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Moving to San Jose

San Jose is a popular expat destination due to its status as the 'Capital of Silicon Valley'. Newcomers moving to San Jose will discover that the city is at the heart of technology and innovation in California, the US, and indeed globally, attracting many giant tech companies to establish a presence here. As can be expected, these companies, in turn, have attracted highly skilled workers from all over the world.

Living in San Jose as an expat

San Jose is located near the southern tip of San Francisco Bay and is surrounded by mountains. This beautiful region offers many recreational facilities, including parks, beaches and hiking trails. Those looking to escape the city can venture to Yosemite National Park, visit the Napa Valley wine region, or spend a day on one of the nearby beaches along the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco is also just a short drive away, and a ride along the Pacific Highway offers an opportunity to explore the magnificent western coastline.

San Jose is a multicultural and multi-ethnic society, and foreigners are generally made to feel welcome. There are plenty of neighbourhoods to choose from and all kinds of accommodation, although supply is limited and applicants should act fast when they see something they like.

While electronics manufacturing dominates, other major industries in San Jose include finance, aerospace, real estate, retail, insurance and medicine. Legal services and tourism are also prominent sectors. While there's a healthy job market, San Jose has a highly educated population and competition can be fierce. Newcomers looking to work in the city should network and be prepared to compete with experienced candidates from top international universities.

Cost of living in San Jose

As the heart of the tech industry, San Jose is one of the wealthiest American cities. In line with this, the cost of living in San Jose is also among the highest in the US. Housing, in particular, is expensive as there is high demand. That said, high salaries often offset the high cost of living; households in San Jose generally have a higher-than-average disposable income.

Families and children in San Jose

Although it's one of the largest cities in America, San Jose still retains something of a small-town feel. A temperate climate, relatively low crime rates, high salaries and many family-friendly facilities ensure that San Jose offers expats an excellent quality of life.

The city is also an excellent place to raise a family, and newcomers with children need not worry about their education, as there are many exceptional public and private schools in the San Jose metropolitan area. The region is also especially renowned for its tertiary institutions – most notably, Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto.

Climate in San Jose

San Jose has a Mediterranean climate. The city is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and is sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by mountains, which provide relief from the rest of the area's typically high rainfall. 

An exciting, up-and-coming city, San Jose may be expensive, but for those who earn a good salary in the city's famous tech industry, this Bay Area metro might be just the right place to raise a family.

Weather in San Jose

San Jose is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and is sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by mountains, which provide relief from the rest of the area's typically high rainfall. It has a Mediterranean climate, with temperatures varying from 43°F (6°C) to 82°F (28°C) year-round and rarely dropping below 35°F (1°C) or rising above 92°F (33°C).

The warmest months fall between June and September, making it the perfect time for outdoor activities. For the most part, temperatures in this season range between 56°F (13°C) and 82°F (28°C), and the area receives minimal rain. Winter, which falls between December and February, is colder and brings with it more cloud cover and precipitation.


Working in San Jose

San Jose is in the heart of Silicon Valley, famous for its large concentration of high-technology engineering, computer and microprocessor companies. As a hotbed of technological innovation, San Jose has also become a mecca for start-ups.

Job market in San Jose

San Jose attracts highly skilled professionals from all over the country and indeed the world, including budding entrepreneurs looking to capitalise on the Bay Area's progressive attitude and the opportunities available in the high-technology and internet industries. Beyond the traditional employers associated with Silicon Valley, other sectors that could employ new arrivals looking to work in San Jose include the government, education and healthcare industries. 

While top US universities in the Bay Area, such as Stanford and Berkley, produce some of the best engineering and computer science graduates, there is still a shortage of adequately qualified workers in San Jose. This is due to the fact that the economy of Silicon Valley is constantly growing, with new companies opening offices in San Jose each year.

Finding a job in San Jose

Highly skilled expats with expertise in their field are likely to find a position in San Jose. Networking is important. It helps to make connections and keep one's ear to the ground for new opportunities or upcoming start-ups. Online job portals, social networks, local newspapers and recruitment agencies are also good sources for finding work.

In addition to having the proper skill set, qualifications and experience, expats seeking employment in San Jose must ensure they have the correct work permit for the USA.

