Overlooking Commencement Bay with the silhouette of Mount Rainier in the southeast, Tacoma is a stunning port city in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. This compact city is easy to get around, with just about everything you could need within about a 15-minute drive. The sprawling metropolis of Seattle is just a half-hour drive or ferry ride away.

Tacoma is fondly known as the 'City of Destiny', partly because of its historical position as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The 19th-century nickname has stuck as people from near and far continue to flock to Tacoma, whether in search of career advancement or simply to enjoy the region's natural beauty.

Cost of living in Tacoma

Tacoma's cost of living is 25 percent higher than the US average but on par with the Washington state average. It's a fair amount cheaper than Seattle, though, especially when it comes to housing. For this reason, people commonly use Tacoma as a home base, commuting daily to work in Seattle.

Accommodation in Tacoma costs 1.5 times the national average, but is about ten percent cheaper than the Washington average. Utilities are well priced, and a fairly mild climate year-round rarely requires cranking up the thermostat or blasting the aircon. 

Other expenses to look out for include healthcare, transport and groceries, which are around 15 to 20 percent above the national average.

Getting around in Tacoma

Compact and well connected, Tacoma has a network of interlinked roads and numerous public transport options, including commuter rail, light rail, buses, and ferries. Most people commute by car, with an average commute time of 30 minutes.

Pierce Transit manages the bus services in Tacoma while Sound Transit oversees the light rail and several bus lines, including express lines. Sound Transit’s T-Line covers Downtown Tacoma, Stadium District, and Hilltop and covers 13 stops, with trains arriving every 12 minutes.

Tacoma boasts more than 25 bus routes, serving neighbourhoods often not covered by the light rail. Pierce Transit also offers a door-to-door shuttle service for people with disabilities. All Sound and Pierce Transit buses have bicycle racks, and the City of Tacoma is working on developing cycle lanes throughout the city.

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Pierce Transit
Sound Transit

Working in Tacoma

Job opportunities in Tacoma are plentiful as the city’s healthy economy continues to expand. Tacoma’s largest economic sectors include healthcare, retail, and education. The best-paid industries in Tacoma are utilities, tech and public administration. 

That being said, companies in Seattle tend to pay employees more than companies in Tacoma to compensate for the higher cost of living. Living in Tacoma while working in Seattle is one way to get the best of both worlds. 

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Accommodation in Tacoma

The housing market in Tacoma is booming. New developments are continually popping up, and demand is high, making it an ideal time to invest in Tacoma real estate. Whether you're looking to rent or buy, the thriving housing market should make finding your new home a snap.

One caveat to bear in mind when house hunting in Tacoma is that some areas have a high rate of crime and should be avoided. Generally speaking, North Tacoma is a good area to look for a home in, while the eastern and southern areas of the city aren't recommended. While North Tacoma is pricier, residents consider the peace of mind well worth the extra cost.

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Healthcare in Tacoma

There are some excellent healthcare facilities in Tacoma, though you'll need good health insurance to access them. More than 90 percent of Tacoma residents have health insurance, either provided by their employer or the government.

St. Joseph Medical Center is a significant healthcare provider in Tacoma and is consistently ranked among the top hospitals in Washington state, known for its exceptional patient care and advanced medical technologies. Heartwood Extended Health Care is known for its 24-hour nursing care and long-term support, while Tacoma Medical Center provides services ranging from urgent to after-hours care, complete with a pharmacy.

Residents of Tacoma have a diverse range of health insurance options to suit varying needs and circumstances. Public health plans such as Medicare and Medicaid are widely utilised, especially by seniors and families with low incomes. For those seeking more comprehensive coverage, private insurance plans cater for a broader range of health services, including specialised and elective procedures.

Have a look at our comprehensive guide to Understanding Health Insurance in the USA.

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Schools in Tacoma

Tacoma has a fantastic selection of schools to choose from, both public and private. 

Tacoma Public Schools runs the public school district, noted for its diversity of offerings. This includes options for Advanced Placement (AP) and the International Baccalaureate (IB). The IB is particularly favoured among expat families for its global outlook and easy transferability worldwide.

Public school admission operates according to catchment areas, so parents should bear this in mind when embarking on their house hunt. Non-neighbourhood choice applications can be made, but have strict deadlines and are subject to approval.

Some of Washington's most highly regarded private schools can be found in Tacoma, including Annie Wright Schools and Charles Wright Academy. Both are exclusive K–12 schools with excellent student-to-teacher ratios (9:1 and 6:1 respectively). 

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Climate in Tacoma

Overall, Tacoma's climate is relatively mild. Rainfall can occur at any time of year, though the wettest months are November through January. That being said, true downpours are uncommon in Tacoma, and most of the time the rain is limited to a light drizzle. Locals advise donning a raincoat and enjoying the city's natural beauty, so long as showers remain light.

Grey skies are commonplace, especially in winter, and those used to sunnier climes may need some time to adjust. Tacoma has around 140 sunny days per year, compared with the US average of 210.

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Lifestyle in Tacoma

Tacoma is an artsy and offbeat city surrounded by nature, offering an idyllic and richly varied lifestyle. New arrivals should dive in headfirst to explore their new home. Here are some places to get started.

Point Defiance Park is the second-largest city park in all of the United States. Established over a century ago, this lush 760 acres of forested land is packed with things to explore. Highlights include the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Owen Beach and Port Nisqually Living History Museum.

Just a stone's throw away from Seattle, home of Starbucks, Tacoma takes coffee seriously. You'll never have to look far to find your next caffeine fix, whether stopping in at Bob's Java Jive, housed in a building shaped like a coffee pot, or visiting BigFoot Java, open 24 hours a day.

Choices abound for foodies looking for a bite, with fast-food joints and food trucks particularly plentiful. The matter of where to get the best pizza is hotly debated among Tacoma residents, and new arrivals should waste no time trying out the most lauded spots to be able to weigh in on this favoured topic of conversation.

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Expat Health Insurance

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