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Accommodation in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Searching for accommodation in Russia can be a difficult experience. Expats will find that house-hunting demands both patience and negotiation. Above all, it requires a good real estate agent.

As in most destinations, accommodation in Russia is varied in terms of structure, style and price. The closer to the city centre, the more expensive the monthly rent. These areas are associated with prestige and are thus more costly. Moscow claims the highest housing prices in the country by far. Even apartments in its outlying suburbs can be more expensive than property in the centre of a secondary city.

Expats should try their best to organise at least some short-term accommodation through their employer before their arrival. It generally takes at least a month to find accommodation and to sign a lease. Expats don’t often buy property in Russia, preferring to rent instead. 

Types of accommodation in Russia

Expats will likely need to come to terms with apartment living. Detached houses are primarily available only on the outskirts of the big cities, in expensive compounds and rural areas.

Townhouses and apartments in multi-storey buildings are the primary types of accommodation in the popular expat destinations of Moscow and St Petersburg. They are often architectural remnants of the psyche of a historical period.

Pre-revolutionary style apartments usually have high ceilings, larger rooms, wide windowsills, thick walls and parquet floors. Soviet-era apartments are small, tend to be on the sparse side, and were established for communal living purposes.

Western-style apartments usually refer to apartments that have been renovated to remove the former Soviet-style decor and fittings. This form of accommodation is favoured by expats and is often designed per Western-style standards. Expats should note that apartments not renovated in this manner will cost significantly less, sometimes as much as half of the price of a Western-style apartment.

Accommodation in Russia can be furnished, semi-furnished or unfurnished. This can easily be negotiated. For a price, landlords are usually happy to remove or add furniture. Furthermore, in the major cities, there are plenty of homeware shopping options that expats can peruse to furnish their new homes. 

Finding accommodation in Russia

It’s highly recommended that expats use a real estate agent to assist with the house-hunting process, especially as online listings and printed material are generally in Russian. Although some people in Russia speak English, most don't. Even expats who can speak Russian would still be best off using an agent. These individuals will only charge the equivalent of one month's rent or a small percentage of the purchase price if buying. Real estate agents are in no short supply, but it’s best to use a service provider that another individual can recommend through experience.

Renting property in Russia


A standard lease is written in both English and Russian. Expats should always insist that a translation is made available before signing. Leases typically last between one and three years, but this is negotiable. Rent is paid either monthly or quarterly. 


A month’s security deposit is usually required. If possible, expats should negotiate that it is used to pay the final month of rent. Landlords in Russia 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.


Water and gas are usually included in the rental cost. Electricity, internet, television and telecommunications are extra costs. Be sure to address this topic during lease negotiations.

Utilities are cheap in Russia compared to European countries, and are state-run. If expats live in a traditional Russian apartment, they must be aware that heating is controlled for the whole building and they have limited say over this. Expats living in a more modern apartment or gated complex in Russia have more control over the heating system.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Moving to Russia may seem like an exciting adventure, but the reality may be quite different, so it's important to weigh up the pros and cons when making the decision to move. To help expats have a clearer picture, here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of living in Russia.

Accommodation in Russia

+ PRO: Varied housing options

There are many options for accommodation in Russia, most of which are city apartments and international compounds, often situated outside the cities. Many apartments have both a classic feel with high ceilings and a modern feel with good facilities and an internet connection. The housing compounds are secure gated communities, and some of the more prestigious ones even have sports and community centres in the compound itself.

- CON: Undeniably expensive

Finding a well-sized apartment in a sought-after location at a reasonable price isn't easy in Russia. The demand for housing is high, especially in the larger cities where most expats are likely to find themselves. This hikes up the prices and makes it difficult to find cheap but decent accommodation. 

Cost of living in Russia

+ PRO: Attractive salaries

Most expats take up senior management positions in Russia, so they benefit from high salaries. Salary packages sometimes come with accommodation, insurance, a car or driver, and a schooling allowance. This means that many expats will be saved from having to cover the high costs of some of these things. 

- CON: The expat lifestyle is expensive

The cost of living in Russia is directly related to lifestyle. Expats wanting to live luxuriously, eat out often and experience the finer things that Russia has to offer will find that they will pay dearly for it. Those that are willing to live more like the locals, on the other hand, will be able to afford a comfortable life for a much more reasonable price. That's not to say they must live frugally, but rather limit their eating out and travelling, or choose less expensive spots to have these experiences. Although, this depends on their location as life in smaller cities is cheaper.

Lifestyle and culture in Russia

+ PRO: The people

Russia has a unique culture. Although the locals may seem unfriendly upon first meeting, once they get to know a person, they'll go out of their way to help them if necessary. Locals in Russia are actually warm, friendly and helpful people. 

+ PRO: There’s something for everyone

Whether new arrivals enjoy nature or prefer the perks of city living, Russia has a lot to offer. There are lots of social activities and sports facilities in Russia, especially in big cities. Museums, art galleries, theatre and architecture in general provide cultural activities for the keen individual as well as families with children.

- CON: Language barrier

Most Russians don't speak English. That said, expats employed by multinational companies are likely to have colleagues that are English speakers. Expats are encouraged to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and learn some keywords to help them get by. This may be a challenge for some as Russian is a difficult language.

- CON: Drinking culture

The drinking culture in Russia is a stereotype for a reason. Excessive drinking can be a problem, and expats should keep an eye out for this. They are likely to get invited out for drinks, which could be a pro for some but not for everyone.

- CON: Weather

As Russia is such a large country, the weather varies dramatically. No matter where in the country they live though, expats must prepare themselves and adapt their lifestyles for long, cold winters, and shorter spring, summer and autumn seasons. Winters can be harsh. This is something to be aware of, especially for those coming from warmer climates.

Healthcare in Russia

+ PRO: Good private healthcare

There are plenty of private healthcare options in Russia that offer a good standard of services. Doctors at these hospitals are also more likely to be able to communicate in English. Paying for private health insurance is a must as private treatment in Russia is expensive.

- CON: Inefficient public healthcare

Although the quality of healthcare in Russia has been reported to be similar to other European countries, the public health system is inefficient and problematic. Staff are paid poorly, medical equipment is reportedly outdated and organisational structures are ineffective.

Safety in Russia

+ PRO: Decreasing crime rates  

Crime rates in Russia are dropping and have decreased substantially over the past two decades. As a result, expats will feel safe in Russia.

- CON: Opportunistic crime

Despite decreasing crime rates, one must always be aware of the risks of mugging and petty crime. Be sure not to leave any bags unattended and be cautious when walking alone at night.

Education in Russia

+ PRO: Plenty of international schools 

International schools are a great option for expat children. These schools offer high-quality education with widely recognised programmes. These include American, British, French and German schools, some of which offer their home country curriculum as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB). Be sure to check where the schools are located and plan accordingly, as some, for example in Moscow, are just outside the city centre.

- CON: Language barrier at public schools

Although tuition and books are free at Russian public schools, the language of instruction is Russian. This means these schools aren't a viable option for most expats, who generally opt to send their children to international schools.