Work culture in San Jose

San Jose is very much in the midst of the Silicon Valley tech bubble, but it also has a fun, Bohemian work culture. While it's unlikely that the financial services sector will forego its formal attire, some of the largest corporations in the Bay Area are known for having an unorthodox atmosphere geared towards the happiness of their employees.

Many of these companies also place great importance not only on a good work-life balance but also on environmental sustainability and improving the world through technology. Ultimately, the work environment is quite liberal, conscientious and progressive.

Cost of living in San Jose

San Jose is an expensive place to live, with the overall cost of living sitting at around 49 percent higher than the national average. That said, most residents say it's well worth the price for the gorgeous weather, safe neighbourhoods and endless activities the city offers.

Cost of accommodation in San Jose

Accommodation is incredibly expensive in San Jose, as are utilities. Attracted by Silicon Valley, the city's population is growing, causing the demand for housing to increase and prices to skyrocket.

Therefore, new arrivals in San Jose should be prepared to pay sky-high prices for accommodation throughout the city. That said, there are neighbourhoods that, while they may not be considered cheap, are more affordable than others.

Cost of transport in San Jose

Although San Jose has an extensive public transport system that will get new arrivals anywhere they need to go in the city, fares are relatively expensive. Owning a car is also expensive in San Jose if taking into account all the costs involved, such as fuel, insurance and maintenance. Parking is also costly in the city, and in some cases, it may actually be cheaper to use Uber instead of driving and paying for parking for an entire day.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in San Jose

While new arrivals will certainly find fine dining restaurants that charge a fortune for a meal in San Jose, eating out is something that can be done on a budget. Some restaurants in San Jose tend to offer similar or even somewhat lower prices to many major global cities. There are also tons of different types of food on offer, with some restaurants being more budget-friendly than others.

There are plenty of opportunities to spend money at San Jose's malls and eclectic nightlife spots, but there are also humble live music bars, clubs, museums and comedy venues for new arrivals from all walks of life to enjoy. As a city in the beautiful sunny State of California, San Jose's lifestyle prioritises outdoor activities, which usually cost little to no fees. 

Cost of groceries in San Jose

Grocery costs in San Jose are 21 percent higher than the national average, making them fairly costly. New arrivals can reduce their monthly grocery bills by buying in bulk, shopping at budget supermarkets and only purchasing produce that is in season. 

Newcomers who can stretch their budgets and are looking for a wider product selection can look at high-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Draeger's Market and Heartland. These stores typically sell organic and speciality goods at a premium. 

Cost of healthcare in San Jose

While the standard of healthcare in San Jose is exceptional, it's expensive to access. New arrivals who do not have their healthcare taken care of by their employers will likely need to secure comprehensive health insurance. The cost of health insurance will vary between individuals based on age, existing medical conditions and lifestyle habits. Generally, the older one is, the pricier the medical insurance policy will be. 

Cost of education in San Jose

Public education in San Jose is free for all to attend, but admission is based on catchment areas. The better-resourced and staffed public schools in the city are located in the upmarket suburbs, so parents looking at this option may have to secure accommodation in these areas. 

There are also private and international schools available. Private schools typically have a religious affiliation and their own curriculum and set of admission requirements. Similar to private schools, international schools often teach globally recognised curricula and have excellent facilities, but this comes at a high cost. Parents opting to send their children to private or international schools should budget for the fees, uniforms, excursions and extracurricular activities. 

Cost of living in the USA chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for San Jose in August 2023.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 2,800

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 2,400

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 4,800

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 4,000


Eggs (dozen)

USD 5.73

Milk (1 litre)

USD 1.29

Rice (1kg)

USD 5.08

Loaf of white bread

USD 4.89

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 13.47

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 11

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 11

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2.61


USD 5.49

Local beer (500ml)


Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

USD 100


Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data

USD 43

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

USD 94

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water and refuse)

USD 270


Taxi rate per km

USD 2.02

Public transport ticket

USD 2.50

Gasoline/petrol (per litre)

USD 1.34

Accommodation in San Jose

Finding suitable accommodation in San Jose is one of the biggest challenges facing expats moving to the city. Those headhunted by tech companies in Silicon Valley are often lucky enough to have their employer provide accommodation or assist them in finding a suitable home. But for many others, finding the perfect home in San Jose can be a bit of a struggle.

