Expat Life,  The Unites States

Moving to Kentucky? Here’s What You Need to Know

Last Updated April, 2020

Every time we tell people we lived in Kentucky we get a rather ambiguous reaction. Some folks get surprised we moved there in the first place, others feel pity for us, and somebody else shows sincere interest and wants to learn more.

Are you moving to Kentucky yourself any time soon?

Those of you who are fond of horses may know Kentucky as a land of horse sales and horse races. Those who drink bourbon could have heard or tasted Kentucky whiskey which, by the way, is sold all over the world. I have even seen a bottle of Jim Beam on the shelves of a store in a small Ukrainian town, what a surprise.

Yes, Kentucky is a horse, farm, bourbon and country state. But besides that, there is so much more.

I have been an expat during a year in Kentucky when Mark spent almost nine years there. It has been one of our favorite places and we were happy to call it home. Today, we would love to share some details of living there. So, if you are thinking about moving to Kentucky we hope this article will help you make the right decision.

COST OF LIVING IN KENTUCKY

Kentucky was, is and for a while probably will be one of the cheapest states to live in. Year after year it ranks as one of ten cheapest American states for a living.

The largest two cities are Louisville and Lexington, and most opportunities exist there. The average salary is around 12-15 dollars per hour, but it really depends on what field you are in.

You can expect to pay around $500 for an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood. A studio may cost less. A private furnished room with your own bathroom in someone’s home will cost between $200-$300 a month. Townhouse prices are in the range of $750-$1000 a month.

Anywhere in Kentucky, including the cities, you will need to have a car. So don’t forget to add expenses for gas and insurance. Both of them are relatively cheap. Insurance for my brand new Nissan Versa has cost me around $70 a month when in Los Angeles it was 2.5 times higher.

Groceries and dining out will cost around $300 (let’s say you are eating healthy, nutritious foods).

Check out the following post to read in a greater detail what is it like to live in Louisville.

JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN KENTUCKY

I moved to Kentucky for two reasons.

The first one was because of a job offer I got from Marriott hotel, and second, because of my friend who lived there.

At that time I lived in Washington DC and felt like time came to move out and explore other parts of America. There was an opportunity to move to Colorado or Florida, but I decided to consider Kentucky solely because of my friend who resided there.

During my year in Lexington, I found it difficult to find a good-paying job. At that time I was happy working for Marriott and knew I was living there temporarily. But if I ever wanted to stay longer, there was not much potential for me.

Moving up a career ladder meant working an entry-level job for a few years and making little money.

I felt like most of the jobs were in health care and education field (famous Kentucky University and Hospital are right in Lexington), and I was not qualified to work in any of them. Oh, did I mention that Toyota’s major plant is one of the top employers as well?

If you are a healthcare professional, professor, teacher or a factory worker then you may build a pretty decent career while living in Kentucky.

WEATHER IN KENTUCKY

moving to Kentucky

Oh, the weather. To be honest, weather in Kentucky stinks. There are only a few weeks per year when the weather is enjoyable and makes you want to live outside.

Those a few weeks of pleasant time are in spring and during the fall. That’s it. The rest of the year is either unbearably hot, or icy and cold. With the beginning of spring, allergies start to kick in and many people make a nasal spray their best friend.

Summer usually begins early, I would say around May and lasts until the end of September. Summers are extremely humid and hot. To walk from the front door to your car will make you forget about the shower you took ten minutes before leaving.

In winter, if you park your car outside, be ready to spend some of your mornings scraping the ice off (yes, ice, not snow) from the windshield.

Unfortunately, for nature lovers weather may become an obstacle when wanting to explore the state. It gets really unpredictable. As mentioned above, it’s either too hot or too cold. And the reason is all that unwanted humidity.

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White fences are iconic anywhere in Kentucky

PEOPLE

Our favorite part about Kentucky was about the state’s people.

Lord be praised, the most hospitable, kind, generous and down-to-earth people live in Kentucky and neighboring states.

The reason why Mark and I loved living in the horse capital of the world was the people. They smile, try to help and welcome you right away. Kentucky is one of the Bible Belt states (meaning that conservative Protestantism plays a strong role in politics and society), finding your church and community will be easy-peasy.

During my time in Lexington, I was experiencing some hardships and couldn’t afford to rent my own place. People I randomly met in one of the local churches were so kind and generous that they took me in to live with them for free during a few months! I had lots of support, felt loved and welcomed everywhere I went.

