Print
  • Hold down Ctrl key and select the sections you want to print. If using a Mac, hold down the Cmd key.
  • Use Ctrl + A or on Mac, Cmd + A to select all sections (if you are using the Chrome browser).
  • Click "Apply" and the site will customise your print guide in the preview below.
  • Click the "Print" button and a print pop up should appear to print to your printer of choice.

Moving to Moscow

Moscow is an incredibly large, interesting and challenging destination offering a wide variety of experiences for expats. There is much to see and learn about Russian culture in the capital city, and expats will certainly not be bored among the hustle and bustle of Moscow's lively streets. 

Living in Russia as an expat

Moscow is a constantly changing and rapidly expanding city. As it's one of Russia's main economic centres, the majority of expats moving to Russia for work settle here. Moscow offers job opportunities in a range of fields, from technology and finance to human resources and teaching. These generally come with a rather lucrative employment package, but are hard earned and can be difficult to find. 

Moscow has an extensive public transport system. The most common means of transport being the efficient, safe and cheap metro. Many of the metro stations are lavishly decorated and constitute works of art in themselves. During rush hour it can get crowded, especially in the centre. Traffic congestion can be nightmarish in Moscow and many expats choose to hire a driver rather than braving the roads alone.

Moscow is by no means short of cultural activities and events. No visit is complete without a trip to the Bolshoi Theatre, and ballet performances at the Kremlin Palace are outstanding. There are several fascinating museums in the city, as well as wonderful architecture. 

Cost of living in Moscow

Moscow has a relatively high cost of living. While it's cheaper than many of the world's major capitals, accommodation comes at a huge cost and those who choose to live lavishly will also pay dearly for it. That said, those with money can enjoy a luxurious lifestyle in Moscow that's on a par with any major international city.

Expat families and children

Expat families should note that the standard of public education and hospitals can be considerably lacking in Moscow. That said, expats always have the option of sending their children to one of the private or international schools located in the capital. There are also several private healthcare facilities available that expats can visit.

Parents will be glad to know that Moscow is filled with attractions and activities to entertain the kids. Families will also discover that some of Moscow’s most attractive features are the many public parks dotted throughout the city, which give it a more spacious and leafier feel. Going for a walk in the park is a daily habit for many residents, and families with children can make use of these green spaces for a day spent outdoors.

Climate in Moscow

Unlike the rest of Russia, Moscow has a humid continental climate. Summer weather is warm with average daytime temperatures of 73°F (23°C). Most of the city's rainfall occurs during the summer months. Winters, on the other hand, are long, cold and snowy.  

Expats in Moscow who can keep an open mind will find that the Russian capital has a lot to offer. Before moving to Moscow, expats should read as much as they can about the city to prepare themselves and to minimise any initial culture shock. One of the best ways to prepare for relocating to Moscow is to learn how to read the Cyrillic alphabet and speak some basic Russian.

Weather in Moscow

Moscow has a humid continental climate.

Summer is from June to August with warm temperatures that range from 50°F (10°C) to 86°F (30°C). Moscow is generally warmer than its outlying areas, and the daytime average temperature in summer sits around 73°F (23°C). The city gets majority of its rainfall at this time of the year.

Moscow experiences long, cold winters from November to March with temperatures ranging from around -13°F (-25°C) to 41°F (5°C). There are only about seven hours of daylight per day in mid-winter, and temperatures can drop well below freezing. The winter snowfall usually starts towards the end of October and often carries on into spring. 

 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Moscow

Moscow can be an exciting place to live in. With its dramatic history and politics, life can never be considered boring in the Russian capital. Nevertheless, expats in Moscow may experience frustrations including bureaucracy, a difficult language adjustment and extreme weather conditions. Nonetheless, the city offers an attractive lifestyle with its active social life and rich arts and culture scene. 


Accommodation in Moscow

With more than 12 million inhabitants, finding the perfect apartment or house can be challenging.

+ PRO: Range of options

There are many different types of accommodation available in Moscow. Expats are just as likely to find themselves in a pre-revolutionary apartment with high ceilings, thick walls and interesting architecture as in a modern apartment block with good facilities and high-tech features. There are also several international compounds with other expats. These gated communities usually offer their own sports facilities and social activities. 

- CON: High demand and expensive 

With so many people living in Moscow, housing is in great demand and can therefore be expensive. Apartments are also usually small and expats may be disappointed with what their money can buy. Realistically, size, quality and location are the most important factors influencing the cost of accommodation in Moscow. Expats with a limited budget may need to compromise on one or more of these factors to find a home that best suits them.


Lifestyle in Moscow

Moscow is a huge city offering a wide range of activities and events. The expat community is close-knit, giving new arrivals the opportunity to make friends.

+ PRO: Great social scene 

There is so much to do in Moscow, with activities catering for every interest. Most groups and organisations are well-organised and welcoming to newcomers. The expat community is busy throughout the year with balls and charity events.

Nightlife within the city is excellent, with a variety of bars, clubs and restaurants to choose from. The quality of museums, art galleries, theatres and concerts is also outstanding.