San Jose is one of the largest cities in California, with plenty of accommodation options of all kinds available for new arrivals. That said, with the influx of high-income earners moving to the city because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, property prices and rental rates in San Jose continue to rise each year.

Areas and suburbs in San Jose

Although San Jose retains a quaint small-town feel, new arrivals of all types are sure to find the perfect neighbourhood for their needs and preferences. The city boasts ten council districts and countless areas and suburbs in each. Newcomers moving to San Jose with children will love neighbourhoods such as West San Jose, Willow Glen and Naglee Park, all home to tree-lined streets, spacious homes and beautiful parks. 

Young and single professionals who want to be close to work and have easy access to public transport should look no further than Downtown San Jose. There are many types of accommodation in Downtown San Jose, and new arrivals can also enjoy the myriad lifestyle activities on offer. Those looking to enjoy the luxury side of life would do well in Santana Row, which offers exciting Mediterranean-style shopping and entertainment. Other considerations include Japantown, the Alameda, North San Jose and Little Saigon. 

Read Areas and Suburbs in San Jose for more on the city's neighbourhoods. 

Types of accommodation in San Jose

Whether one is looking for a luxury apartment in the city centre, a large family home in a leafy suburban area or a skyscraper condo unit, San Jose has plenty to choose from.

Residents living in central areas of San Jose can expect to pay a premium as property prices here are incredibly high. Japantown is also a popular option for those wanting to live close to the city centre. While the buildings in this area are a little older than elsewhere, they certainly have a lot of character. Those looking to raise a family in San Jose opt for housing in the West San Jose neighbourhood. Although properties are by no means cheap, residents do benefit from larger houses and a lot more space.

Finding accommodation in San Jose

The majority of expats initially rent accommodation for a few years before they decide on whether to remain in the city long-term. Expats looking to buy property in San Jose should be aware that demand is high, and suitable properties tend to sell quickly, so it's best to have proof of funds before searching for accommodation.

Whether expats plan on renting or buying property in San Jose, they can get a head start by trawling the internet, even before they arrive in the city. There are many useful real-estate sites, classifieds and online versions of local publications that have property sections. New arrivals can also approach property management companies to assist them in their search for a home.

Expats should always view accommodation in person before committing to anything. While in the city, expats may also stumble on some great housing options simply by exploring a neighbourhood they like on foot and taking note of any sale or rental signs.

Those looking to find their ideal home fast should enlist the services of a real estate agent. These professionals can narrow down accommodation options according to an individual's specifications, provide photos and answer any questions one may have about a property and the rental or buying processes.

Agent fees are generally paid by the person selling the property or the landlord. We do recommend checking with the estate agent before using their services, simply to avoid any hidden fees at the end.

Renting accommodation in San Jose

The demand for property in San Jose is high, and since many of the city's residents are high-earning professionals working in Silicon Valley, landlords are in a position where they can charge high prices for accommodation.

Making the application

As in most of the US, to secure a rental property, potential tenants must obtain an application form from the landlord. Subsequently, the landlord will contact their chosen tenant, and together, they will sign a standard lease agreement. Having a US bank account will act in one's favour when applying to rent accommodation in San Jose, especially for foreigners without a social security number.

Leases, costs and fees

Most rental contracts are valid for a year. San Jose has a mix of furnished and unfurnished accommodation. Furnished accommodation often includes everything from appliances to bedding and curtains. These properties tend to be pricier and usually run on shorter leases. However, unfurnished accommodation rarely means an utterly bare apartment or house, and would still come with large appliances such as ovens, washing machines and fridges. Unfurnished leases usually run for a year or longer.

Tenants will be required to put down an amount equivalent to a month's rent as a security deposit. This deposit is refundable once the tenancy agreement has come to an end. If any damage has been done to the property, the deposit will be used for the cost of repairs.

See Accommodation in the USA for more on the national rental processes.


Expats renting accommodation in San Jose should consult the conditions of their lease to find out the details on utilities. The landlord may assume responsibility for utilities such as gas, electricity and water, but tenants will usually be expected to pay for extras such as telephone services, internet and cable TV packages.

