Thinking of checking out the West Coast, but not necessarily California Dreaming? If your interests lean more toward coniferous forests, gastronomy, bike rides, and rock ‘n’ roll clubs, Portland might be the place for you.
Still situated on the “Left Coast”, but in the diverse and unique Pacific Northwest (PNW) region, Portland combines small town charm with big city excitement. Quirky enough to inspire its own comedic TV series, the people and places within the city are well worth getting to know, and it can all be experienced on a reasonable budget.
Staying Out of the Rain — Housing
- Couch Surfing/Craigslist
- Hostels are few and far between in Portland. That fact is not for lack of hospitality, though, as many people will be happy to open up their homes to a respectful wanderer. Whether going through a website like couchsurfing.com, or just perusing the endless craigslist.org ads (act quickly!), you’ll be able to find accommodation without too much trouble.
- AirBnb $627 - $18,782 per month
- This is a great option in a city like Portland. The company just put a new office in the city for a reason! You’ll find lots of options here. Living situations can vary in price and quality to fit your personal budget and comfort standards. You can get a room in a house starting at $29/night ($26 for a backyard tent!), or $627/month. You can have an entire apartment to yourself for $55/night, or spend up to $18,782/month for a 1.5 acre estate.
- Hotels $55 - $1867 per night
- Again, there are plenty to choose from to accommodate your lifestyle. At the middle of the road, there are the boutique hotels, like the trendy Ace Hotel in downtown or the Jupiter Hotel on lower East Burnside. There is a great neighborhood hotel called McMenamins Kennedy School, which is an old elementary school that has been converted into a hotel with bars, restaurants, a soaking pool, and a movie theater. McMenamins also has another lodge attached to a music venue, The White Eagle, which starts at $55/night.
On the higher end, you can dish out as much as $1867/night for a 143 sq. meter suite at the swanky Nines Hotel. The historic Heathman Hotel offers rooms starting at $148/night, but also offers “Signature Suites”. These come with a price tag of $1750/night, but a portion of the room’s revenue is donated to support the arts.
Let’s Eat in Portland from $7 - $100 per meal
Portland has become one of the best foodie cities, not just in the US, but worldwide. There’s a huge range of eateries featuring local, organic ingredients, mostly at very reasonable prices. You can expect to spend $10 - $15 at your average sit down joint, but it is not difficult to find a lavish dining experience for an impressive date.
Don’t miss the food carts, which can be found clumped together in multi-block lots downtown, and in smaller “pods” in every quadrant. Not “roach coaches” at all, you can get premium fare at an excellent price—around $7.
Entertainment in Portland from $0 - $30 per night
There is something for everyone in the Rose City. If you seek adventure, go for a hike in Forest Park’s 13 km of moss and fern lined trails. Readers may prefer to stroll around Powell’s, the world’s largest bookstore. Grab a hot cup of coffee at any of the city’s roasters.
Low-key watering holes are everywhere throughout the city, and in these local bars and pubs, many of which are in neighborhood houses, there’s everything from Pabst to microbrews to craft cocktails, depending on your tastes and budget.
Portland is also well-known for its music scene, and on any given night there are scores of local and national bands and DJs playing at large and small venues (and basements) all over the city.
Getting Around in Portland from $2.50 - $100
Portland has a really great and affordable public transit system. There is an above ground rail system with four lines that criss-cross the city, and busses that cover that same ground and much more. There is also a streetcar for shorter, more leisurely jaunts. Single tickets cost $2.50 and are valid for two hours on all forms of transit. 30 day passes can also be purchased for $100.
If you stay out late, though, you’ll be stuck taking a cab home. It is best to know your preferred cab company’s phone number so that you can call and arrange a pickup, as hailing off the street is not common or likely.
Or just ride a bike.
Volunteer Abroad in Portland
This may be the best and most satisfying way to integrate yourself into this beautiful city. I cannot over-emphasize how community oriented Portland is, so if your mission is to contribute, there are opportunities everywhere! If you are are not planning to work abroad in the traditional sense to earn your keep, there are several farms affiliated with WWOOF. These farms exchange room and board for your help around the property.
If you have come to study, or are just a do-gooder with some extra time after work, there are endless non-profit organizations that you could volunteer with, or perhaps even land an internship. If you have a strong opinion about some social issue, chances are there is an organization in the city that shares your passion and would love your help.
The Monthly Reality
Plenty of people comfortably live the Portland lifestyle earning minimum wage, which is currently $9.25/hr. The service industry is huge, and most rely on the extra income of tips to fund anything above and beyond rent (which is why it is good practice to leave at least 20% gratuity when eating and drinking out). There is tons of great local food, beer, and coffee, and you will definitely want to partake. A comfortable and genuine Portland experience can be had for roughly $1,300/month. I’ll break that down as $600 for rent in a shared home, $300 for eating out, $300 for groceries, and $100 for transportation.