Moscow is also becoming more child- and family-friendly. Museums such as the Planetarium and Experimentarium are especially exciting for children. There are also several circuses for more entertainment. 

- CON: Eating out can be expensive

Restaurants in Moscow can be extremely expensive. Expats may find their social life is limited if living on a budget. Luckily, knowing the right places will help make going out more affordable.


Education and schools in Moscow

+ PRO: International schools are available 

There are several international schools in Moscow offering excellent quality education and facilities. There are also good private Russian schools, although only a small percentage of expat children attend these.

- CON: Demand is high and space is limited

The demand for schools outweighs the supply. Therefore, schools in Moscow can be expensive with long waiting lists. Schools are usually located outside of central Moscow. So, unless expats live close to the school, children will have to travel some distance by school bus or car each day.


Climate in Moscow

+ PRO: Many winter and summer outdoor activities

The climate in Moscow is fairly extreme. Winter weather can be beautiful in Moscow with blue skies and sunshine on the white snow. Cross-country skiing is popular with expats and ice-skating is possible all over the city as many playgrounds are made into ice-rinks. Summer is a great time to explore Moscow as the city is generally quieter. There are lakeside and river beaches in Moscow where expats and locals alike can take advantage of the good weather.

- CON: Long winters 

The extreme winter weather can make living in Moscow challenging for most of the year. Expats should make sure to have enough thick and warm winter clothing to get them through. 


Safety in Moscow

+ PRO: Low crime rate

Despite its size, Moscow feels surprisingly safe. Expats should take the precautions that they would take in any city, however, and avoid walking alone late at night.

- CON: Bribery and corruption

Bribery and corruption are still issues in Moscow, and expats are sometimes affected by this. It's also not uncommon to find incidents of racism.


Healthcare in Moscow

+ PRO: Medical facilities are of a high standard 

There are many private medical centres in Moscow with well-trained doctors who can, in most cases, speak English. Dental treatment is also of a high standard in the city.

- CON: Healthcare is expensive

Getting medical treatment can sometimes be expensive, although most expats have insurance to cover these costs. Dental treatment is also pricey, although competitive with other European prices. 


Public transport in Moscow

+ PRO: Comprehensive public transport system

Moscow has an impressive public transport system. The metro is not only clean, safe, efficient and fast; it is also a tourist attraction. Daily tours explore the metro system with guides showing tourists through some of the city's most beautiful stations. These stations often resemble palaces, with sculptures, mosaics and even chandeliers. There is also an extensive bus, trolleybus and tram route throughout Moscow. Many of Moscow’s buses now even have Wi-Fi access.

- CON: Crowded public transport during rush hour 

Rush hour on the metro can be unpleasantly crowded. Many of the metro stations and trains also haven’t changed all their signs to show both the Cyrillic alphabet and the Latin alphabet. Being able to read place names in Russian is therefore helpful to avoid getting lost in the rush hour chaos.

- CON: Heavy traffic

Bad traffic can put people off travelling in and around Moscow. Luckily, the metro system is good and expats living near transport stops shouldn't have any issues getting around. The traffic could be a problem for those who choose to drive in Moscow, however. 

Cost of Living in Moscow

The cost of living in Moscow is quite high, but is largely dependent on an expats lifestyle. According to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2021, Moscow was ranked as the 62nd most expensive city of 209 cities surveyed. This makes it cheaper than Dubai, Copenhagen and Paris, but more expensive than Madrid, Seattle and Stockholm. 

Expats working in Moscow who earn a decent salary will be able to manage day-to-day costs just fine, especially in comparison to those in major cities such as New York and London. Additionally, expats may be lured to Moscow by lucrative employment packages which offer benefits including private health insurance, a driver and schooling allowances. 

While there are a few expenses in Moscow that expats will not be able to avoid, such as accommodation, many expats can decrease their cost of living through their choice of lifestyle. Living like the locals, which could involve cooking at home most nights and not spending large amounts of money on going out and visiting expensive tourist attractions, would certainly decrease an expats costs, for example. 


Cost of accommodation in Moscow

Housing will likely be an expat’s largest expense in the Russian capital. Expats living in central areas can expect to spend over a third of their monthly salary on rent. New arrivals looking for accommodation on a budget are recommended to consider exploring the areas and suburbs outside of the city centre, while still bearing in mind transport connections.

Additionally, while utilities may be cheaper than in major European capitals, expats in Moscow should budget for water, electricity and gas costs. These are not always included in the monthly rental and could be additional expenses.


Cost of transport in Moscow

From the metro, buses and minibus shuttles known as marshrutka to taxis and self-driving, there are many options for getting around. Each come with their own costs, and expats may be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of transport in Moscow. Public transport tickets are fairly cheap, and petrol prices also fall below the global average.

Expats who plan on driving in Moscow may need to invest in car insurance while others may opt to hire a driver. These may add to an expat's general expenses.