Electricity and gas

New arrivals moving to San Jose would do well to schedule their connection a week or two before moving into their new home. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) oversees the electricity supply in San Jose, and tenants can begin their electricity and gas service by completing a form on their website. This form will require a social security number or any form of identification, the tenant's address and service start date. This can be done up to 60 days before moving into a new home. 

PG&E combines residents' electricity and gas bills. Payments can be automated and recurring via debit card, credit card or bank account; it is also possible to send a cheque via mail or pay by phone using one's account number. 


Water in San Jose is supplied by the San Jose Municipal Water System (Muni Water), San Jose Water Company and Oak Water Company. Newcomers will have a different supplier based on where in San Jose they are moving to. Most of the drinking water in San Jose comes from the Tuolumne River. 

The options for setting up new service will depend on the water retailer supplying one's area. The most common options include setting up water service via phone, email or in person. Similar to electricity and gas connections, newcomers must provide proof of identity and address along with the service start date. They will then receive a customer number which they can use to pay their monthly bills. Payments can be made online, in person or through the mail. 

Recycling and bins

The City of San Jose's municipal website offers information on rubbish collection days across the city. The city also offers a free junk pickup service that allows residents to register for a free pickup of large items such as mattresses, sofas, tyres and refrigerators. There are several collection companies servicing San Jose, so collection processes will differ throughout the city. 

Collection is typically done Monday to Friday between 6am and 6pm. For new arrivals living in apartment buildings and complexes, the city will provide green bins for non-recyclable waste and white or blue bins for recyclables. Tenants and property owners will be charged a monthly service fee based on a few factors, including the frequency of collection and the number and size of bins in the complex. 


New tenants should spend some time looking into different service providers as one can often find a good range of inclusive deals for telephone and internet services. The rates will depend on the internet speed newcomers choose and where in San Jose they are located. 

Useful links

  • PG&E's website provides detailed information on starting and stopping electricity and gas service. 
  • The City of San Jose's website has more on finding a water retailer and determining the rubbish pickup days in your local neighbourhood. 

Areas and Suburbs in San Jose

The best places to live in San Jose

The majority of people moving to San Jose do so because of its proximity to the heart of Silicon Valley. When looking for accommodation, deciding on suitable areas and suburbs of San Jose is one of the main challenges facing new arrivals.

Many of those who relocate to San Jose for a job in Silicon Valley are provided accommodation close to their office by their employers. This will take away much of the stress of deciding where to live. Those not lucky enough to be in this position will need to narrow down their search to a few areas in the city. 

Neighbourhoods for young professionals and singles in San Jose

San Jose

Downtown San Jose

The heart of San Jose is home to the headquarters of both major and up-and-coming tech companies. For those working at any of these companies, living in downtown San Jose has its advantages. Those searching for property in this area will find that there is a wide variety of options available, from charming Victorian buildings and California-style bungalows to newly constructed high-rise condominiums. 

As well as being close to the office, residents living in downtown San Jose have easy access to myriad activities in the city centre. Thanks to the area's fine-dining establishments, fascinating art galleries and exciting theatres, those living close to the city centre have plenty to keep them occupied. Downtown San Jose is also great for those who enjoy an active lifestyle, as it's easy to get about on foot, and there are plenty of trails for joggers and cyclists.

Blossom Valley

This is a safe suburban part of San Jose. Blossom Valley is close to many of the sizeable high-tech company offices. The properties in Blossom Valley are reasonably priced in comparison to other parts of San Jose. Housing mainly consists of housing developments and condominiums.

Although Blossom Valley is located some distance away from San Jose's city centre, one of the major advantages of living here is the area's excellent shopping facilities, as residents have access to lots of shopping malls, department stores and boutiques. For new arrivals who enjoy the great outdoors, living in Blossom Valley allows residents access to great hiking trails and golf courses.


Japantown in San Jose is one of only three official Japantowns in the USA. Young and single professionals looking to maintain proximity to Downtown San Jose while experiencing a unique neighbourhood culture should look no further than Japantown. Most of the accommodation in this neighbourhood is in the form of high-rise apartments and condos. 

The lifestyle in Japantown is unmatched and boasts a plethora of restaurants, cafés, shops and cultural facilities. There are also a few annual festivals taking place in Japantown, and there is a weekly farmer's market on Sundays, so new arrivals will always have something to do. 