- CON: Fees at international schools are high

International schools charge high fees. The high demand for places also means that children are often put on waiting lists.

Getting around Russia

+ PRO: Well-developed transport systems

Russia has a well-developed public transport system. The metros in Moscow and St Petersburg are fast, efficient, clean and safe. 

The Trans-Siberian Railway Network is the longest railway line in the world and is a popular option for long-distance travel, especially among tourists. Peak seasons are from May to September and February to April. Air travel is also common, with Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, offering many domestic flights.

- CON: Driving can be a nightmare

Traffic in Russian cities is chaotic, more so because of reckless drivers. Most expats prefer to use public transport, hire a driver or have their company organise a driver for them. 

- CON: Lack of public transport outside the cities

The public transport in rural areas is less developed than in the cities. If expats live outside of cities, it may be useful to drive. Expats must be sure to carry the appropriate documentation with them when driving in Russia, including an international driver’s licence, passport, visa and migration card.

Doing Business in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Expats doing business in Russia will find themselves in a unique environment. The local business culture is strongly influenced by Russia's political past, but international influences are also present in the country’s large financial centres like Moscow and St Petersburg, which are home to numerous international companies and corporations.

Fast facts

Business hours

Office hours in Russia are generally from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Business language

Russian is the official language, but English is often spoken by younger business people in the main city centres. The option of hiring a translator is always available. 


Business attire is formal and conservative, dark suits for men and suits or skirts and blouses for women. How business people dress is taken as a sign of prestige in Russia, and Russians often spend more than they can afford on business clothing. 


Russians enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but this is not a mandatory or an expected act. Appropriate gifts if invited to a Russian's house include sweets, wine or liquor.

Gender equality

Men and women in Russia are equal in theory, but not in practice. Women remain inferior to men in the Russian business world. Though foreign businesswomen will be treated with old-world courtesy, they will generally not be respected as key leaders. It is rare to find women in senior management positions in Russia.

Business culture in Russia

To understand business culture in Russia, expats must have some knowledge of the country’s political past. This framework will provide some insight into why modern Russian businessmen seem to tend to respect informal rules, rather than formal laws and authoritative bodies and structures. Similarly, it will explain why relationship building is paramount to successfully conducting business in Russia.

The state’s formerly untrustworthy nature has motivated a current culture in which close personal relationships and allegiances take primary importance. Expats should be mindful of this and devote an appropriate amount of time to befriending the right people through face-to-face interaction.

Business hierarchy

Russian business hierarchy tends to unfold around a strong, central figure. This figure retains nearly absolute decision-making power. Some consideration is given to the views and inputs of specific middle managers but, for the most part, it is necessary to ‘go straight to the top’ to accomplish anything.

More is achieved in small formal meetings with this central individual, rather than in larger meetings. The purpose of the group meetings is usually to disseminate information, and not to discuss issues, negotiate or generate ideas. Subordinate employees in Russia generally take specific and precise orders from their seniors without expecting much feedback.


Expats should always address their colleagues and their counterparts with a great deal of respect. Some people may only introduce themselves with their surnames, but it is always courteous to address businessmen as ‘Gaspadin’ and businesswomen as ‘Gaspadja’ followed by their surname.

While humour can be an acceptable way to diffuse a tense business situation, it is not given the same credence as in Western cultures and should be used sparingly.


A firm handshake and direct eye contact should be maintained when greeting Russian associates. Hugs are common between good friends and family. A handshake is generally exchanged with female associates, but sometimes a slight nod of the head will suffice. If unsure, wait for a female coworker to extend her hand first. 

Dos and don’ts of business in Russia

  • Do print business cards in Russian on one side and English on the other. 
  • Do respect silences. Russians often take time to think before they answer questions.

  • Do be punctual, and don’t take offence if Russian counterparts are not as timely.

  • Don't give too many concessions when it comes to negotiations. Caving in is a sign of weakness in local business culture. 

  • Don’t spend too much time negotiating with junior and middle managers. Decision-making power tends to lie with a single individual who rarely entertains the input of others.

  • Don’t assume that people will speak English. Most Russians do not speak an additional language.

Diversity and inclusion in Russia

Russia is a vast land with a fascinating culture and history. Unfortunately, the country’s invasion of Ukraine has created an unsafe environment, leading many expats and locals alike to flee Russia. We’ve nevertheless put together this report on diversity and inclusion in Russia for a better understanding of the situation on the ground. It is based on the most current information available.

Accessibility in Russia

In the past few decades, much has been done to improve accessibility in Russia and to give more visibility and consideration to the disabled population, which was largely ignored during the Soviet era. While the built environment still has some way to go before it can be considered barrier-free, there has been substantial improvement, particularly in Russia’s major cities.

In Moscow, city buses and trolley buses usually have step-free access, but the subway system can’t be accessed by wheelchair. The airport express train has wheelchair access and takes passengers from various airports to designated city centre railway stations. City bus connections run from the railway station, allowing passengers to continue their journey.

Further reading

WheelchairTravel – Moscow
Evaneos – Disability in Russia

LGBTQ+ in Russia

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993 (excluding Chechnya, where it remains illegal and punishable by death). Russia is one of the world’s most unwelcoming locations for LGBTQ+ individuals, who are being increasingly targeted by discriminatory laws. Surveys of the general population indicate that support for LGBTQ+ people is low, and negative views on issues such as same-sex marriage (which remains illegal in Russia) are expressed by up to 90 percent of the population.

President Vladimir Putin considers any expression of LGBTQ+ individuals or lifestyle to be proof of moral decay in the West and therefore seeks to remove this influence from Russia. In 2022, an earlier law barring any mention of LGBTQ+ issues in children’s education was expanded to apply to all settings and age groups. This makes any public expression of an LGBTQ+ orientation or lifestyle illegal and liable to heavy fines.

Transgender individuals in particular face major discrimination in Russia. As of 2023, all gender-affirming acts are banned, including receiving medical care and changing one’s legal gender. Transgender individuals are also banned from becoming foster parents or adopting a child.

Some of the larger cities, such as Moscow and St Petersburg, have significant LGBTQ+ communities, but the government has consistently denied requests to hold events such as pride parades, citing the risk of violence. As a result, the European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community. The situation remains tense, and the country is widely regarded as unsafe for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Further reading

Russian LGBT Network
Sphere Foundation
Rainbow Europe Annual Review Russia

Mental health in Russia

Mental illness is highly stigmatised in Russia, with the mentally ill being considered dangerous and a burden on society. This is partly due to Russia’s history of using psychiatric institutionalisation as punishment for political dissidents, rather than as treatment. This practice was widespread during the Soviet era but continues even today, albeit on a much smaller scale.

The availability of mental illness statistics in Russia is limited. The few studies available have observed trends of high rates of suicide and substance abuse, but low rates of mental illness diagnoses. Given the proven link between mental illness and suicide, this suggests that mental illness is underdiagnosed in Russia.

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication have become scarce since anti-war sanctions were instituted against Russia in 2022 – even though these medications are considered essential and are therefore exempt from sanctions. High prices and panic buying have ensued, making it difficult to find such medications. Some brands have disappeared from the market altogether.