Education and schools in Moscow

Families relocating with children will most likely need to cover the cost of school fees. Most expats who face a language barrier in Russia send their children to a private or international school which follows the same language and curriculum of their home country. Fees at international schools can be exorbitant, and preschool fees for young children are also high. Where possible, we recommend expats negotiate an allowance for school fees in their employment contract.


Cost of living chart for Moscow

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

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

 RUB 50,000 – 100,000 

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

 RUB 30,000 – 50,000 

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

 RUB 100,000 – 200,000 

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

 RUB 50,000 – 100,000 

Shopping

Eggs (dozen) 

 RUB 105

Milk (1 litre)

 RUB 73

Rice (1kg)

 RUB 95

Loaf of white bread

 RUB 48

Chicken breasts (1kg)

 RUB 306

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

 RUB 175

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 RUB 350

Coca-Cola (330ml)

 RUB 62

Cappuccino

 RUB 179

Local beer (500ml)

 RUB 210

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

 RUB 3,000

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute) 

 RUB 2.15

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

 RUB 475

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

 RUB 8,505

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

 RUB 15

Bus/train fare to the city centre

 RUB 50

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

 RUB 49

Accommodation in Moscow

Accommodation in Moscow can be exceedingly expensive, but expats will find that it is not too difficult to secure a place in the city. Expats are often able to negotiate with Russian landlords about various things, although lowering rental costs is unlikely.


Types of housing in Moscow

Expats expecting only Stalinist relics or cookie-cutter communist apartments will be pleasantly surprised by the variety on offer. Almost every type of accommodation is present, from high-priced villas and houses clustered in suburban gated compounds to modern, fully equipped, expansive apartments in the city centre.

There are more options available in older buildings than in Western-style highly secured complexes. Though they may be old, they often house stylishly renovated apartments that can be rented for more of a bargain.

Furnished, unfurnished and semi-furnished accommodation is available in Moscow. Expats will find that for the right price, landlords are willing to add or remove furniture as tenants wish, and prospective tenants shouldn't be afraid to negotiate. 


Finding accommodation in Moscow

One of the most important points to keep in mind when searching for accommodation in Moscow is that most areas of the city have severe traffic issues. Expats should choose housing that is conveniently located near a metro line for ease of travel to and from work or school. That said, living near a metro station often means living in a more polluted and congested area.

Most expats in Moscow live in the city centre, within the circular metro line. Expats should keep in mind that the closer one gets to the Moscow city centre, the more expensive rentals generally become. 

For those who prefer an area with more fresh air, new apartment buildings, gated communities and villas are springing up in the suburbs beyond Moscow’s outer beltway. The extra space and accessible greenery come at an additional cost, and the commute into the city centre can be as much as 90 minutes each way.

Those who don't speak Russian generally use a real-estate agent to help them find and secure accommodation. These service providers typically charge the equivalent of one month’s rent, although this varies. They assist in finding accommodation options and negotiate a secure lease. They can also deal with landlords when there is a conflict. 


Renting accommodation in Moscow

Securing accommodation in Moscow is often not done to the book and many landlords demand monthly rental payments in cash to avoid paying taxes. Those lucky enough to secure an accommodation allowance through their company may not be able to pay cash. Although, in this case, they may find that landlords charge more.

Leases

It would be wise for expats to seek help from an estate agent to arrange a lease in Moscow. Leases are often written in both Russian and English and range from one to three years. Rent is normally paid on a monthly basis. Dependent upon agreement between the landlord and tenant, rent can be paid in roubles, US dollars or euros.

Deposits

A standard security deposit equivalent to one month’s rent is generally requested. If possible, expats should negotiate for it to be used to pay the final month of rent. Landlords will often find any excuse not to return this payment, even if all inventories are returned as they were received, and even if the apartment is left in a better condition than it was found.

Utilities 

For the most part, water and gas should be included in the rental cost. Electricity, internet, television and telecommunications are for the tenant's account. Be sure to address this topic during lease negotiations. Utilities tend to be cheap and are state-run. 

If expats live in a normal Russian apartment and not in one of the luxurious Western-style apartments they will have limited control over their heating. Heating will come on and be switched off when the central heating centre decides it is cold/warm enough. There is nothing one can do about it.

During summer, hot water is cut off for a week or more to allow general maintenance of the pipes. This happens in every area of Moscow, and one should look for notices in the building or surrounding area informing when to expect the water cut. Some apartment buildings may have their own water heating systems to compensate for this, but many will not.

Areas and suburbs in Moscow

The best places to live in Moscow

Moscow has neighbourhoods to suit all lifestyles and preferences, each with its own quirks and conveniences. From outlying areas filled with quiet gated communities perfect for raising a family to trendy city-centre spots for young professionals with busy social schedules, there's something for everyone. 

The Russian capital is arranged around the Kremlin, with four major roads that encircling it. The different areas and suburbs of Moscow are distinguished according to their relative location to the major ring roads.

These four ring roads are the Boulevard Ring, the Garden Ring, the Third Ring, and the Moscow Automobile Ring Road. All areas between the Kremlin and the Garden Ring Road are deemed to be in ‘the centre’ of Moscow. Accommodation prices in these areas tend to be higher than anywhere else. Beyond the Garden Ring are the outer areas of Moscow.