Family-friendly neighbourhoods in San Jose

Willow Glen

For those who want to live in a more residential area and still have access to the facilities of downtown San Jose, Willow Glen is an option well worth considering. This neighbourhood has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, which is often hard to come by in the city. It's a pedestrian-friendly area with a host of restaurants, cafés and shops.

As it's located so close to San Jose's downtown area, Willow Glen is home to some prime property, and this is reflected in the high prices. Expats will find lots of Victorian and Spanish-style buildings in Willow Glen, which are great for those looking for a home with character. There are also plenty of modern townhouses and condominiums available here. On average, properties in this neighbourhood are a little larger than those found in downtown San Jose.

Silver Creek Valley

This is a small, affluent part of San Jose that offers residents a peaceful sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of San Jose's city centre. Prospective residents will find several housing options on offer, ranging from luxury homes with landscaped gardens to more modest single-storey properties.

A major draw of Silver Creek Valley is the suburb's location close to some of San Jose's top schools. Silver Creek Valley also provides a clean and safe environment for children to grow up in. There are plenty of parks and recreation facilities to keep little ones entertained. In addition, most properties come with a good-sized outdoor area. The downside is that it's further away from the city centre and most places of work. 

West San Jose

West San Jose is a residential area a mere 15-minute drive away from Downtown San Jose. Families looking for spacious homes away from the city buzz will love West San Jose. This neighbourhood is also home to the premium shopping mall, Santana Row, and houses the West Valley Community College campus. 

Healthcare in San Jose

New arrivals will have access to both public and private healthcare in San Jose. The care offered by its medical institutions and trained staff is of a high standard.

Health coverage in the United States is a contentious issue, and private health insurance is recommended for foreigners, given the country's high healthcare costs. The city's healthcare network includes hospitals, clinics, private practices and pharmacies.

There are several public and independent non-profit hospitals in the San Jose area, giving patients access to an array of general and specialised services. Although newcomers can expect to be in the waiting room for more extended periods than at a private institute, new arrivals can rest assured that San Jose's public hospitals offer an excellent standard of care.

Public healthcare in San Jose isn't free of charge, and foreigners are advised to sign up for a medical aid or health insurance scheme. It's also important to note that in some cases, chronic or long-term care may be denied to those who can't afford it.

Some of San Jose's private hospitals and clinics are nationally recognised for the level of healthcare they provide in a diverse range of fields, from cancer and stroke care to joint replacement and paediatrics. The one thing these institutions have in common is the high costs associated with them. All but the wealthiest newcomers are likely to find that health insurance is necessary if they want to receive care from a private hospital in San Jose.

Read Healthcare in the USA to learn more about the national healthcare system.

Below are some of San Jose's most prominent hospitals.

Hospitals in San Jose

El Camino Hospital – Mountain View Hospital

Address: 2500 Grant Rd, Mountain View, CA 9404

O'Connor Hospital

 Address: 2105 Forest Avenue, San Jose, CA 95128

Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center

Address: 700 Lawrence Expressway, Santa Clara, CA 9505

Stanford Health Care, San Jose

Address: 2585 Samaritan Drive, San Jose, CA 95124

Education and Schools in San Jose

As the heart of the high-tech sector in the US, the greater Silicon Valley area is renowned for its education system, most notably its tertiary institutions.

Public education in San Jose is administered by 15 school districts, the main one in the metropolitan area being the San Jose Unified School District. Educational institutions in San Jose consist of public, private and international schools.

Public schools in San Jose

Public schools in San Jose generally offer a high standard of education, though parents are advised to judge each school on its individual merits. It's a good idea to visit a school in person, meet with the headteachers and request a tour of the facilities.

Attendance at public schools is determined by geographical location. Students attend the public school that falls in the school district they reside in. Parents must provide proof that they live permanently within the specific school district. Choosing a home in a good school district is therefore paramount for newcomers moving to San Jose with children. Generally, the better public schools in Silicon Valley tend to be in the more upmarket areas.

Charter schools

Charter schools are public schools governed by a non-profit board, including members of the local school community, and operate on a performance-based contract with the local school district. These schools have more flexibility in terms of their academic programmes and curricula. They tend to offer a higher standard of education than mainstream public schools.

