Living in Berkeley


It is generally recommended that you spend no more than $1000/month on housing. When looking for an apartment, be sure to consider whether water and garbage are included, otherwise it could increase your monthly payments. Remember that you will be paying electricity and phone bills every month, which will also increase your monthly spending. If you live outside Berkeley, rents are often cheaper. However, remember to add in the cost of daily transportation. There are a number of good listings for apartments, such as craigslist, which is free, and Cal Rentals.

There is a limited amount of University-owned housing available for graduate students in the Manville Apartments, the International House, and the Ida Louise Jackson House. Some University housing is also available for married students and students with children. There is a wait-list of at least six months for most units. Keep in mind that University housing is not necessarily less expensive than other housing options.

Parking and Transportation

Most of your time during the day will be spent on campus. Many students live close enough to walk or bike to campus, which eliminates the cost of travel and parking. If you decide to live further away, you can purchase a student parking permit for about $350 per semester. To purchase a permit you must show proof of living at least two miles away from campus. More permits are sold than there are spaces, so even if you buy a permit, you are not guaranteed a spot. This means you may have to get in early (e.g. before 8:45am) before the lots fill up to get a space.

Many students use public transit to get to campus. Unlimited bus travel on AC-transit lines is free for Berkeley students, although this may change. You simply need to request a “Class Pass” sticker for your student ID. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system is a convenient way to commute if you live near a BART station. There are frequent trains from the East Bay to San Francisco. The fare is proportional to the distance traveled. Trains stop at 1 am. You are going to be here for a few years, so it is worth your while to get a Clipper Card, which works on all public transportation in Berkeley and San Francisco. UC-Berkeley has a transit subsidy program to encourage carpooling and use of public transit.

Best of Berkeley, Student-Made Lists

Outdoor Fun:

  1. Tilden Regional Park has many walking and hiking trails.
  2. Many groups at the Berkeley Marina offer classes in water sports such as windsurfing and sailing.
  3. Point Reyes is an excellent place for camping, hiking, and other activities.
  4. Muir Woods on the northwest side of the bay is a great place to hike and see redwood trees.
  5. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is a huge park with everything from Japanese tea gardens, to a Bison paddock, to a natural history museum.
  6. Walking around San Francisco’s varied neighborhoods is a fun way to spend any weekend.
  7. The Berkeley hills behind campus are accessible via fire trails and are good for trail running and hiking (from an hour to a whole day), although you cannot camp on them.
  8. The Berkeley botanical gardens are free to students, and discounted for other students. Just remember to bring your ID!

Grocery Stores:

  1. The Berkeley Bowl grocery store on Shattuck and Ward or the second location on Heinz and 9th Street, is a great place to get quality inexpensive produce.
  2. Trader Joe’s is a popular whole foods store. There is one at University Ave. and Martin Luther King Way in Berkeley. Also, one is in the El Cerrito Plaza, one next to the Rockridge Bart station and one in Emeryville.
  3. The three standard grocery stores in the area are Safeway, Lucky, and Andronico’s.

Furniture Stores:

  1. Check along San Pablo for many cheap or second hand furniture stores.
  2. Target in Emeryville.
  3. Futon stores at University and California.
  4. is a great place to find cheap furniture. Some people even give furniture away when they are moving. Try checking every day for a week, or more often during high seasonal turnover.
  5. Goodwill store on Shattuck and University.
  6. There is an IKEA furniture store located close-by in Emeryville.
  7. National Furniture Warehouse down I-80. Look for the giant “$499 Sofa & Love” sign.
  8. Macy’s Furniture Outlet in Union City, California

Restaurants and Bars:

  1. Café Mattina (formerly Café Intermezzo) and Tako Sushi on Telegraph Ave.
  2. Jupiter and Triple Rock on Shattuck.
  3. Kip’s & Henry’s on Durant.
  4. Freehouse on Bancroft and College
  5. Albatross, Mallard, and the Ivy Room on San Pablo.

General Recommendations

Enjoy Berkeley! There are many restaurants and things to do in Berkeley and San Francisco. Take advantage of them! All work and no play makes you burn out early. Become involved in extracurricular activities/clubs/sports/graduate committees. Make an effort to meet your classmates in the classes you take or at seminars, because once you join a lab, you will have much less contact with other students.