Here are some worthwhile neighbourhoods for expats to consider. 


Boulevard Ring

Moscow

Patriarshiye Prudy

Patriarshiye Prudy is a calm and quiet residential neighbourhood close to the centre of Moscow. It's expensive but popular with both expats and locals. It's conveniently located close to metro stations and offers direct access to the main city traffic routes. A beautiful city park with a pond is the focal point. Plenty of restaurants, theatres, embassies and museums are in the vicinity.

Tverskoy District

The most central and lively of Moscow’s expat residential areas, Tverskoy District is centred around Tverskaya Street, which connects the Red Square and the Kremlin to the far north of the city. This area is convenient as it’s close to all transport routes and attractions, but it can get noisy. Some of its sidestreets, such as Kamergersky Lane, boast beautiful housing in quieter, more charming areas.


Garden Ring

The Garden Ring

Arbat District

Arbat is centrally located and is widely considered to be the most attractive and architecturally beautiful area of Moscow. There is a lot to see and do in Arbat. The area is located next to the golden dome of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral and is dotted with Art Nouveau buildings and trendy modern residences. This is a premium area popular among expat executives and is consequently extremely expensive.

Zamoskvorechye District

Zamoskvorechye, home of the Tretyakov Gallery, is an area known for its central location and attractive two- and three-storey buildings. The main roads of Pyatnitskaya and Ordynka are busy, but the quieter offshoots are more congenial. The area has a lively nightlife with plenty of cafés, cinemas, boutique bars and coffee shops.


Third Ring

The Third Ring Road

Presnensky District

Situated just outside of the Garden Ring in the northwest of the city, is the Presnensky District. Accommodation here is good value for money and, as a result, has become home to many expats. The Moscow Zoo and the Embassy of the United States are also located here, and access to public transport is nearby.  

Khamovniki District

Centered around the Frunzenskaya Embankment, the Khamovniki District has lots of greenery and a park-like feel to it. The area is hemmed in by the Moscow River and overlooks Gorky Park. It is most popular among families with children, but apartments in the area tend to be small and are expensive.

Tagansky District

Positioned to the east of the Garden Ring, this old Moscow area was originally encircled by monasteries. Today the area is home to many businesses and a lively nightlife district. The accommodation in Tagansky Area is good value for money, but it can be noisy in the evenings.


Beyond the Third Ring

moscow

Leningradsky Prospekt

Leningradsky Prospekt is a busy avenue that runs up from Tverskaya Street. Parts of it have long been associated with artists and bohemians. The ‘Artist’s Village’ still exists, and is a popular choice for expats who prefer a quirky, eccentric neighbourhood feel. The only drawback is the relatively long commute to the city centre during rush hour.

Pokrovsky Hills

Here in Pokrovsky Hills, expats will find one of the well-known gated communities and secure compounds in Moscow. This type of accommodation is popular among expat families in Moscow. It is situated northwest of the city and is conveniently located near the Anglo-American School of Moscow for expats with school-aged children.

Healthcare in Moscow

Healthcare in Moscow is organised by the Moscow Health Department. While public healthcare facilities are available, most expats seek out private healthcare at international medical centres. Expats are advised to take out private medical insurance if it is not provided to them by their company.

Subsidised healthcare is provided to everyone living in the country, paid for by the state and the mandatory health insurance system. That said, professionals in the state system are likely to speak little to no English. 

There are several private medical centres in Moscow where English is spoken and where the healthcare is on par with expat standards. These clinics are generally very expensive, so it is highly recommended that expats take out private medical insurance to cover medical costs in Moscow. Most insurance coverage plans will also include evacuation cover for emergencies or life-threatening situations. 


Recommended hospitals in Moscow

Alliance Medicale

www.alliancemedicale.ru
Address: Kutuzovsky Ave, 1/7

Intermed Center American Clinic

www.en.intac.ru
Address: 4 Monetchikovsky Lane, 1/6, Building 3

International Clinic MEDSI

www.medsi.ru
Address: 26 Prospekt Mira, Buidling 6

European Medical Center

www.emcmos.ru
Address:  5 Spiridon'yevskiy Pereulok, Building 1

Education and Schools in Moscow

Despite much debate over the education system in Russia, the country has a high literacy rate. The quality of schooling has improved greatly over time, though it is still far from perfect. Russia is known to have some of the best universities in the world, however.

Regarding school-aged children, there are public, private and international school options. Most expats choose to send their children to international schools. Expat parents often find that the teaching language and the method of instruction in public and private schools are not ideal for foreign children.

Entry requirements into schools may differ so expats are encouraged to contact the schools directly for more information. In general, expats must provide their visa, the child’s birth certificate and any academic records.

The school year in Moscow follows the northern hemisphere pattern, with the longest break being in the summer months. The school week is generally Monday to Friday, from 8am or 9am to 2pm or 3pm.

