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Moving to Russia > Tips for Moving to Russia

Moving to Russia

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: If you're thinking about moving to Russia, expats there have a lot to share about moving to Russia - deciding where to live, what to bring, housing, banking, healthcare in Russia and more.

If you're planning a move to Russia, expats there offer advice about what they wish they had know before moving to Russia - topics covered include deciding where to live, what to bring, housing, banking, healthcare in Russia and more.

Deciding Where to Live in Russia

When we asked expats living in Russia to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:

"We chose a family friendly area - Chisty Prudi - and used Evans estate agent for our first two apartments and Penny Lane for our last one. We used others too but Evans worked out to be the most reasonable overall and their agent actually listened to what we wanted, rather than showing us a whole load of rubbish. Penny Lane did a great job helping us find our last apartment," said one expat who moved to Moscow, Russia.

"I have been lucky enough to converse with some Russian people online and to later meet them in SPb. The city varies widely in terms of housing. Some areas are industrial and you'll find smoke pouring into your windows at odd times. The better areas tend to be near universities, metro, large shopping malls ("magazines"). One advantage here is that for a small sum of aboout $0.50 US (20 ruble) you can take a bus and travel the city while seeing it's various facets," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Russia.

"My wife is Russian, so I'm not typical of most expats. She always wanted to live on Vassilievsky Island, and a few years ago she negotiated a very complex chain of stae-owned flat trades to end up with a completely trashed empty 5-room communal flat in the neighborhood. I don't know how she did it (and I don't think I want to). We subsequently gutted the place and renovated it," commented one expat who made the move to Russia.

"I chose to live as close to the office as possible. My colleagues helped me by giving advise and transporting me to some appartments to check them out and helping me negotiate," remarked another expat in Moscow, Russia.

Read our article, 10 Best Places to Teach Abroad, for advice about deciding where to live in Russia.

Expats living in Russia interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

What to Bring When Moving to Russia (and what to leave behind)

When we asked expats living in Russia what they wish they had brought when moving to Russia and what they wish they had left at home, they replied:

"You can pretty much get everything in Moscow now (although some basic things are still ridiculously expensive!), but I would take Marmite and Pimm's. We left most things at home due to customs as we didn't want any hassle when leaving the country in terms of additional paperwork," said one expat who moved to Moscow, Russia.

"Bring with: 1. Several electrical plug adapters, they convert the US flat pins to the round pins usable in Russia. Bring more dual-voltage electrical appliances (240 VAC here). 2: Money pouch, money belt, or ankle wallet. 3. Laptop computer internet enabled. 4. Comfortable house slippers. Leave at home: 1. Heavy voltage convertor box. 2. Second pair of shoes. 3. More than 3 changes of clothes," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Russia.

"When we moved here 7-1/2 years ago I could say I wish I had brought EVERYTHING and then some. Now most everything is available that one could find in say Stockholm or Prague. Luxury goods are still overinflated price-wise, but day to day things are comparable or cheaper than in Western Europe unless you shop in places strictly catering to foreigners. Computer gear is much cheaper in the States than here or Europe generally. Bring quality clothing to last for your stay. Here it's generally Wal-Mart quality at Nieman-Marcus prices," commented one expat who made the move to Russia.

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Advice for People Moving to Russia

"Traffic is usually terrible in Moscow so you should choose an area that's convenient for work, school and anything else you do regularly. We preferred living in the centre as we like going out and being close to the theatres, music and concert halls etc. Some people prefer living out of town in the compounds, mainly for the children. There are some lovely family friendly areas in town too. It's basically about reaching a convenient compromise for your whole family," said one expat who moved to Moscow, Russia.

"Do not come here if you don't speak Russian. Expect to robbed and ripped off, so don't complain when it happens. You must make a lot of contacts with locals to avoid this. This is not like America. There are no "bad neighborhoods"," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Russia.

