Providence is the biggest city in Rhode Island, and it is the state’s only option when it comes to urban living. It’s a great place to live, but it certainly has its downsides. Keep reading to learn more about the downsides of living in Providence, Rhode Island.
1. Hot Summers
Rhode Island is part of New England, which gets a lot of press for its freezing cold winters. However, as cold as its winters are, New England summers can also be utterly miserable. With temperatures upwards of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity, it can often feel as though you are boiling alive during the peaks of the day.
80 degrees Fahrenheit might not seem extremely high to people used to the desert temperatures of Arizona or Nevada, but combined with the wet air, it tends to feel much hotter than it actually is. It’s easy to end up dehydrated as well, which can lead to some absolutely miserable days.
2. Cold Beaches
This is made all the worse by the extremely cold water on Rhode Island’s shores. The beaches in the state are admittedly very nice, but because of the cold water, it isn’t actually safe to swim in them to cool off. This is because, during the heat of summer, it’s possible to end up in shock from the temperature differential between the air and the seawater.
Fortunately, the ocean temperature does get up to swimmable levels in July and August. However, the prevalence of dangerous bacteria can make even relatively warm beaches unsafe to swim in. Make sure to always check the Rhode Island Department of Health website before getting in the water to make sure the beach you’re at is safe.
3. Freezing Winters
While Providence doesn’t tend to get any colder than 37 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 21 degrees Fahrenheit during the night, the high local humidity, snow, and wind chill from the sea can make it feel way colder than that. It’s impossible to get by in the city without a sweater and a jacket in the deep of winter, which is a deal breaker for a lot of people.
This is compounded, of course, but the heavy snowfall of the cold months of the year. At its peak in January, the city gets an average of 8.7 inches of snow each year, and that doesn’t include the snow that falls between November and February. The heavy snow brings with it scary road conditions that make everyone’s lives harder for a couple of months. Most people aren’t good at driving in the snow, and Providence residents are no exception.
The other big effect of the snowy winters is a yearly resurgence of potholes, which the city is infamous for doing very little about. These potholes are caused by snow getting into cracks in the asphalt or concrete of a road, melting down during the day, and freezing again at night, which causes the water to expand outwards.
This, combined with the extreme temperatures that can be found in the region, are essentially a recipe for fast road deterioration, and unfortunately, local governments tend to do very little to prevent this from happening. While the snow makes driving hard during the winter, potholes make driving awful year round.
5. Bad For Drivers
Rhode Island is also one of the most expensive states to drive in, which makes Providence an overall terrible place to drive in. With many roads and bridges in disrepair and car insurance premiums through the roof, Providence is both unpleasant and expensive to own a car in.
While car insurance premiums are high all over Rhode Island, Providence itself has an average per year premium of over $2,000! This means that if you plan to drive in Providence, you’ll need to find an extra couple hundred dollars for insurance every year more than the national average, which can add more financial pressure on top of the city’s already high cost of living.
Fortunately, if you don’t need a car to travel out of state, Providence is actually one of the most walkable cities in the US. With great public transportation, streets designed for pedestrians, and a great density of businesses for people living near the city, many people may be able to forego the huge prices associated with owning a motor vehicle to make this less of a problem.
6. Bad Drivers
The fact that Rhode Island is home to some of the worst drivers in the country is likely one of the reasons why you will have to pay high insurance premiums if you choose to move to Providence. The reason that drivers in this area of the country are so bad is hard to pinpoint. It could be a statistical oddity caused by a spike in crashes that comes with the yearly snow, but it could also be caused by some kind of cultural attitude towards driving.
Whatever the causes are, Rhode Island suffers from more fatal high-speed crashes than any other state in the country. This is strange, especially when you consider that it’s the only state in the country where nothing is more than half an hour away from the capital, but people are strange in general. Who knows why they make the decisions they do?
7. High Population Density
Rhode Island as a state is characterized by its high population density. Even though it’s the smallest state in the country, it has over a million people within its borders. While Providence’s official population is only a little over 170,000, its metro area is about 1,600,000 people in total and has a population density of over 9,000 people per square mile.
This contributes to a number of problems in the city. The most obvious one is traffic, but it also drives up real estate and rent prices and makes businesses more likely to be crowded.