Generally, there are three stages of schooling: primary school with grades one to four; basic secondary school from grades five through nine; and upper secondary school which goes up to grade 12.


Public schools in Moscow

Public school education is free to both Russian and foreign citizens. Parents only pay for meals and school uniforms.

The quality of state schools is debatable, and classrooms tend to have many students. Regardless, expats tend to opt for international schools because the language of instruction in state schools is mainly Russian. This means, especially for older students that do not speak Russian, this option is often not feasible.


Private schools in Moscow

Private schools are less common than state schools. They provide the same Russian curriculum and teach mainly in Russian, but class sizes are smaller. Private schools are not free but are less expensive than international schools. Due to the language barrier, however, the options for expat education in Moscow remain mostly limited to international schools.


International schools in Moscow

Most international schools in Moscow are expensive. Curriculum models range from those that follow American or British teaching systems to ones that combine the Russian curriculum with international curricula. Alternatively, some offer the International Baccalaureate. There are several English-language schools to choose from, as well as schools teaching the German, French and Indian curricula.

Demand for the most prestigious schools can be high, and long waiting lists are to be expected. For this reason, expat parents moving to Moscow should attempt to enrol their children as early as possible.


Special-needs education in Moscow

There are limited schooling options for children with disabilities in Moscow. That said, efforts to develop the school system for those with disabilities are being made to avoid excluding these children. International schools are aiming to improve the possible support they could give. The Anglo-American School of Moscow, for example, makes provisions of learning support, occupational therapy and speech programmes to enable students with mild to moderate learning disabilities to continue their education.


Homeschooling in Moscow

Homeschooling is becoming more and more common in Moscow, especially in comparison to the rest of the country. Expat parents must follow certain regulations. One such regulation is that they must enrol their child into a licenced school which acts as a supervising body. In some cases, homeschooled children can get access to resource provisions such as books. The school can also act as the exam centre when children must write formal exams.


Tutors in Moscow

Being such a large city, Moscow has many options for finding tutors. Expat parents will find various online platforms and portals through which they can hire a tutor for their child in Moscow. Tutors will be extremely helpful in assisting expat children with learning Russian, with adjusting to their new school environment and curriculum, and with getting up to speed in classes.

International Schools in Moscow

There are many international schools in Moscow. Some international schools uphold the teaching language and national curriculum of their respective countries, including America, England, France, Germany and India. Other international schools teach the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. Generally, all offer some form of Russian language instruction and are open to both international and local students.

For expat children, international schools often provide the best options with the highest quality of education in Moscow and internationally recognised school-leaving certificates. They often ease the transition of moving abroad.

International schools offer expat children in Moscow an opportunity to meet classmates experiencing similar situations and make friends. Meanwhile, they may be able to continue a familiar curriculum in their mother tongue.

There is a high demand for international schools, so expat parents are advised to contact the schools directly for more information and options for early applications.

Here is a list of international school options in Moscow.


International schools in Moscow

The English School of Science and Technology (ESS)

ESS first opened in Moscow in 2008 and is one of the best established and most reputable international schools in Moscow. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.english-school.org.uk

Anglo-American School of Moscow

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.aas.ru

British International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum and Russian
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.bismoscow.com

Brittania School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 2 to 7
Website: www.britanniaschool.net

Brookes Moscow

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18
Websitewww.moscow.brookes.org

Deutsche Schule Moskau

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.deutscheschulemoskau.de

Embassy of India School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Indian (CBSE)
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.kendriyavidyalaya-moscow.org

English International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.englishedmoscow.com

Hinkson Christian Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.hinkson.ru

International School of Moscow

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum:  English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.internationalschool.ru

Lycée Français de Moscou

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 6 to 18
Website: www.lfm.ru

Moscow Economic School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Russian
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.mes.ru

Lifestyle in Moscow

From its Soviet-era apartment blocks to opulent churches and government buildings, Moscow is a city of contrasts. Known as a city of romance and revolution, expats will find an interesting lifestyle in Moscow that may take some time to get used to.

Moscow is a vibrant metropolis bursting with energy and creativity. Not only is it Russia’s political and economic centre, but it also forms the country’s cultural and artistic heart. There are plenty of shopping opportunities, eateries and a lively nightlife to enjoy. Although expats will find some of the costs involved in living in Moscow to be relatively high, there are plenty of pursuits to enjoy that won't break the bank.


Shopping in Moscow

Moscow shopping certainly caters for big spenders, but for those who don’t have the means to shop like the rich and famous, there are many bargains to be found.

There are various malls and boutiques in the city centre. Okhotny Ryad, at Manezhnaya Square, is an underground mall. Expats can find a range of goods including high-street fashions, perfumes, electronic products and sporting goods. GUM is the most well-known and iconic department store in Russia where one can find a range of high-end brands and gourmet foods.

Local markets include the Izmailovsky market and the Cheremushinsky Rynok market. There's a claim that the exclusive Eliseev Gastronome supermarket sells the best caviar and vodka in the city. 


