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Moving to Houston

New arrivals to Houston may find this former Western Frontier's urban sprawl overwhelming at first. For starters, it is the fourth-largest city in the US, and the wider metropolitan area has a population of close to 7 million people. That said, this Texan giant has much to offer its residents, with a good quality of life, plenty of job opportunities, a warm climate and endless things to see and do

Living in Houston

The city has undergone a revitalisation in recent years that's engendered a buzz of innovative restaurants, quirky art galleries and a cultural consciousness that's transforming blighted neighbourhoods into attractive residential and entertainment areas. As a result, newcomers to Houston will find that the city is what they make of it.

Those coming to work can take comfort in an economic climate that's known for its enterprising spirit. The energy capital of Texas is home to several Fortune 500 companies and, aside from oil and gas, sectors like IT, business services, aerospace, medical and biotechnology attract workers from around the world.

Its extensive system of superhighways makes getting around effective but not always so efficient. Rush hour traffic is admittedly an issue. New arrivals are likely to need their own car since public transport is slow and doesn't extensively service the Greater Houston area.

Healthcare in Houston is excellent. Boasting one of the best medical centres in the world, Houston attracts people from around the country seeking medical treatment. It has been said by many locals and newcomers alike that, if they get sick, Houston is the place to be. 

Cost of living in Houston

Although Houston is one of the USA's major capitals, it is far cheaper than the likes of New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. With almost everything being more affordable in Houston than other parts of America, newcomers will have more money to spend on enhancing their quality of life and lifestyle in the Texan capital. 

Expat families and children

Houston's school system is large enough to satisfy even the most demanding parents. The city has plenty of public school options, including magnet and charter schools, as well as private and international schools for newcomers looking for an easier school transition. 

Many newcomers are surprised to find that the city is bursting with greenery. With tree-lined streets, urban forests and manicured parklands in and around its neighbourhoods, families will certainly be able to find a spot to enjoy on a sunny day. What’s more, the city boasts plenty of entertainment options and numerous annual festivals for the whole family. Galveston Bay's beaches and lakes also aren't far away for those wanting to get out of the city for the day.

Climate in Houston

Some new arrivals may have trouble adjusting to the spiking humidity and high temperatures in Houston. Summer days can especially be sweltering. Luckily, there are plenty of places to cool off as air conditioning is available almost everywhere, and the mild winters make up for any weather-related discomfort in June, July and August.

As the city is what you make of it, those who make an effort to adjust and enjoy their new life in Houston will truly be able to make the most of the high standard of living it offers its residents. 

Weather in Houston

Those living in Houston often joke that the city only has two seasons – hot and hotter. Summers can be sweltering and humid. From June to August temperatures hover between 73°F (23°C) and 94°F (35°C), and it isn't unusual to have days that reach up to 100°F (40°C). These temperatures can be overwhelming for those from countries with milder summers – making airconditioning a necessity rather than a luxury for most. Summers are also characterised by afternoon thunderstorms.

Houston's hurricane season is between June and November. Torrential rain batters the city during these months which can cause severe flooding at times. Tornadoes may also occur.

On the other hand, Houston has pleasant winters. Temperatures are mild and range between 43°F (6°C) and 66°F (19°C). The city isn't known for receiving snow during the winter, but rain isn't unusual.


Pros and cons of moving to Houston

Houston has long been a popular city for expats and American citizens moving from other states. Many people are drawn to the city’s excellent healthcare system and vibrant nightlife. That said, living in Houston does have its negative points, like a lack of good public transport options and expensive electricity, though most residents agree that the positives far outweigh the negatives. Below are some of the pros and cons of living in Houston, Texas.

Weather in Houston

+ PRO: Winters are mild

Balanced with a scorching hot summer and a wet hurricane season is a beautiful fall and spring and a mild winter. From November through April, Houston tends towards much more reasonable temperatures and beautiful weather – be warned, however, this is also construction season. Diversions and road closures may be in place.

- CON: Weather can be extreme in summer

Locals claim Houston has two seasons; hot and hotter. The summer months can be sweltering, with temperatures often reaching almost 100°F (40°C). This can be overwhelming for expats hailing from countries with milder summer temperatures. 

Hurricane season (June to November) can often bring torrential rain and severe flooding. Houston doesn’t have a great drainage system, so when it rains, it usually takes a while for the water level to recede. 

Eating out in Houston

+ PRO: There is a huge eating out culture

The culinary scene in Houston is huge – ranging from an exceptional food-truck culture to vibrant and plentiful casual-dining options, and everything in between. With cuisines from every corner of the world, residents won’t find themselves at a loss for something new to try. Eating out typically won’t break the bank either.  

- CON: Restaurants close down frequently

Consistency can be an issue in many places. Newcomers will often find themselves arriving at a favourite restaurant only to discover that it has closed down or been replaced. Turnover for restaurants is quite high in Houston. 

Cost of living in Houston

+ PRO: It's cheaper than the rest of the USA

Cost of living in Houston is cheaper than the US average, with fuel, accommodation and entertainment prices being on the lower end of the scale. Public schooling is also free to all new families, no matter where they're from. 

- CON: Electricity can be costly

Electricity is expensive in Houston. Electric bills are on average 26 percent higher than the rest of the USA. Prices are often even higher during the summer months due to air conditioning constantly running thanks to the overwhelming heat.

Healthcare in Houston

+ PRO: There are excellent healthcare options

Houston is one of the medical care centres of the world and, as a result, healthcare in Houston is exceptional.  If someone is sick, Houston is the place to be. The wealth of options available for treatments is extensive. There’s no shortage of second opinions, and waiting lists are often non-existent or incredibly short. 

