15 Things to Know BEFORE Moving to Tucson, AZ 2024


Recently captivated by the allure of the Wild West and have your sights set on Tucson? Few US cities can match Tucson’s eclectic and lively cultural scene, catering to food enthusiasts, scholars, and sports fans alike.

With a deep-rooted cultural history spanning centuries, Tucson’s Spanish name originates from an indigenous term meaning “at the foot of the black hill,” referring to the basalt-coated Sentinel Peak.

Before you set off on your journey, here are some essential facts to familiarize yourself with, ensuring a seamless transition to the Old Pueblo.

Personal Insight

Having traveled to Tucson in the past, I was captivated by the city’s unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality. Tucson’s enchanting desert landscapes, with its towering cacti and breathtaking sunsets, left a lasting impression on me. Exploring the diverse neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm, was a delightful experience.

One aspect I truly appreciated was Tucson’s dedication to the arts and literature. The Tucson Festival of Books, with its vast array of authors and literary enthusiasts, created an atmosphere of intellectual vibrancy. The city’s thriving theater scene, including the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, offered memorable cultural experiences.

On the culinary front, I indulged in Sonoran-style Mexican cuisine, savoring dishes like enchiladas and cactus tacos. The UNESCO recognition of Tucson as a “Capital of Gastronomy” was well-deserved, as I relished the fusion of Native American, Spanish colonial, and Mexican flavors.

The warm and sunny climate was a welcome change, and I enjoyed outdoor activities year-round, including hiking in the nearby mountains and exploring the city’s cycling-friendly streets.

However, I did find the summer heat, with temperatures exceeding 100°F, quite intense, especially during the dry season. It’s essential to stay well-hydrated and take precautions to beat the heat.

Stuff To Know

Recently captivated by the allure of the Wild West and have your sights set on Tucson? Few US cities can match Tucson’s eclectic and lively cultural scene, catering to food enthusiasts, scholars, and sports fans alike. With a deep-rooted cultural history spanning centuries, Tucson’s Spanish name originates from an indigenous term meaning “at the foot of the black hill,” referring to the basalt-coated Sentinel Peak.

Before you set off on your journey, here are some essential facts to familiarize yourself with, ensuring a seamless transition to the Old Pueblo.

1. Prioritize Vehicle Registration

If you’re moving to Arizona, one of the first things on your checklist should be car registration. As mandated by Arizona state law, once you’ve officially settled in the city, ensure you register your car promptly if you drive.

If you’re considering buying a vehicle within the state, remember to register the title within 15 days post-purchase. You can choose to register your vehicle for a one or two-year duration. A crucial point to note: Arizona imposes a Vehicle License Tax (VLT) on vehicle owners.

Upon establishing your permanent residence in Arizona, it’s advisable to obtain a state driver’s license without delay. Residency criteria include employment within the state, voter registration, owning a business, transporting merchandise for business purposes within Arizona, or residing in the state for over 7 consecutive months.

When applying for a driver’s license, be prepared with your ID to verify your identity, age, and legal status in the country. Additionally, a vision test is mandatory. Once these steps are completed, you’re good to go!

2. Eyeing a Lucrative Career in Tucson? Consider Healthcare

Impressively, Tucson is home to two employers that graced Forbes’ 2019 list of top places for business and careers. The University of Arizona secured an admirable 11th position, while the City of Tucson stood at the 59th spot.

The leisure and hospitality sectors are also pivotal to Tucson’s economic landscape, employing over 45,000 individuals. Other significant employers in the city include IBM, Honeywell Aerospace, and Ventana Medical Systems.

3. Seeking Your Ideal Spot in Tucson? Discover Your Perfect Neighborhood

Tucson, with its rich tapestry of history and a blend of the ancient and contemporary, offers a plethora of diverse and lively neighborhoods. Here’s a snapshot of some standout locales:

  • El Presidio Historic District

Once the site of a Spanish military garrison, El Presidio Historic District stands as Tucson’s inaugural neighborhood. It has been meticulously rejuvenated, with historic homes being restored to their original splendor. The district is a hub for gastronomy and art, boasting attractions like the Tucson Museum of Art and the famed El Charro Café, celebrated for its delectable chimichangas.

  • Armory Park

Nestled in the heart of downtown, Armory Park is a recognized member of the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood exudes an old-world charm, with its broad avenues lined with homes from the Victorian, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, and Territorial eras. For families, the nearby Tucson Children’s Museum offers an engaging day out.