Kentuckians are truly wonderful souls who care about each other. Of course, dishonest people exist everywhere (one of them, pretending he had a gun, even robbed me at night at my workplace!) but overall people are friendly and kind.

Even if you don’t end up moving to Kentucky, come to visit and experience amazing southern hospitality and generosity of people in this state.

NATURE

Some people think that Kentucky is famous for Derby only. They have no idea how much is there to do nature wise. From many cool hiking trails to the longest cave system in the world, everyone can find something of his interest.

While living in Kentucky, we went on many awesome road trips around the state (check this post for some tips on how to have a perfect road trip,) hiked and just spent lots of time in nature.

Kentucky is also home to the world’s natural wonder Moonbow. There are only three places in the entire world where you can witness a moonbow and Cumberland Falls State Park is one of them.

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The view we got hiking in Raven Run, near Lexington
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The largest cave system in the world can be found in Kentucky, Mammoth Caves

This is pretty much everything I wanted to share at this point. More about Kentucky is yet to come. If you have any questions about moving to Kentucky or living there, drop us a message. Or, if you’d like to share your own experience, feel free to shoot a comment below! Will be happy to hear from ya all!

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moving to Kentucky

Anya is originally from Ukraine but in heart she is a citizen of the world. She is working online and that’s why has an opportunity to travel slowly and live in different countries around the world. On this blog, her main goal is to inspire others to travel to under-the-radar-places and discover the world through life and work abroad.

13 Comments

  • Alycia

    I’m curious about the acceptance of people who partner up with the same sex. AKA gays and lesbians. And the overall acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

    • Mark

      Hi Alycia, I’ve lived in Kentucky for many years, and I can definitely say that in Louisville and Lexington areas the LGBT community is greatly excepted. Many gay couples living together. Both, Anya and I had gay friends who were from Kentucky and were accepted by their communities. Hotel where I worked at that time had gay weddings even though the state did not allow the same sax marriage. In rural parts people are a bit more conservative though.

  • Mike

    I am currently living in Western NY and need to escape the high taxes and far left oppression of Cuomo, what advice would you give to someone wanting to move to KY, preferably outside of Louisville where i can get a nice home and some land for animals

    • Mark

      Hi Mike,
      I am not sure what advice I can give here, but this is not a bad idea. I think Louisville is a great city, not too large and not too expensive with great countryside for quiet and pleasant living. I have lived in Lexington for many years, which is the second-largest city in Kentucky. I probably like Lexington even better but it is smaller, more college and horses oriented.

    • LOU VERDEROSA

      I HAVE WORKED WITH RACE HORSES ALL MY LIFE & WOULD PROBABLY BE BETTER OFF STAYING IN THAT FIELD .I WOULD BE LOOKING SOMEWHERE AROUND KEENLAND RACE COURSE TO WORK & LIVE . I PROBABLY WOULD BE TAKING HOME ABOUT $400 A WEEK , WOULD THAT BE ENOUGH TO MAKE ENDS MEET . ( AND OF COURSE I HAVE MY CAR )

      • Anya

        Hi Lou, it all depends on your lifestyle and where you plan to live. Rent in Lexington went up during the past a few years but it still very manageable to find something like a studio for about $600 per month. If you are willing to share a townhouse with someone, you’ll pay even less for accommodation. Having your own car definitely helps, car insurance is cheaper than in many places around the US.
        As for me personally, $1600 per month is very doable and depending on your other spendings you can even save a bit each month.

  • Dave

    We are considering moving to Kentucky. Can you tell me how much it costs to register your personal vehicle every year? Reading the state websites isn’t helping much. I get ranges from $278 to $1200 for my truck.

    Thanks for all the other information!

    • Anya

      Hi Dave, it really depends on the value of your car. At that time, Mark was paying for his 5 year old Scion TC around $100 while I was paying for my brand new Nissan Versa around $150 and my friend who had an old Ford F-150 was paying around $250. Prices you found sound very realistic, although $1200 probably goes for a brand new expensive truck.
      Have you tried to call a local DMV of the county where you are planning to move? I believe they will be able to give a more exact answer.

