Expat Life,  The United States

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

Last Updated March, 2021

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 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 the second, because of my friend who lived there.

At that time I lived in Washington DC and felt like the 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 personally.

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 the health care and education field (the 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 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, the 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.

|| READ MORE ||

Our Life in Los Angeles Over 3 years. Why It Never Felt Like Home 

moving to Kentucky
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 for 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 the 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.

moving to Kentucky
The view we got hiking in Raven Run, near Lexington
moving to Kentucky
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!

Kentucky
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. At present time, she is living between Lviv, Ukraine and Istanbul, Turkey. On this blog, her main goal is to inspire others to travel to under-the-radar-places and discover the world while working remotely.

29 Comments

      • Tammy

        Hi

        All the information is so informative.

        We are looking to move to Kentucky. We are looking for a nice rural area with the best weather, out of tornadoes. Nice community.
        Any suggestions?

        • Anya

          Hi Tammy,
          That’s a bit tricky question since Kentucky is prone to tornadoes. I don’t know if you’ve seen this tornado record for the last 70 years but based on it, looks like the East has been hit the least.
          My husband spent almost 10 years in the Lexington area and traveled all over the state, so he personally likes Lexington and believes this is the best region for settling in Kentucky. He advises you to look into Frankfort, Georgetown, Paris, Winchester, and Richmond too. And he says that during his time in Lexington there were not any damaging tornadoes.

          While I agree with him, I also think that outside Lexington, some of the best places to live are Elizabethtown, Bardstown, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Springfield, and Brandenburg. Of course, it is a very general statement since many things will depend on your lifestyle and preferences. But overall all these towns are safe, have a nice community, and moderate pricing. Also, they are great for families to raise their kids.

          P.S. I would also love to know what others think on this topic. If you guys have any other places to add, please do so!

  • 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.

    • Danielle

      I feel your pain as well. We are looking at relocating to Kentucky to get away from our state of Colofornia (Colorado that has turned into California Jr.). My husband and I visited Kentucky this past Memorial Day weekend to explore. We flew into Nashville, rented a car and drove up to Bowling Green, branching out into Glasgow, Horse Cave, Munfordville, Elizabethtown and a few other towns along I-65. We fell in love with that entire area and are planning our escape from Colorado in the next couple years.

      What I find interesting though is the author’s description of the weather. We were there the end of May/early June and I did not find it to be horribly hot and too humid? I’m hopeful this wasn’t a fluke haha. Sure, it was humid, especially when it rained. But when it was sunny, I felt like it was quite bearable. We will be visiting some more before moving though so perhaps I need to plan for winter and late summer? 😉 Although, being from Colorado, we have our fair share of snow and ice.

      Best of luck on your new adventure. I hope you can make a fresh start in a wonderful state filled with amazing people!

  • Shawna

    Me and my husband are moving to Kentucky near Paducah next year. A good friend lives there. I’m trying to figure out when the best time to move would be. But I can’t find any concrete information about the weather after August. What do you think is the best months for moving? Also me and my husband aren’t real church goers will this affect us while we are there? Lastly my husband is Asian and with the recent COVID there was a spike in hatred towards Asians so it makes me nervous to move. Have you heard of any problems up there towards this? Thanks for the article.

    • Anya

      Hi Shawna, I hope your move to Kentucky will be easy. In regards to when is the best time to move, I would say any time except December-February. Fall is a wonderful season since temperatures are pleasant.
      You don’t need to go to church to be accepted by the community. What I meant in this post is that if you do attend a church, it will be easier and quicker for you to find friends and make connections since the church community in Kentucky is big and everyone there is treated as a family member. But of course, you do not have to go to church.
      As for the last question, I think it would be better for you to ask your friend who lives there. I have a friend (from Indonesia) who is living in Lexington, we are talking often and she is sharing details about life in Kentucky these days with the coronavirus. She has never mentioned a word about the hatred towards her, be it for covid or another reason. I know together with her husband (American) they purchased guns sometime in the summer but it was because of the BLM movement and protests in Lexington. The Paducah area can be very different though, so you may want to ask your friend about the situation there. I hope that helps!

  • Danielle

    Hi! I have a friend and her husband that are thinking of moving to Kentucky for California. They are a biracial couple with children, and although I’ve never been to Kentucky, I’ve been to a few other southern states and known many people who have come from the south to Cali (all of them said they strongly prefer California…although these were pre COVID times), and some things they’ve all said is that there is still very active racism out there. And that the primary educational system is shit. Have you observed anything in regards to those?

    • Anya

      Hi Danielle,

      I would love to give you one exact answer but I am afraid I can’t. It all depends on where they are going to live (city/neighborhood) and what type of people will surround them. Farther away from big cities into the countryside – yes, definitely expect some racism and xenophobia. But in bigger cities and around them, where most jobs and opportunities are, I wouldn’t say it’s an issue. It definitely happens (as everywhere in America, even in the most liberal state of California) but I wouldn’t call it ‘very active racism’. At least that’s from the experience of my Asian and Mexican friends who still live there.

      I personally, as an immigrant from Eastern Europe, experienced more racism and xenophobia towards me in Washington DC and Los Angeles than anywhere in Kentucky. If in Kentucky, people were more curious about my origins and were constantly asking me many questions about my culture and accent, in California, some people made fun of me and bullied me just because I was from Ukraine (which never happened in Kentucky), not to mention multiple attempts of harassment. So it all depends.