"Moving your personal effects: Don't! Air freight costs are outrageous and boat shipments aren't much better. Buying comparable items here has worked quite well for me. The prices for many articles are about 50% higher than USA prices but without the customs duty, VAT, paperwork and forwarding nightmare of dealing with shippers, delays, and local trucking co's. Choosing the neighborhood: Locate a real estate agent who can speak at least some English, it isn't difficult if you ask around. Expect to see many different properties! And watch your step! (literally!) In the US we don't think much about our footing because the floors are all level from room to room, or from street to entry. Here in SPb it is very easy for the tourist to fall because the streets and floors are all at different levels! Expect to step up and down often. Laundries are rare, indoor personal washers and clothes driers are rare but becoming more commonplace. You can pay to have a bought W/D unit installed but there may not be a heat outlet vent for the dryer. The bathtub becomes the usual instrument for washing one's clothes, air drying is common," commented one expat who made the move to Russia.

"You should have a trustworthy Russian mentor... someone affiliated with your company, or somehow known to someone you know. Either that or a very experienced expat contact. Deal only with a well-established reputable house agency recommended by your trusted contact. Don't be dazzled by an amazing-looking flat in a historic district without first checking out what'a available for groceries etc. nearby. Find out what public transport is available nearby. Try to locate walking distance to a subway (tube)," remarked another expat in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Typical Housing for Expats

When we asked expats in Russia about the type of home or apartment they life in and whether that is typical for expats, they replied:

"Apartment. Yes, in town it's almost always an apartment. Some expats prefer to live in the compounds out of town, which are usually town houses," said one expat who moved to Moscow, Russia.

"I am in what Americans might consider a "condo", here it is a flat or apartment. The rents here are comparable to USA major city rents on a per square footage basis (here it is square meters of space). The quality of construction leaves much to be desired, exposed water and sewage pipes, occasional outages of water, and other minor annoyances, but this is typical for SPb. Get accustomed to hearing many car alarms at night, especially on the weekends. Here they are LOUD! Not like the dainty alarms found in the yuppie neighborhoods of America. Most heating here in water heat from the exposed pipes and radiators. Air conditioners are rare but seldom really needed," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Russia.

"A 3-bedroom flat (5-room) apartment of about 95 sq. meters. Tiny by American standards, but good for Russian. It feels roomy due to the atypical open floor plan we designed when we renovated. A "eurostandard" remodel is fairly typical for expats now, but as a rental. Most expats tend to live in the historic central districts," commented one expat who made the move to Russia.

"2 room furnished appartment outside the city center, but inside the city. I pay for my own housing. Most expats get a (large) budget from their company and thus rent an appartment in the citycenter or a house outside the city," remarked another expat in Moscow, Russia.

Housing Costs in Russia

"Much higher. I could rent a house on the beach in South Carolina for the price of a 2 room flat here. Expect to pay $1200-1800 a month if you live alone," said one expat who moved to Moscow, Russia.

"This is the grand question indeed! Rentals are fair priced at about $10-$20 SqM/month. You get what you pay for! Buying an apartment here is expensive and getting more expensive. The best areas here for ex-pats are usually near to tourist areas and these are going for up to $3000 SqM. As mentioned above, the quality is not the best. Most buildings are from the Stalin era (1930)," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Russia.

"Well, you can run the gamut. Compared to NYC or SF, it's generally a lot less, though you can find somebody who'll happily try to get that kind of price out of you. Probably comparable with midwestern cities. Average costs for foreigners and Russians is very different. If the price seems about comparable to your home area, it's probably too high. Try dickering," commented one expat who made the move to Russia.

"Higher, mainly because it is a furnished appartment. I pay $350 a month. I know of many people (for who their company is) paying $1200 or even $5000 a month," remarked another expat in Moscow, Russia.

Banking in Russia

We asked expats which banks in Russia they use and their experiences. They said:

"Yes, Raiffeisen Foreign currency accounts offered including Dollars, Euro, Sterling. No charge for transferring funds between accounts when using internet banking services. Full internet banking service available," said one expat who moved to Moscow, Russia.

Banking in Russia? TransferWise is an online account that lets you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally. With a TransferWise account, you can send money abroad, get paid in other currencies, and spend abroad on the TransferWise debit Mastercard.

Expat Health Insurance in Russia

Expats living in Russia interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Join our Russia Expat Forum

Visit our Russia Forum and talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in Russia.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: May 23, 2019

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