Living in Birmingham
With a population of nearly one million, the city of Birmingham is Alabama’s largest city and is the state’s industrial, business and cultural center. Samford University is centrally located in the Homewood area, which is convenient to many of the city’s most entertaining areas. The city is home to major engineering companies, a nationally ranked medical center, a symphony orchestra, a Triple A baseball team, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and a myriad of other institutions and organizations that make it a thriving modern city.
Range of average temperatures:
- January 42 Degrees F (6 Degrees C)
- April 63 Degrees F (17 Degrees C)
- July 90 Degrees F (37 Degrees C)
- During the summer there is an average 51 days above 90 Degrees F
- November 52 Degrees F (11 Degrees C)
Stores and Shopping+
In the United States, there is an automatic sales tax, which is attached to any purchase that is made. Depending upon the area of Birmingham, individuals should expect a tax of 5-9% added to purchased items. This is not built into the cost of the item as it is in some other countries.
Furnishing an Apartment+
Restaurants and Dining+
Off-Campus Apartment Housing+
Questions to Ask Before Renting an Apartment
- How much is the rent?
- When is the rent due? What is included in the rent? Utilities (electricity, gas, water)? Phone? Cable?
- Will the security deposit be retuned when the lease has expired?
- How long is the lease? Is there a penalty for breaking the lease contract?
- How much notice must be given before the lease is terminated?
- Are storage facilities available?
- Are there laundry facilities?
- Are both furnished and unfurnished apartments available?
- If you have a car or motorcycle:
- Is parking available, if so what kind, on street, garage or parking lot?
- Are there additional charges for parking a vehicle?
- If you have children:
- Where is the nearest childcare facility?
- Where are the nearest schools and is there bus service?
- If you have pets:
- Are pets allowed? Is there a limit on size or number of pets allowed?
- Is there a pet deposit? If so, is it per pet? Is it refundable if there is no damage to the apartment?
Public Schools—Children ages six to 17 are expected to attend the public school nearest their homes. Contact the appropriate school administration office of your city or county to determine which school to attend, or visit the nearest school office.Birmingham City Public Schools
2015 Park Place
Birmingham, AL 35203
Homewood City Schools
7 Hollywood Boulevard
Homewood, AL 35209
Hoover City Schools
100 Municipal Drive
Hoover, AL 35216
Mountain Brook City Schools
3 Church Street
Mountain Brook, AL 35213
Vestavia Hills City Schools
1204 Montgomery Highway
Vestavia Hills, AL 35216
Jefferson County Board of Education
2100 18th Street South
Birmingham, AL 35209
Private Schools: Parents who wish for their children to attend a private school where tuition is charged may contact individual schools to inquire about registration.
Selecting a Good Child-Care Program+
Churches, Synagogues and Places of Worship+
To install these utilities:
- Gas: Contact Alagasco (205-326-8200) for installation of gas service. A contract and a deposit are required. Address: 20 South 20th Street
- Electricity: Contact Alabama Power Company (205-252-9115) for installation of service. A deposit is required and a connecting charge is added to the first bill. Address: 600 North 18th Street
- Cable TV: Check with your leasing office for area representation.
- Water: Contact Water Works Board of Birmingham (205-251-5634) for installation of service. Address: 3600 1st Avenue North
Please be aware you may not need installation of all of the above. Many apartment complexes provide some utilities. When you are determining where to live, be sure to ask which utilities are provided and which are not.
U.S. Postal Service+
- Bus—Local bus service is provided by MAX (Metro Area Express) to points of interest around Birmingham, including shopping areas. DART (Downtown Area Rapid Transit), a mini-bus system, operates attractive trolleys in the central business district. Bus service is limited and not available on weekends. For information and schedules please contact 205-521-0101.
- Taxi—Service is limited. Refer to the local yellow pages in your telephone book.
Applying for an Alabama Driver’s License+
Individuals who are visiting the U.S. with a B-1/WB or B-2/WT status are not eligible to apply for an Alabama driver’s license. If these individuals have a need to drive in the U.S., they should obtain an international driver’s license in their home country. An international driver’s license is usually valid for a short period of time (i.e., 30–60 days).
There are several locations in Birmingham where one may apply for an Alabama driver’s license.
Listed below are the offices that are located near Samford:
908 Bankhead Highway
Birmingham, AL 35204
813 Green Springs Highway
Homewood, AL 35209
Written and road exams are offered Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Individuals will be required to take both a written and a road exam. The written exam is provided in a variety of languages and can be taken as many times as necessary to successfully pass the exam. You may access a copy of the Alabama driver’s license study booklet at www.dps.state.al.us. It is recommended that you study this manual prior to taking your exams.
Those individuals who do not have an international driver’s license must have a licensed driver take them to one of the driver’s license locations. The licensed driver must be willing to allow the individual use of his or her car for the road test. The officer will inspect the car. The car must be fully functional (i.e., working turn signals, horn, etc.) before the officer will proceed with the road exam.
Bring the following items when applying for an Alabama driver’s license:
- Form I-94 card
- The specific immigration document (i.e., I-20, DS-2019 or approval notice for classifications such as H)
- Birth certificate (very helpful)
- Social Security card (if you are not eligible for this, a denial letter from the Social Security Administration)
Please be aware that the 900-number issued to you by Samford University should not be presented to the driver’s license office
Alabama Identification Card+
Banks and ATM are available throughout the Birmingham area. It is advisable to obtain a checking account as it is dangerous to carry large sums of cash. Contact the Newcomer Services department of individual banking institutions to determine which services are available. Individuals should understand all terms and agreements and receive adequate instructions on how to use the banking services. Refer to the local yellow pages for a complete listing of the various banks located throughout the Birmingham area.
Banks require certain information before they will open an account. Individuals will probably be asked to provide photo identification, some personal data, a mailing address and money to deposit. Banks also will request a social security number to be used to report earnings to the federal tax authority, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is advisable to obtain a social security number as early as possible in order to open a bank account. A few banks may accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number obtained from the IRS.