The Complete Guide to Moving to Pittsburgh

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Are you considering making a move to Pittsburgh?  Congratulations!  If you didn’t already know it, you’ll soon find out that Pittsburgh is one of the greatest cities in the country.  We would know- we’ve lived here for many years, moved away to travel, and returned to live in the city we can’t get enough of!

But before you can really dive into all the great details of this wonderful city, you first have to move here.  There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind for those who are moving in from out of town, so this moving guide is quite comprehensive.  To make navigating easier, please use the following navigation links to jump down to sections you may be interested in reading.

NeighborhoodsShort Term RentalsUtilitiesCar Information / LicensingParking Permits and Street CleaningPet Information

Picking a Neighborhood to Live In

Moving to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has 90 unique neighborhoods and each offer many options for those of all backgrounds, interests, and income levels.  The following are rough summaries of some of our favorite neighborhoods to consider if you want to live right in the middle of it all:

  • Squirrel Hill:  Squirrel Hill is great for students due to ease of access to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh.  Many bus lines head into downtown and to the universities, and many restaurants (with a strong Asian presence) and cafes line the streets.  Squirrel Hill is not very convenient for those working outside of the city due to highway traffic at rush-hour.*
  • Oakland: Oakland has a more urban feel to it thanks to the numerous universities and hospitals in the area.  This neighborhood is also great for those working downtown and students who want to live in a more bustling environment that has several restaurants and bus lines.  Much like Squirrel Hill, rush hour traffic can be bad.
  • South Side: The South Side is a vibrant neighborhood full of dozens of bars and restaurants located south of the Monongahela River, just below Mount Washington.  This neighborhood is great for those who want access to the bar and nightlife scene while still remaining close to downtown and the universities.  South Side has easy access to downtown, Oakland, and Squirrel Hill thanks to the numerous bridges going across the river; however, access to the highways may be difficult depending on your location.
  • Lawrenceville:  Lawrenceville is rapidly becoming the trendiest neighborhood in Pittsburgh and is home to boutique shops, chef-driven restaurants, several bars and breweries, and just about everything else you could ask for.  Lawrenceville has easy access to Route 28 which connects to the highway leading north/south out of the city and connects to many neighborhoods via local roads which may become a bit congested during rush hour.
  • East Liberty: East Liberty has seen a surge in revitalization efforts over the past few years with many previously run down buildings being converted into condos and apartments. The neighborhood is also home to a really great Citi Parks farmers market in the summer.
  • Shadyside: If you’re looking for a walkable neighborhood with upscale restaurants and shopping, Shadyside is the place to be.  It’s also very convenient for students of the nearby universities.  Many stately mansions and large homes are now split up into apartments that maintain their historic charm and character.  You won’t go thirsty here; the neighborhood is a prime spot for nightlife, particularly for the college crowd.
  • Downtown: Unlike downtown neighborhoods in other cities, Pittsburgh’s downtown doesn’t close up shop on weekends.  This is in part due to the Cultural District (featuring several performing arts centers, theaters, and concert halls) as well as Penguins’ games at PPG Paints Arena bringing in visitors every day of the week.  Downtown features many high-end housing options, dozens of new restaurants, and has easy access to the highways and bus lines leading any any direction you wish to go- although traffic can be bad at rush hour.
  • The Strip District: The Strip District is a unique shopping neighborhood full of over a dozen ethnic grocery stores, chef-driven restaurants, and farmers markets.  The Strip District is home to many luxury condos and loft apartments that are within easy walking distance of the shops and also have access to the city’s bike trails.  The Strip District is a great location for those who work downtown, north of the city, or in nearby neighborhoods such as Lawrenceville or Oakland.
  • Mount Washington:  Mount Washington is located on the hill on the south side of the city and is home to the famous Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines (as well as one incredible view of the city).  Mount Washington has fine dining along Grandview Avenue as well as lower priced restaurants along Shiloh Street.  This neighborhood is great for professionals who want easy access to the highway going north/south out of the city, want a quieter neighborhood, and access to city views.*
  • North Side: The North Side is an up-and-coming neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is home to the Steelers’ and Pirates’ stadiums, Deutschtown, the Mexican War Streets, and many historical buildings.  The North Side is perfect for those who want a downtown feel without the high prices while also having easy access to the highway leading north/south out of the city.*

*Denotes neighborhoods in which the owners of Discover the Burgh have lived.

