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Portlander 101: Our guide to becoming a Portland resident

From how to register your car to finding your favorite coffee shop, this overview will give you everything you need to know to get established as a Portland resident.

A cable-stayed bridge is illuminated with yellow-green light at night with the lights of the city behind it.

Tilikum Crossing is the only bridge in the US dedicated exclusively to light rail, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Table of Contents

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

A person riding a green motorcycle stops next to a curbside ballot box to insert an envelope.

In Oregon, voters cast ballots by mail instead of using traditional polling centers.

The essentials

Voter registration

Make sure you’re eligible and registered to vote, find your nearest ballot drop-off, and preview upcoming elections and sample ballots across the tri-county area here.

Driver’s licenses and vehicle registration

New residents in need of an Oregon driver’s license will need to provide proof of lawful status, a Social Security document, and two documents confirming a residential address.

To title and register your car in Oregon, you’ll need to bring the original title, a completed title application, a vehicle identification number, and an odometer disclosure form to a DMV office (there are three in Portland).

Title fees range from $101 to $192, depending on the vehicle’s age, while registrations cost $126-$316. Additional fees may apply for Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington county residents. Most vehicles will also need to pass a DEQ emissions test.

You can make an appointment or visit a DMV office to get an Oregon driver’s license. Title and registration services can be done in person or by mail.


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 Legacy Health, Adventist Health, An Hao Clinic, or Root Whole Body, to name a few. Pro tip: Websites like DocSpot filter physicians by location, patient reviews, insurance, language, and more.

Green transit

Some of our city’s most rooted residents get around exclusively on bikes and public transportation. Bike culture runs deep in Portland thanks, in part, to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s bike-share program, world-famous biking events (read: the World Naked Bike Ride and Filmed by Bike Festival), and miles of protected bike lanes and trailsnot to mention the health benefits. A robust public transit system operated by TriMet offers services around much of the metro area via light rail, streetcar, bus, and even an aerial tram.

People sit at long tables in a large, high-ceilinged room lined with arched windows and bookshelves.

Multnomah County Central Library opened in September 1913 and has since undergone many restoration projects.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Educational needs

School registration

Prepare your student for the school year by registering them with one of the local public school districts, like Portland Public Schools, Parkrose, or Centennial. Use this online tool to find your school zone (based on your home address). Complete your district’s list of registration and immunization requirements, then make an appointment at your student’s zoned school to complete the process.

For information on Portland’s private schools, check out this guide from PDX Parent.

Library card registration

If you think libraries are only for renting the occasional book, think again. Register for a library card at your nearest Multnomah County Library branch to take advantage of these free resources:

  • Research tools
  • Live homework help
  • E-books, audiobooks, music, and movies
  • Online databases
  • Private meeting spaces for groups
  • Digital copies of magazines and international newspapers
  • Admission to local museums

You can apply online to get your card and start taking advantage of digital resources right away. Local residents (even those in parts of Southwest Washington) of any age can apply for a free card to be used at any Multnomah County Library branch. Pro tip: Students may be able to use their student ID number as a library card.

A row of two-story homes with green front yards and a sidewalk.

Portland also offers curbside compost service, keeping food and yard waste out of landfills.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Home necessities


Thanks for thinking green. For everything you need to know about recycling in Portland, from where to place your bin to pick-up times and accepted materials, check out the city of Portland’s online portal.


Moving is exciting, but no one wants to unpack by candlelight. Establish your services with Portland General Electric or Pacific Power by creating an account or updating your address in your existing account. Pro tip: Account holders can complete a free virtual energy audit through PGE or Pacific Power to learn how to save money and energy every month.

Internet providers

No connectivity issues here. Check out some of the internet providers in the 503 (or 971, for newer folks):

  • Xfinity | Fiber internet plans start at $19.99 per month for 12 months
  • T-Mobile Home Internet | Autopay plans start at $50 per month
  • Viasat | Satellite internet with speeds up to 150 Mbps
  • CenturyLink | Unlimited data plans starting at $50 per month
  • HughesNet | Satellite internet starting at $49.99 per month for six months
A woman reaches for a book in a long aisle at a bookstore.

One of City Editor Cambrie’s favorite pastimes is getting lost in a Powell’s bookstore.

Photo by Cambrie Juarex, PDXtoday

The ultimate Portlander initiation

Having an Oregon driver’s license and a 971 area code may qualify you on paper, but you’re not officially a Portlander until you’ve taken part in some local fun that is only found in the City of Roses.

Powell’s City of Books

Spending some time (we’re talking hours) at the world’s largest new and used bookstore is a must. Powell’s Books has three locations around the Portland metro area; its flagship store on West Burnside Street spans an entire city block and features nine rooms, three floors, and 3,500 different sections. Plus, every book’s price tag is exactly what you’ll pay at the register because welcome to the land of no sales tax. There’s also an in-store coffee shop so you never have to leave.

Pittock Mansion

This French Renaissance-style chateau is perched in Portland’s West Hills and has one of the best views in the city. Pittock Mansion is open to the public. Visitors can pay a fee to walk through the actual building itself (which we highly recommend because you’ll glean a lot of interesting historical info), but the grounds are free to explore. You can drive up to Pittock Mansion and pay to park, take TriMet bus 20, or hike there via the Wildwood Trail.

Unique green spaces

The outdoor offerings in and around Portland are first-class and any local will tell you how necessary it is to invest in a good pair of hiking boots. Sprawling across 5,200 acres in the northwest hills, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the US and offers more than 80 miles of trails, fire lanes, and forest roads. Portland is also home to the country’s oldest continuously operating public rose test garden, the world’s smallest park, and an extinct volcano. Oh, and then there’s the Columbia River Gorgebut that’s for another story.

Food and drink

Year-round farmers markets, more than 500 food carts, and dozens of award-winning restaurants make Portland a foodie paradise. From our robust lineup of vegan eateries to the coffee shops serving beverages with craft-cocktail care on almost every corner, we Portlanders are truly spoiled when it comes to filling our bellies. Oh, and happy hour, anyone? In this land also known as “Beervana,” there’s a good chance you live within a few blocks of a craft brewery.

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

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