  • Sam Hughes

Anchored by the University of Arizona, Sam Hughes is a verdant enclave frequented by academics and budding professionals. The streets are adorned with Territorial-style residences and mission-style bungalows. With a myriad of eateries and stores within easy reach, it’s a walker’s paradise. Plus, downtown is just a short hop away.

  • Dove Mountain

Positioned at the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains in the Marana suburb, Dove Mountain is a premium golf-centric community. Its top-notch amenities and proximity to the freeway have catapulted it to one of Tucson’s most sought-after neighborhoods.

  • Catalina Foothills

For those who prioritize breathtaking vistas, Catalina Foothills is a dream come true. Situated to the city’s north, at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, this neighborhood is characterized by its minimalist design and serpentine roads.

The housing seamlessly integrates with the desert backdrop, creating a harmonious blend of architecture and nature. A stone’s throw away, an upscale shopping precinct offers a mix of fine dining, retail outlets, and art galleries.

4. What’s the Value of Your Dollar in Tucson?

So, you’ve pinpointed your ideal residence and secured a job in Tucson. The next step? Assessing if your earnings align with your expenditure.

Here’s some uplifting news: Tucson’s cost of living generally falls below the national benchmark. Hence, if you’re relocating from a pricier city, your finances are likely to breathe a sigh of relief.

Here’s a breakdown of typical expenses in Tucson:

  • Average Monthly Rent: $906
  • Typical House Value (with mortgage): $66,680
  • Monthly Utilities: $292 per household
  • Childcare (preschool or kindergarten) Monthly Fee: $525
  • Gasoline (per gallon): $2.48
  • Dozen Eggs: $2.51
  • Gallon of Milk: $2.34
  • Three-Course Meal for Two at a Restaurant: $52

Do note, during peak heat periods, reliance on air conditioning can spike your utility and water bills. On the flip side, gasoline tends to be more affordable, and Tucson’s climate is kinder to vehicles compared to regions with high humidity, incessant rain, snow, and other challenging weather conditions.

For those hailing from the northern states, grocery expenses are on par, but housing and property taxes are considerably more pocket-friendly. Rent, however, can fluctuate based on the neighborhood. For instance, Drexel Park averages at about $657, while Catalina Vista demands around $1,282.

5. Navigating Tucson

Tucson’s expansive layout makes having a car quite beneficial. Interstate 10 skirts the city’s west, while Interstate 19 stretches south from downtown to the Mexican border.

State Route 210 links downtown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. However, traversing from east to west can be congested, so it’s wise to sidestep this route during peak hours.

For public transit enthusiasts, Tucson offers Suntran buses and the Sun Link Streetcar. Suntran covers the metro area from 6 a.m. to midnight, costing $1.75 per ride or $4 for a day pass. Sun Link connects five key areas, including the University of Arizona, with varied timings and a $1.74 one-way fare.

Cycling enthusiasts rejoice! Tucson is bike-friendly, boasting a top-ten Bike Score in the U.S. The average commute hovers around 24 minutes. Plus, with year-round sunshine, outdoor activities, especially cycling, are a major draw.

6. Education in Tucson

The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) oversees most public schools, being Arizona’s second-largest in enrollment after Mesa. For higher education, options include the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and several others.

7. Tucson’s Climate


Warm-weather aficionados will love Tucson. Summers can soar above 100°F, but evenings are cooler. The city experiences two summers: a dry spell from April to June and a monsoon-laden one till August.

Winters are mild, with daytime temperatures between 65°-75°. Natural disasters are rare, save for occasional monsoon-induced floods.

8. Eco-Friendly Initiatives

Solar Energy Arizona

Tucson’s sunny disposition has propelled solar energy adoption. Incentives encourage residents to adopt solar systems. Businesses, like Brooklyn Pizza Company, harness solar energy, even offering electric vehicle charging.

The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base has the U.S.’s largest solar capacity, and the University of Arizona is also on the green energy bandwagon.

9. Water Wisdom in the Desert

Arizona Water

In the arid environment of Tucson, water is a precious commodity. The Arizona Department of Water Resources oversees the state’s water management. While agriculture, including golf courses, consumes 69% of the water, residential use accounts for 25%.

Tucson has transitioned from relying on local wells to sourcing sustainable water from Avra Valley. The Central Arizona Project Aqueduct (CAP) plays a vital role in recycling used water back into the ground.

10. A Diverse Desert Ecosystem

Tucson’s valley is teeming with wildlife, from coyotes to giant bugs and snakes. While tarantulas, rattlesnakes, and scorpions might be expected, the area also shelters deer, mountain lions, and even jaguars.

