This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.
Expats in Russia will find the cost of living to be reasonable. Although Russia cannot be regarded as a cheap country to live in, as a whole, it is more affordable than many Western countries. An expat's cost of living in Russia, however, will highly depend on their lifestyle.
Those who are wanting to live a life of luxury in a major city, such as Moscow, will find their expenses will add up quickly. Those who are willing to live like a local, however, can live comfortably on an average salary, while still being able to put some money away each month.
Typically, expats working in Russia start on an employment package for the first two to three years. It’s worth trying to negotiate a package that includes accommodation, health insurance, a car or driver, schooling and a living allowance. Expats who earn a decent salary with these additional benefits will certainly find themselves enjoying a comfortable lifestyle in Russia.
Cost of accommodation in Russia
Accommodation options preferred by expats in Russia fall broadly into two types: apartments in the city or houses in secure compounds outside the city. Finding a high-priced rental with low-quality amenities is not uncommon. We advise that house hunters enlist the services of a real-estate agent or relocation company and visit prospective properties in person to avoid a bad deal for a poorly-maintained property. Expats should also account for utilities, which may not all be included in a rental contract.
When looking for accommodation in Russia, new arrivals should consider the location wisely. The closer to the city centre, the higher the rent will be. Expats on a budget often look a bit further from the city centre, while still considering the proximity to public transport connections. Public transport in Russia is usually reasonably priced.
Cost of food in Russia
There is an abundance of supermarkets scattered all over Moscow and other big Russian cities that offer quality food at affordable prices. That said, international brands and wine remain expensive, and those wanting to shop at the more upmarket stores will also pay higher prices for products. The hunt for familiar home brands means most expats also become accustomed to shopping around.
During the long winter months, vegetable stocks in supermarkets are noticeably depleted, as produce is seasonal in Russia. Imported varieties can be outrageously priced, and costs can therefore add up during these months.
Cost of healthcare in Russia
Private healthcare in Russia can be expensive. The state medical system can be hard to navigate, especially for expats who don't speak Russian. It's therefore recommended that expats take out private health insurance in Russia, and many companies offer this as a standard feature of employment packages.
An initial consultation with a general practitioner might be reasonably priced, but fees can quickly escalate and become prohibitively expensive if specialists need to be consulted, tests are required or in the case of an emergency.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Russia
The cost of eating out and entertainment in Russia can vary, but on average it is considered to be relatively affordable for most expats. It is generally less expensive compared to other developed countries like the US or countries in Western Europe, but more expensive compared to some developing countries.
When eating out, you can expect a meal at a local café or fast food chain to cost less, while dining at a mid-range or upscale restaurant will cost more. As for entertainment, there is a good variety of options available in Russia, such as live music and theatre shows, cinemas, museums, and festivals. Moscow, in particular, offers a wider range of entertainment options and is known for its vibrant nightlife.
Cost of education in Russia
Education in Russia is considered more affordable compared to many other countries, although this can vary depending on the type of education. The quality of education offered in public schools varies, and private and international schools generally offer higher standards of education. In terms of the best schools, it can depend on the individual needs and preferences of the expat. Private and international schools in major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg are known to offer high-quality education.
Cost of living chart for Russia
Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows the average cost of living in Moscow before Russia's war in Ukraine (prior to 2022).
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Food and drink
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Big Mac meal
|Bottle of beer (local)
|Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Gasoline (per litre)
►For more on managing your finances while living in Russia, see Banking, Money and Taxes in Russia
►Need to budget for Russia's capital city? Read Cost of Living in Moscow
"Meat, poultry and milk products are considerably cheaper compared to Indonesia. But fish and tropical fruits are as expensive as gold." See what else Eva, an Indonesian expat, has to say about life in Russia.
Are you an expat living in Russia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Russia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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