- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Moscow Guide (PDF)
Moscow can be an exciting place to live in. With its dramatic history and politics, life can never be considered boring in the Russian capital. Nevertheless, expats in Moscow may experience frustrations including bureaucracy, a difficult language adjustment and extreme weather conditions. Nonetheless, the city offers an attractive lifestyle with its active social life and rich arts and culture scene.
Accommodation in Moscow
As one of Europe’s largest cities, finding the perfect apartment or house amongst the roughly 12 million inhabitants can be challenging.
+ PRO: Range of options
There are many different types of accommodation available in Moscow to choose from. Expats are just as likely to find themselves in a pre-revolutionary apartment with high ceilings, thick walls and interesting architecture as in a modern apartment block with good facilities and high-tech features. There are also several international compounds with other expats. These gated communities usually offer their own sports facilities and social activities.
- CON: High demand and expensive
With so many people living in Moscow, housing is in great demand and can therefore be very expensive. Apartments are usually small. Expats may be disappointed with what their money can buy. Realistically, size, quality and location are the most important factors influencing the cost of accommodation in Moscow. Expats with a limited budget may need to compromise on one or more of these factors to find a home that suits them best.
Lifestyle in Moscow
+ PRO: Great social scene
There is so much to do in Moscow, with activities catering for every interest. Most groups and organisations are well-organised and welcoming to newcomers. The expat community is busy throughout the year with balls and charity events.
Nightlife within the city is excellent, with a variety of bars, clubs and restaurants to choose from. The quality of museums, art galleries, theatres and concerts is also outstanding.
Moscow is also becoming more child- and family-friendly. Museums such as the Planetarium and Experimentarium are especially exciting for children. There are also several circuses for more entertainment.
- CON: Eating out can be expensive
Restaurants in Moscow can be extremely expensive. Expats may find their social life is limited if living on a budget. Luckily, knowing the right places will help make going out more affordable.
Education and schools in Moscow
+ PRO: International schools are available
There are several international schools in Moscow offering excellent quality education and facilities. There are also good private Russian schools, although only a small percentage of expat children attend these.
- CON: Demand is high and space is limited
The demand for schools outweighs the supply. Therefore, schools in Moscow can be expensive with long waiting lists. Schools are usually located outside of central Moscow. So, unless expats live close to the school, children will have to travel some distance by school bus or car each day.
Climate in Moscow
+ PRO: Many winter and summer outdoor activities
The climate in Moscow is fairly extreme. Winter weather can be beautiful in Moscow with blue skies and sunshine on the white snow. Cross-country skiing is popular with expats and ice-skating is possible all over the city as many playgrounds are made into ice-rinks. Summer is a great time to explore Moscow as the city is generally quieter. There are lakeside and river beaches in Moscow where expats and locals alike can take advantage of the good weather.
- CON: Long winters
The extreme winter weather can make living in Moscow challenging for most of the year.
Safety in Moscow
+ PRO: Low crime rate
Despite its size, Moscow feels surprisingly safe. Expats should take precautions that they would take in any city, however, and avoid walking alone late at night.
- CON: Bribery and corruption
Bribery and corruption are still issues, and expats are sometimes affected by this. It's not uncommon to find incidents of racism in Moscow.
Healthcare in Moscow
+ PRO: Medical facilities are of a high standard
There are many private medical centres in Moscow with well-trained doctors who can, in most cases, speak English. Dental treatment is of a high standard in the city.
- CON: Difficult to get to a medical facility
Moscow's size and infamous traffic can make it difficult for expats to get to their nearest medical facility. Some expat compounds have a satellite medical centre on-site.
- CON: Healthcare is expensive
Medical treatment is sometimes expensive, although most expats have insurance covering these costs. Dental treatment is pricey although competitive with other European prices.
Public transport in Moscow
- CON: Heavy traffic
Bad traffic can put people off travelling in and around Moscow. However, the metro system is generally clean, efficient and safe.
+ PRO: Comprehensive public transport system
Moscow has an impressive public transport system. The metro is not only clean, safe, efficient and fast; it is also a tourist attraction. Daily tours explore the metro system with guides showing tourists through some of the city's most beautiful stations. These stations often resemble palaces, with sculptures, mosaics and even chandeliers. There is also an extensive bus, trolleybus and tram route throughout Moscow. Many of Moscow’s buses now have Wi-Fi access.
- CON: Crowded public transport during rush hour
Rush hour on the metro can be unpleasantly full. Many of the metro stations and trains haven’t changed all their signs to showing both the Cyrillic alphabet and the Latin alphabet. Being able to read place names in Russian is helpful to avoid getting lost in the rush hour chaos.
►For a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for basic goods and services in Moscow, see Cost of Living in Russia.
"The hustle and bustle of Moscow's metro during rush hour, for example, cannot fail to get your heart racing. It is vibrant, intense and also beautiful. On the other hand, its raw energy and power can crush you..." Read more about the good and bad sides of life in Moscow from Philip's perspective.
"What I like about Moscow is that it’s very dynamic and animated; there is always something to do at any time of the day and of the night!" Read about Laurent's experience and his likes and dislikes of living in Moscow.
Are you an expat living in Moscow?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Moscow. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
For the past 20 years the British relocation consultancy Intermark Relocation has assisted international companies in relocating their employees and families to Russia. Intermark Relocation operates in Moscow and several other major Russian cities. The company’s extensive experience, presence and reach has ensured the successful relocation to Russia of senior executives and their families from a great number of the world’s leading international companies and diplomatic entities. Our mission is “to deliver a full-range of relocation and immigration services throughout Russia, to care for our clients and to exceed our client’s expectations at each and every step.”
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