Discover if you can afford the cost of living in Russia, including the price of real estate, groceries and healthcare in cities such as Moscow.
Life for expats in Russia is generally comfortable, with expenses such as groceries and utility bills being fairly inexpensive even in major cities such as Moscow. Outside of the major metropolitan areas, prices are even cheaper, with lower bills for food and transportation.
The cost of living in Russia depends largely 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 as an expat. Surveys are generally based on locals, some of whom survive on very low wages.
In Russia, the cost of living heavily depends on the city:
A number of other issues can affect the cost of living in Russia, such as:
- Russian real estate
- Utilities – gas, water, electricity
- Transport prices
- Prices in Russia: Groceries
- Education costs in Russia
- Dining out at a restaurant
- Social security
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 remain below average.
Two Russian cities make the cut in Mercer’s 2018 Quality of Living survey: Moscow (167th) and St. Petersburg (173rd). The cost of living in Russian cities compares with as follows:
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 expensive to very expensive.
Furthermore, communal spaces with high rental costs are often not of a good quality. Apartment entrances are standard, obsolete 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 the city centre: 25,000 p.
- One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre: 16,000 p.
- Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre: 47,000 p.
- Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre: 31,000 p.
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. Some of the more useful resources for looking for an apartment to rent include:
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 6,800 p. 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 350 p. 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 (routed taxi or minibus in Russian) 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 to 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 the conductor in cash and, in the case of no conductor, you pay the driver.
Remember that you might be charged extra for taking large bags.
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 metro networks. Russian metro stations are grand and elegant. The service is efficient and frequent.
- One-way ticket: 25 p.
- Monthly pass: 1,865 p.
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 prohibitively expensive.
The questionable 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, the monthly minimum expenses for groceries per person is 9,600 p. – 12,600 p.
Education costs in Russia
Russia boasts several international schools for expatriates to send their children. However, some expats 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 the Anglo-American School, the British International School, and Hinkston Christian Academy. Other international schools include the Atlantic International School, the Lycée Français and the International School of Moscow.
Saint Petersburg also has a plentiful selection of international schools, including the International Academy of Saint Petersburg, the Anglo-American School of Saint Petersburg, The International School, the Cambridge International School and the International Montessori School. Most of these schools in are based on the American educational system, but some also use the 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 394,000 p.
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, and 10 universities from this list are among the top 400 universities worldwide.
Additionally, Russia is a member of 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 university education in Russia differs according to the degree program and the university itself.
Cost of living in Russia: Healthcare
Government-funded healthcare is available but is chaotic, unpredictable and difficult to navigate. With this in mind, it is 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 available in federal and municipal facilities. There are health posts, health centres, urban polyclinics, and specialized medical hospitals. Staff in Russian health facilities rarely speak English outside of the major cities.
If you live in Moscow or St. Petersburg, doctors and clinics are of excellent standards and most of the staff speak many languages.
International organizations are often located nearby popular expat neighborhoods. However, the service at these clinics can get expensive, so having a comprehensive 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. Stocks of some medications in Russia are sometimes limited.
Those who have a residency permit in Russia must have a health card, which includes the mandatory national healthy policy insurance. Present the card in advance for free care. Additionally, all foreigners must have comprehensive health insurance before entering the country. Use private facilities and don’t rely on public ones.
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 wide 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 19,000 p. 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 larger cities of Russia are more cosmopolitan and offer a wide choice of eating out. You can try typical Russian, Ukrainian or Caucasian cuisines, but note that unique cuisines are much more expensive.
A meal at a modest restaurant costs around 500 p. for a person, while a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant can go up to 2,000 p. each. A bottle of 0.5L domestic beer costs 60 p. and the price doubles for imported beers. A bottle of wine starts from around 300 p.
Cost of living in Russia: Taxes
All employees, including self-employed individuals, pay taxes. Residents pay 13% personal income tax; residency is defined as anyone living in Russia for at least 183 days in a tax year. Non-residents pay 30%.
If you receive any income from outside of Russia, 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, residents pay 13%.
Russian 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.
Self-employed individuals 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 and the offices of the Moscow Tax Inspectorate.
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. The Russian 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.