What a great choice! Moving to Tampa, Florida might be just the change you need – you’re going to love living in the Big Guava. If you are like most people, you find the year-round warm weather irresistible, and you value the relatively low cost of living for a metropolitan area appealing. Tampa is a modern city fully stocked with amenities, and the surrounding landscape offers the opportunity for plenty of adventure. The city of Tampa sits on the north shore of the Tampa Bay just across the water from St Petersburg. The region is right in the middle of the Florida Peninsula along the western coast of the Sunshine State. It has a stable economy, thriving communities, and is home to several unique entertainment attractions.
If you are just getting started with your relocation plans, use this guide to manage your move. Discover the most important things to know about the Tampa, FL area, and learn how you can take advantage of professional movers to relieve some of the burdens of your interstate move project.
Living in Tampa: What to Know Before Moving to Tampa, FL
Depending on where you are moving from, you can expect your new life in Tampa to be quite a bit different than what you’ve previously known.
Tampa sits within the humid subtropical climate zone that is dominant throughout the South Eastern United States. The summers are hot and often humid with temperatures reaching into the 90-degree range and sometimes even the triple digits. The fall and winter months are drier and cooler with highs in the 60 to 70-degree range.
There is an average rainfall of about 50 inches a year which is near twice the average for the nation. Sporadic, torrential rains and thunderstorms begin in May and last through October. Winters are dry, and snowfall is almost entirely unheard of in Florida.
The biggest concern for most new residents is the fear of hurricanes and tropical storms. While all of Florida endures strong winds from the sea and weak tornadoes inland every season, Tampa is out of the direct path for the worst of it. The last time even a minor category one hurricane made landfall near Tampa was way back in 1946.
State and Local Taxes
Florida is one of seven states in the union that does not impose an individual income tax on residents. Wealthy retirees from high tax states favor relocating to this southern haven for this very reason.
Florida does impose a corporate income tax on certain businesses and organizations. The rate is 5.5%, and it applies to all domestic and foreign corporations doing business in the state. Nonprofits often qualify for an exemption. Companies must also pay a small reemployment tax to fund state employee programs. Other states refer to this tax as an unemployment tax, and it serves much the same function. Florida repealed additional taxes on intangibles, like investments, in 2007 freeing funds to move quickly between opportunities.
As a city inside Hillsborough County, Tampa residents pay 8.5% in sales tax. The statewide sales tax rate is only 6%, but the county adds another 2.5% to fund the local government. Expect a few excise taxes on essential items like fuel and communications which also increase public revenues.
Most cities governments in Florida generate revenue from property taxes. In Tampa, the average rate is 1.09% with the average homeowner paying approximately $2200 a year. This rate is slightly below the national average.
Transportation and Traffic
Three major Interstate Freeways take you through and around Tampa. Interstate 4 starts in Dayton Beach along the Atlantic coast and cuts southwest through Orlando before ending in the middle of downtown Tampa. Interstate 75 runs north to south through the state terminating in Miami. You might drive all the way up to Canada if you cared to follow this winding stretch of pavement that far north. Interstate 275 branches off from Interstate 75 and wraps around Tampa to the west taking you through St Petersburg. Cross over the Tampa Bay on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to join Interstate 75 again.
Along with Hillsborough Ave, Interstate 275 has the worst commuter traffic in the region. Like most major cities, freeways pack full of cars beginning at about 7:00 AM and again at 3:30 PM on the weekdays. Things quiet down again after two or three hours of bumper to bumper madness.
Although not nearly as bad as the traffic you might encounter in New York or Los Angeles, the average commute time is one hour. The city encourages carpooling and the use of public transportation. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Authority offers local bus and express commuter bus services as well as a vanpool matching service.
The Cost of Living
Overall, the cost of living in Tampa is low compared to other urban centers but about average as compared to the rest of the United States. A two-bedroom apartment might cost slightly more than $1300 a month. The median home value is $225,000. Property and rental rates increased steadily over the past several years, but the markets appear to be cooling off.
The biggest obstacle to affordability most encounter is mediocre wages. Median household income is just above the $50,000 mark. That salary estimate is underwhelming for a large city with a bustling seaport, stable economy, and an unemployment rate of only 3.4%.
The first primary industry in Tampa was cigar manufacturing supported by imports of tobacco from island nations in the Caribbean. While this trade still has historical and aesthetic significance, producers no longer dominate the local economy like they once did.