Psychiatry is underfunded in Russia and treatment is largely offered at inpatient institutions. Conditions range from generally poor to outright dangerous – in 2013, two separate institutions burned down, with a combined fatality of more than 70 people. Before the war, steps were being taken to reform the system, but little progress has been made.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Society of Psychiatrists has made a list of crisis mental health services for people in need.

Further reading

Globally Minded – Depression in Russia
Russian Society of Psychiatrists – Crisis Mental Health Services in Russia
WHO Mental Health Atlas 2020 Russia

Gender equality in Russia

Gender equality has shown some improvement in Russia in recent years, though as a whole, much work still needs to be done. Positives include the right to paid maternity leave, paid parental leave and unpaid parental leave, which can be used until the child is three years old. Medical care provided to women during pregnancy and birth has also improved, resulting in a lower maternal mortality rate.

On the other hand, women are severely limited in terms of career opportunities. Certain professions are deemed too dangerous for women, including firefighting, construction and aircraft repair. There is a wage gap of 28 percent, leaving women more vulnerable to poverty. Single mothers in particular face a high level of discrimination in the workplace and are one of Russia’s poorest population groups.

Further reading

Gender Issues in Russia
UN Women – Russia

Women in leadership in Russia

The role of women in Russia has always been a contradiction between strong female leaders such as Catherine the Great and the deep-rooted conservative gender norms that remain pervasive in the country. Fortunately, the role of women in modern Russia has evolved, with a fair few holding prominent roles in various sectors. Valentina Matviyenko, who served as the governor of St Petersburg for eight years and as the Chairwoman of the upper house of the Russian parliament, is a fantastic example of this rise of women in leadership in the country. Still, gender equality in Russia remains elusive as some challenges persist. Chief among them are unequal pay and the limited representation of women in executive positions. While the political and cultural landscape in Russia remains intricate, the role of women in leadership in the country continues to shift in line with the global drive for gender parity as well as historical influences.

Unconscious bias education in Russia

In Russia, unconscious bias can subtly influence many facets of daily life, from policy decisions and stances to individual interactions. Even with its rich tapestry of cultures and traditions, Russian society is at times influenced by deep-seated stereotypes that can shape perceptions, affecting areas such as employment, education and social relations. Recognising and confronting these biases is essential to pave the way for a more just and inclusive society.

Furthermore, Russia has a multifaceted history with issues related to racial sensitivity, deeply intertwined with various historical, social and cultural contexts. For instance, the Soviet era saw different ethnic groups relocated, seriously impacting socio-cultural dynamics. Minority groups encompassing individuals from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Africa and beyond regularly encounter challenges in employment, housing, daily interactions and other areas. Incidents rooted in racial prejudice, ranging from subtle biases to more blatant acts, highlight the urgency for increased awareness, education and policy reforms. Such efforts are crucial in fostering a culture of inclusivity and counteracting any prevailing discriminatory practices in Russia.

Workplace diversity in Russia

There has been a downward trend in the number of foreigners living in Russia. As of May 2022, approximately six million foreigners lived in Russia, in 2011, there were well over 10 million. Most are from Central Asian countries, with the largest groups being nationals of countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Other former Soviet countries have seen a steadily decreasing presence in Russia, as their citizens leave the country due to Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. This includes nationals of countries such as Belarus and Armenia, and most notably Ukraine.

There are still some expats from Western countries living in Russia, often those who are married to Russians, but the numbers are low. Most Western governments have advised their citizens to leave Russia. Prior to the war, international companies, and some of the more progressive Russian firms, recognised the benefits of a diversified workforce, and had begun to set up diversity and inclusion programmes.

Safety in Russia

As a nation currently at war, Russia remains unsafe and is not currently recommended for foreign travel. Flight options are severely restricted due to sanctions and the general security situation is volatile and unstable.

Martial law is in effect in numerous areas of the country bordering Ukraine. Drone attacks, fires and explosions have occurred in Western and Southern Russia, including in major cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg.

Foreigners travelling to and from Russia should prepare themselves for the likelihood of lengthy security screenings at Russian border crossings. These security checks may include requests to check their cellphones and laptops and comprehensive questioning about the nature of their travels. While expats are not typically targeted for violent crime, African and Caribbean nationals may receive unwarranted attention while out in public. Therefore, they should remain vigilant, especially when travelling late at night.

Further reading

UK Government – Safety and Security in Russia
US State Department Travel Advisory Russia

Calendar initiatives in Russia

4 February – World Cancer Day
March – TB Awareness Month
8 March – International Women's Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day

Visas for Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Most expats will need a visa to enter Russia, no matter the purpose or the duration of their stay. The country’s visa protocol is complicated, expensive and, for many people, the cause of much stress. Visas aren't generally granted at Russian border points, making it necessary to apply well in advance.

For short periods of stay, up to eight days, an e-visa can be obtained. For more information on this and the most updated information, contact the embassy or consulate directly. Here are some embassy contacts for Russia.

Russian police officers do not need reasonable cause to stop foreigners and request proof of their identity and the documents that give them the right to be in Russia. For this reason, it’s important that visitors carry their passport and visa at all times. Those who don’t may find themselves subject to fines and even possible arrest. 

Tourist visas for Russia

Unless an expat's home country has a reciprocal agreement with Russia they will need to obtain a tourist visa before arriving in the country. Though this can be a quick process, it’s still best to allow at least a month before travel to complete the application and to receive approval. 

Applicants must apply for a tourist visa at the Russian embassy or consulate in their home country by submitting the appropriate documents. Passports usually should be valid for at least six months after the intended date of exit. If travelling with children, it is best to consult the embassy on any visa requirements and what documents may be necessary as this may vary from case to case.

Provided that all is approved, an entry and an exit visa will be granted.

If overstaying and trying to leave more than three days after the date listed on the exit visa, the Russian authorities will insist the visitor stay in the country until a new visa has been applied for and approved. This process can take several days and is expensive.

Migration card

Once entering Russia, tourists will also need to fill out a migration card. Oftentimes these are distributed on the aeroplane prior to arrival. One half of the completed card is given to authorities when entering the country. The other half foreigners must keep and return when exiting the country. Migration cards may also be requested by a visitor's accommodation and by police officers.

Foreigners are not allowed to stay in Russia for more than three days without a migration card. If an expat loses it more than three days before departure, they must apply for a new one immediately. Though a lost migration card will not deter foreigners from leaving the country, it may present problems in the future if wishing to return to Russia.


Once arriving in Russia, foreigners must register their visa within seven working days. This shows how long expats are registered to stay in one location, where they are staying and who their sponsor organisation is. As such, most of the time a visitor's accommodation will assume this responsibility, but if staying with friends or renting a holiday apartment, then the landlord will need to register the visa at the local police station or post office.

It's not necessary for expats to be present for this process, but they must make sure that the responsible party gets the appropriate stamp on the migration card as proof. 