  • Sabrina Addams

    I really loved learning that your favorite part of living in Kentucky was the kind people and that there are cool hiking trails in the state. My sister is looking for a change of scenery and is thinking about finding a professional to help her look at real estate for sale in Somerset, KY. I will have to also tell her about the benefits of living there listed here to help her decide.

  • Timi Lisa Fogal

    Thank you so much for this article. My husband and I are both born and raised in California. We have owned a business teaching martial arts in the San Francisco Bay Area to children for 15 years. We are heartbroken that next month, we have to close our business forever because of the COVID lock-downs here since March 18th. We have exhausted our savings and everything trying to hold out, but the small business shut downs have no end in sight.

    Since we have to start all over again, we decided to move to Kentucky after days of online research. We wanted to find a state that had similar conservative values to our own, where we would have a better shot at owning a home and eventually, opening up a martial arts school again.

    We don’t know anyone who lives in the eastern part of the country. The cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area will never allow us to start fresh and give our children a comfortable home and life. But I’m super worried that my hubby and I will not be able to find employment there. Really all of our work experience is teaching karate and running a “mom and pop” business. Are there “better” parts of KY to move to that may have more jobs available for people like us?

    Also, I mentioned both hubby and I are Native Californians (please don’t hold that against us, we’re not crazy liberals, I swear!). My husband’s parents both came up from Mexico legally, in the 1950’s and were citizens for decades before they both passed away last year. My husband is a brown skinned fellow, and I’m white. I was also wondering how Kentuckians would perceive us, and if my husband’s job opportunities would be impacted in any way? Thank you for taking the time to answer me 🙂

    • Anya

      Hi Timi Lisa,

      First of all, I want to say that I feel your pain regarding the business closure and the fact that you have to move due to circumstances, not your own desire. I have been in the same situation a few times before and know how hard it is. But I also know this entire experience will make you stronger and bring blessings.
      I’ve heard from some of my friends who live in California that business are still shut and people have no income. That’s absolutely crazy and I don’t understand why is this taking place at all.
      On the contrary, just last week I talked to two of my friends from Lexington, KY and they were saying how life is more or less stable there. Kentucky didn’t have many covid cases and overall, things are calm and quiet. People have their jobs, go to church and even travel locally. It may sound strange but we have impression that republican-governed states are doing much better during the pandemic. Not only Kentucky but other Southern states are more stable as well. The majority of democratic states seem to be a complete mess, not sure why though.

      The job market is pretty tough now everywhere, so there is definitely no guarantee that you’ll guys find jobs right away in Kentucky. However, the cost of living is lower indeed and if you have savings, this move will help your money last longer for sure.

      What I can recommend, based on my own experience, once you move, start attending the church services and from the first days get to know the community who is very welcoming and kind.
      Even if you are not religious, it doesn’t matter. You will find a lot of support in the church. People will connect you with other people and try their best to help you out. Be it a job, place to live, emotional support or anything else, really. You can’t imagine how strong a church community in the south is and how much it can change your life.

      What I really loved about Kentucky and what kept me afloat was the community. People from the church offered me free room and board in their house for many month while I was divorcing my abusive husband and paying lawyer’s fees. My job didn’t pay well and I barely could make it through but because of dozens of kindhearted and generous people that year was a wonderful year (although one of the hardest.)
      What I know for sure is that you will not be there alone. Through church you’ll find friends and new family. Join a few small groups where you meet people, start sharing your story and don’t be afraid to ask for help and people will help you 100%. I am not saying this trying to convert you into a Christian (if you are not one) but the church community in Kentucky is really amazing.

      Speaking of how Kentuckians will perceive you… that’s a good question. When we lived in Lexington, we knew many Mexican people and worked with some and no one ever had any issues or complained. I, as an immigrant (although white) speaking with an accent had many questions from people because they were curious (especially those constant questions about my accent and why did I end up in Kentucky, and whats going on with Ukraine-Russia conflict… they really drove me bananas) but nothing in particular that would be offensive in any way.
      I honestly don’t think that’s something to worry about.

      Have you decided on a place where exactly in Kentucky would you like to live? Besides Lexington and Louisville, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Bardstown, Frankfort, Versailles are smaller but safe and nice places to be.

      If there is anything else I could advise or help you with, please, let me know. I am happy to connect you with some of my friends there if that will be of any help.
      I wish you good luck with a move and no matter where you decide to go, I believe leaving California for now may be the best decision.

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