Tampa has diversified its economy over the past several decades to include industrial manufacturing. Lockheed Martin and Boeing both have facilities in the area. For the healthcare industry, Bay Healthcare Systems and the Tampa General Hospital are two of the largest employers in the area, and JP Morgan Chase is the biggest financial services provider.
With a seaport and an international airport, Tampa hosts a foreign trade zone supporting jobs in warehousing, transportation, and shipping. Local agriculture supports jobs in the ornamental flowers business and food production. Two industrial breweries, Anheuser-Busch and Pabst, have facilities in Tampa as well.
The tourism and hospitality industries are also active. With theme parks, exotic animal zoos, and historical monuments, the Tampa area offers visitors plenty to see and do. An army of service industry employees supports these amenities.
Things to Do
Whether you’re single or have a family with school-aged children, you’ll find there’s always something to do in Tampa, FL.
Busch Gardens is an African themed amusement park in the northern section of town. It features rides, exotic animals, and live performances. Adventure Island is a waterpark with slides, pools, and lazy rivers. The Florida Aquarium is also in Tampa and focuses its education and conservation efforts on improving the Tampa Bay area. View Manatees at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. See tigers and other exotic cats at the Big Cat Rescue. Visit Lowery Park Zoo for a glimpse of other fascinating critters.
For sports enthusiasts, the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers play at Raymond James Stadium just east of the airport. The MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays play at Tropicana Field across the harbor in St. Petersburg. For Hockey fans, watch the Lighting on the ice at the Amalie Arena downtown.
There are also lots of opportunities to get outdoors and explore. Relax on any number of the white sand beaches Florida is famous for, and cruise around the bay on a rented harbor bike. Explore bayous, wetlands, and mangroves at the Hillsborough State Park, or stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk.
Best Neighborhoods in Tampa
There are a lot of great places to live it the Tampa Bay area, but a few neighborhoods stand out.
The Hillsborough River passes on the western border of the neighborhood where you’ll find museums, public parks, and the famous Tampa River Walk trail. Garrison Channel borders the south where you will find the Tampa Convention Center and the beautiful Cotachobee Fort Brook Park.
Commercial buildings dominate most of the downtown area. Apartment rates are high and living quarters smaller than you might find in other areas. If you work in the city center itself, it might be worth the extra expense to set up your home close to your employer to avoid the hassle of traffic and parking.
Many employers are in the service industries supporting local tourism. You might also find office work for any number of public agencies. Banks, insurance companies, and brokerages are prominent as well.
- Population – 13,900
- Median Household Income – $68,000
- Home Price – Highrise condos starting above $300,000
- Apartment Rent – $1500 to $2400 per month
- Employers – Hillsborough County Public Schools, City of Tampa, GTE Financial,
- Schools and Colleges – Rompello K-8 Magnet School
Something to Try: Watch a professional hockey game at the Amalie Arena.
Pronounce Ybor with a long ‘E’ sound (ee-bor). Ybor City is a National Historic Landmark District famous for its Cuban, Spanish and Italian heritage. The region also has historical roots in the cigar industry, and you can still find makers and sellers sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. This desirable community sits northeast of the main downtown area and features a blend of classic and modern architecture. You can find a mix of single-family homes, condos, townhouses, and apartment buildings ranging in price.
Some of the best nightlife and dining options in the entire Tampa area are in Ybor’s historic downtown area. Several breweries, wine bars, and craft coffee shops give you plenty of choices for quenching your thirst.
Most jobs are in the services industry with restaurants, bars, and retail shops employing residents. Interstate 4 passes through the neighborhood and connects you with other Tampa area employers if you need to commute to work.
- Population – 5200
- Median Household Income – $47,000
- Home Price – $188,000 for a two-bedroom home
- Apartment Rent – $800 to $1400 per month
- Employers – Ikea, UPS Freight, Aramark Uniform Services
- Schools and Colleges – Hillsborough Community College, BT Washington Elementary, Lockhart Elementary Magnet School, Orange Grove Middle Magnet School, Academy Prep Center of Tampa
Something to Try: Ride the Ybor streetcar through the Channel District to Downtown Tampa and back.
The Channel District
You’ll find this district wedged between Downtown Tampa and the Ybor Channel. It has many of the same conveniences of being close to the center of the city but with fewer of the skyscrapers blocking the view. The Selmon Expressway, a local toll highway, connects you with the rest of Tampa Bay.