Business visas for Russia

Russian business visas are similar to Russian tourist visas, but they can usually be used to enter and exit the country multiple times, and they can also cover longer periods. Tourists anticipating staying long periods of time or those who make frequent trips to Russia may want to pursue this kind of visa.

Business visas are slightly more expensive than tourist visas but generally demand the same application and approval process.

It is often necessary to obtain a visa invitation letter prior to applying for the business visa. These letters are usually organised by the company with which one has business, but can also be granted by a travel agency or an entity registered with the Federal Migration Department (UFMS). Once they have received this letter applicants can apply at their home country’s Russian consulate or embassy.

The same rules that apply to foreigners with tourist visas in regard to exit visas, migration cards and registration apply to those with business visas.

For more insights, check out our page on Work Permits for Russia.

Student visas for Russia

Student visas are granted to those who have been accepted for enrolment by a formal education institution in Russia. These institutions have special departments that are familiar with the visa application process and will usually take care of the logistics of organising a visa letter of support.

Once expats have this, they can apply at their home country's Russian consulate or embassy with the same documents required to get a business or tourist visa. Student visas last 90 days, but they can be extended up to one year, and further renewed thereafter. 

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Education and Schools in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

The system of education in Russia has remained a point of contention since the end of the Soviet era. Accessibility to education is high, although the quality can range dramatically.

Though the system has undergone reforms, state schools do not always meet Western standards. Most expats opt for international or private schools. This is especially the case given that the language of instruction in state schools is Russian, while international schools provide more language opportunities.

The school year in Russia runs from September to June.

Public schools in Russia

The quality of Russian state schools varies. The vision of general education is to equip students with skills for life and contribute to their intellectual, physical and emotional development. That said, debate still exists as to what should be taught in schools, who should control the curriculum, and whether rote learning is still desirable.

Public schools in Russia face several challenges. Teachers don't usually receive good salaries. As a result, many talented Russian teachers abandon the industry in search of more lucrative options or opportunities abroad. 

The language of instruction in public schools is Russian. Two days a week are generally afforded to foreign language classes, such as German or English, but many feel this instruction is inadequate.

While tuition and books are free in state schools, meaning parents pay only for meals and school uniforms, public schools in Russia are not a viable option for most expats. That is unless one plans to spend time in the country long-term, or one's child has some previous knowledge of Russian. 

Private schools in Russia

The curriculum and teaching methods utilised in Russia's private schools still largely align with those of public schools, but class sizes are generally smaller, facilities are better maintained and extra-curricular activities are more accessible. Tuition costs for these schools usually depend on the age of the child and vary from school to school.

The teaching language of private schools is usually Russian. Unless one's child has some language foundation or expats plan to stay in Russia long-term, international schools are likely to be the best option. 

International schools in Russia

Most expats who move to Russia with school-aged children prefer to send their children to international schools. These schools uphold the teaching language and curriculum of select countries. Many of Russia's major cities have a healthy selection of international institutions including American, British, French, Japanese and German schools. Some schools also administer an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum alongside their home country curriculum.

The most prestigious schools in Russia tend to have long waiting lists. For this reason, expats should apply as early as possible once the details of their relocation have been confirmed. Admissions are sometimes based on priority, with the children of diplomats and certain larger companies being given the first available spots. Expats should be sure to bring their child’s previous transcripts, vaccination records and teacher's recommendations with them.

When selecting accommodation, expats should also note the location of these international schools. In Moscow, for example, international schools are mostly outside the city centre and thus will necessitate a long commute for those living centrally. 

Lastly, tuition costs at international schools in Russia can be astronomical. If an employer does not give an education allowance, expats should be sure that they can afford these costs.

Homeschooling in Russia

Homeschooling is legal in Russia and has been growing in popularity, especially in Moscow. There are certain regulations that parents must follow if they are homeschooling their children. Children must be enrolled in a state-licensed school that can act as a supervising body. In some cases, they may use teacher support and school resources. Otherwise, there are minimal rules in terms of curriculum.

Special-needs education in Russia

Some schools in Russia provide support for certain physical disabilities. There are schools for the blind and learning opportunities for the deaf. That said, the school system has not adapted to provide enough support to children with mental disabilities. 

In some cases, children with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays may be in mainstream schools receiving compensatory classes. The extra support is limited, however, and does not meet Western standards. As a result, children with disabilities are often excluded and isolated, with homeschooling as the main option.

That being said, some international schools in Moscow are transforming to provide facilities, education and a warm, encouraging environment to children with disabilities. Expat parents who have children with disabilities will need to do much research on their needs and opportunities for support in Russia.

Tutors in Russia

Tutoring is growing in Russia, especially in big cities. Tutoring services largely focus on students learning English as a second language, although it is also available for individuals preparing for university or college entrance exams.

Tutoring children is also becoming more popular, and tutors can now be found through various online portals. These allow expat parents to connect with tutors and find someone matching the child's needs, in terms of age, subject and level. There are tutors for a range of subjects including maths, biology, music and various languages.

Transport and Driving in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

With an extensive public transport network, getting around in Russia is relatively easy. It’s not necessary for expats living in the major cities to own a car, as public transport is reliable and cheap. That said, those living in more remote towns may find it easier to have their own vehicle. 

Driving in Russia

Expats living in Russia should consider their need for a car carefully. Traffic congestion is common in Russian cities. Drivers can be reckless, and the police are notorious for issuing fines for very minor offences. Winter weather can add to the hazards of driving in Russia. Some expats hire a driver or have one provided by their company.

Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Russia. Speed limits are 37 miles per hour (60km/h) in urban built-up areas and 62 miles per hour (110km/h) on highways. Road signs are almost all in Cyrillic so expats driving in Russia would do well to learn the local alphabet. 

Foreigners wishing to drive in Russia can use their national driver’s licence for up to six months but also require an international driver's licence. Expats should also carry their passport, visa and migration card with them at all times when driving a vehicle. 

Public transport in Russia


A number of Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg, have metro systems. These offer the best means of getting around, but overcrowding is common, particularly during peak hours. To use the metro, passengers need to buy a ticket (single or return) or purchase a Troika smart card that can be topped up as needed. This card is more convenient and allows transfers from the metro to buses within 30 minutes.

Buses, trolleys and trams

When the metro can't connect with where one needs to go, buses, trams and trolleybuses provide an alternative way of getting around many Russian cities, albeit slightly less comfortably.

Buses offer the cheapest way of getting around Russia. For short trips between major cities, buses sometimes have more convenient routes and schedules. Purchasing tickets can be done at the bus station ticket offices themselves the same day or online if expats prefer to buy the ticket in advance.


Russia has an extensive rail network. Long-distance trains connect most Russian towns and cities. Moscow and St Petersburg are linked by a high-speed train which completes the journey in about four hours. It’s best to arrange train tickets online well ahead of time. Even though this may be the more expensive option, it saves time standing in queues.

Train travel is the most comfortable means of travelling around Russia, but pickpockets are known to operate on long-distance trains and expats should keep a close eye on their valuables at all times.

