There is no escaping the fact that the cost of living in Russia is high. In Mercer's Cost of Living survey for 2020, Moscow was ranked 21st out of 209 cities, while St Petersburg was ranked 59th. Expats can expect essentials such as accommodation and school fees to eat into their budget. Basic groceries and international food brands may also be much more expensive than new arrivals might expect.

On the flip side, expats staying outside of the urban centres will find the cost of living to be less severe. New arrivals who come from places including Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York may also be relieved to find that general expenses are much lower in Russia.

Typically, expats working in Russia often start on an employment package for the first two to three years, after which many stay on and ‘go local’. It’s worth trying to negotiate a package that includes accommodation, health insurance, a car or driver, schooling and some daily living allowance. Expats who earn a decent salary with these additional benefits may 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 of the city. Finding a high-priced rental with low-quality amenities is not uncommon. We advise house hunters to 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 springing up all over Moscow and other big Russian cities, but high-quality food, international brands and wine remain expensive. During the long winter months, vegetable stocks in supermarkets are noticeably depleted and imported varieties can be outrageously priced. The variable quality and the constant hunt for familiar home brands means most expats become accustomed to shopping around.  


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 do not speak Russian. It's 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 living chart for Russia

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows the average cost of living in Moscow in January 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

 RUB 65,000

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

 RUB 35,500 

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

 RUB 133,000 

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

 RUB 66,600 

Shopping

Eggs (dozen) 

 RUB 94

Milk (1 litre)

 RUB 70

Rice (1kg)

 RUB 84

Loaf of white bread

 RUB 43

Chicken breasts (1kg)

 RUB 280

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

 RUB 160

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 RUB 300

Coca-Cola (330ml)

 RUB 61

Cappuccino

 RUB 168

Local beer (500ml)

 RUB 200

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

 RUB 3,000

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute) 

 RUB 2.25

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

 RUB 470

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

 RUB 8,650

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

 RUB 15

Bus/train fare to the city centre

 RUB 50

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

 RUB 47