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.
Read on to find out more about the cost of living in Russia. This guide will cover:
- General cost of living and standards of living in Russia
- Wages and salary in Russia
- Housing costs in Russia
- The cost of domestic bills in Russia
- Healthcare costs in Russia
- Childcare costs in Russia
- Study costs in Russia
- The cost of food and drink in Russia
- Cost of living in Russia: Transport prices
- Leisure activities in Russia
- Taxation and social security in Russia
- Assistance with living costs
- Useful resources
General cost of living and standards of living in Russia
According to OECD Better Life Index, the Russian Federation has improved the quality of life over the past decade. That said, although it ranks above the OECD average for work-life balance, it lags in other areas.
According to the Russian government, the minimum cost of living is 11,653 p., including housing, food, and other services. In Moscow, this rises to 20,195 p. Realistically, you will need to budget more than this.
Two Russian cities make the cut in Mercer’s 2019 Quality of Living survey: Moscow (167th) and St. Petersburg (174th). Here are some comparisons of the cost of living in Russian cities compared with other places around the world:
Cost of living in Moscow
- 62% cheaper than New York
- 31% cheaper than Berlin
- 19% cheaper than Madrid
- 32% cheaper than Brussels
- 46% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Saint Petersburg
- 71% cheaper than New York
- 47% cheaper than Berlin
- 37% cheaper than Madrid
- 48% cheaper than Brussels
- 58% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Novosibirsk
- 77% cheaper than New York
- 58% cheaper than Berlin
- 50% cheaper than Madrid
- 58% cheaper than Brussels
- 67% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Yekaterinburg
- 75% cheaper than New York
- 55% cheaper than Berlin
- 46% cheaper than Madrid
- 55% cheaper than Brussels
- 64% cheaper than Paris
Cost of living in Nizhny Novgorod
- 76% cheaper than New York
- 56% cheaper than Berlin
- 48% cheaper than Madrid
- 57% cheaper than Brussels
- 66% cheaper than Paris
Wages and salary in Russia
The minimum wage in Russia is calculated as 42% of Russia’s median salary. This means that the current minimum wage is 12,792 p. In addition, the minimum wage must not go below the minimum cost of living.
The minimum wage is higher in regions that have a more expensive cost of living. For example, in Moscow, the monthly minimum wage is 20,589 p. and in Saint Petersburg, it is 19,190 p.
The average salary in Russia is around 55,000 p., but the average salary for an expat is generally quite a lot more than this (one estimate suggests up to twice as much). In addition, average wages in Moscow and Saint Petersburg are generally higher than elsewhere in the country.
Housing costs in Russia
Rental costs in Russia
Many city apartments are in high-rise blocks with a shared entrance, stairway, and, if you’re lucky, an elevator. According to Numbeo, a one-bedroom flat in the center of Moscow costs 50,000 p. to 100,000 p. Meanwhile, outside the city center, prices are, on average, 40,000 p. For a three-bedroom apartment in Moscow city center, you can expect to pay about 145,000 or 75,000 on the outskirts.
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. In addition, Moscow traffic jams are notorious – public transport, especially the metro, is cheaper and faster compared to driving in rush hour.
Property prices in Russia
If you’re moving to Russia indefinitely, you could consider buying a home. The price per square meter is around 670,000 p. in Moscow city center, and 225,000 outside. Meanwhile, prices are significantly cheaper in other cities. In Nizhny Novgorod, for example, you could buy a city center apartment for 115,000 per square meter.
You can generally borrow a maximum of 80% of the sale price for a property in Russia, and your mortgage payment must not exceed 35% of your income.
The cost of domestic bills in Russia
Utility bills in Russia
Russian electricity prices are among some of the cheapest in the world, estimated to cost 4.81 p. per KWh in March 2022. According to Numbeo, you will pay utility costs of around 8,500 p. per month for an 85-square-meter apartment. These costs include electricity, water, heating, and garbage.
Most heating in Russia is centralized, meaning that it is turned on in apartment blocks in the autumn and turned off again in spring. There are usually no thermostats, meaning you can’t control the temperature in your apartment. This heating adds a small fee to your utility bills.
Telecommunications in Russia
Television in Russia is, in principle, free, but if you want more choice in channels, you will need to find a cable or satellite package. One provider offers packages starting at 1,500 p. per year, reaching 7,000 p. per year for packages including global series and films.
There are several internet providers in Russia. MTS, for example, provides home internet for 500 p.–990 p. per month depending on speed. In addition, many providers also offer TV, phone, and internet in a single package.
Healthcare costs in Russia
Free healthcare is available for residents of Russia, but it has a reputation for being disorganized, underfunded, and difficult to navigate. In addition, compulsory health insurance can be limited in coverage. With this in mind, many expats decide to take out private health insurance in Russia. Many companies offer health insurance in their employment packages.
If you choose to take out your own private health insurance, bear in mind that this can cost several thousand euros per year. Read our guide to health insurance in Russia for more information.
In addition, since 2021, expats must undergo regular health checks. These happen between every three months to a year and cost 4,200 p. to 6,600 p.
Childcare costs in Russia
State kindergarten (detsky sad, детский сад) is available for children up to the age of seven. Families in Moscow can sometimes recover up to 20% of the costs associated with this. On the other hand, if you want your child to attend a private or international nursery, this is likely to cost far more. Read our guide on preschool education in Russia for additional information.