The Trans-Siberian Express

Russia is home to the Trans-Siberian Express, a network of railways linking Russia to China, Mongolia and North Korea. There are three routes traversing Siberia from Moscow, accommodating the longest rail trip in the world. The main terminals for the Trans-Siberian Express are Moscow, Beijing and Vladivostok, and there's also a weekly connection from Moscow to Pyongyang.

The Trans-Siberian proper travels from Moscow to Vladivostok. It then links with the Trans-Mongolian Express from Moscow to Beijing via Ulaanbaatar and the Trans-Manchurian Express which travels through Siberia and Chinese Manchuria to Beijing. Tickets can be purchased through a travel agent, online or at the relevant train station. 

Taxis in Russia

Several different taxi companies operate across Russia. Private cabs can be hailed in the street, booked via the telephone or hailed at a taxi rank. Hailing taxis from the street is now much less common as mobile apps have become popular. It’s best to negotiate the fare with the driver before getting in the vehicle.

Minibus shuttle taxis known as marshrutka can normally carry about 16 passengers and travel set routes in towns and cities. They're usually numbered the same way as the buses they share routes with. Routes are normally displayed on the front or side window of the vehicle. To get on an approaching marshrutka, just wave it down like an ordinary taxi. 

Ride-sharing services and apps are readily available in most Russian cities. These are a good option for expats who can't speak the local language and want to avoid miscommunications with taxi drivers. 

Air travel in Russia

Due to the vast distances between popular destinations, it can be more convenient to fly between Russian cities. The main airports in the country include Moscow’s Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo airports and St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport.

Regular flights in and out of Russia are operated by Aeroflot, which is Russia’s national airline, as well as Emirates, KLM, Air France, Alitalia and British Airways, amongst others.

Keeping in Touch in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Keeping in touch in Russia is quite simple when living in large cities such as Moscow or St Petersburg. These modern cities offer most of the same amenities found in large Western European cities. Internet, mobile phones and media are widely available and easy to access, particularly if one can speak basic Russian. Many Russian people speak some English, but fluency shouldn't be expected.

Internet in Russia

In Russian cities, most apartment buildings are already wired for an internet connection, meaning expats will simply need to contact a service provider to attach the wiring from the hall to the apartment. Expats should speak to their landlord first to determine whether the connection has already been installed. If it has, one can simply call the previous internet provider and turn on the service. 

In order to sign any new contract, expats should provide a passport with a valid Russian visa. Speaking Russian or having a Russian speaker present during this process will be helpful.

Most packages will include internet, television and landline telephone service, though it's possible for expats to pick and choose exactly what they need. Many expats in Russia are happy to opt out of a landline telephone and television, as mobile phones and internet television services can be cheaper and more convenient.

Free public WiFi is also available, especially in the bigger cities including Moscow and St Petersburg. Expats will find free public WiFi in parks, restaurants and the Moscow metro.

Mobile phones in Russia

Many of the main internet providers in Russia also supply mobile phone services. The four biggest companies are Beeline, MegaFon, Tele2 and MTS. There is not really much variation between the large service providers, as reception and cost of service will be roughly the same. Note that mobile phone contracts are usually separate from internet and landline contracts, even if choosing the same company for both.

International calls are very expensive on any plan. Therefore, online telephone services are generally a more cost-effective idea.  

Postal services in Russia

The Russian postal service, called Pochta Rossii, is fairly cheap, but slow and unpredictable. Fortunately, there are many global courier services that operate efficiently for both in-country and international post.

Post sent through Pochta Rossii from within Russia can take several weeks to arrive at its destination. Post from abroad can take anywhere from one to four months to arrive, as getting through Russian customs is a lengthy process. It's also not unheard of for post to never arrive at its destination. It's therefore inadvisable to send or receive any important or time-sensitive documents through Pochta Rossii's services. 

English-language media in Russia

English-language media is easily accessible in Russia's larger cities. The Moscow Times is a well-respected English newspaper, and most of the larger Russian newspapers have an English presence online. 

Russian television is dominated by state-controlled media and offers a limited range of programmes. Some foreign channels are occasionally available with the most expensive television contracts. Most expats use streaming services from their home countries.

Social media and censorship in Russia

Social media sites and messaging services are widely accessible in Russia. Russian government has recently been pushing its campaign for stricter control of social media sites. Websites and platforms are facing hefty fines for not blocking posts and content that is banned by the Russian government. 

Moving to Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Some foreigners seem to have little notion of what present-day Russia is really like. The oppressive Soviet state was dissolved in 1991 and, although some aspects of modern Russia still carry remnants of its turbulent past, it has emerged as a proud country looking to assert its place as a global superpower.

Living in Russia as an expat

Most expats relocate to Russia for a senior or managerial position in a multinational company, and to take advantage of the attractive salary packages. Others come to teach English, or to immerse themselves in a rich, interesting and complex culture

The government-managed systems of education, banking and healthcare will likely fall short of the standard that many expats expect. That said, Russia has extensive and reliable public transport and some high-quality housing, although these may take some time to find, and we recommend hiring an estate agent to assist.

Russia’s former isolationist policies have limited its population’s exposure to foreigners, and many expats report that they find the locals unapproachable and cold. The sizeable language barrier also creates a tangible divide. That said, expats willing to put time and effort into learning the local language and culture will find that most Russians are keen to welcome them to their country and help them settle down.  

Cost of living in Russia

Russia has a reasonable cost of living, although the heavily expat-favoured economic centres of Moscow and St Petersburg are quite a bit more expensive than the rest of the country. That said, as a whole, it is more affordable than many Western countries, and an expat's cost of living in Russia will depend on their lifestyle. 

Most of the services that appeal to Western foreigners tend to levy higher fees than the local equivalent. Those who are willing to live like the locals will find that they're able to live comfortably while saving money each month, whereas luxury living warrants much higher costs. 

Expat families and children

Although local state schools have varying standards in Russia, the country has numerous excellent international schools in major cities. These schools uphold the teaching language and curriculum of select countries or, alternatively, teach the International Baccalaureate. Waiting lists can be long and fees are high. 

Russia is more family-friendly than some expats may expect. Most cities are replete with child-friendly activities to keep the little ones busy outside of school. Parks often have playgrounds and amusement rides, and ice skating is a beloved pastime during the winter months. The cities also host cultural shows and theatre performances throughout the year, and cinemas, museums and play areas abound. Parents will certainly not be wanting for entertainment, whether educational or not, for their children. 

Climate in Russia

Russia is famed for its extremely harsh, cold and long winters, and the severity of the weather can't be denied. That said, summers are warm and pleasant. The further north one goes, the colder the weather and the longer the winter. Areas of southern Russia, like the resort city of Sochi, have far more temperate climates.

Regardless of what motivates the move to Russia, it’s important that expats prepare for an overseas experience like none other. Overall, Russia is a vast and varied country, and expats would be wise to learn as much as they can to prepare before they relocate to this unique destination.

Fast facts

Population: 146 million 

Capital city: Moscow

Neighbouring countries: Russia is bordered by Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland to the west and by Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea to the south. 