- CON: Healthcare can be expensive

Unfortunately, the cost of healthcare is an issue, and it's a nationwide issue. Houston actually falls short of both the state and national average government expenditure for healthcare. The insurance system can also be incredibly confusing and time consuming to figure out. 

Accommodation in Houston

+ PRO: There are loads of options available

Whether searching for a one-bedroom apartment, or a five-bedroom house with a pool and yard, Houston has a plethora of accommodation options available. There seem to be constant new-builds sprouting up across the greater Houston area, and there’s also a wealth of choice of more established properties for those looking for something a little more established. 

- CON: Heavy traffic will influence where one lives

Pay attention to the traffic and congestion when picking a home. Working in the city means new arrivals may need to commute to a neighbouring area, but Houston rush-hour can leave residents stuck in traffic for upwards of an hour depending on where they live. 

Education in Houston

+ PRO: Plenty of excellent schools to choose from

Houston has some top-notch international schools, offering a strong academic portfolio with options for the International Baccalaureate, the French Baccalaureate and the British A-Levels. Some public schools are also highly rated, and many newcomers are choosing these options when it comes to their children’s schooling.

- CON: Private education can be expensive

As in many cities, the cost of private education in Houston can be expensive. Though there’s a wide range of prices, most schools are costly. Many private schools and international schools will also have extra fees to keep in mind like uniforms and school excursions.

Entertainment in Houston

+ PRO: Wide range of activities available

Houston is a lively and vibrant city. It has both pro- and minor league sporting teams, great venues for music concerts and shows, a renowned museum district and no limit of options for family-friendly things to do. The city has a number of international festivals every year which draw crowds from neighbouring cities and states. A lot of these events and activities are low-cost or free. 

- CON: It can be hard to get around

Houston is one of the top 10 biggest cities in the USA by area, as such, everything is pretty well spaced out and walking in many areas isn’t an option. Poor public transport links are also an issue in the city, and grabbing an Uber can be costly. So most people who live in the greater Houston area own and drive their own cars.

Working in Houston

People planning on working in Houston can anticipate becoming part of one of the USA’s fastest-growing business climates. Though the largest city in the Lone Star State isn’t often the first destination that comes to mind when imagining grand working opportunities, it's nonetheless one of America’s most consistent job creators. It claims a pioneering spirit that can contend with the likes of New York City and Chicago.

Job market in Houston

There are numerous multinational and Fortune 500 companies in Houston, not to mention the world’s largest medical complex and a prestigious aerospace facility. Needless to say, there are positions available across a number of industries.

Houston has historically been known as a global oil and gas capital. And although its economy has diversified in recent decades, its backbone is still built with 'black gold'. Those looking for a job in this sector would do well to move here. Otherwise, the healthcare industry is burgeoning, and jobs continue to increase in this sector.

Finding a job in Houston

There are many job portal sites online that newcomers can utilise to find a job in Houston. Those looking for work prior to settling in Houston, recruitment agencies can assist with the process. For people already in the city, networking can go a long way towards finding one's ideal job.

Work culture in Houston

Regardless of which sphere of employment new arrivals are interested in, Houston is home to a diverse population of local transplants and internationals, so they won’t find themselves limited by their ethnicity.

It may take some time to get used to the traditionally conservative outlook that aligns with Southern American values. Otherwise, the general belief seems to be that if a person works hard in Houston, they are bound to be successful. A strong can-do attitude prevails in the city, and a well-maintained infrastructure eases the difficulties associated with settling into a new workplace.

Cost of Living in Houston

Expats and new arrivals from elsewhere in the US moving to Houston will be glad to know that their hard-earned dollars will have higher buying power here than in many other major metropolitan areas in the country. The cost of living in Houston is significantly cheaper than other major US cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Mercer's 2022 Cost of Living Survey, Houston is ranked 85th out of 227 cities worldwide. 

While the cost of living in Houston tends to be more affordable than in other large US cities, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved in various activities and recreational pursuits – naturally, this can cut into one's budget. The cost of living in the city is likely to vary according to each individual newcomer's priorities and lifestyle choices.

Cost of accommodation in Houston

Accommodation in Houston is plentiful, though the cost of purchasing a house is outpacing salaries in some areas. An alternative is renting, which tends to be much more affordable.

For some, renting may even be preferable if they're planning to be in Houston only for a limited time. Most rental accommodation in Houston comes fully furnished. Even rental homes that are advertised as unfurnished will include some basic appliances such as a washing machine, dishwasher and fridge. 

Cost of nightlife and entertainment in Houston

Entertainment and nightlife are cheap in Houston, and new arrivals can do lots of activities without paying a fortune, such as visiting one of the city’s many parks. Houston is also home to several outlet malls where designer clothing is sold at discounted rates.

The cost of eating out is also reasonable in Houston. Newcomers are also likely to find that portions at restaurants in Houston are large and therefore good value for money.  

Cost of transport in Houston

One expense that people relocating to Houston should budget for is the cost of owning and maintaining a car. While Houston does have a public transport network that is reasonably cost effective to use, it is limited and most of the city’s residents find that having their own car is essential to life in Houston.

Cost of education and schooling in Houston

There are a number of good public schools in Houston that can be attended free of charge. Still, some parents choose to send their children to private or international schools, these parents will need to shoulder the high fees usually associated with these schools.

