Will your budget allow for your chosen lifestyle in Russia? This guide will help you decide if you can afford the cost of living in cities such as Moscow. It includes the price of Russian real estate, grocery prices in Russia, and more.
The cost of living in Russia can be high in relation to the standard. The notion of life in Russia is very different from the reality of real local lifestyle. However, life for most expats is comfortable. Groceries and utility bills are inexpensive, for instance. Cost of living outside the major metropolitan areas gets even cheaper with lower prices for food and transportation.
However, the cost of living in Russia depends on your lifestyle. Even though several surveys have identified Moscow as the most expensive city in Europe in relation to salary, it is still possible to live comfortably in the country. Surveys are generally based on locals, some of whom survive on very slow salaries. Except for housing, the cost of living in Russia is relatively cheap.
For instance, one-way ticket in public transport costs around 60 cents, one litre of diesel costs around 50 cents and a pack of cigarettes costs around €1.90.
According to OECD better life index, the Russian Federation has improved the quality of life over the past decade. It ranks above average in social connections and work-life balance. But personal well-being, income, personal security, environmental quality, civic engagement, housing and health status are below average.
There is no much difference with Mercer’s 2018 quality-of-living survey. With Vienna being in the first place for several consecutive years, Moscow stands at 167 and St. Petersburg at 173 among other 231 countries.
Cost of living in Moscow
- 59% cheaper than New York
- 38% cheaper than Munich
- 28% cheaper than Madrid
- 32% cheaper than Brussels
- 47% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Russia: St. Petersburg
- 64% cheaper than New York
- 45% cheaper than Munich
- 36% cheaper than Madrid
- 40% cheaper than Brussels
- 53% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Russia: Yekaterinburg
- 69% cheaper than New York
- 54% cheaper than Munich
- 46% cheaper than Madrid
- 49% cheaper than Brussels
- 61% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Russia: Novosibirsk
- 72% cheaper than New York
- 58% cheaper than Munich
- 51% cheaper than Madrid
- 54% cheaper than Brussels
- 64% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Russia: Nizhny Novgorod
- 73% cheaper than New York
- 60% cheaper than Munich
- 54% cheaper than Madrid
- 55% cheaper than Brussels
- 65% cheaper than Paris
Russian real estate
Accommodation choice in Russia falls into two categories: apartments within the city, or houses outside the city. Prices vary from the expensive to very expensive.
Furthermore, communal spaces with high rental costs are not good quality. Apartment entrances are standard, out of date elevators are common, and the public areas of most buildings are still state-owned and ill-maintained.
Even though living outside of the city is cheap, the commute could be at least an hour, so if you intend to own a car, factor the cost of petrol into your monthly budget. Public transport is cheaper and faster compared to driving in rush hour.
According to Numbeo, the cost of rent in Russia is as follows:
- One bedroom apartment in city centre: €350
- One bedroom apartment outside of centre: €220
- Three bedroom apartment in city centre: €660
- Three bedroom apartment outside of centre: €400
Finding an apartment to rent is easier online. There are plenty of websites, but most of them are in Russian. You may find the websites useful when looking for accommodation in Moscow, St. Petersburg or other choice Russian cities.
Cost of living in Russia: Utilities – gas, water, electricity
Tenants in Russia are required to pay for their utilities and communal charges.
However, utility costs aren’t too expensive. On average, the monthly fee will cost around €90 for an 85 square metre apartment, with that figure including electricity, water, heating, and garbage. The cost of the internet can be as low as €7 per month.
Centralised heating is offered between autumn and spring in the apartment blocks for a small monthly fee. However, there are no thermostats, and you control the temperature by opening and closing windows. Purchasing an external heater for winter might be necessary to provide extra warmth in addition to the central heating system.
Paying utility bills are very convenient. You can pay at the post offices or banks, ATMs, online or instant payment machines located in public areas. Bills are issued each month and should be paid on time otherwise you will incur a penalty. If you still don’t pay for three months, the supplier will cut off the service.
Cost of living in Russia: Transport prices
Most cities in Russia have a good public transport system including trams, trolleybus, marshrutka (minibus) and buses.
The biggest cities have a metro system as well. Public transport is easy to use and very cheap. However, you might need to learn to read Cyrillic.
The public transport services are frequent in the centre, but it gets jam-packed when you move in the outskirts. To identify stop signs look for A for buses, T for trolleybuses and ТРАМВАЙ for trams. There is no need to purchase a ticket beforehand, you pay in cash to the conductor and in the case of no conductor, you pay to the driver.
Remember that you might be charged extra for a big bag taking up space for others.
Marshrutkas are more frequent in most cities and stop in between official bus stops. The metro systems of St Petersburg and Moscow are excellent. Kazan, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, and Samara also have a small metro system. Russian metro stations are known for their grand decor and elegance. The service is efficient and frequent.
- One-way ticket: €0.35
- Monthly pass: €25
- Taxi 1km: €0.20
Prices in Russia: Groceries
Even though there are plenty of affordable supermarkets all over Russia, good quality food and wine are expensive. The standard of both though differs broadly. During the winter months, vegetable counters in supermarkets are visibly drained and imported ones can be despicably expansive.