Geography: Russia is the biggest country in the world, with various geographical features. Most of the country consists of vast stretches of plains, with grasslands and mountain ranges to the south and is heavily forested to the north. The Ural Mountains form north-south ranges that divide Europe and Asia. Russia has an extensive coastline, bordering the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as a number of seas. 

Political system: Federal semi-presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Russian Orthodoxy, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism

Main languages: Russian is the official language. English, French and German are sometimes spoken but are far less common than in European destinations. In total there are over 100 languages and dialects spoken in Russia. The country's most common minority language is Tatar.

Money: The Ruble (RUB), divided into 100 kopecks. ATMs are available in most major cities and expats should not have trouble accessing banking services while in the country.

Tipping: A 10 to 15 percent gratuity is expected by service staff in most restaurants

Time: GMT+3 to GMT+12 (omitting GMT+5) moving from west to east. Moscow and St Petersburg are GMT +3.

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. Round, two-pin plugs are used in Russia.

Internet domain: .ru, .su, .рф

International dialling code: +7

Emergency contacts: 112

Transport and driving: Cars in Russia drive on the right-hand side of the road. Due to Russia's extensive public transport system, expats living in the major cities are unlikely to need a car. Traffic congestion is a constant problem and all road signs are in Cyrillic, so navigating Russian roads can be difficult.

Frequently Asked Questions about Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Expats moving to Russia are likely to have a number of questions about life in their new home. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about relocating to Russia. 

Do I need a car in Russia?

It greatly depends on where one intends to live. In bigger cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg, public transport is efficient, safe and cheap. Maintaining a car can be extremely costly and a nightmarish bureaucratic experience. One will also have to get a Russian driving licence after six months. On top of all this, the weather conditions in Russia make it more challenging to keep any car running. That said, if living in a more rural area or planning to live on the outskirts of the city, one would need a car. Many expats opt to hire a Russian driver.

Is it worth learning Russian?

Definitely. This is a must, even if only learning how to read the Russian alphabet and a few basic phrases. One will not easily find Russians who are able to speak English, even in Moscow. It is important to know the basics of Russian before arriving. 

How safe is Russia?

Crime rates are dropping in Russia. Theft (pickpocketing in particular) and extortion are the most common crimes against foreigners. Most of these incidents occur in areas associated with public transport, underground pedestrian crosswalks and popular tourist areas. Provided expats take adequate precautions, they're unlikely to be affected by such crimes in Russia.

What are the options for travelling around Russia?

The major cities have good public transport systems, but the more rural areas do not. There is an extensive railway network across the country, which is the most popular option for long-distance travel. Aeroflot, the Russian national airline, also has many domestic flights connecting major cities.

Can I open a bank account in Russia?

The Russian banking system has undergone significant improvements in recent years. Online banking is now offered by many banks and credit cards are accepted at establishments throughout major towns and cities, although cash is still used widely in the more rural areas. Expats are able to open a bank account in Russia, but many choose to bank with an international bank rather than a local bank. ATMs are widely available.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

The banking sector in Russia has a contentious history that has led to much distrust for banks among the local population. The crisis of 1998 and years of unattractive interest rates were enough incentive for the majority of Russians to favour the space beneath their mattress to the alleged security of bank accounts. That mentality is certainly changing but, nonetheless, it's recommended that expats consider banking in Russia carefully.  

Money in Russia

The official currency in Russia is the Ruble, which is abbreviated as RUB. Each ruble is divided into 100 kopecks.

  • Notes: 5 RUB, 10 RUB, 50 RUB, 100 RUB, 500 RUB, 1,000 RUB and 5,000 RUB

  • Coins: 10 kopecks and 50 kopecks, 10 RUB

It is illegal to pay for products or services in Russia with USD or EUR, even if the price is marked as such. Currency exchange offices can be found at airports, major hotels, train stations and on city streets. Do not change money outside of reputable, established entities, as it likely to be a scam.

Banking in Russia

Many Russian households don't have bank accounts, and the banking sector is small and remains somewhat fragmented. That said, there are a number of major banks in Russia, most of them state-run, that have made major strides in advancing their services and offering more modern options, such as contactless payments and app-based banking. Despite this, expats that choose to use local banks often send their savings abroad while maintaining a small Russian account for daily living purposes.

Banking hours vary, but are normally from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks are also open from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.

Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account in Russia can be a frustrating experience. The language barrier can compound issues and it's advised that expats bring a local friend or interpreter with them. The main problem expats face in opening a bank account is obtaining proper documentation. If possible, expats should do this properly ahead of time to minimise any stressful interactions.

Most banks require a copy of an expat's passport, visa and a minimum cash deposit. Some banks will also require a letter from an employer and proof of residence.

Expats should choose the branch at which they open their account carefully, as they may have to return to this branch specifically to manage account operations.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs (bankomats) are widely available in Russian towns and cities in almost every metro station and shopping mall. Expats are also able to draw rubles from a Russian ATM using a foreign bank card. 

Russia is still largely a cash-based society, especially outside of the main city centres. Within all major urban centres, most establishments will accept credit cards. Although expats are able to get a credit card from a Russian bank, many of these establishments are still reluctant to issue credit cards to foreigners. 

Expats using credit cards in Russia should do so with extreme care as credit card fraud is still common in the country. 

Taxes in Russia

Expats living in Russia will be deemed tax residents if they spend at least 183 days in the country in a single calendar year. Those who spend less than 183 days will be deemed tax non-residents.

Tax residents are taxed at a flat rate on their worldwide income, while those deemed tax non-residents are taxed a higher percentage of only their Russian income. This amount is automatically deducted from wages, but it’s still necessary to file tax returns by 30 April for the previous tax year.

Expats should also find out if a tax treaty exists between their home country and Russia. If there is a double taxation treaty in place expats are exempt from paying taxes to both countries. It's best to get professional advice on Russian taxation, as the rules may change with little notice and it can be easy to fall foul of the law in this area.

Working in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Expats working in Russia are often afforded high salaries, but these sizeable payouts are hard-earned, and jobs for foreigners can be difficult to find.

Russia's job market is diverse and, as Russia's main economic centres, Moscow and St Petersburg offer the best job opportunities. Speaking Russian is a huge plus when looking for a job in Russia.

Job market in Russia

Russia's economy is heavily based on natural resources, specifically oil and natural gas. Expats working in the fields of technology, finance, engineering and human resources will also find a market for their skills. Many multinationals work in these sectors, as well as in construction and energy. Teaching English in Russia is another common occupation for expats. 

Expats are generally paid lucrative wages and given housing and education allowances. These employment packages are often considerably more than what expats would be earning at home, and many expats perceive working in Russia as a grand opportunity to further their career and improve their financial status. 

Private business is still lagging, and untrusting attitudes toward foreigners and poor business regulations can be difficult to handle. Crime related to bribery and corruption has also affected costs for both local and international enterprises.

Finding a job in Russia

Expats can make use of a recruitment company to assist with their job search, or alternatively use online job portals. It is important to keep in mind that the language barrier is a considerable obstacle to overcome as only a small percentage of the population speaks anything besides Russian. 