Cost of living in Houston chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for February 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

USD 1,600

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

USD 1,300

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

USD 3,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

USD 2,000


Eggs (dozen)

USD 3.59

Milk (1 litre)

USD 0.94

Rice (1kg)

USD 3.32

Loaf of white bread

USD 3.11

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 9.11

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)


Eating out

Big Mac Meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2.27


USD 4.74

Local beer (500ml)


Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

USD 75


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)  

USD 0.37

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

USD 72

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

USD 170


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

USD 3.10

Bus/train fare to city centre

USD 1.25

Petrol/gasoline per litre

USD 0.84

Accommodation in Houston

New arrivals looking for accommodation in Houston will have plenty of options. Despite being one of the USA's largest cities, Houston's housing market doesn’t mirror the astronomical prices found in places such as New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago.

Availability isn't an issue either. Demand for rentals has increased over the past few years, but there is enough housing in Houston to ensure new arrivals should be able to find an apartment or house that suits them.

Expats have the option to buy or rent property in Houston, but most prefer to rent while they get acquainted with the Bayou City's many neighbourhoods.

Each area of Houston has its own distinct feel and its own pros and cons. Proximity to the workplace and schools in Houston should also be considered when choosing a place to put down roots. Rush-hour traffic can be treacherous and students attend public schools based on where they live, so parents often look in the areas around good schools.

Types of accommodation in Houston 

Accommodation in Houston varies widely. With a huge range of options available, newcomers to the city will certainly be able to find something that suits their budget and lifestyle. There seem to be constant new builds sprouting up across the greater Houston area, and there’s also a wealth of choice of more established properties for those looking for something a little older. 

Free-standing single-family homes are quite popular and often come with gardens and sometimes even a pool. These are mostly found in the suburbs outside of the city centre, while some are situated in gated communities. Townhouses, semi-detached homes, condos, duplexes and bungalows are also common. High-rise and mid-rise buildings are found all over the city, both in the centre and in the suburbs, and are packed with budget to luxury apartments.  

Finding accommodation in Houston

After picking an area to live in, finding a rental property in Houston is a matter of looking through listings, attending viewings and applying for tenancy. Real estate agencies can help in the search for a home and the larger agencies have websites that include district and neighborhood information, school information, rental prices, photos and even virtual tours. There are no fees to rent for a home through a realtor, the fee is always paid by the owner of the apartment.

Some new arrivals choose to look for a place on their own and property portals and community forums are good starting points. Newcomers shouldn’t count out driving through an area either, since 'for sale' and 'to rent' signs constantly materialise on front lawns and in front of apartment buildings. This is often the best way to find a property that hasn’t yet made it onto formal listings.

Renting accommodation in Houston

With countless apartments, gated communities and near-town bungalows, newcomers really are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a house that suits their budget and priorities. They can also save money by looking for sub-letting options and negotiating leases for larger family homes.

Furnished vs unfurnished

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Houston, with furnished being more expensive. In both cases, basic fittings such as light fixtures, blinds and some white-label appliances (such as a stove, refrigerator or washing machine) are included, while fully furnished accommodation has all the furnishings one would need to live there without having to purchase extras. This is ideal for those only living in Houston for a short period, such as a year or a few months, as it nullifies the need to invest in new furnishings or ship already-owned furniture from elsewhere, both of which are expensive endeavours.

The rental process

Most estate agents will require potential tenants to sign a rental application providing certain information, such as a copy of their ID, proof of income and contact details, among other things. This application form will be used to determine a person’s eligibility. Credit history, employment history, rental history and criminal history may all be checked during the application period, depending on the landlord or letting agent. Once prospective tenants have been approved, they will proceed with negotiating and signing the rental lease.


As with elsewhere in the US, leases in Houston are typically for 12 months. Tenants should be careful if they decide to break their lease. Renters should always ensure the rules set out by the rental contract are followed and that they give proper notice when moving out early.

According to Texas regulations, tenants are liable for any expenses that the landlord incurs when a lease is broken, which can result in losing the deposit and even being liable for extra costs on top of this.


Deposits are generally required but vary in amount. Newcomers arriving with a pet should note that landlords can charge a pet deposit on top of the security deposit to cover potential damages caused by the pet. When moving in (and out), it's wise to photograph each part of the property as proof of its condition.

Landlords in Houston have 30 days from the day the tenant moves out to refund the security deposit. If the landlord retains the security deposit, they need to send the tenant an itemised list and explanations for all deductions and costs.


New arrivals in Houston may be surprised at how many different ways there are to handle utilities. It's important to ask the landlord or estate agent for details upfront. There are four common ways in which utilities are paid for in Houston:

  • All utilities included – This simply means that the landlord pays for all utilities. This may make a tenant’s life easier, but it usually also means higher rent and the inability to shop around between service providers.
  • Master-metered utilities – This usually applies to apartment complexes. Here, the complex receives one bill then divides the cost among the apartments. This can apply to all utilities or only some (like electricity or water).
  • Sub-metered utilities – This is similar to the previous option but a sub-meter is installed to regulate each apartment’s exact usage. So tenants still won’t be able to choose their own service providers, but they can keep their bills low by conserving energy and water.
  • Tenant is responsible for utilities – This is usually the case for services such as internet, phone and cable television. Tenants will have to choose their own provider. The city of Houston provides water service, and natural gas is serviced by Centerpoint Energy. There are, however, multiple providers to choose from when it comes to electricity, internet, television and telephone services.

Internet and cable TV

Internet and cable TV are rarely included in the rental price and are usually the tenant's responsibility. Setting up these utilities may involve organising practical aspects, like having the necessary wiring installed, but in many cases the infrastructure may already be in place, making it a simple matter of sorting out a connection with the relevant service providers.

Bundle deals that include access to both the internet and cable TV are a common offering from major providers. These deals are not only good value for money, but they give tenants the advantage of only having to deal with one company for both services.