Short-Term Rentals in Pittsburgh

The Cork Factory lofts

The rental (and home buying) scene in Pittsburgh can be daunting as good units get snapped up relatively quickly. So for those who are looking to relocate to the city on a specific timetable, this could make your home search significantly harder (especially in mid-to-late summer when college students are returning).

Luckily, Pittsburgh has a thriving short-term and corporate housing scene and many companies, like our friends at Harrison Everette, have fully furnished rentals in top neighborhoods like the Strip District, Lawrenceville, South Side, the North Side, and more. The best part is that rentals can be as short as just a few days or as long as months on end, so if you need more time to look for that perfect spot to call home a short-term rental in Pittsburgh could be a great option to consider.  (*Sponsored)

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Information for Common Utility Companies

Chatham Village in Mount Washington

We recommend that you speak to your landlord or realtor to find more information about the connected utility companies and to request account numbers that may be necessary for switching the bills over to your name.  Numbers and websites for common utility companies in the Pittsburgh area include:

Receiving a Driver’s License and Buying a Car in Pennsylvania

When it comes down to it, buying a car in the state of Pennsylvania is awful for new residents.  If you are like us, odds are you will need a car to drive to your job, and if you don’t own a car prior to moving, the state restricts you from buying one (specifically, titling one) until you have a PA license.  Really! This presents a bit of a problem because the hurdle to get a PA license is so high that you may have to wait several weeks before you can go out and buy a car.  Unfortunately, to really tackle this subject we’re going to break it up into its component parts- first getting your Pennsylvania license and second purchasing a car (or transferring a title of you already own one from out-of-state).

Transferring a Driver’s License to Pennsylvania

'The Sisters' in downtown Pittsburgh

The full details for acquiring a license in PA after moving from out of state can be found on PennDOT’s website, however, a summary is provided below (Note: rules may have changed since publishing).  At the time of our move, we needed to show the following information in addition to our current out-of-state driver’s license:

  • Social Security Card
  • One form of secondary ID (passport, birth certificate with raised seal, etc.)
  • Two proof of residency documents such as a mortgage, lease, utility bill, or weapon’s permit.

While this list does seem a bit excessive, there is one troubling point: gathering two items to show proof of residency is difficult for someone who has recently moved.  Odds are you’ll have a mortgage or a lease for your move, but unless you have a roommate who has an existing PA license with the same address, you’ll need to provide more. (This is a little talked about caveat although it does not work if your roommate has a temporary ID, which you receive with two-weeks validity when you register for a new license).  The problem here is that most utility bills don’t arrive to your new home until 7-30 days after you move which makes getting a license quickly almost impossible. We called all of our utility companies to address this concern and received the following responses:

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  • Internet: Until the internet is installed there is no way for an account number or bill to be generated.  As soon as installation is complete, you may be able to register your account online and generate a statement within 3-7 business days if the person you speak to is nice enough to rush it for you.
  • Electricity: An electricity bill will be sent within the first 30 days and only sooner if you start service earlier or you get lucky on billing dates.
  • Gas: A gas bill will be sent within the first 30 days- however, upon pressing they offered to send a proof of residency that should work to receive a license.  Compared to the others, this was the most encouraging shot.

We decided to give it a shot with the gas company’s proof of residency document featuring our account number and address, which we ordered a week prior to our actual move and was waiting for us when we moved in.  As an added layer of “proof” we had a printed copy of our renter’s insurance which displayed our address as well, even though it is not technically a utility but does show proof that we’re planning on living in the city for at least a year. In the end, this worked and I (Jeremy) had my license on day number two!

Later in the week we tried with Angie, who did not have any utilities in her name, and got turned away as I had the temporary ID mentioned above.  Thankfully, we did just buy a car and the car insurance worked as a secondary proof of residency since it had our names and Pennsylvania address on it.  Thanks to this, Angie had her ID on day six.

For those looking to get a license, we recommend heading to the downtown licensing office as soon as they open.  We were always in and out within 20 minutes and, contrary to our opinions of PennDOT’s telephone workers, the employees were mostly nice to us.