Mount Lemmon, an hour away, offers a contrasting landscape with mountain streams and pine trees. Bird enthusiasts flock to Tucson for its rich avian diversity.

11. A City of Bibliophiles

Tucson is recognized as one of the most well-read cities in the US. The University of Arizona’s 35,000 undergraduates might contribute to this reputation.

The city annually hosts the Tucson Festival of Books, one of the country’s largest. Literary giants like Jack Kerouac, David Foster Wallace, and Richard Russo have connections to Tucson.

12. A Stage for the Arts


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A post shared by Tucson Symphony Orchestra (@tucsonsymphony)

Tucson’s vibrant arts scene includes theater groups like the Arizona Theatre Company and Arizona Onstage Productions. Broadway in Tucson showcases New York-style musicals.

The Tucson Symphony Orchestra stands as the state’s oldest professional performing arts organization. The Tucson Fringe Festival, held every January, celebrates non-traditional artistic performances.

13. A Culinary Delight

Sonoran-Style Hot Dogs

Tucson’s food scene is a blend of Sonoran-style Mexican cuisine, ethnic restaurants, and fine dining. Unique dishes like prickly pear syrup and cactus tacos are must-tries.

In 2015, UNESCO recognized Tucson as a “Capital of Gastronomy” for its fusion of Native American, Spanish colonial, and Mexican border culinary traditions.

14. Planning Your Move

Considering a move to Tucson? Ensure a smooth transition by planning every step. With 121 self-storage facilities in Tucson, you’ll find ample options to store your belongings temporarily.

The 10×10 storage unit is popular, but smaller 5×5 units are available for fewer items. Once settled, immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

15. A Hub for Cultural Festivals

Tucson All Souls Procession

Tucson is not just about its natural beauty and culinary delights; it’s also a melting pot of cultures, celebrated through various festivals year-round. One of the most notable is the “All Souls Procession,” a grassroots event that pays homage to the Day of the Dead traditions. Thousands gather, donning costumes, face paint, and carrying personal tributes to remember their departed loved ones.

This event, among others, showcases the city’s deep-rooted connection to its diverse heritage and the community’s commitment to celebrating it. Whether you’re a participant or a spectator, these festivals offer a unique insight into the heart and soul of Tucson.


How much is needed to live comfortably in Tucson?

The amount varies based on individual needs. A single person might need $40,000 to $50,000 annually, while a family might require $70,000 to $90,000, considering housing, utilities, and other expenses.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of residing in Tucson? 


    • Affordable living compared to other cities.
    • Rich cultural heritage.
    • Beautiful natural landscapes.
    • Mild winters.


    • Hot summers.
    • Limited public transportation.
    • Some areas with higher crime rates.

Which part is the most desirable to live in?

The northern and eastern parts, like Oro Valley and Catalina Foothills, are often preferred for their views, amenities, and safety.

Is Tucson safer than Phoenix?

Phoenix generally has a higher crime rate, but specific safety varies by neighborhood in both cities.

Does Tucson have hotter temperatures than Phoenix?

Both cities have hot summers, but Phoenix is slightly hotter on average during peak months.

Why are individuals relocating there?

Many are attracted by its affordability, job opportunities, the University of Arizona, and natural beauty.

Which is a better choice, Tucson or Phoenix?

Tucson offers a smaller city vibe, rich culture, and proximity to outdoor activities. Phoenix provides a larger metropolitan area, diverse entertainment, and a more extensive public transport system.

Is it costly to live there?

Tucson is generally more affordable than many other U.S. cities, but prices vary by area.

How expensive is electricity in Tucson?

Electricity costs are around average, with rates about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, varying by usage and season.

Is it feasible to live in Tucson without owning a car?

It’s possible but can be challenging due to limited public transport. However, Tucson is bike-friendly, and rideshare services are available.

Final Words

Tucson, with its rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty, offers a unique blend of the old and the new. Its deep-rooted traditions seamlessly merge with modern amenities, making it a city that caters to a diverse range of interests and lifestyles.

Whether you’re drawn to its vibrant arts scene, the allure of its desert landscapes, or the warmth of its community, Tucson promises a life enriched with experiences and memories. As with any move, preparation and understanding of the locale are key.

Armed with the insights provided, you’re well on your way to making Tucson your new home, ready to embrace all the wonders it has to offer. Welcome to the Old Pueblo!

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