Charter schools are tuition-free and open to any child who wishes to attend. Competition for a place at a charter school in San Jose can be quite fierce. If more students are applying than there is space, a lottery will determine who is admitted. 

See Education and Schools in the USA for more on the national education system. 

Private schools in San Jose

There are many private schools in San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley region. Many of these schools have a religious affiliation, usually Catholic. Each private school sets its admission requirements, which may involve tests and personal interviews. These schools have more freedom to follow their own curriculum and academic programme, such as Montessori. 

There are no residential boundaries for children attending private schools in San Jose. Nevertheless, competition for places at the best private schools can be intense, and parents should start the application process as early as possible.

Tuition at private schools can be expensive. On top of basic fees, other expenses may include school uniforms, extracurricular activities, textbooks and school excursions. 

International schools in San Jose

Given the multinational makeup of San Jose, there are several international schools in the city and the broader Silicon Valley region catering to a variety of nationalities. These schools either follow the curriculum of their home country or offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme.

International schools are often an exceptional option for families living in San Jose on a short-term assignment. It should be noted that fees at international schools can be exorbitant. Parents should ensure they factor this into their contract negotiations if planning to work in San Jose. Space can also often be limited, so the earlier one applies, the better.

Tertiary education in San Jose

There are some world-renowned tertiary institutions in the Silicon Valley region, most notably Stanford University in Palo Alto. Other notable institutions in and around San Jose include Santa Clara University and San Jose State University. There are also several community colleges that offer quality tertiary education.

Special-needs education in San Jose

The city's education system is equipped to provide for students with learning and developmental disabilities. There are multiple federal laws in place in the US to ensure that children with disabilities have fair access to quality education at no cost, regardless of state.

Both public and private schools in San Jose usually have special individualised programmes in place to support students with learning difficulties. In cases where a learner's disability is too severe for them to benefit from mainstream education, there are special education facilities that can offer students a special-needs programme tailored to meet their specific requirements.

Tutors in San Jose

San Jose is on the doorstep of Silicon Valley, and parents often use computer science, programming and IT tutors to give their children a leg up in the highly competitive tertiary sector. Of course, tutors are used in other subject areas too, so whether a child has fallen behind in maths class or needs additional support to excel in their college entrance exams, there are plenty of private tutors available.

It’s wise to start by asking the child’s school or other parents in the area for a recommendation. Alternatively, one could utilise the services of established tutoring companies. These companies offer an array of packages from subject-specific intensive programmes to one-on-one home tuition and small group sessions. 

Enlisting the services of a private tutor is an excellent opportunity for students to address any gaps in their knowledge, excel at a particular subject, or simply build confidence in their new environment.

Lifestyle in San Jose

With its sunny weather, multicultural population and strategic position in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose offers residents a pleasant and rewarding lifestyle. It might not be as glamorous as neighbouring San Francisco, but for those looking for a modern city that still retains something of a small-town atmosphere, San Jose is definitely worth considering.

The lifestyle in San Jose appeals to every taste and interest. From wineries to museums, theatres, parks and markets, there is always something to enjoy in the city. Further afield, mountains and national parks offer day and weekend getaways for those wanting to explore the wider California region. 

Shopping in San Jose

Shopping opportunities are abundant in San Jose, with many large, modern shopping malls, like Westfield Valley Fair, the largest mall in San Jose. Other popular malls include Westgate, Westfield Oakridge, Eastridge Mall and Almaden Plaza Shopping Center.

Santana Row is an upscale shopping district that offers luxury brands and high-end boutiques alongside premium restaurants. For those looking for something more unique, there are older, eclectic shopping districts, such as in the Downtown Historic District, along Paseo de San Antonio and at the San Jose Market Center on Coleman Avenue.

Eating out in San Jose

Although San Jose's dining scene may not be as well known as neighbouring San Francisco's, there are plenty of excellent restaurants in the city. With the warm climate, diners can enjoy many lovely al fresco dining options.

As can be expected in such a multicultural and ethnically diverse region, there's a wide variety of cuisine available. From budget takeaway outlets to fine dining establishments, from traditional American steakhouses and seafood specialists to Italian, Mexican and Asian fare, there is something to suit every taste and budget. 

