving all the time either because of my parent’s work or because of my studies.  Every time I went back home my luggage would always be right next to the front door, waiting to be packed and ready to explore a new city.  Now that I graduated I am working as a freelancer which gives me the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world. It is very exciting but also nerve-racking. If you are a freelancer like me and plan to move at least twice per year, you know that it will be hard for you to get comfortable everywhere you go since you will not stay there long enough to blend in.


Moving is not a pleasant experience as a whole and some even list it as one of the most stressful events in life. Often you have to pack up your whole house or apartment and transport it thousands of miles with a truck. In most cases, people hire moving companies, but some do it themselves. Now the moving itself may not be the most pleasant experience, but don’t despair. It will be alright! If you are moving somewhere new for work or studies, it will be easier since you will also have a predefined circle of people you will meet every day. Yet, if you are moving for other reasons and you don’t know the place and don’t have any friends there, please keep reading. Below I have listed some tips for settling in a new city based on my own experience.

Finding a place to stay

Always do your research beforehand

I cannot stress this enough.  When I first moved to Phoenix with a friend of mine, I didn’t really put much thought into researching and asking people before we actually move there. So, when we arrived in Phoenix we went to a hostel, left our luggage there and started looking for a place to rent. We didn’t have a broker and we didn’t have any local friends to ask, so, we ended up staying for 3 days in the hostel, which by the way didn’t even have an elevator and proper wireless connection.

Contact a good broker

If you have trouble finding a place, contacting a good broker is the best idea. We were losing time and money at the hostel and we couldn’t find a place. At some point, we decided it’s time we contacted a broker and voila, we found a great apartment within 3 hours.

Pick a place located in a good neighborhood

If you liked a couple of places the broker has suggested, you should contact someone you know in the city, who has lived there and knows where the good neighborhoods are located.  If you don’t know anyone that can help you with that, you can always ask the broker, neighbors, and check online.

Pick a strategic location close to your work or school

If you are settling in a new city for work or studies, it is very important that you look for places that are near your work / school or that are close to a subway or bus station. Even if you own a car, it is very important that the place you choose is near your workplace or near a metro station because you never know when you might have a problem with the car and taking a cab is not always a good idea.

A bigger apartment is not always the best option

Why? A bigger apartment is hard to heat up during the winter, and at the same time a lot more expensive. So, choose a place that is big enough for you and will fit your belongings, not an inch bigger.

Pick a place close to a mall

Now this one sounds weird, I know. I first hesitated to pick the place that was only 2 min away from the mall, because I am a shopaholic and I was not in the condition to spend a lot of money especially after graduation. But it was worth it.

Here is why:

  • It is going to take some time to connect the internet to your place so until you fix that, you can always go to the mall and enjoy the free wireless.
  • At the mall, you will probably have all the things you need: supermarket, banks, currency exchange, offices where you can pay the water and electricity bills, for example. I happened to find all these things at the mall. As someone who didn’t know the city well, it saved me a lot of time and energy to have all the things that I needed in one place, and less than 2 min away! Moreover, if you will need to buy something at a short notice and all the shops are closed (in most big cities shops close around 6 or 7 pm), the mall will be there for you.

Malls are known as meeting places

  •  When you create your circle of friends in the new city, you will be glad to have a mall nearby, especially a well known one. Everyone will know where the place is, and being a newcomer, you will get to pick the meeting place more often.
  • You will learn how to stop yourself from buying unnecessary things. I spent more time at the mall than at home in the first week, and that taught me to be less obsessed with cool things I see in shops all the time. Believe me, if you spend as much time as I did at the mall, you will even get sick of seeing sales signs all over and your shopping addiction (if you have one) will diminish more quickly than you think.

Making friends

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Ask people about places that you want to go to and about things you want to do in the city. It doesn’t matter if they are total strangers. You never know when one of them will help you and show you around the city. So don’t be shy and ask away.

Try, if you haven’t yet

Have you heard of couch surfing? Staying with total strangers for free and sleeping on their couch may sound a bit odd, but it has become a trend. Check out and you will see what I am talking about.

Whether you participate with hosting or surfing, there are a lot of things that couch surfing can help you with because it is a big online community. When you enter your location on the website, you will see a few coming events nearby your place. Most commonly there will be events organized by couch surfing members and guides who organize weekly meetings with other couch surfers. It is a great way to make new connections. Most of the people at the meetings don’t know each other, so you will not feel an outsider.

Couchsurfing guides

Also, there are weekly trips organized by couchsurfing guides.  You can attend those trips and visit the most well-known places in the city, go hiking or explore the museums. If you participate in couch surfing there will be people from all around the world asking whether you would host them. If you are up for this new experience and have a couch to spare, then you should definitely go for it!

Update Facebook

A good and easy way to find out what is happening near you is updating your current location on Facebook. By doing this, Facebook will suggest upcoming events happening nearby.

Ask Google

There are plenty of websites out there that give information about all kinds of events. You just need to Google them!

Ask friends and family

Ask your friends and family if they have any friends or relatives in the city you are moving to. Do your research beforehand and try to reach out to friends of friends or relatives in your new city. You will be surprised at who you might find!  You can also ask your family and friends about tips for settling in a new city. We bet you can learn a lot from their personal experience.


I have never tried this one, but I’ve heard great things about it, so, I would like to recommend it. The helps you find people near you that share the same interests and hobbies. Once you sign up you can join groups and organize your next hiking or biking adventure with a group of people who share your interest.


Things to do when you settle in a new city:

Buy a map!

Seriously, buy a map. It may sound old-fashioned but if you are better with maps than orientation, go buy a map. Most maps show markets around you, metro stations and other things so whenever you will need some directions and you are not connected to wireless you can just check your paper map.

Spend time walking in the city

This is the best way to find places that you will need, like a pharmacy, a gym or a library. Moreover, by foot you are certainly bound to find some hidden gems that will become your go to spots.

Explore the city on your own

If you are into photography, take your camera with you and take as many pictures as you can while exploring the city. I remember when I moved to Phoenix, there were times when I didn’t have anything to do and so I would just grab my camera and go explore the city on my own. At first, you might feel awkward taking pictures everywhere, but it is worth it, trust me.

Hobby time

Spend time finding the right places and people to practice your hobbies. It is a great way to make connections as well. As I suggested above, try

Say yes to new things!

Don’t say no to new opportunities that come your way. Whether it is an invite to a night club or practicing a sport that you are unfamiliar with, don’t refuse to try. Experiment with your opportunities and learn to say yes more often.

Now, if you are moving across the country, besides moving your belongings, you may also need to ship your car. If you do, check out some great car shipping tips and learn about the car shipping price formation.

If you have any suggestions on your own, please share with us! If you have questions also feel free to ask. Thank you!

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