Nightlife in Moscow

The nightlife in Moscow is extraordinary, featuring everything from bars and clubs to bowling alleys, billiards rooms and casinos. The trendiest nightlife areas are in and around Kitay-Gorod, Arbat, Khamovniki, Tverskoy and Presnensky. 

With long winters, it’s no surprise that one turns to alcohol to forget about the cold. Alcoholic drinks are a normal part of social life in Moscow, particularly Russia’s famous vodka.


Eating out in Moscow

There is a variety of cuisine available in Moscow. Expats will find international flavours well represented in the city, from Eastern delights to Western eateries and fast-food joints. There are also plenty of good local restaurants offering classic Russian cuisine. 

Restaurants in Moscow can be expensive. Middle-range restaurants fill up quickly so it’s best to book in advance. Some of the best restaurants in Moscow are in the Garden Ring around Kitay-Gorod and Red Square. Poklonnaya Hill and Kiyevsky Station Square are also popular dining areas.


Entertainment in Moscow

For those with more refined tastes, the performing arts are alive and well in the city, particularly ballet and opera. There is no shortage of events in Moscow. Visits to the Bolshoi Theatre, Gogol Centre and Stanislavsky Electrotheatre are highly recommended.


Sports and outdoor activities in Moscow

The city’s cold climate will appeal to winter sports enthusiasts. Ice-skating is an especially popular pastime that is enjoyed throughout the year but particularly in the colder months. Moscow becomes a winter wonderland each year, with outdoor skating rinks dotted around the city. The most well-known skating rink is in Gorky Park.

Kayaking, running and football are other popular activities. Expats will find a lot of runners in Moscow. It’s free and a great way to stay in shape. Expats can also find running clubs to join: a great way to meet people. 

Kids and Family in Moscow

Expats moving to Moscow with children should prepare for a sizeable challenge. Conquering the cold weather and the intimidating transport system with little ones requires some real courage.

That said, there are plenty of child-friendly activities available in the city. Several expat support systems exist to help calm any parent's nerves against unanticipated stress. 


Family life in Moscow

The long months of freezing temperatures in Moscow inevitably affect family life and limit the outdoor activities one can enjoy. Few Russian families and children can be seen out on the streets in winter unless they are heavily bundled up. That said, ice-skating is a common activity for children and adults alike in winter.

Traffic in Moscow can be a real problem. People drive fast and there are few above-ground places to cross larger roads. So, if using a stroller, this means tackling stairs to enter and exit the pedestrian-friendly underpass. Baby carriers may be a preferred option.

The metro is extensive, cheap and easy to use but, again, expats should bear in mind the presence of stairs. Once familiar with the most common metro stops, parents will be able to choose those with no stairs and make life a little easier.

Many expats hire a driver to avoid these issues and to make it easier to get around in freezing temperatures. Expats should try and negotiate this as part of an employment package, if possible. 


Best places to live in Moscow with kids

When searching for accommodation in Moscow, expats with children should think carefully. Many expats with kids, especially those with young children, choose to live in one of the gated expat communities just outside the city. In these areas, it’s possible to get a house and plenty of green space, but exposure to real Russian life will be minimal.  

Alternatively, expats can live in an apartment in the city centre. Although this does not offer a garden, Moscow has a lot of green spaces and parks that are child friendly. Apartment living in Moscow is typically better for expats with teenagers or with children who would be interested in enjoying any of the rich cultural activities on offer in Moscow’s centre. 


Entertainment for kids in Moscow

As noted, frost-free months of the year are scarce in Moscow. As a result, most of the entertainment options in the city are indoor activities. When the sun does come out, there are some great outdoor spaces to take advantage of.  

There are plenty of parks in and around Moscow’s city centre, and it's also possible to find small playgrounds, boulevards and smaller gardens dotted about. Gorky Park is the big, centrally located park for cycling, rollerblading or running, as well as having various rides for amusement. Hermitage Gardens is a perfect place for kids to play. Many expats meet up here in summer and spring.

Shopping malls are a great way to get out of the house in winter. Many malls have play areas, bowling clubs, cinemas and other activities to keep kids entertained. For a real taste of Russia, expats should try ice-skating on one of the frozen ponds or head out of the city and go dog-sledding.


Cultural activities for kids in Moscow

Moscow is the perfect place to introduce children to Russian culture with its world-class ballet performances and assorted theatres. Child-orientated venues include the fairy tale theatre, science museum, children’s musical theatre and many more. At these attractions, children can be entertained and learn at the same time.

Brunch in Moscow might be a far cry from the well-practised, well-priced extravaganzas found in Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi, but there are plenty of weekend venues that combine food with child-friendly entertainment, especially in winter.


Parent networks in Moscow

Moscow’s many challenges mean that the expat mothers' networks in the city are especially valuable support systems. There are baby and toddler groups hosted almost every day of the week. The best place to find them is to join the International Women’s Club or to contact the British Women’s Club baby and toddler coordinator. If considering having a baby in Moscow, other mothers are more than happy to help navigate the system and provide advice.