Buying a Car in Pennsylvania

Driving in Pennsylvania

So why is it such a big deal to have a PA license prior to buying a car?  The best explanation we got from a local dealer is that the state is being extra cautious since 9/11, and most everyone in the state thinks it is ridiculous (us included).  Without a PA license, you’ll have to title the car in your home state, take it over there for registration, come back, and transfer the title. One alternative option is to buy a car before you move, but that lends itself to a few problems, namely:

  • You must transfer the title over within 20 days of establishing residency.
  • The car must be emission tested and complete a safety inspection after titling.
  • If the car was purchased within the previous six (6) months, you must also pay sales tax on the car (7% if you live in Allegheny County) and PennDOT made it sound to us that this had to be in the form of a check or money order.

For us, this was too much of a headache as many of these issues are taken care of when you buy a car from a reputable dealer in Pennsylvania. We opted for waiting and taking the risk of having to rent a car during the period of working while seeking a license and buying a car.  Thankfully, the utility proof of residency worked, and I had a brand new car titled in my name by my third day of living in Pennsylvania.

Additional rules (and any recent modifications) can be found at PennDOT’s website.  A full fact sheet can be found here.

Parking Permits and Street Cleaning

For drivers, regardless of where you’re moving from, another consideration when moving to Pittsburgh is permit parking.  The city is split up into several dozen permitted neighborhoods (37 at the time of publishing) and, depending on your address, many of the streets near your apartment or house may have restricted parking for non-permitted cars.  Signs should be visible just about everywhere, and many neighborhoods also include non-permitted streets as well.

Thankfully, dealing with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority (PPA) is a much nicer experience than working with the folks at PennDOT, so applying for a permit is easy.  Generally speaking, you and a spouse should both easily be able to apply for a car permit ($20 each per year) and each household may receive one dashboard visitor permit for $1 per year.  The only downside is that the validity year is a fixed period, different for each neighborhood, and is not one year from the time of purchasing. To apply for the permit, you will need the following and can submit copies via the mail or in-person if the pass is needed immediately:

  • One (1) proof of residency
  • One (1) proof of vehicle registration (any state)
  • One (1) valid driver’s license (any state)
  • Additional documents may be needed for different permit types.

A detailed list of the neighborhoods for permits, requirements for applying for a permit, and fees can be found at the PPA’s website.

On a similar note, Pittsburgh also has monthly street cleaning, so be sure to check what side of the street is restricted during specific days of the month.  Typically street cleaning is at a fixed time each month, during normal businesses hours, and one side of the street will remain open while the other is closed on a second day- but this may not always be the case.  Signs should be posted on streets where cleaning takes place.

Bringing a Pet Into Pennsylvania

Welcome Dog

All dogs over the age of 3 months must be licensed in Pennsylvania if located outside of Pittsburgh, and annual fees are under $10. Full rules for bringing pets (dogs and cats) into the state can be found at Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture.

For Pittsburgh residents, dogs must be licensed locally instead of with the state and fees range from $10-$20.  Full rules for bringing pets (dogs and cats) into the city of Pittsburgh can be found at Pittsburgh’s Animal Control.

All dogs and cats over the age of 3 months must have proof of annual rabies vaccination.  We personally recommend micro-chipping all pets to ensure their safety.

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5 Comments

  1. Opening a bank account at PNC and ask them to expedite the mailing for the debit card. The mail would also work as one proof of residency. Worked for me back in 2013.

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  2. Hi. The moving company we are using to move to Highland Park later this month is asking us to get a street parking permit for the van. Do you know where I would go or who to talk to in order to do this?

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    • I’d recommend contacting the Pittsburgh Parking Authority and finding out. They may be able to issue a temporary permit or put up a no parking sign to reserve a spot.

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  3. I just wanted to get some opinions because I don’t want to regret moving to Pittsburgh, we are moiving from San Diego ca because is way to expensive here in San Diego. Is there a lot of opportunities and a good future in Pittsburgh Pa we are a family of 4 and is it a good city to raise a family

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  4. Hello my question is pretty much the same as alex i live in florida and it getting to expensive to live down here vist pittsburgh two year back to back and love it and enjoyed myself each time. looking at price for place to stay price is right up my line. my job is trying to get me a transfer up there so that way i can have work start off and also to i will be working uber for extra income if my job not take all then need. i will be vising next month the 2-5 to go look at house and what area i plan on living in and try to seat up and meet and greet with the company. and look for other job opportunities. also i will be make the move by myself no family and no friends from there but look for something different and just ready to start and new chapter in my life. and thing help that can help me with the overall move and transition let me know please and thank you .

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