Home insurance

While home insurance isn't required by law, some landlords may insist that tenants take out a policy. This is generally a good idea as it can save future headaches in case of theft or accidental damage. Estate agents or landlords themselves may be able to recommend a good insurance company.

Garbage removal

Tenants should check with their realtor, landlord or property manager regarding refuse removal services. Many neighbourhoods in Houston have contracts with private garbage pick-up services to service homes under specific jurisdictions. That said, many cities and towns within the Houston Metro area work with their local city or town’s garbage pick-up. If one’s garbage pick-up is serviced by the city of Houston, the service can be set up when setting up a water and sewer account.

Buying property in Houston

New arrivals and foreign investors face no restrictions when buying property in Houston, but there are a few things they will need before proceeding. 

The first thing they will require before thinking of a purchase is an American social security number or an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). American citizens and expats working in the country all have social security numbers, but foreign investors not yet residing in the US would need an ITIN. This can be applied for at the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) – the country's national tax authority. It allows foreigners to open a US bank account to pay for their property and other costs, such as taxes and utilities.

Expats in the US can apply for a loan to buy property in Houston. Permanent residents, or those with a Green Card, will find the process straightforward. Non-permanent residents with a social security number will also be able to get a loan if they have a work visa or an employer-sponsored visa. They will also have to prove they will be living and working in the country for at least three years.

Expats should also keep in mind that they will likely need to furnish a bigger down payment on the property than locals, which is generally 30 percent of the property value. That said, this will ultimately play in their favour if they are able to put down a larger sum, as they would benefit from advantages such as tax breaks down the line.

Areas and suburbs in Houston

The best places to live in Houston

Picking the right area or suburb of Houston to live in is one of the most important decisions new arrivals will make. Those that don’t mind commuting and want to escape the frantic pace of city life can opt for one of the surrounding satellite towns. That said, it’s important to bear in mind that although there is public transport in Houston, most people have their own cars and newcomers should expect to spend a lot of time driving.

Houston’s city centre is separated from its suburbs by Interstate 610, or ‘the Loop’ as it’s more commonly known, and neighbourhoods are usually referred to as being either inside or outside the Loop.

The Loop contains the heart of Houston’s business world and a few residential areas that tend to contain modern, densely packed housing. More and more homes are being built in these areas to accommodate the growing population. Outside the Loop, newcomers will generally find more affordable accommodation and larger properties.

While there’s plenty of available housing in Houston, there are some parts of the city where demand is high and competition for properties is fierce.

Neighbourhoods for young professionals in Houston

Neighbourhoods for young professionals


An older area with smaller homes, Lazybrook is relatively affordable and located just inside the Loop in northwest Houston. It's conveniently located close to Highway 290 and Interstate 10.

Lazybrook is popular among young professionals who value living close to the office and having amenities within easy reach. While there are plenty of restaurants in the neighbourhood, residents can also take a quick drive to Northwest Mall for more choice and late-night shopping.

Greenway and Upper Kirby

Greenway and Upper Kirby are great options for living just inside the I-610. Trendy areas brimming with eateries, cafés and boutique shops, they also boast entertainment venues like comedy clubs, jazz bars and theatres. Upper Kirby also has a number of nightclubs.

Properties here tend to be smaller than those just beyond the Loop, so they aren’t the most suitable for new arrivals with children. But they are perfect for young people who enjoy an active lifestyle as there are numerous opportunities to hike, bike, run or stroll through the local parks.


In Montrose, newcomers will find housing options that range from elegantly restored mansions to contemporary condos and bungalows. The streets are walkable and the area is full of boutique stores, bars and acclaimed restaurants.

Remnants of the area’s bohemian roots are still apparent in its architecture and communal culture, but it has become more mainstream thanks to increasing property prices and the growth of modern housing complexes. In the summer, Montrose residents enjoy get-togethers and festivals in the local parks.

Washington Corridor

Although this area does house families due to the good schools nearby, in recent years the Washington Corridor has become popular with upwardly mobile young professionals. The area is close to Memorial Park, so joggers and cyclists are a common sight. 

The area’s nightlife can be found along Washington Avenue, which is full of eclectic restaurants and lively bars. It’s also located close to major roadways which makes getting around easy. 

Family-friendly neighbourhoods in Houston

Family-friendly neighbourhoods in Houston

Afton Oaks and River Oaks

These are two of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Houston. Perfectly located for shopping, working and dining, residents of Afton Oaks and River Oaks have easy access to the Interstate 610, the Southwest Freeway and the Interstate 10. It’s common to see active residents exercising at the nearby Memorial Park or enjoying a healthy brunch at one of the many patio cafés.

One downside to living in this part of Houston is the fact that most employers are located in and around this area, which results in heavy peak-time traffic congestion.

The demographic of these neighbourhoods is varied but the several good private schools close by make these areas popular with affluent families.

The Woodlands

The Woodlands is located about 30 minutes outside Houston. The area is suited to new arrivals with children because of its spacious properties and its proximity to good public schools. Despite being a little isolated, it's a self-sufficient planned community with plenty of restaurants, boutique stores, galleries and bars, and many residents find little reason to leave.

As the area continues to expand, so do the types of housing available, which includes lofts, townhouses and modern housing complexes.

Clear Lake

Clear Lake is historically a popular suburb in Houston with accommodation that includes quaint townhouses and luxury apartments. The area houses the University of Houston and has a large student population that gives it a youthful energy. There are excellent shopping opportunities in the area.

Residents in Clear Lake range from students to couples and small families. There are several good schools in the region which makes it a great option for people moving to Houston with children.