See and Do in Moscow

Moscow is a vibrant city that is packed with things for expats to see and do. On top of the many events that the city hosts each year, there are plenty cultural and religious attractions, interesting museums and historic architectural structures and landmarks to visit in Moscow. 


Recommended attractions in Moscow

The Kremlin

The quintessential Moscow attraction is the Kremlin, a fortified citadel made up of five palaces, four cathedrals and an imposing wall and tower. The architectural phenomenon is home to the president of the country, as well as several museums and monuments. The Kremlin is definitely a must-see for expats in Moscow.

Red Square

Set in the heart of Moscow, the historic Red Square is a spacious cobbled area that has been used for everything from festivals to executions in Russia’s turbulent past. In winter, the Red Square is home to one of the city’s most beautiful ice-skating rinks.

St Basil's Cathedral

St Basil’s Cathedral is arguably Moscow’s most famed landmark. Its beautiful and multicoloured domes are an extraordinary sight. The structure is a collection of churches built on a single foundation under the orders of the Tsar known as Ivan the Terrible. It's open to the public and tours of the magnificent Cathedral are available. 

Bolshoi Theatre of Russia

Culture buffs in Moscow will love going to the Bolshoi Theatre to watch world-famous opera and ballet companies perform in one of the country’s most exquisite venues. Seeing a performance at the Bolshoi Theatre is one of the most iconic things to do in Moscow. 

Tretyakov Gallery

The Tretyakov Gallery is home to an exemplary collection of Russian art dating far back in history. The gallery was initially established in the 19th century and now houses a collection that contains more than 130,000 works. A visit to this gallery is a must for art lovers in Moscow. 

Poklonnaya Gora

Military enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Poklonnaya Gora. The hill is one of the city’s highest summits. It is also dedicated to the Russian conquest over Napoleon, the victory of the country in the Great Patriotic War and its role in World War II.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

This cathedral was originally established by Tsar Alexander. It also stood to commemorate the soldiers who fought against Napoleon. As one of the largest Eastern Orthodox churches in the world, this is a sightseeing must for expats in Moscow.

Battle of Bordino Museum-Panorama

This museum houses artefacts from the Battle of Borodino, which was regarded as the bloodiest of the Napoleonic wars. One of the highlights is the 360-degree painting of the most decisive moment of the battle. Lovers of history and culture will certainly enjoy a visit to this museum. 

What's On in Moscow

There is always something happening in Moscow. It is a vibrant city that hosts an array of cultural festivals throughout all seasons of the year. On top of cultural and traditional events in Moscow, there are also music and film festivals. There’s something for everyone in the Russian capital, and expats won't struggle to find an event that's right up their alley.

Expats in Moscow should keep an eye out for the following annual events.


Annual events in Moscow

Maslenitsa Festival (February/March)

As a prelude to Lent and in celebration of the end of winter and the start of spring, the Maslenitsa Festival encourages locals and expats to indulge in as many delicious golden pancakes as possible. They can also enjoy puppet shows, masquerades and sleigh-riding.

Moscow International Film Festival (April)

The Moscow International Film Festival screens 200 films from 50 different countries each year. Prizes are given to the best films, with the winner receiving the Golden George – a statue of St George slaying a dragon. For expats interested in film and media, this is a chance to see an incredible showcase of films and should certainly not be missed.

Taste of Moscow (June)

This three-day event sees Moscow's top restaurants host masterclasses and tastings for the whole family. Both Russian and international food is celebrated, along with drinks and music, to create a festive atmosphere throughout the event. 

Wild Mint Folk Festival (June)

Folk music from all over the world is enjoyed at this event each summer. Russian and international musicians perform a range of folk-based genres, and festivalgoers can also visit the array of food stalls and markets at the event. Body and soul workshops are also hosted for those that are interested in attending. 

Afisha Picnic (August)

The Afisha Picnic is one of the oldest and best known music festivals in Russia. It's held in the gardens of Kolomenskoye, a former Tsar’s estate on the banks of the Moscow River. It attracts both Russian and international bands and performers who play to the crowds on big stages throughout the day. 

Unity Day (November)

Unity Day, also known as the day of Accord and Reconciliation, is a national public holiday in Russia. In Moscow, celebrations are held in the Red Square and around the Kremlin, and involve parades and fireworks as well as patriotic ceremonies, songs, speeches and flag hoisting.

Russian Winter Festival (December/January)

The Russian Winter Festival is held over the Christmas and New Year period to celebrate the best of Russian culture. It takes place all over the city and thousands of fairy lights are put up in celebration. The festival features an array of Russian cuisine and vodka for people to enjoy. Entertainment consists of performances of traditional folk music and dances, while ice-skating, sledding and troika (sleigh) rides are also available for those seeking some fun.

Frequently Asked Questions about Moscow

Many expats moving to Moscow have similar questions about how they will adapt to life in the Russian capital. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Moscow.

How safe is Moscow? 

Moscow is quite safe compared to many other big cities. As long as expats are aware of what’s going on, and take the usual precautions, they should be safe. Using public transport is safe, and expats should also feel comfortable walking home alone, provided it’s not in the middle of the night.

