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Bostonian 101: Our guide to becoming a Boston resident

Becoming a new resident is easy with our guide to all things Boston, MA.

Icy Charles River and Boston city skyline under a bridge

We’ve got tips on everything from Boston winters to taking the T.

Table of Contents

Picture this: You just moved to Boston, Massachusetts and you need some help with the practicalities of life (we can’t just sit back and drink our Dunkin’ all day, unfortunately). That’s where we come in. Keep reading for Boston 101, our guide to all things Boston.

The essentials

Voter registration
Learn how to register to vote in-person, by mail, or online here. You can check your polling location and current voter registration status here, and preview upcoming state elections and sample ballots here.

Driver’s licenses and vehicle registration
New residents who want to transfer an out-of-state driver’s license to Massachusetts can apply online and bring the required identification — Social Security document, proof of lawful presence, and two documents confirming Massachusetts residency — to an RMV service center.

To register your car in the state of Massachusetts, you’ll need a completed Registration and Title application, proof of ownership, and proof of identity. See specific instructions for registering a vehicle purchased from a dealer and for registering a vehicle purchased from an individual.

Initial registrations may be subject to a $75 feesee the fee list by RMV plate types.

Bay State drivers also need to pass a yearly vehicle inspection for $35. Learn more about the process and renewing your inspection sticker.

Pet registration
The annual deadline for licensing pets in the city is Friday, March 31, and dogs require a new license each year.

It’ll cost $15 to license a neutered male or spayed female dog, and $30 for an intact male or female dog. The licensing fee is waived for service animals and residents 70 years and older.

For more pet licensing details, check out the Animal Care and Control’s how-to guide. If you’re looking for dog-friendly places around town, we’ve got just the guide for you.

Corgi dog by the ducklings statue in Boston

Get the pups all settled into their new Boston life.

Healthcare
Establishing yourself with a primary care provider is one of those things you’ll be glad you did when you need one. Reach out to the professionals at Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, or Atrius Health, to name a few.

Pro tip: Websites like DocSpot filter physicians by location, patient reviews, insurance, language, and more.

Educational needs

School registration
Prepare your student for the school year by registering them with Boston Public Schools, the free public school district for the city with 119 total schools.

Here, you’ll find your BPS school zone (based on your home address). You can pre-register online, then make an appointment at your student’s zoned school to complete the registration process. Before you get started, consult this registration checklist for the list of required documents you’ll need.

For information on private schools in the area, check out this list.

Reading room with green lamps at Boston Public Library Central Library

The Central Library’s reading room should be on every new Bostonian’s bucket list.

Photo by @ma_nushi

Library card registration
If you think libraries are only for renting the occasional book, think again. Register for a library card at your nearest Boston Public Library branch to take advantage of:

Book it over to our guide of even more library resources.

To get your card, you’ll need to visit the circulation desk at one of the 26 branches and bring proof of identity and proof of Massachusetts residency (think: your state identification card or driver’s license). Bostonians of any age can apply for a free card, and kids ages 12 and under can get a card with a parent or guardian’s signature.

Home necessities

Trash and recycling
The City has a Trash Day App, making it super simple to find your street’s trash collection schedule. Bins must be placed on the street by 6 a.m. and can be put out after 5 p.m. the night before your pickup day.

Boston also has an ongoing Zero Waste initiative, complete with a curbside food waste collection program. For everything you need to know about recycling in Boston, from what can be recycled to finding your neighborhood’s pickup schedule, check out our guide.

Utilities
Moving is exciting, but no one wants to unpack by candlelight. Establish your energy and gas services with Eversource Energy or National Grid by creating an account or updating your address in your existing account. Pro tip: You can complete a free virtual energy audit to learn how you can save money and energy every month.

BOS-Storrow-Drive

Say it with us: I won’t drive my moving truck on Storrow Drive.

Photo by @leland.jpeg

Internet providers
No connectivity issues here. Check out some of the internet providers in the area:

  • Starry | Service starting at $50 per month.This company is headquartered in Boston.
  • Astound | Service starting at $20 per month.
  • Verizon | Service starting at $25 per month.
  • Xfinity | Service starting at $30 per month.
  • T-Mobile | Service at $50 per month, with a Price Lock guarantee.

The ultimate Bostonian initiation

Having a Massachusetts driver’s license and a 617 area code may qualify you on paper, but you’re not officially a Bostonian until you’ve taken part in some local fun that is only found in our city.

Know your way around the MBTA
No matter which part of the city you move to, getting an MBTA CharlieCard is a good idea. One trip on the T will cost you $2.40, and one bus ride is $1.70. You can also purchase a monthly pass for $90 if you’re commuting frequently.

Find more tips on getting to know Boston’s transit system. Pro tip: Read up on how the Red, Green, Blue, Silver, and Orange Lines were assigned their colors.

Mentally prepare for moving day madness
If you plan to move around the first week of September, be prepared for some city chaos. The majority of renters and college students move at the beginning of this month, so temporary parking and traffic restrictions will be in place.

The biggest pro tip: Don’t drive your moving truck on Storrow Drive, or you’ll risk getting “Storrowed.”

Person holding iced Dunkin' coffee in front of Dunkin' store

Now that you’re a Massachusetts resident, get ready to drink lots of Dunkin’.

Photo by BOStoday team

Dive into the Dunkin’ obsession
Whether you love it or hate it, you’re going to encounter a lot of Dunkin’ iced coffee cups here, even in freezing temps.

Get to know the history of Boston’s favorite coffee chain, from its founding in Quincy to a brief timeline of iconic Boston moments.

Stay prepared for snowstorms
If you’re moving here from a place with warmer weather, it’s time to prepare for harsh New England winters.

From where you can park during a snow emergency to the right way to use a “space saver,” check out the City of Boston’s resources for when winter is coming.

Is there something you’re still left wondering about to get you properly established in Boston? Ask us your question and we’ll do our best to answer it for you, like a good neighbor.

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