Healthcare in Houston

Foreigners and citizens from across the USA travel to Houston for medical treatment, and the city is home to some of the foremost medical professionals in America.

Healthcare in Houston is usually associated with the Texas Medical Center (TMC). This world-renowned facility is the largest of its kind and is made up of dozens of institutions that include hospitals, medical schools, nursing colleges and research facilities. Those moving to Houston will have access to the TMC’s high-ranking medical services. They'll also have the benefit of living in a city where the standard of healthcare is high in general.

Urgent-care centres, walk-in clinics, assisted living facilities for the elderly, comprehensive women's care hospitals, and even a healthcare programme that caters to the homeless are all part of Houston’s push to provide residents with the best healthcare possible.

Health insurance is a must-have in Houston. There's no universal coverage in the US and, as a result, those without insurance who need treatment often have to pay exorbitant fees out of their own pockets. Furthermore, with no system of compulsory coverage, the onus falls on individuals to negotiate with their employers for health insurance or to organise it independently.

Most employers in Houston do provide healthcare in association with employment packages. It's also commonplace for dependants and spouses to be covered by these packages. Most employer-sponsored coverage is limited to a certain type of plan, so newcomers with complicated medical issues may still need to organise health insurance independently.

See the page on Healthcare in the USA for a more detailed overview of the national healthcare system.

Hospitals in Houston

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital
Address: 18220 State Highway 249 

Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital
Address: 6700 Beechnut Street

St Joseph Medical Center
Address: 1401 St Joseph Parkway

Texas Children's Hospital
Address: 6621 Fannin St

The Woman's Hospital of Texas
Address: 7600 Fannin Street

West Houston Medical Center
Address: 12141 Richmond Avenue

Education and Schools in Houston

Given its size, there's no shortage of options when it comes to education in Houston. There are several school districts in the greater Houston area containing numerous public and private schools.

With so many choices, parents will need to carefully evaluate their priorities before choosing a school – including their budget, the proximity of the school from home and the workplace, the curriculum they would like their child to learn, and the kind of teaching environment that's best for their child.

Public schools in Houston

The greatest perk of public schools in Houston is that the Texas education system doesn't charge tuition, and expats and locals alike can take advantage of it. That said, this doesn’t mean parents shouldn't do their research. Even though all public schools teach a state-mandated curriculum, the standard of each institution can vary immensely.

Some districts are consistently associated with high standards, while others aren't. Since students attend schools based on attendance zones, it’s important for parents to consider the quality of an area's schools when looking for accommodation in Houston.

To determine the standard of educational facilities in a district, parents can consult Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) reports, which evaluate school districts and individual schools. After selecting a few schools that seem to fit the bill, it’s always a good idea to visit them in person, preferably during school hours, and meet with an administrator to learn a little more about them.

Charter schools and magnet schools

The public school system in Houston also includes charter schools and magnet schools. Charter schools receive state funding and uphold the state curriculum, but tend to be more innovative and flexible than traditional public schools. Magnet schools also use state funding but typically have specialised curricula. They're associated with high achievement and cultural diversity.

Both are good options for parents looking for an affordable but elevated standard of education for their children. That said, admission can be competitive and waiting lists can be long – lottery systems are often used to confirm enrolment.

Private and international schools in Houston

As in most destinations, private schools in Houston are assumed to provide a wider array of extra-curricular activities, better facilities, smaller student-to-teacher ratios, and a higher level of instruction. 

Private schooling is a broad category that includes international schools, religious schools and alternative-learning schools like Montessori. Some schools uphold the state curriculum, while others follow foreign curricula or offer the International Baccalaureate.These schools charge tuition and, in the case of international schools in particular, fees can be steep. Parents should also apply as early as possible since the best schools usually have long waiting lists.

Special-needs education in Houston

Parents of children with special needs in Houston can choose between public schools, private schools and homeschooling. It's up to the parents to decide what type of education would suit their child's needs best.

Parents should connect with friends, other parents and neighbours to learn about experiences they may have had at different schools. Once parents have identified a number of possible schools, they should read about the school online by checking the school's state accountability rating on the Texas Education Agency's website.

Public schools in Houston must give a child a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This means the school must assist parents in finding out if their child has a disability and then develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Public schools aren't allowed to discriminate against children with special needs.

Many parents prefer to send their children to a private school. These schools still allow inclusive education, but with the added benefit of smaller classes which means more individual attention.

There are also a number of specialised schools in Houston. These schools are aimed at children who need to learn in specialised environments. Schools like the Arbor School and Briarwood provide learning environments that encourage the total development of each student.

Tutoring in Houston

Tutoring is widely available to students in Houston. There is a range of options available. Parents will find that many older students make themselves available for tutoring. Tutoring companies like also have options that include private in-home one-on-one sessions, small group sessions, and online tutoring.

Parents may find it useful to enquire at their child's school or from other parents to find out which tutors are dependable.

Lifestyle in Houston

It’s fair to say that the lifestyle in Houston is whatever people make of it – from oil-baron ostentation to a quiet existence rich in culture. 

With its mild winters and hot summers, the city celebrates sports and recreation in a big way. Chances are it won’t be long before new arrivals find their favourite patch of greenery and make activities under the wide Texan sky a regular part of their lives.

That said, there's plenty for those who'd rather consume calories than burn them off. There's a dizzying amount of award-winning restaurants in Houston, with new ones opening up constantly. And if eating out doesn’t suit their bank balance, newcomers can forage through weekend farmers' markets for local produce and homemade fare.