That said, if working for a multinational, it’s likely that more employees will speak at least some degree of English. Expats who can speak Russian will adjust to the cultural differences far quicker than those who don't.

Work culture in Russia

Business culture in Russia is generally conservative and hierarchical. Employees do not usually contribute to decision making and usually follow instructions with little feedback. Personal connections are important to Russian businesspeople, and expats would do well to invest time into forming solid relationships with co-workers and colleagues.

Appearances are also a central part of Russian work culture. Men are expected to wear suits and women should also be well dressed. When meeting new colleagues, expats should always be respectful and try to keep humorous remarks to a minimum. 

Healthcare in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

The standard of healthcare in Russia is not of a level that most expats would be accustomed to. That said, the quality varies from hospital to hospital, with some facilities offering a good level of care. 

Wherever possible, expats should try to utilise private healthcare in Russia. Private facilities can be exorbitantly expensive, and expats will likely need to organise some form of private health insurance that includes emergency evacuation to elsewhere in Europe. While this might not be necessary for those living in the major cities, some rural parts of Russia have minimal healthcare available. 

Public healthcare in Russia

Though once heralded as one of the best healthcare systems in the world and known for world-class medical innovations, public healthcare in Russia today is underfunded and falls well below the standards expected by most expats. Generally, facilities are not of the highest standard, supplies can be scarce, and waiting times are almost always long.

Many of the health professionals in the public system don’t speak English, which can be an issue for expats. Treatment in the public sector is supposed to be free of charge for all Russian citizens and foreigners with permanent residency, but there have been reports in the past of doctors withholding treatment unless they receive a bribe.

Private healthcare in Russia

In Russia’s larger cities there are a number of private health centres and clinics, many of which have English-speaking staff. These facilities are generally of a much higher standard than their public counterparts but are also comparably more expensive. Hospitals may ask for cash or credit card payments before providing treatment.

It is vital that expats have adequate health insurance to cover the hefty fees. This can be organised through their employer or independently. Expats should ensure that their insurance covers the specific facility which they would most likely visit, as many policies will only cover certain hospitals and clinics.

No strong relationship exists between price and quality of private healthcare in Russia. The most expensive clinic may not be the best, and it’s advisable to source recommendations from other expats or reputable forums. Expats living in rural Russia will struggle to find internationally recognised private facilities, and may need to travel to the nearest city to receive reliable treatment. 

Health insurance in Russia

Russian citizens and permanent residents are entitled to free public healthcare under the Russian national healthcare system. Employers and employees finance the fund, contributing a small percentage of their salary to a social tax which then goes into the national healthcare fund.

Healthcare at public facilities in Russia is well below what many expats may be used to, and it’s essential that expats arrange private health insurance before moving to Russia. Many expats choose to travel outside of Russia for serious medical care, and it is important for expats to ensure that any health insurance policy makes provisions for this. 

Medicines and pharmacies in Russia

There is a good assortment of pharmacies in Russia. Some of these operate out of larger supermarkets, while some exist as standalone stores and others are available online as ePharmacies. Larger cities like Moscow have some 24-hour pharmacies as well as pharmacies with delivery services.

Expats should be sure to learn the generic name of their preferred medications, as brand names may vary from country to country.

Emergency services in Russia

State ambulance services are available in major Russian cities, although services are often limited. Emergency numbers have been consolidated into a single emergency service which can be reached by dialling 112. A number of private ambulance services are also in operation in Russia.

Shipping and Removals in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Relocating to another country holds many challenges, especially in deciding if it's worth shipping goods over or not. Shipping to Russia can hold many challenges.

Expats are highly recommended to seek an international shipping and removals company that can grant them door-to-door service. Relocation companies offer a full spectrum of mobility needs to expats, individuals and companies. Rather than simply transporting goods, they help orientate new arrivals. See our list of relocation companies in Russia that can help smoothen the transition. 

Be sure about shipping to Russia

Expats should think carefully about what they want to bring with them and what they can afford to leave behind. Shipping to Russia can quickly become expensive and custom clearance procedures are known to change frequently and without notice. Keep in mind that accommodation often comes furnished in Russia and plenty of large home decor and household furnishing stores can be found in most of the major cities. So expats should be sure if shipping to Russia is the right option for them.

Shipping household goods to Russia

Whether choosing air shipping or surface shipping, expats will need to make a comprehensive packing inventory of all shipped items. Note and photograph items of value, this includes computers, TVs and appliances. Record the serial number, brand and model number of any electronics in this inventory.

Expats will need to supply their international moving company with the appropriate documents to allow them to assume customs clearance on their behalf. 

Expats should be well-informed and aware of the details in the contract with the moving company. The contract may specify certain details of insurance and the expected time of arrival of the goods to the destination. Customs charges may apply to some goods, which is where the advice of the moving company will be useful.

Shipping cars to Russia

Many expats are encouraged to buy a car in Russia rather than shipping one's car in. This is because shipping vehicles to Russia is expensive with a hefty import tax on top of value-added tax. You could end up paying up to 55 percent of the price of the car just to ship it to Russia. That said, tax rates and specific documentation required are subject to change, and so expats should check the governmental custom's page. Relocations companies can provide advice and assist with shipping vehicles to Russia, making the process much easier.

Public transport networks in big Russian cities are well developed and there are many options for getting around in Russia. So expats should consider if bringing a car into the country is worth it or not, depending on their needs.

Shipping pets to Russia

If importing a dog or cat to Russia, expats will need to make sure they have the proper documentation at the time of shipment. Pets are often required to be microchipped and have up-to-date vaccines, including a rabies vaccine, and health certificates and documents.

Expats interested in shipping their pets to Russia are often discouraged from doing so. Most Russian living is done in small apartments rather than houses with outdoor space, so it’s important expats evaluate whether their accommodation is indeed pet-friendly.

Embassy Contacts for Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Russian embassies

  • Russian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 298 5700

  • Russian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7229 6412

  • Russian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 235 4341

  • Russian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6295 9033

  • Russian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 362 1337

  • Russian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 492 2048

  • Russian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 476 6113 

Foreign embassies in Russia

  • United States Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 728 5000

  • British Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 956 7200

  • Canadian Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 925 6000 

  • Australian Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 956 6070

  • South African Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 926 1177

  • Irish Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 937 5911

  • New Zealand Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 956 3579

Safety in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

The reality of the safety situation in Russia is all too often obscured by Hollywood images of a dark underworld rife with criminal activity. Expats should realise that these seedy stereotypes are just inaccurate generalisations, and foreigners who take the appropriate precautions usually enjoy a crime-free stay in the country. That said, it’s still important that those moving to Russia are aware of the potential threats. 

Theft, scams and extortion in Russia

Theft and extortion are the most common crimes against foreigners in Russia. Most petty and opportunistic crimes occur in areas associated with public transport, underground pedestrian crosswalks, and popular tourist attractions. Expats should be mindful of their belongings when in these locations.