Downtown San Jose is particularly popular for eating out, with many restaurants, bars and coffee shops lining the streets. Santana Row also has many dining establishments; it's best to book if you want to eat in this upmarket area. 

Nightlife and entertainment in San Jose

Newcomers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to nightlife and entertainment in San Jose. Downtown is arguably the most happening area with restaurants, bars, theatres, museums, live music and comedy venues catering for people from all walks.

San Pedro Square, in particular, has many popular pubs and restaurants and even a microbrewery to enjoy. The area also hosts an outdoor cinema and a farmer's market. The SoFA District (South of First Area) is the centre of visual arts and entertainment in downtown San Jose. Known for its eclectic and creative crowd and venues, there are many coffee shops, theatres and galleries.

Sports and outdoor activities in San Jose

As with most of California, outdoor activities are a major part of the lifestyle in San Jose all year round. From the San Jose Rose Garden to the Japanese Friendship Garden, the city has many outdoor parks and gardens for families to enjoy a relaxing day out in the sun.

Walking and running are also favourite pastimes in the city, particularly along the city's established trails. A network of bicycle trails also makes it relatively easy to cycle around the city.

Lake Cunningham offers opportunities for fishing and boating, while national parks such as Yosemite National Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park are great for those wanting to explore the wilderness for a weekend of camping or hiking. California's beautiful beaches are also not far away, and a drive along the Pacific Highway offers an opportunity to explore the state's magnificent coastline.

See and do in San Jose

San Jose is packed with things for people to do in their leisure time, so we've put together a list of some of the most popular things to see and do in San Jose.

The Tech Interactive

This science and technology centre offers hands-on activities, experimental labs and design challenges that are intended to empower innovation and give visitors a taste of how technology can be brought to life. The Interactive's IMAX Dome Theatre also provides a one-of-a-kind movie experience with the use of the world's first laser projector in a domed theatre.

San Pedro Square Market

The San Pedro Square Market houses an impressive collection of food vendors offering cuisine from all ends of the earth. It also hosts live music, film showings, book signings, comedy shows and the odd sports game for visitors to watch. Open every day of the week, this dog-friendly market offers al fresco dining spots from which new arrivals will be entertained while enjoying a meal.

Winchester Mystery House

Built by Sarah Winchester, the heiress of the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune, this beautiful but bizarre Victorian-style mansion is open to the public for guided tours. Mrs Winchester built the house with many odd features, including doors and stairways that lead nowhere, in order to confuse the spirits of the victims lost to the Winchester Rifle that had returned to haunt the house, as she believed. Along with newcomers having an opportunity to explore the mysterious estate, they can also attend numerous events held there annually.

San Jose Museum of Art

Housing an impressive collection of works from West Coast artists, this museum is a favourite among art lovers in San Jose. While many of the exhibits showcase Californian artists, art from the Pacific Rim is also gaining traction. New arrivals can expect to view a wide selection of works using many different styles and mediums.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

Situated in Kelley Park, Happy Hollow is an amusement park and zoo for the whole family to enjoy. It offers thrilling rides, a petting zoo, a puppet theatre and animal exhibits, among other attractions. Those looking for educational fun will discover that the Learning LODGE holds camps and classes that focus on conservation and sustainability.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

History buffs in San Jose will enjoy a visit to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Its architectural style is inspired by Ancient Egypt, and visitors will spend some time fully immersed in their culture. The museum houses the most extensive collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts in the western US. Shows are also hosted at the museum's planetarium on the weekends.

What's on in San Jose

It may be better known for its tech industry, but there are a variety of exciting annual cultural events in San Jose. The Bay Area's robust craft beer culture is celebrated along with music, art and, as can be expected, technology festivals and conferences. Aside from major events that take place at specific times of the year, there is always something going on in the city for locals and expats from all walks of life.

Here are some recommended yearly festivals.

Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival (April)

Held at Memorial Park in Cupertino, the Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates Japanese culture and the arrival of springtime. While the centre of focus for the event is the beautiful cherry blossom trees, new arrivals can also take in cultural performances, food and carnival games, making it a great day out for the family. 

SubZERO Festival (June)

Newcomers looking for something a little outside the norm are sure to find it at this exciting festival, which prides itself on representing San Jose's various subcultures. Entertainment is provided by a host of artists, musicians and performers representing a wide variety of genres and styles.