As part of the city's burgeoning cultural scene, residents can also visit art galleries in former factory spaces, marvel at downtown Houston's contemporary architecture and enjoy some of the country's best performing arts companies. The city's creative spirit is contagious. New arrivals will likely find themselves incorporating some part of it into their routines.

Shopping in Houston

As can be expected from an energy capital, many residents have money to spend and shopping in Houston is top-notch. Even those with a smaller budget can take advantage of its antique markets, outlet malls and seasonal sales.

The city is home to The Galleria, one of the biggest malls in the USA, as well as a number of shopfront neighbourhoods. New arrivals will easily be able to find prominent designer labels, department and home décor stores, and the odd high-end speciality boutique. Memorial City Mall is another well known, but less ritzy, one-stop shopping centre.

Those who'd prefer a shopping experience with more character should try the downtown pavilions and areas like Post Oak, Highland Village and Uptown Park, which offer their own assortments of aisle-cruising options. Antique hunters should try the Museum District, where they can also find galleries selling the work of local artists.

Newcomers who are keen to make a day out of it should head to the Katy Mills outlet mall on Interstate 10, which is a hotspot for surplus and off-season low-cost shopping and has several well-known brands as outlet residents.

Similarly, Thompson's Antique Center of Texas is located just outside the city and boasts dozens of dealers, affording patient shoppers the opportunity to go home with a piece of the past.

Eating out in Houston

Houstonians love to eat and its most innovative restaurateurs infuse classic Texan flavours with the culinary cultures of its diverse population. The tree-lined Montrose area, the Heights neighbourhood, the Market Square Historic District and Bayou Place are particularly known for hosting great restaurants and comfortable cafés.

Apart from sampling the local Tex-Mex and barbecue fare, new arrivals should spend some time partaking in a great local pastime – big breakfasts at one of the city's many brunch spots.

Arts and culture in Houston

Many newcomers are surprised to find that the famed Texan cowboy culture actually gives way to a thriving artistic community in Houston. The city boasts symphony, theatre, ballet and opera companies of national acclaim.

Performances are always on the horizon at venues like the Wortham Theater Centre, Alley Theatre and Jones Hall, as well as outdoor venues like Hermann Park and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Woodlands.

For those who enjoy immersing themselves in the past, there's an entire museum district with establishments that include the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science, the Contemporary Arts Museum and a Children’s Museum. Admission is reasonable at most museums in Houston, and the collections and exhibitions are remarkable.

Sport and outdoor activities in Houston

Houston is home to a number of professional league teams that are supported by a sports-loving local culture. And that's not to mention the countless collegiate and high school teams that compete at a slightly lower, but no less exciting, level of play.

The Houston Astros (baseball), the Houston Texans (football) and the Houston Rockets (basketball) all clash against opponents in the city's world-class stadiums. And even if they aren't necessarily fans, residents can make a day of experiencing these iconic local pastimes.

While there are numerous professional teams to support for those who'd rather watch, for active newcomers who love the great outdoors, Houston is one of the best major US cities to live in. Local government spends large amounts of time and money maintaining and beautifying its public spaces, and the result is hundreds of kept parks and plenty of bike and walking trails. 

Kids and Family in Houston

Parents and kids new to Houston will fall in love with the city and its wide range of attractions designed specifically for families. Houston is incredibly child-friendly, both in terms of the infrastructure in place to support families and the activities on hand to entertain the little ones.

Parents in Houston

Despite being the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston offers parents many of the perks of a smaller, suburban community.

Housing and living costs are below the national average. Even families with a single breadwinner can often afford a more spacious home and better quality of life than they might be used to. Most families look for accommodation outside the city centre. And whether they settle into an exclusive neighbourhood like River Oaks, a planned community like Sugar Land or the villages of Woodlands, most have little trouble finding a safe neighbourhood that suits them.

Parents must evaluate the educational landscape of an area before they move. Attendance at public schools in Houston is based on where people live, so they'll want to choose accordingly since some school districts perform better than others. Traffic can be treacherous in this ever-expanding metropolis. Parents will want to choose an area with easy-to-reach amenities that's close to work and school.

Parents can also take comfort in the exemplary standards of healthcare in Houston. The Texas Medical Center (TMC) contains multiple nationally ranking institutions, and the Texas Children’s Hospital is internationally renowned. The city's medical professionals are top-notch and new arrivals only have to ensure they find appropriate health insurance to cover what can be high fees.

Kids in Houston

With its hot summers and mild winters, kids in Houston can spend most of the year exhausting themselves outside. And there's plenty to do indoors if the summer heat gets unbearable. One of the best things about living in the suburbs of Houston is that kids are likely to find playmates aplenty. Children can make friends fast, and more sociable kids often spend time playing games in their neighbours' yards and houses.

Parents can also sign up sporty children for one of the city's numerous youth athletic leagues. Nearly every sport is represented in some way, and teams are organised through churches, community centres and formal leagues – a fantastic way to introduce children to potential friends.

Houston also has plenty of attractions to keep children entertained on the weekends.

Entertainment for kids in Houston

Children's Museum of Houston 

Voted the number one children's museum in the US, the Children's Museum of Houston is a favourite for families with young kids. The museum is now bigger than ever, having undergone a recent expansion. Its 90,000 square feet are made up of permanent and changing interactive exhibits that will entertain the little ones for hours on end. 

Houston Zoo

This 55-acre lush zoological garden within Hermann Park is a fantastic opportunity for children of all ages and their parents to get acquainted with the natural world. Thousands of animals and special exhibits await those interested in mammals, reptiles, birds and more. The zoo hosts overnight events where kids and parents can interact with the zoo's animal ambassadors and enjoy a guided night hike. The Houston Zoo is committed to saving wildlife, as shown by the 45 conservation projects they run worldwide. 