Cruise ships dock in the port along the channel, and the area caters to tourists as they come and go from their vacations. Dining, nightlife, shopping, and guest accommodations fill the nooks of commercial spaces throughout this district.
Most of the housing available is in the form of multifamily apartments or condominiums. Expect to pay higher prices to get close to the water’s edge, but rates drop as you move toward the city’s center. This area is perfect for working professionals who need to be close to town but face budget restrictions.
- Population – 3100
- Median Household Income – $47,033
- Home Price – $450,000 for a small condo with a view of the water
- Apartment Rent – $1400 to $2400 per month
- Employers – The Port of Tampa, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line,
- Schools and Colleges – Channel Academy of Math and Sciences
Something to Try: Spend a day learning about the Tampa Bay marine ecology at the Florida Aquarium
Hyde Park Village
This upscale neighborhood blends amenities attractive to families and young professionals. Hyde Park Village is to the west of Tampa’s city center across the Hillsborough River. Bayshore Boulevard trims the southern edge running parallel to the water and a lovely paved bike trail.
The South Howard (SoHo) section of this district boasts the best nightlife in the city. Dotted with breweries, nightclubs, and rooftop hangouts, the college-aged crowds frequently find their way over from the University of South Florida to mingle here.
Housing options are plentiful and various. You might find an older single-family home to renovate or purchase a newer condo. Though the area is more expensive on average than the rest of Tampa, you might find a great deal if you search carefully. Neighborhood retailers and service providers power the local economy. Hyde Park Village is the largest shopping mall and employer in the area. Working professionals commute into the city or across the channel to Davis Island.
- Population – 18,900
- Median Household Income – $74,800
- Home Price – $457,000 for a large single-family home
- Apartment Rent – $1200 to $3500 per month
- Employers – Tampa General Hospital, Publix Supermarket,
- Schools and Colleges – St. John’s Episcopal Parish Day School, Gorrie Elementary, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, University of Tampa
Something to Try: Participate in a pirate invasion when the classic sailing ship, Jose Gasparilla, reenacts its historic landing.
Culbreath Island and Heights
This trendy neighborhood on the far west side of Tampa is almost entirely residential. There aren’t any convenience stores close by. You must travel into town if you want to pick up your handful of goodies at the local store, but this slight nuisance is worth it. Culbreath Island is a gated community that epitomizes the South Florida luxury lifestyle. These tiny islands are part of a string of high-value waterfront homes lining Old Tampa Bay. Many of these homes have private boat docks and exclusive access to the water.
To the east is Culbreath Heights, which features more traditional housing. Though property values are still high, these homes have better access to local services.
- Population – Less than 1000
- Median Household Income – $139,000
- Home Price – $500,000 for a modest starter home several blocks away from the water
- Apartment Rent – Single Family homes only with rental rates beginning above $3000 per month.
- Employers – Local retailers and services providers
- Schools and Colleges – Grady Elementary, Mabry Elementary, St. Mary’s Episcopal Day School
Something to Try: Depart from your private dock for a day of boating out on the bay.
Access this small island neighborhood to the south of the city center by crossing a channel and passing the Tampa General Hospital. A small international airport is on the southern end where you may rent planes for a recreational flight or travel to island nations in the Gulf.
The area is affluent but has a blend of affordable housing as well. You may purchase a luxury condo with views of the bay or the city, or you might rent a small apartment in the island’s interior. If you can leverage the resources, single-family homes and small mansions are also available.
Many healthcare professionals who work at the hospital also live on the island. Others commute into the city daily. There are only two bridges at a single point to access the island, so plan your trips across at times when you can avoid traffic.
- Population – 3800
- Median Household Income – $75,000
- Home Price – $818,000 for a single-family home
- Apartment Rent – $1200 to $2400 per month
- Employers – Tampa General Hospital, Peter O. Knight Airport, Hillsborough Community College
- Schools and Colleges – Seaborn Day Schools, Tampa Pinnacle Academy
Something to Try: Join the Davis Island Yacht Club and test your sailing skills against fellow members.
How to Move to Tampa
It takes a lot of work to move, and mistakes cost you time and money. Use this short guide to coordinate your efforts. Refer to it as often as you need a reminder.
Make a Relocation Plan
Start making your plan as soon as you know you are moving to Florida. Create a schedule and begin the process of researching your options. You might consider getting a binder, notebook, or planner to organize all your notes, contacts, and relevant documents related to your move.