What is the cost of living in Moscow?

The cost of living in Moscow depends heavily on what kind of lifestyle an expat leads. In general, Moscow is more expensive than any other place in Russia, and some prices, particularly those of accommodation, can be high. That said, expats can live a comfortable life in Moscow if they are willing to live like the locals. Cooking at home most nights of the week is one sure way expats can save money.

Does a person need to learn Russian before moving to Moscow?

Yes, this is an extremely good idea. It is probably best to learn some basic Russian, and at least to know how to read Russian Cyrillic before arriving. The grammar is quite complicated. For example, there are six cases for nouns, with endings differing in each case depending on whether the noun is masculine, feminine or neutral, and again whether it is plural or singular.

Are the locals friendly to expats?

Russians maintain a distant and uninvolved mask in public. That said, once befriending a Russian, expats will be amazed at how warm-hearted and generous Russians can be. There is some resentment towards expats who come to live a superior lifestyle in Moscow, so be prepared for some street-level negativity.

Are weekend getaways from Moscow possible?

It is possible to take an overnight train to St Petersburg. On the whole, though, weekend breaks are not that popular. Most Muscovites stay in the city, as there is plenty to amuse and entertain them right there. The notable exception to this is over the summer months, when there is a mass exodus to the dachas (summer cottages) on the outskirts of Moscow, either for the whole summer or as long as possible.

Getting Around in Moscow

Moscow is a city of around 12.7 million people and is often plagued by traffic jams and congestion. Apart from the delays experienced while driving, rush hour within the public transport system can also be crowded and uncomfortable.

Still, the Moscow metro is one of the most beautiful in the world and expats in the city will have access to a range of additional options for getting around. 


Public transport in Moscow

Metro

The Moscow Metro opened in 1935 with one 6.8-mile (11km) line and 13 stations. Since then, it has grown considerably and become the fastest and most efficient way of getting around in Moscow. 

Travel is cheap and the trains are fast, clean and on time. Expats will be glad to know that maps are available with the station names spelt out in the Latin alphabet. Before taking the metro, expats should make sure they understand the route necessary for the journey as stations can be enormous and are often interconnected by underground passages. This can involve long walks up and down many escalators to get to the correct platform and line.

Stations are open from 5.30am and the final train leaves at 1am. The final train does not allow passengers to make transitions from one line to another.

Buses, trolleys and trams

When the metro cannot connect with where one needs to go, buses, trams and trolleybuses provide a comfortable alternative for getting around Moscow. These modes of transit don't always run on the advertised timetable and the average waiting period is generally longer than that of the metro, ranging from five minutes during the day to 40 minutes in the evenings.

The bus stops are yellow plates marked with 'A' signs; trolleys are designated by white plates with 'T'; and trams with 'Tp'. There are also night buses and trams that operate from midnight until 5:30am, when the metro starts operating again.

Buses, trams and trolleys usually all follow the same pricing. Ticket purchases can be made within metro stations, at bus kiosks or directly from the driver.  

Minibus shuttles (marshrutka)

Minibus shuttles, or marshrutka, are smaller than buses and generally get around much faster than their larger counterparts. These shuttles have the same numbers as the buses and trolleys, and travel the same routes. To get on an approaching marshrutka, just wave it down like an ordinary taxi. Passengers pay the driver as they step onto the minibus. 


Taxis and ride-sharing services in Moscow

Expats often use taxis to get around Moscow. There are numerous taxi companies in Russia, some of which employ English-speaking drivers. They can be hailed from the side of the road, by phone or via a specific company's website or app. The fare is normally negotiated with the driver and bargaining is commonplace. Expats should ensure that the price is agreed upon before getting into the car. There are also specific pink taxis for women that are driven by women to help them feel safe.

Ride-sharing services and ride-hailing applications, such as Uber and Lyft, are also readily available in Moscow and other Russian cities. 


Walking in Moscow

If the weather isn't too icy and the distance an expat needs to cover isn't too vast, getting around Moscow on foot is a viable option. Downtown Moscow, with its compact design and beautiful, historical architecture, is especially pedestrian-friendly. That said, expats should exercise caution when walking through the more run-down areas of the city, especially late at night. 


Driving in Moscow

Expats considering driving in Moscow should carefully weigh up the pros and cons. As previously mentioned, traffic jams can be monstrous and navigating the city's ring roads can be difficult.

Russians have been known to make dangerous manoeuvres behind the wheel, and the Russian police are notorious for extracting fines for small driving offences. Winter weather can make for slick streets and less-than-ideal driving conditions. This has prompted many expats to hire a local driver instead of attempting to drive themselves around Moscow.


Cycling in Moscow

Riding a bike in Moscow is not as common as in some European cities. Given the heavy car traffic on the roads and cold weather for much of the year, cycling is not always the safest nor most convenient of options. That said, travelling by bicycle is becoming more popular. In recent years, the construction of bike lanes has increased and maps of cycle routes have become available to support cyclists in Moscow.