If the high price didn’t make you think twice about bringing a car to Providence, the ridiculous traffic might. The high population density, bad roads, and bad drivers make rush hour traffic an absolute nightmare, as people will constantly cut you off and make rude gestures at you when you honk at them.
This is just one more in the long list of reasons that driving in Providence is a mistake, and public transportation is the most effective method of locomotion in the region.
9. Liquor Stores
The problem with Providence is not necessarily that there are liquor stores and more that you can only purchase liquor from a liquor store while in the city. This makes getting a bottle far less convenient than it is in other states, as liquor stores are infamous for weird locations and even weirder hours.
This means that if you want to drink alone in Providence, you will need to plan ahead.
10. Summer Tourism
Rhode Island beaches bring thousands of tourists to Providence every summer, and the history of the city and state brings a small trickle of people in from nearby states year-round. Anyone who has ever lived in a place that gets a yearly influx of tourists already knows why this is a problem, as they crowd everyone else out of the fun!
If you don’t like dealing with tourists or the traffic they bring with them, you don’t want to move to Providence, Rhode Island, as you will constantly have to deal with them. Get ready to be asked for directions often and be stuck behind tourists that don’t know where they are going while driving and walking on the sidewalk.
11. People are Leaving
As for the people who already live in Rhode Island, a lot of them wish they were living somewhere else. This is evidenced by the rate of people leaving the state as compared to people moving into it. Most people leaving the state are leaving for work-related reasons, which makes sense as the small rather limited space in Rhode Island doesn’t have a huge abundance of jobs to offer.
That being said, it is certainly not the only reason that people leave. Many are also moving out of state to retire, or for a change in lifestyle. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the state isn’t everyone’s favorite.
12. Bad Place To Retire
Out of 182 cities in the USA, Providence ranked 152nd when rated based on how good it was to retire there in 2021. This was worse than Washington DC; Portland, Maine; and Seattle, Washington. The cities were compared based on their cost of living, available activities, the population of seniors, and health care for retirees
While Providence is a fine place to live for most people, it was never going to do well on these particular things. It’s an expensive city with high tax rates and a high population density that makes the kinds of activities seniors tend to enjoy difficult to find.
Providence is home to Brown University and several other universities alongside it. This means that the city has a fairly high student population during the busy season. The off-season, by the way, is tourist season, which isn’t any better. This means that all year round, there will be a significant number of temporary residents.
Luckily, the students don’t cause a lot of trouble for most residents most of the time. However, sports events can command significant throngs and cause traffic and crowding in nearby areas. While it certainly isn’t the worst complaint about the city, it can be quite a nuisance.
The state of Rhode Island institutes a 7% sales tax statewide. Providence doesn’t levy a sales tax of its own, and neither does the county that it is in. This makes sales taxes in the state a little less than they are in a lot of metropolitan areas in the US. However, the city does levy a property tax, which is relatively high compared to those seen in other cities.
Right now that tax is 17.8 mils, which is to say $17.80 for every $1000 of property value each year. The city can’t raise this tax by more than four percent each year, and this takes into account the possibility that property values could rise, meaning that often the official rate drops when house prices increase. That being said, 17.8 mils is still a lot.
15. Property Values
Property values in Providence, Rhode Island have skyrocketed in recent years, but they have recently started to decrease slightly. Trends show that the value of property in Providence fluctuates frequently, which may not be comforting to you if you want to purchase a home in Providence.
Meanwhile, the value of property in the rest of the United States has drastically increased in recent years rather than decreased. Overall, if you move to Providence and purchase a home, you will have to keep a close eye on property values if you don’t want to lose a lot of money when you choose to sell it.
16. Limited Night Life
Contrary to popular belief, there are some things to do in Providence. There are a few good comedy clubs, bars, and even an arcade. That being said, it’s hard to recommend Providence as a city with a vibrant nightlife because there simply isn’t one. It’s a fun and relatively safe area to live in, but the nightlife is hard for many people to find. You will likely have to go to one of the nearby cities to find a nightclub, which might make it hard for you to get home at the end of the night. Also, it will be expensive to use a rideshare service to help get you to the nightclub.
17. Rising Water Levels
With water levels rising around the world, Providence is not unique in the fact that it is likely to experience serious flooding if the sea level rises even a few inches. Plus, without adequate regulation, most buildings in the city aren’t built to take flood damage well and may become dangerous over the next few decades.