- Create a list of tasks you need to accomplish for your physical move.
- Give tasks a deadline and list the equipment and supplies you need for each.
- Take inventory of your belongings and create a checklist of items to pack.
- Estimate costs and establish your budget for equipment, labor, travel, and supplies.
- Contact moving companies no later than two months before the move for quotes.
- Research rental rates and reserve a moving truck as soon as possible.
Make sure you ask about insurance coverage. Every legitimate moving company carries basic liability insurance, but that only covers business-related expenses. To protect your belongings, upgrade to the full value protection. If you need a more affordable option, release value protection is better than nothing. Ask the moving company’s representative for details.
You should also budget for additional insurance coverage if you decide to rent a moving truck and do the work yourself. The coverage provided by the leasing company is often expensive, but you can ask your auto insurance provider for a rate on an alternative policy.
Pack and Organize
It’s always a good idea to downsize as much as possible. Get rid of useless or unimportant items to save yourself some time, money, and effort. Only focus on packing and hauling the items you intend to use once you arrive in Tampa.
- Start listing your used items for sale online two months before the move.
- Hold a garage sale one month prior and liquidate as much as possible.
- Donate or discard anything left over.
- Take hazardous chemicals or recycling to the appropriate disposal centers.
- Pack your nonessential belongings starting three weeks before your move date.
- Disassemble furniture and stage boxes for loading into the truck a week before.
If you’ve worked ahead effectively, the work on the day of the move is easy. Just indicate to your crew or helpers the items and sequence of things to load into the truck. Clean your old home after your belongings are out of the way.
Give Notifications and Get Documents
As you prepare your belongings for the move, you must also prepare your personal and professional life for the transition to Tampa. Gather documents and records and provide notices of your intent to move to everyone you know.
- Give your landlord at least a 30-day notice before you vacate your rental.
- Provide your employer with a formal written resignation two weeks before you leave your job.
- Change your address with creditors, banks, and insurance providers before the next billing cycle.
- Cancel library memberships, magazine subscriptions, and any associations with clubs or groups.
Documents to collect:
- Medical and dental records for everyone in your family.
- Transfer prescriptions to a pharmacy in Tampa a week before you leave.
- Passports, driver’s licenses, Social Security Cards, and other forms of identification.
- Public school records and college transcripts.
Provide family and friends with your new address and take some time to say good-bye. You should also leave emergency contact instructions with a trusted neighbor should some issue arise after you depart.
Travel to Florida
When most people move across the country, they choose to drive to their new state. Florida is the farthest southeastern point of the United States. It’s likely you will arrive in the area via Interstate 10, Interstate 75, or Interstate 95 which all terminate in Florida’s coastal cities.
Take your vehicle to a licensed repair facility and have a qualified mechanic inspect it before you attempt the journey. Resolve any maintenance or mechanical issues discovered. If you choose to ship your vehicle instead, you can fly directly to Tampa. The Tampa International Airport receives domestic flights from major carriers daily.
Establish Your New Life
Unpack at your new home. Drop off any rental equipment you still have and go over the inventory list you made to make sure you haven’t lost anything. Also, check for any damages to your belongings. If you hired a moving service, you might file an insurance claim to cover the expense of any losses.
You have 30 days from the time you establish your residence in Florida to obtain your driver’s license and register your vehicle. Florida implemented the Federal Real ID compliance program in 2010. While this feature enhances security, it does complicate licensing just a little bit. Make time to visit a Florida Driver License and Motor Vehicles Service Center. You cannot obtain your Florida driver’s license or vehicle registration online.
What to bring:
- A primary form of ID such as a birth certificate or passport. Your old license may not qualify.
- Proof of your social security numbers like your social security card or a W-2 form.
- Two proofs of your new residence such as utility bills or a lease contract.
- Proof of Florida automotive insurance.
- Out-of-state vehicle title and registration.
- The physical vehicle for the VIN inspection.
Fill out applications and pay the associated fees. Once you have your license and registration established, you can renew online every year.
Enroll children in the local school and sign up for any college course you may want to take. You can also register to vote at this time through the post office.
Settle in and Become a Floridian
Spend some time exploring your neighborhood and acclimating to the weather. Florida is known for its humidity, but you’ll get used to it. While you’re cruising around enjoying the sun, get to know the locations of emergency services and your routes to work, school, and shopping centers.
Remember to enjoy your new home. Take a break to recover from your move, and then try something new and fun.