The patchy quality and the constant hunt for familiar brands means that most expats or locals alike, start to shop in different places for different goods. On average monthly minimum expense for groceries per person is €130-€170
Education costs in Russia
Russia boasts with several international schools for expatriates to send their children. However, some prefer local schools. The standard of education is high, but local schools teach only in Russian. Public schools in Russia are free for anyone living in Russia, including foreigners.
The most popular international schools in Moscow are Anglo-American School, the British International School, and Hinkston Christian Academy. Thus, there also is Atlantic International School, Lycee Francais (French school) and International School of Moscow.
St. Petersburg is no exception either. There is International Academy of St. Petersburg, Anglo-American School of St. Petersburg, The International School, Cambridge International School and International Montessori School. Most of these schools in are based on the American educational system, but some also have Russian curriculum as well.
Russia also has English language pre-schools, and some are attached to those international schools. The annual price for international primary schools is around €5,300.
The choice of universities in Russia is very broad. The education standard is quite high. 27 of its institutions have been featured in the QS World University Rankings of 2019. 10 universities from this list are among the top 400 universities worldwide.
Additionally, the country implements the ‘Bologna Process’, which brings its system in line with European universities. Now, many universities offer a choice of a four-year bachelor’s degree or a five-year specialist degree. The prices of the education in universities differ according to the degree program, major and the university itself.
Cost of living in Russia: Healthcare
The government-funded healthcare is available but is chaotic, unpredictable and hard to navigate. With this in mind, it’s recommended to take out private health insurance in Russia. Most companies offer health insurance in their employment packages.
The state health insurance is partly funded by the government and partly by a mandatory health insurance system paid by the employer. However, the state pays for pensioners, school children, students and unemployed. If you are self-employed you pay for your own insurance.
Public medical care is offered in federal and municipal facilities. There are health posts, health centres, urban polyclinics and specialised medical hospitals. Thus, the staff here rarely speak English outside the major cities.
If you are living in Moscow and St. Petersburg, doctors and clinics are of excellent standards and most of the staff speak many languages.
The international organisations are often located nearby popular expat neighbourhoods. However, the service at these clinics can get pricey, so having an all-encompassing insurance policy or a discussion of this matter to your future employer is recommended.
If you depend on prescription medication, make sure the drug is legal and available in the country. Importing some pills in Russia is very limited.
Those who have a residency permit in Russia must have a health card, which includes the mandatory national healthy policy insurance. The card should be presented in advance receiving free medical care. Additionally, all foreigners are required to have a comprehensive health insurance before entering the country. It’s also recommended to use private facilities and not rely on public ones.
Western-style private healthcare is expensive and usually requires paying for the treatment up front.
For more details about healthcare insurance in Russia, read our comprehensive guide.
Cost of living in Russia: Childcare
When a newborn is 18 months old, working mothers in Russia return to the job and arrange childcare for the kids. The most common are nurseries, and you can leave your toddler for a day, half-day or overnight if necessary.
The country has both state and private childcare facilities. State-run kindergartens and nurseries have room for as many toddlers as possible. Public nurseries have a generous mixture of nationalities and cultures, while private ones have children from similar social backgrounds. Additionally, they are more focused on the development of a child and preparing them for school.
The biggest problem expats might face is finding a place for your child in a kindergarten. Russian parents reserve a place for their child shortly after giving birth. In Moscow, locals and permanent residents have a preference. Public institutions are free, but private nurseries cost €260 per month.
You can find more information about the pre-school education system in Russia here.
Cost of living in Russia: Dining out at a restaurant
The bigger cities of Russia are more cosmopolitan and offer a wide choice of eating out. You can try typical Russian, Ukrainian or Caucasian cuisine, but note that unique cuisines are much more expensive.
A meal at a modest restaurant costs around €7 for a person, while a three-meal course for two people at a mid-range restaurant can go up to €27 each. A bottle of 0.5L domestic beer costs €1.35 and the price doubles for imported beers. A bottle of wine starts from around €6.
Cost of living in Russia: Taxes
All employees including self-employed individuals pay tax. The residents pay 13% as personal income tax. Residency is defined as anyone living here for at least 183 days in a tax year. Non-residents pay 30%.
If you receive an income from overseas you still need to pay tax when living in Russia. However, non-residents only pay tax on their income earned in Russia. For overseas revenue, the residents pay 13%.
The law obliges local companies to subtract employee tax from salaries, but international organisations are excused from this requirement. Therefore, you have to file tax returns.
The self-employed make advance tax payments several times each year. The frequency is based on the cost of your tax returns. You can download tax declaration forms from the website of the Moscow Tax Inspectorate. They are also available Inspectorate offices.
Corporate tax is payable at a flat rate of 20%. Capital Gains tax for individuals is same as personal income tax.
For more information about the tax system in Russia read our comprehensive guide.
Cost of living in Russia: Social security
The country has a basic social security and social welfare system. It manages pensions and offers benefits to the most vulnerable citizens. Foreigners living in Russia are not eligible to receive these benefits.
The social security system in Russia is split into two parts; basic pension and insurance – and the Russia social security rate stands at 30% in 2019.
The insurance part is also subtracted from your monthly earnings and benefits are earnings related. Contributions rates also differ between age groups.
For economic indicators of prices, such as inflation and tax news see the Russian Government’s website.
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