If you need in-house childcare, hiring a nanny or babysitter is another option. Local babysitters might charge 200–400 p. per hour. In-home childcare can cost significantly more – the most expensive option is hiring an international nanny, some of whom charge up to 73,600 p.–90,000p.
Study costs in Russia
Russia boasts several international schools for expatriates to send their children. However, some expats prefer local Russian primary 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.
Saint Petersburg and Moscow are both home to plenty of international schools. Most of these schools base their curriculum on the American or British system, but there are also French and Russian schools, as well as method schools. As an example of cost, the British School in Moscow charges 1,700,000–3,300,000p. per year, depending on which grade your child is in.
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 differ according to the degree program and the university itself.
The cost of food and drink in Russia
Groceries in Russia
Even though there are plenty of affordable supermarkets all over Russia, the quality can vary. During the winter months, vegetable counters in supermarkets are visibly drained and imported items can be prohibitively expensive.
The constant hunt for familiar brands means that most expats or locals alike, start to shop in different places for different goods. Here are some typical prices for products in Moscow:
- 1 liter of milk – 75 p.
- Loaf of fresh white bread – 48 p.
- 1 kilogram of rice – 96 p.
- 1 kilogram of apples – 109 p.
Restaurants in Russia
The larger cities of Russia offer a wide choice of eating out. You can try typical Russian cuisine, Ukrainian, or Caucasian cuisines, as well as food from Central Asia and Korea.
A meal at a modest restaurant costs around 800 p. for a person, while a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant can go up to 3,000 p. each.
Beer, wine, and spirits in Russia
A half liter of domestic beer in a restaurant will set you back about 250 p. Meanwhile, if you buy your beer in a supermarket, you’re likely to pay a lot less – domestic beer sells at 65 p., while imported beers cost around 125 p. per bottle. Mid-range wine costs 350 p.–1,000 p.
Coffee in Russia
Russia has many coffee chains, especially in big cities. A cappuccino in Moscow costs about 180 p., which is quite a lot cheaper than in Western Europe, but more expensive than the capitals of neighboring Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia.
Cost of living in Russia: Transport prices
Most cities in Russia have a good public transport system including trams, trolleybus, marshrutki (маршрутки – routed taxi or minibuses), and buses. Big cities also have metro systems.
To use public transport in Moscow, you have two options:
- All-in-one ticket – for all modes of transport, can be bought for one journey (60 p.), two journeys (120 p.), one day (240 p.), or 3 days (455 p.)
- Troika card – for all modes of transport, deposit 50 p. You can then top up this card. Journeys cost 42 p. for a single journey and 65 p. for a 90-minute journey with changes.
In other cities, you can buy a ticket or token (zheton, жетон) for a single metro journey from a ticket machine at the station. These cost 60 p. in St. Petersburg, 36 p. in Yekaterinburg, 28 p. in Nizhny Novgorod, and 26 p. in Novosibirsk. You can also buy monthly tickets if you are using transport regularly.
Some cities also allow senior citizens to travel for free or a discount – check with your regional transport websites to find out what’s available.
Private transport in Russia
Marshrutki are an interesting case: in some cities, they are run by private companies, while other cities have integrated them into the local transport network. They are frequent in most cities and stop almost anywhere along set routes. Fares are usually about one and a half times what you’d pay on a normal bus route.
There are a few ways to get a taxi in Russia. Flagging one down in the street is one option, and often cheaper, but it’s also the least safe way – sometimes, random cars or unlicensed cabs will offer you a ride. On these occasions, it’s usually best to politely decline.
Otherwise, Russia has several apps for hailing a taxi. Yandex taxi in Moscow, for example, starts at 139 p. and charge 8 p.–19 p. per kilometer or 10 p. per minute.
If you want to drive in Russia, the average cost of a Volkswagen Golf is 1,500,000 p., while a Toyota Corolla Sedan will set you back 1,700,000 p.
Leisure activities in Russia
Clothing in Russia
Unlike many living costs, the price of clothing in Russia is similar to elsewhere in Europe. A pair of mid-range jeans costs 6,500 p., while a dress from a chain store costs about 3,500 p. These costs are about the same in most major Russian cities. A pair of business shoes will set you back about 7,000 p.
Sports in Russia
A pair of running shoes in Moscow costs about 6,500 p. Once it gets colder, you might consider buying a gym membership – this goes for around 1,500 to 5,500.
Meanwhile, film fans will spend about 450 p. on a cinema ticket for an international release. This is far cheaper than in Western Europe.
Taxation and social security in Russia
All employees, including self-employed individuals, pay taxes. Residents pay 13% or 15% personal income tax in Russia; 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. Residents also pay tax on overseas revenue.
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 Russian Tax Inspectorate.
Corporate tax is payable at a flat rate of 20%. Capital gains tax for individuals is same as personal income tax.
Assistance with living costs
Maternity benefits are arranged with your employer and depend on how long you have been working and how much you earn. You can receive a lump sum when your child is born, and monthly benefits for your child thereafter.
To receive unemployment benefits, in most cases, you need to apply online. You can receive benefits for three to 12 months depending on your situation.