Space Center Houston

The centre has a Kids Space Place where children can experience space just like an astronaut would. Children will learn about space and take part in fun activities that take them on an 'out-of-this-world' journey into the past, present and future of the US space programme. 

Galveston Bay

Just an hour from Houston, families can escape from the city's push and pull in Galveston Bay. They can rent a boat and spend the day water-skiing, tubing or just relaxing on the water. The Kemah Boardwalk also overlooks the Bay. With its host of thrilling rides and endless entertainment options, it is certainly a kids paradise. 

Express Children's Theatre

Express Children’s Theatre is a great place for children and their families to enjoy the performing arts.  The theatre creates innovative productions that honour the curiosity of young minds and celebrate Houston’s diverse culture.

See and Do in Houston

Sports fanatics, theatre buffs, nature enthusiasts and culinary connoisseurs will all find countless things to see and do on their weekends in Houston. Though Houston’s relative youth as a city doesn’t lend itself to grand, historic facades or memorials to past achievements, it does mean that an impressive collection of modern and entertaining sightseeing is the order of the day.

Attractions in Houston

Downtown Aquarium

A six-acre aquatic wonderland, the Downtown Aquarium features over 200 different species of aquatic life from around the world, such as alligators, red-bellied piranhas, sharks and stingrays, among others. Downtown Aquarium is committed to conservation and aims to teach its visitors the importance of protecting and respecting the environment. There’s also a full-service restaurant on site.

Discovery Green

This 12-acre park in the centre of downtown Houston is a public space with oodles of potential. There’s a one-acre lake, a children’s playground, a public library, an amphitheatre, as well as dog runs and art exhibits. Not to mention, there’s little better than relaxing on the open lawn or strolling along the paths and trails. Stop at The Grove, the park’s rooftop restaurant, for a cocktail while the sun sets.

Bayou Bend

Ima Hogg was a prolific philanthropist who devoted her life to the city’s cultural and civic institutions. Bayou Bend is her former home and the resting place of an astounding collection of art dating from colonial times to the mid-19th century. Alongside the impressive interior of the mansion, the 14 acres of meticulously manicured gardens are also worth a wander.

The Houston Museum of Natural Sciences

An outstanding museum with a stunning collection of mineral specimens, dinosaur fossils, a planetarium, an observatory, an IMAX movie theatre and a three-storey butterfly centre. The museum provides a great day out for visitors of all ages. Parents will be as enthralled by the exhibits as their little ones.

Kemah Boardwalk

This boardwalk overlooks Galveston Bay and is full of entertainment options. The 60-acre megaplex offers a whole host of thrilling rides for the kids, as well as some of Houston's top dining and shopping experiences for their parents.

What's On in Houston

Whether celebrating the city's past or present, there are a plethora of annual events in Houston for new arrivals to enjoy. The city's impressive array of green spaces are ideal venues for organisers and there always seems to be something interesting or exciting going on in Houston. 

Annual events in Houston

Chevron Houston Marathon (January)

This is Houston's largest single-day sporting event. The annual marathon starts and ends at Downtown’s George R. Brown Convention Center. It has steadily grown to attract more than 20,000 entrants from around the world and 200,000 spectators. 

Houston Art Car Parade (April)

This free parade is driven by an urge to create. Artists, organisations, community groups and school students transform old cars into aesthetic masterpieces. Though the spirit of competition has heightened since the introduction of awards, the greatest part of the art car parade is that it's art for art's sake. Spectators gather around a designated location and wonder at the imagination and innovation of the participants.

Houston International Jazz Festival (August)

The Houston International Jazz Festival features well-known artists from around the globe in an effort to create a wider and more appreciative audience of the genre and its history. Thousands of loyal supporters turn out each year to enjoy the top-notch acts and to support a festival that donates its proceeds toward creating educational activities for school-aged youth.

Texas Renaissance Festival (October/November)

Roughly an hour outside Houston, new arrivals and locals alike can step into a different time. The 55-acre recreated English village pays homage to a bygone era with costumed performers, arts and crafts, hundreds of shops, human-powered rides and delicious food and drink on offer.

Mayor's Official Downtown Houston Holiday Celebration (November/December)

Houston's mayor kicks off the holiday season with an annual celebration. Residents can expect fireworks, entertainment, and choirs as the city goes all out. The event culminates with the lighting of the tree outside City Hall. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Houston

People planning to move to Houston often have all sorts of questions, particularly about schools and the best areas to live. Read on for the most frequently asked questions about living in Houston.

What is the weather like in Houston?

Summers in Houston can be intense for new arrivals with temperatures frequently reaching highs of 100°F (40°C). Houston also suffers through a heavy hurricane season from June to November which can lead to flooding.

Other than summer, the weather in Houston is quite pleasant. Winters are extremely mild.

What are the best public school districts in Houston? 

Houston has several school districts, each with a number of elementary, middle and high school options. While many locals will insist that only certain districts are acceptable, it’s important to keep in mind that certain schools in reputable districts may have poor performance records, and certain schools in districts with a less than perfect reputation may have exceptional performance records. For this reason, it’s highly advised that new arrivals do their research on districts in general, but also take the time to suss out individual schools. 

Is healthcare accessible in Houston?

Houston is well known for its excellent healthcare system. Many patients travel to Houston to receive specialist treatments. If a resident feels like they aren't receiving the care they need, they'll have no shortage of second opinions. Unfortunately, like in the rest of the USA, healthcare can be exorbitantly expensive. New arrivals are advised to get medical insurance as soon as they arrive in the country.

