Cost of Living in Russia

There is no escaping the fact that the cost of living in Russia is high. Most expats will find themselves in the cities of Moscow or St Petersburg, and can expect essentials like accommodation, food and education to eat into their budget in a big way. Expats outside of the urban centres will find the cost of living to be less.

Typically, expats working in Russia start on an employment package, at least for the first two to three years, after which, many stay on and ‘go local’. It’s worth trying to negotiate a package that includes accommodation, health insurance, a car or driver, schooling (if required) and some daily living allowance, given that basics, like good quality food, are so much more expensive than in most other locations.

In Mercer's Cost of Living survey for 2015, Moscow was ranked 51st out of 207 cities, a significant drop since its 9th place ranking in 2014. St Petersburg also experienced a huge decrease in its ranking, landing at 152nd. 


Cost of accommodation in Russia

Accommodation options in Russia fall broadly into two types: apartments in the city, or houses in secure compounds outside of the city. Prices range from the expensive to the exorbitant.

One thing guaranteed to catch people by surprise is the low quality of the communal spaces that come with high-priced rentals. Downright dodgy looking apartment block entrances (often hidden away at the back of a building) are normal, antiquated lifts (elevators) are common, and the public parts of most buildings are still government managed, meaning they’re tatty, and covered in a patchwork of lead paint with bundles of wires all over the place.

Living outside of the city means expats will spend at least an hour, and possibly much more, on their daily commute. Public transport is faster and cheaper than driving a car in rush hour, but one will need to get to and from the station in below freezing temperatures for around six months of the year.


Food costs in Russia

Though there are now an abundance of supermarkets springing up all over Moscow and other big Russian cities, good quality food and wine remain expensive, and the standard of both vary widely. During the long winter months vegetable stocks in supermarkets are noticeably depleted, and imported varieties can be outrageously priced.

The variable quality and the constant hunt for familiar home brands means most expats, and locals alike, become accustomed to shopping around - buying washing powders, toilet rolls, frozen veg and other household essentials from cheaper supermarkets like Auchan, and buying meat, fish and fresh vegetables from the more expensive Sedmoy Kontinent or Azbuka Vkusa.


Healthcare costs in Russia

The state medical system is chaotic, hard to navigate and unpredictable. For this reason, it's recommended expats take out private health insurance in Russia, and most companies offer it as a standard feature of employment packages.

An initial consultation with a general practitioner might be reasonable, but fees can quickly escalate and become prohibitively expensive if specialists need to be consulted, tests are required or if there is an emergency situation.


Cost of living chart for Russia

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for May 2016.

Accommodation

Furnished one-bedroom apartment

RUB 60,000

Furnished three-bedroom apartment

RUB 120,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

RUB 80

Milk (1 litre)

RUB 63

Rice (1kg)

RUB 65

Loaf of white bread

RUB 35

Chicken breasts (1kg)

RUB 252

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

RUB 100

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

RUB 310

Coca-Cola (330ml)

RUB 50

Cappuccino

RUB 160

Bottle of local beer

RUB 75

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

RUB 2,520

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute) 

RUB 2.80

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable - average per month)

RUB 364

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

RUB 7,000

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

RUB 20

Bus/train fare to the city centre

RUB 45

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

RUB 36