San Jose Jazz Summerfest (August)

One of the most popular music festivals on the West Coast, the San Jose Jazz Summerfest started as a small event in 1990. It has since grown into a multi-stage cross-genre extravaganza lasting for three days. Attendees get to see a range of international stars and up-and-coming artists in a variety of music styles, including jazz, salsa and Latin.

Luna Park Chalk Art Festival (September)

Over the course of a day, San Jose's artists take to the sidewalks of Backesto Park, filling them with more than 250 pieces of vibrant chalk-based art. Food and drink stalls cater for hungry attendees, while the festival's main stage hosts local musicians to entertain visitors.

Beerwalk Willow Glen (October)

Lager-loving expats can get to know some of their fellow beer connoisseurs while exploring the neighbourhood, as this festival sees craft beer tastings being held at local art studios, boutiques and bars.

Getting around in San Jose

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) oversees public transport in and around San Jose and makes getting around in the city a breeze. What San Jose lacks in subway routes, it makes up for with an integrated transit system consisting of buses, light rail and long-distance trains, which will be easy for newcomers to navigate.

Public transport in San Jose


VTA runs a light-rail network in San Jose which operates 365 days a year and is open between 4am and 1.30am, depending on the line. Trains usually arrive and depart every 15 minutes, but this can vary depending on the route and the time of day. Tickets must be purchased beforehand from a ticket vending machine at the station or via the EZfare mobile app. If using VTA services frequently, it's a good idea to pick up a Clipper card, which can be loaded with credit. One-day or monthly passes can also be loaded onto the Clipper card.

Another option is the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), which is especially useful for sightseeing between Stockton and San Jose. Tickets can be bought through ACE's website or at stations and official vendors.

For longer distances, expats can take the Caltrain between San Francisco, San Jose and Gilroy. The Clipper card can be used for the Caltrain, or tickets can be purchased via the official Caltrain mobile app or at vending machines prior to boarding.


VTA operates a comprehensive bus network which serves nearly 30 million passengers a year at more than 3,178 bus stops throughout Santa Clara County. 

Route numbers and destinations are visible at bus stops and above the bus's windscreen. Commuters should aim to arrive at their bus stop five minutes before scheduled arrival times. Buses are usually stopped by holding one's hand up, and passengers should have their fare or Clipper card ready before boarding. The exact amount must be used if paying in cash, as bus drivers do not carry change.

Useful links

Taxis in San Jose

A multitude of cab companies are available to expats who would want to travel by taxi in and around San Jose. Taxis can either be called in advance or hailed on the street and are also available at the airport. However, they are pricier than other modes of transport, but some companies offer discounts for longer distances.

Popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are operational in San Jose and can be utilised via their respective mobile applications.

Cycling in San Jose

VTA has concentrated its efforts on improving conditions for cycling in San Jose and gearing its transit system towards accommodating cyclists. The Bay Area has a bike-sharing system known as Bay Wheels consisting of approximately 7,000 bikes across 550 stations in San Jose, San Francisco and the East Bay. Single-use, 24-hour and monthly passes are available, which can be purchased via the official mobile app or a Clipper card.

Useful links

  • Check out Bay Wheels to purchase a pass and find docking stations. 

Driving in San Jose

Driving is a common way of getting around in San Jose, though the city's traffic is some of the worst in the US. On the plus side, navigation is relatively easy, thanks to the grid layout of the streets.

International Driving Permits aren't recognised by the state of California, but valid driving licences from foreign countries, states or territories can be used until they expire. Once foreigners become California residents, they will need to get a local licence. Newcomers from certain countries can transfer their driving licence without retaking a driver's test. Other new arrivals will be expected to pass a written traffic law test and a driving test, which can be applied for at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in and around San Jose.

Read Transport and Driving in the USA for more on securing a driving licence in the country. 

Walking in San Jose

Walking in San Jose is a popular pastime, whether to commute or for leisure. Downtown San Jose is particularly walkable, while suburban areas are more spread out, though these are usually covered by the public transport system. Given the generally good weather and the city's relative safety, expats who enjoy getting around on their own two feet will enjoy living in San Jose.