Can I rely on public transport while in Houston?

Sadly, one of the biggest drawbacks of life in Houston is the distinct lack of accessible public transport. Though the city does have a bus system and the METRORail, neither service the city effectively. This is due to the city being so large and spread out. Taxis and ride-hailing apps like Uber are popular in the city, however.

Many residents end up renting or buying their own car as driving is the easiest way of navigating the city. New arrivals should try to avoid driving in rush hour though, as the city is notorious for its heavy traffic.

What is the cost of living in Houston?

The cost of living in NYC, LA and Chicago are significantly higher than living in Houston. The primary reason the cost of living in Houston is lower is that accommodation prices in the city are affordable. Obviously, some options will be cheaper or more expensive than others depending on the level of luxury and the size of the space one will be renting, but the price of accommodation is generally below the national average. 

Additionally, petrol is cheap in this Texan energy capital. Food is also priced lower than the national average.

What are the best neighbourhoods to live in?

A difficult question that begs a difficult answer. Different neighbourhoods are 'best' for different people, depending on priorities, the desired proximity to certain places and budget.

For the young, single professional, it might be best to live somewhere in central Houston, while expat families may be more suited to live just outside of central Houston, in one of the many areas known for high levels of safety and exemplary schools.

Getting Around in Houston

New arrivals in Houston who are accustomed to using public transport will have to make quite an adjustment when it comes to getting around. Though Houston has made significant improvements to its public transportation networks, the city is sprawled over over a large area, which makes travelling between destinations long and complicated. Most Houstonians own cars and find driving to be the best way to get around the city.

Driving in Houston

Most residents find it necessary to have a car to get around Houston. This allows them greater freedom and often saves time. A number of freeways make getting around by car fairly easy. Roads and signage in Houston are of an excellent standard, and drivers are usually courteous.

There are downsides to driving in Houston. Construction projects are seemingly always taking place and result in delays and road closures. Rush hours last from 7am to 9am in the mornings and 4pm to 7pm in the evenings. During these times, highway traffic almost comes to a standstill, so drivers need to have a high level of patience. The average commute time is 27 minutes, which is around average for a city in the US, but the commute time can vary considerably depending on the distance from home to the office, and whether toll roads are used. 

The legal driving age in Texas in 16.

Toll Roads

The Sam Houston Tollway is the main tollway around the Houston area, but there are plenty of others too. Some stretches of freeway include high-occupancy toll lanes for vehicles carrying at least two people. The toll fee is calculated using sensors at onramps, checkpoints and offramps and is worked out based on the distance and type of vehicle. Some tollways accept cash, but it is always cheaper to have a pre-paid electronic tag like the TxTag, the state’s electronic toll tag, or EZ Tag, Houston’s toll tag. Those who wish to avoid toll fees can turn on the 'avoid toll feature' on their chosen map app.

Getting a driver's licence in Houston

Newcomers to Texas over the age of 18 can drive on a foreign licence for up to a year or until they become a Texan resident, whichever happens first. Once a driver has officially become resident in Texas, they will usually be granted a 90-day grace period during which a local licence must be acquired to continue driving.

The US has bilateral agreements with a number of countries, including France, Germany, South Korea and Taiwan. Nationals of these countries over the age of 18 can surrender their licence from home in exchange for a Texan licence. Bilateral agreements with other countries do not apply to anyone under the age of 18, meaning that under-18s moving to Texas can only exchange their licence if it is from Canada or the US.

Expats from countries without a bilateral agreement (including under-18s from outside the US and Canada) and expats who refuse to hand in their foreign licence will have to undergo practical and theoretical testing to obtain a local licence.

To apply for a local licence, the following documentation is required:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of residency and lawful presence in the country
  • Social security number
  • Evidence of insurance and vehicle registration for all vehicles owned

Learn more about applying for a Texas driving license on the Texas Department of Public Safety website.

Cycling in Houston

Due to Houston’s hot climate and the fact that the city is so spread out, bikes are best used for recreational purposes rather than daily commutes. The city has several great cycle paths and a number of bike trails that run through its parks.

Houston has a bike-share system, BCycle, which has over 130 stations throughout central Houston. These stations are mainly found downtown, in the Museum District and the Med Center. The system has a pay-as-you-go option. Cyclists can also sign up for monthly or annual memberships.

Public transport in Houston

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, or METRO as it's more commonly known, is in charge of public transport in Houston. METRO operates various local and express services as well as the METRORail light rail line.

METRO has an integrated ticketing system where fares can be paid for either in cash or by using a reloadable METRO Q Card.


Houston’s METRORail network is relatively small, consisting of just three lines: green, purple and red. During the day, trains arrive every six to 12 minutes, beginning in the early morning, either 4.30am or 5.30am depending on the day of the week, and ending at midnight during the week or 2.20am on weekends.


Buses in Houston are a relatively comfortable way to travel. They arrive at regular intervals and generally run on time in the city centre. They operate seven days a week and nearly 24 hours a day. That said, the network is limited and many suburbs in Houston aren't adequately serviced by METRO buses. There are park-and-ride services, which allow commuters to drive to a bus station where they can leave their car and take the bus into the city. 

To get around in the downtown area, new arrivals can catch a Greenlink Bus. Though the network is limited in scope, these buses provide localised transport free of charge.

Taxis in Houston

Taxis are readily available at designated ranks or along busy streets in the city centre. It's hard to catch a taxi on the street outside of the downtown core, so it may be necessary to book one ahead of time. As destinations in Houston are often quite spread out, travelling by taxi can become expensive. 

Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are another option for getting around Houston and are accessible via their respective mobile apps.