Informal Guide to Moving to Tuscaloosa

This page contains information for new graduate students moving to Tuscaloosa. New postdocs and faculty may find the information on housing useful.  There is also a lot of useful information available from International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS), even if you aren’t an international student.

Roll Tide bridge in Northport, Alabama

About Tuscaloosa

The City of Tuscaloosa is located in West Alabama on the Black Warrior River, 57 miles southwest of the city of Birmingham. Tuscaloosa is the county seat of Tuscaloosa County, which also includes the city of Northport, just north of Tuscaloosa city, across the Black Warrior River. Tuscaloosa’s population is ~100,000 while that of the county is ~200,000.  Birmingham metropolitan area has a population of over 1.1 million and is the 49th largest in the United States.


Getting to Tuscaloosa

The nearest international airport to Tuscaloosa is Birmingham International Airport, located ~60 miles from campus.  The best way to travel between Tuscaloosa and the airport is by personal vehicle, shuttles, or taxis. The international students center website provides a list of transport providers:


The University of Alabama

The University of Alabama is the state of Alabama’s oldest public university (1832) and is a senior comprehensive doctoral-level institution located in Tuscaloosa, AL. It is the flagship of the University of Alabama System.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Alabama is located in Gallalee Hall. The physical address for the building is

514 University Blvd
Tuscaloosa, AL, 35487

View a map of the University and parking for physics department visitors:

The physics department is at the green icon. The red icon is downtown Tuscaloosa. Nearby hotels and parking lots are marked on the map.

An interactive map of UA is available at

To learn more about resources available to students, please visit


UA Graduate School Resources

The UA graduate school has a number of resources for new students:



All graduate students stay off-campus*. Students without a car tend to live:

  • South of the Black Warrior River (Jack Warner Pkwy)
  • West of McFarland Boulevard
  • North of ~Hargrove Rd/15th Street
  • East of Lurleen Wallace Rd/Greensboro Avenue

There are some apartment complexes that are further away and provide shuttle service to the University. Please refer to the Transportation section below for details on apartment shuttles.

You can search for apartments and houses through UA’s off-campus housing website. Many rental apartments offer roommate matching. Typical rents for one bedroom in a shared apartment are between $500 – $600/month although there are cheaper and more expensive options available. Check if and what services/utilities are included with rent.

Please note that most apartment complexes require a 1 year lease. Please make sure to check lease duration, as well as move-in and move-out date, deposits, etc. For more information on housing, please visit the Housing & Utilities page.

Note: Renting an apartment for the first time will normally require advance payment of the first and last month rent or some other deposit. Please check with the leasing agent.

*UA does have some on-campus furnished apartments for graduate students although availability is limited. Please see:  There is also a shared living-learning community experience available to international graduate students though spaces are limited. Please see:

For international students, please check other resources available through the UA International Students center.

Please contact current graduate students to get recommendations on places to stay.



The University provides shuttle services between many nearby apartment complexes and the main University bus terminal. Some other apartment complexes, which are further away, also provide shuttles to/from the University every half hour. For details, see

Please check the hours of operation of the shuttle service. Some shuttles only run during working hours on weekdays (8 – 5 p.m. M-F).  Evening labs, which graduate students often teach, will run later than that.  Private (non-university-run) shuttles have been known to change their hours mid-semester, so some extra care in those cases may be warranted.

The University also provides an off-hours shuttle service called 348-Ride which operates within a 1-mile radius of the University. Please see the Crimson Ride website.

Local transportation


Within the city, public transportation is limited to 7 major bus routes, operated by the Tuscaloosa Transit Authority, which covers most of the city. This includes a free University shuttle from UA campus to downtown Tuscaloosa for UA students, faculty, and staff.


Many taxi companies, as well as car-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, are available. Find a list of major taxi companies on the Capstone International Center’s website.


The Amtrak Crescent route which connects New York to New Orleans stops at Tuscaloosa twice a day (once for each direction). The trains are frequently delayed and hence should not be used if time is of the essence.

Long-distance Buses

For travel between cities, Greyhound buses are available. Please visit the Tuscaloosa Bus Station website for more details.


Budget and Utilities

PhD students are supported either as a teaching assistant (TA), a research assistant (RA), or on a fellowship (or some combination) throughout their tenure, as long as they are making good progress towards their degree and are in good academic standing. Your offer letter should have stated your 9-month salary (if applicable). All first-year funded graduate students are guaranteed summer support in their first year. Most 2nd year and higher students are partially or fully supported either via TAs or RAs over the summer. Please note, not all students obtain summer support. However, the 9-month salary should be adequate to cover 12 months of living expenses as long as you have budgeted for it. Please keep this in mind when deciding where to live.

From Fall 2023 onward, the financial package for supported graduate students will cover salary, tuition,  health insurance, as well as academic fees which currently averages to ~$300 – $400 per semester (~$600 – $800 a year) depending on what courses are selected. International students will have to pay a $100 international student fee per semester which is not covered by the financial package. This fee needs to be paid at the start of the semester. The Fall semester begins on August 16th of each year and students receive their first paycheck at the end of August or 1st of September.

When drawing up a budget, in addition to rent and transportation, remember to check what utilities and services are included in the rent. Utilities that you may have to pay for (if they are not already included in your rent) are

  • Electricity
  • Gas (for a gas stove, or gas water heater, heating unit)
  • Water/Trash
  • Washer/Dryer (either in an apt or in a building)
  • Internet/TV (some buildings either include them in the rent or you can buy a subsidized package from them).

In addition, please budget for

  • Cell phone
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Car monthly payments, if applicable
  • Car insurance payments (normally every six months), if applicable
  • Parking permit rates if driving to University
  • Grocery bills
  • Miscellaneous

UA’s international students center provides more information on utilities. Please refer to the following webpages:

Please also see Off-Campus Resources for more information.

Initial Moving Expenses

Students should be aware that the greatest expenses will be incurred during their first few weeks.  Students should prepare to bring money to cover their start-up expenses they will have upon arrival. For example, renting an apartment for the first time will normally require advance payment of the first and last month rent. There may be other application fees and security deposits as well. Other costs include utility deposits, groceries, furniture etc. The UA International Students Center recommends  students bring or have available $2000 – $4000 for start up expenses during your first weeks.


Alabama State ID or Driver’s license

You are required to get an Alabama ID within a certain time frame of your arrival in Tuscaloosa. This can either be an Alabama driver’s license or a non-driver’s state ID. For more details, please visit the Capstone International Center’s website and the following:

If you are an international student and currently do not have a driver’s license try to get one in your home country and then apply for an international driver’s license. Eventually, you will need to get a driver’s license in Tuscaloosa. Without one your experience in the US will be quite restricted.

Please refer to the CIC website for information about obtaining a driver’s license.


Visa Information

Information on the visa process can be found at

The following page has information on preparing for interviews and possible field-related visa delays for administrative processing.


Information for International Students

Further information can be found at