      In regards to primary education, my friend’s son (that friend we moved to LA with, if you read my other post about life in Los Angeles) was going to primary school in Lexington but then when we moved to LA, he started his school in Woodland Hills. I remember my friend complaining about how much she (and her son) didn’t like that new school and that in Kentucky it was much better. While it is just one example and I understand you can’t really make a conclusion about primary education based on this answer, still I wouldn’t say that the entire educational system is shit. I guess there are many factors that play role in it.

  • Albert

    Hello,
    I was looking at buying in Prestonburg. Any insights on that? Looking for a good conservative place for my 2 girls and my wife. I eventually plan on leaving this liberal hell hole California and taking my family somewhere more normal.
    Also, would you know if it would be difficult for me to buy a property and rent it out fairly quick? Sorry so many questions but I have zero clue about the state of Kentucky. The more conservative approaches and way of life are more attractive for me.

    • Chris

      Randomly happened upon this article.

      I’m from Louisville, KY and have lived in Kentucky all of my life.

      So honestly, I didn’t even know where Prestonburg was. However, after googling it I see that it is in Eastern Kentucky. Being completely honest here, Eastern Kentucky is the poorest part of the state economically speaking. This is due to the biggest industry in Eastern Kentucky being coal, which as you probably know, is being less and less used. Unless you’re going to have a solid work from home job I wouldn’t move a family to Eastern Kentucky.

      If you’re looking for work as well, I would look at Louisville, Lexington or Frankfort. Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky and where you will find the most job opportunities. As far as buying property it is likely an easier process than it is in California. I will say that the housing laws in Kentucky are much more lax than in California.

  • Chris

    I’ve lived in Louisville, KY my whole life so figured I would drop my 2 cents here.

    I imagine most people moving to Kentucky, will be looking at Louisville due to the job opportunities. I think the rent estimate stated in the article is low for Louisville. You’ll only get those prices in parts of the city with higher crime rates. I would expect to pay about $750 to $1000 for a 1bedroom and anywhere from $950 to $1500 for a 2 bedroom or a townhome. Additionally, if you plan to live in New Albany, IN or Clarksville, IN you should know that due to two new bridges that were built, there is a bridge toll; If you have a prepaid transponder it is $2.15 each way.

    As far as weather goes and this may be just because I’ve lived here all of my life, is not all that bad. With one major exception and that it if you have allergies, you better have your Benadryl or Claritin nearby at all times. I would say that our summer really starts in June and not May and normally goes to September. For example today is May 14th and it is 74 degrees outside, of course we can get a bad year and it can get hot earlier; but on average it doesn’t start hitting the 90’s until June. I would say the worse weather we get is when we get ice storms, which normally causes power outages around the city. The best weather is probably Fall, there is less pollin and the weather is still pleasant enough to wear a light coat.

    For Jobs, the biggest companies are Humana, UPS(UPS WorldPort is here), Yum! Brands(KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell), Papa Johns, Brown Forman(Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Jack Daniels) and of course Churchill Downs. I would say industry wise Healthcare is probably the most available, but there are plenty of jobs in other areas as well though.

    As far as people go in general in Kentucky, I agree that they are some of the most kind and honest people you’ll meet and I’ve been all over the US. Yes sir/Yes Ma’am, Please and Thank you, and holding the doors for other are the norm here. Culture wise I would say Kentucky is both Southern and part Midwestern, more specifically I would say that the closer you get to Tennessee the more southern people will seem and the closer to Ohio, Indiana and Illinois the closer to midwestern people will seem. Fun fact, did you know that Kentucky was the only state to declare neutrality during the Civil War? Kentucky has always been a mixing pot of Southern and Midwestern culture. However Officially speaking, according to the Census Kentucky is a Southern State.

    As far as stuff to do, the Moonbow they mention is something worth seeing at Cumberland Falls State Park; I would also recommend going to Natural Bridge and seeing Red River Gorge. Honestly, a lot of people in Kentucky take weekend vacations to Lake Cumberland, Nolin Lake and Taylorsville Lake during the summer time.

    Obviously we’re known for Bourbon and you should definitely check out the Bourbon Trail as it is called ( https://kybourbontrail.com/distilleries/ ). However, some less known distilleries are Peerless, Copper and Kings and Castle and Key(It’s in a freaking castle!). Not to mention all of the Beer breweries there are, you have a lot of ways of killing brain cells in Kentucky!

    Cons of moving here (From my point of view):

    1. Public Education: The education system isn’t the best in my opinion and that is coming through the eyes of someone that went through it. However with that said there are schools that do perform well, especially private school systems but overall the school system needs a lot of work.

    2. Public Transit: The only public transit system in Louisville or Lexington is by bus, you will not find any local trains or subways here.

    Pro of moving here:

    1. As the article states the cost of living in Kentucky is low as compared to other states.

    2. You’ll find that most people in Kentucky are kind an honest people.

    3. BOURBON!!!!

    4. Kentucky is a very scenic place, especially during fall time.

    5. Lots of outdoor activities to do in Kentucky that are less than a 7 hour drive from where ever you are in the state.

    Hope this helps!

    • Anya

      Great information, Chris! I was planning to update this post but you did it instead of me and did it well 🙂 I appreciate you spending your time to respond and add so many valuable details. It will definitely help many people! Thanks again!

  • Jeff

    I’m interested to move to Nancy, Kentucky. Can you tell me anything about the area? I enjoy boating and being by the Cumberland River is a plus. I live in Michigan now and looking for a warmer climate, to be able to also spend more time outdoors. In Michigan we caved up all winter. Anything you can tell me would be helpful. Thanks!

  • Divakaran Varadarajalu

    hi Friend – good to see this inspired note. i am planing to mvoe from India to this place and do you have any advise? thanks and appreciate and good day.

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