Living in the Bay Area


Living in an extremely dynamic and interesting place such as the Bay Area comes at a cost that not many postdocs are able to comfortably afford. To put this into perspective, a one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley can easily cost over $2600/month (as of April 2018 from RentCafe). As a rule of thumb, more affordable places locate to the South or Southwest of the city (rather than the North, the East or downtown). You can learn more about Berkeley neighborhoods here. It’s also a good idea to check crime reports for the neighborhoods. 

To get started, look for housing on:

  1. Craigslist 
  2. Abodo
  3. HotPads
  4. If you’re affiliated with UC, Berkeley, you can get access to Cal Rentals once you have a email address.
  5. Realtor websites such as  
  6. Facebook friends
  7. AirBnB may as well a good idea for a temporary place while searching for a more definitive place to call home

For ones who have a car, commuting for ~30 minutes to an hour between the lab and home (in Hayward, El CerritoRichmond, Oakland, Fremont or DublinPleasanton area) seems to to be the norm to get access to more spacious and affordable places to live.

Tips: Do not send money without visiting the place first, you can get scammed even on seemingly reputable websites. A good option might be to do house-sharing before finding a more definitive single occupancy accommodation. Upon joining the lab, you can request an employment verification letter (provided by Human Resources) for use as one of the rental verification paperwork required by the landlords. This is especially helpful for international postdocs who have not built a credit score.



  • Lab shuttle
  • Bicycling
  • Walking
  • BART 
  • AC Transit
  • Carpooling
  • Personal car/scooter/motorcycle
  • Razor scooter
  • Ford bikes
  • Lime/Bird
  • Uber/ Lyft
  • Chariot

Applying for a Driver’s license at the DMV

  • Proof of legal status in the country
  • Proof of residence

Note that:

  • El Cerrito DMV is less crowded than Oakland Claremont.
  • Make an appointment way in advance.
  • Read the book.
  • Know the rules.
  • Drinking and driving.

Tips: You need a California driver license holder to go with you for your beyond-the-wheel test. You need proof of car insurance and registration. For rental, make sure you have the right paperwork → check your credit card for rental insurance benefits. To renew it, send your proof of legal presence directly to the department of Legal presence. FAX:DMV Office for Legal Presence (916) 657-7445

Renting cars

TipsRenting cars are usually cheaper from a foreigner website (for the same company). If you book it from an European website, insurance is already included. You can also use a peer-to-peer car sharing service such as GetaroundIf you are not sure what the best for you (whether to buy a car or renting one) check this blog: which renders a comparison between an owned car – Zipcar – Getaround and more.

THINGs to do in the bay area

Pretty much all sort of activities from outdoors to indoors

  1. Hiking
  2. Bicycling
  3. Rock climbing
  4. Dancing
  5. Kayaking
  6. Volunteering
  7. Breweries, wineries
  8. Food
  9. Art
  10. Museums – MoMA
  11. Music, concerts, festivals

Banking (coming soon)

No social security number is required to open a bank account to get a debit card. However, it is required to get a credit card (coming soon).

  • Benefit of credit card (cash back)
  • How many credit cards do you want, tricks to optimize the credit score

Commonly checks, which you can get from your bank, are used to pay large sums, e.g. rent or deposit.