ATM-related robberies and fraud are also something of a problem in major cities. Expats should be mindful about which ATMs to use; those found in reputable banking institutions are usually best. Car burglaries also occur, and expats should make a habit of removing any items of value from plain view in their vehicle.

Russian scammers have become creative, and even police impersonations have been reported to various embassies. A good practice is never to show a wallet or passport to anyone until asked to do so by someone with proper accreditation. 

Police corruption in Russia

Even powerful politicians argue that corruption is something of a cultural tradition. As a result, expats will need to be wary that police officers may be less law-abiding than they expect, although this is not always the case.

If stopped by a police or traffic officer and made to feel victimised, note the officer’s name, badge number, patrol number and where and when the incident happened. If asked for a bribe, a good way to mediate the situation is to ask to speak to the officer’s superior. 

Racially-motivated crime in Russia

Crimes against ethnic minorities in Russia, such as Africans, Asians and Arabs, are a problem. Verbal assault and spitting are the most common offences, though reports of physical assault and extortion are also cited. This bigoted behaviour can largely be attributed to extremist nationalist groups. Though intimidation tactics and demonstrations occasionally occur in Russian cities, expats should note that these actions are not common, and most expats won't experience them.

Terrorism in Russia

A number of terrorist attacks have occurred in Russia over the years. Government buildings, transport infrastructure, airports, hotels, entertainment venues, residential complexes and schools have all been targeted.

Recent attacks have been linked to unrest in the North Caucasus region, where Islamist militants continue to fight for independence from Russia. Expats are advised to avoid this region and any areas along Russia's western border with Ukraine, including Crimea.

Driving safety in Russia

Accidents are frequent and road rage is common in Russia. Extreme weather exacerbates the situation, causing 'black ice' and dangerous conditions. Foreigners planning to drive in Russia should always drive defensively, maintain patience in all situations, and always carry proper documentation, including their passport and visa.

Public Holidays in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.




New Year Holiday

1–6 January

1–6 January

Orthodox Christmas Day

7 January

7 January

Defence of the Fatherland Day

23 February

23 February

International Women’s Day

8 March

8 March

Spring/Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Victory Day

9 May

9 May

Russia Day

12 June

12 June

National Unity Day

4 November

4 November

*Public holidays that fall on a Saturday or Sunday are observed on the following Monday.

Culture Shock in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Expats moving to Russia will almost certainly experience some degree of culture shock. The weather is often harsh, the language seemingly impenetrable, and the people themselves can often appear distant and uncaring. That said, expats living in Russia will also find themselves in a land of surprises and adventure, and will be able to enjoy the country's sublime theatre, dance, art and music. 

Russian people speak with pride about the nature of their 'Russian soul', and are often eager to share their traditions, passion for life and rich culture. With patience, good friends and an open mind, expats will be well equipped to deal with the culture shock of living in Russia.

Meeting and greeting in Russia

Living in Russia’s big cities, like Moscow or St Petersburg, is a curious and contradictory interplay of invisibility and exposure. At times expats may feel like they have disappeared altogether as people in the streets seem to look through each other. It’s important to realise that this kind of behaviour is a result of the fact that Russian people have a public mask that is different from their private selves.

Expats shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that everybody in the country is rude and unfriendly. Once acquainted with someone, Russians are usually generous, warm and helpful, and will go out of their way to help.

When meeting someone, Russian greetings are normally done through a firm handshake.

Drinking in Russia

Drinking alcohol is a central part of Russian culture. Expats should be prepared for this when their local friends and colleagues invite them out for drinks. This is an issue that generally impacts men more than women, but any expat should make an effort not to underestimate the dangers of over-drinking.

Gift-giving in Russia

Gift-giving is an important part of Russian culture. It’s best not to show up to a party empty-handed, although when asking a Russian host what to bring, they'll probably tell the expat not to bring anything.

It's normal practice in most businesses to buy vodka, whisky or brandy for men and a good wine, liqueur, or chocolates and flowers for women. If someone has done something helpful, it's usual to thank them with gifts that would be considered extravagant elsewhere. 

Language barrier in Russia

Expats in Moscow will find that metro stops, among other things, are announced in English, making it the most foreigner-friendly city in Russia. That said, English isn't widely spoken by locals in Russia, although it's sometimes spoken among young professionals.

It's worth attempting to master the Cyrillic alphabet. Some letters look exactly like letters from the Roman alphabet but denote completely different sounds. This does cause issues when it comes to transliteration to and from Cyrillic script, particularly with names on passport and visa documentation. Wherever possible, it's worth the time and energy to correct any such mistakes and inconsistencies immediately, as problems can arise that reach far down the bureaucratic line.

Weather in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

The weather in Russia is nearly as varied as the country is large. Expats are advised to research the climate of their specific destination to get a better idea of what to expect.

Technically, Russia’s climate is predominately continental. Although the north is heavily influenced by its proximity to the Arctic, and the southern parts of its eastern areas are tempered by the Pacific Ocean. 

European Russia, on the other hand, is privy to more of a maritime climate, with warm, albeit short, summers, and a decent amount of humidity. Autumn and spring are pleasant but fleeting, and summers are only slightly longer.

That said, extreme cold is by far the most consistent and outstanding characteristic of the climate in Russia. Snowfall varies depending on location, but even in the warmer south, snow cover lasts for 60 to 80 days per year. The climate gets more severe the farther one moves east. As expat oil workers may discover, Siberia has harsh, long, bitterly cold winters.


Cost of Living in Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

Expats in Russia will find the cost of living to be reasonable. Although Russia cannot be regarded as a cheap country to live in, as a whole, it is more affordable than many Western countries. An expat's cost of living in Russia, however, will highly depend on their lifestyle.

Those who are wanting to live a life of luxury in a major city, such as Moscow, will find their expenses will add up quickly. Those who are willing to live like a local, however, can live comfortably on an average salary, while still being able to put some money away each month.

Typically, expats working in Russia start on an employment package for the first two to three years. It’s worth trying to negotiate a package that includes accommodation, health insurance, a car or driver, schooling and a living allowance. Expats who earn a decent salary with these additional benefits will certainly 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 the city. Finding a high-priced rental with low-quality amenities is not uncommon. We advise that house hunters 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 scattered all over Moscow and other big Russian cities that offer quality food at affordable prices. That said, international brands and wine remain expensive, and those wanting to shop at the more upmarket stores will also pay higher prices for products. The hunt for familiar home brands means most expats also become accustomed to shopping around.  

During the long winter months, vegetable stocks in supermarkets are noticeably depleted, as produce is seasonal in Russia. Imported varieties can be outrageously priced, and costs can therefore add up during these months.

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 don't speak Russian. It's therefore 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 entertainment and eating out in Russia

The cost of eating out and entertainment in Russia can vary, but on average it is considered to be relatively affordable for most expats. It is generally less expensive compared to other developed countries like the US or countries in Western Europe, but more expensive compared to some developing countries.

When eating out, you can expect a meal at a local café or fast food chain to cost less, while dining at a mid-range or upscale restaurant will cost more. As for entertainment, there is a good variety of options available in Russia, such as live music and theatre shows, cinemas, museums, and festivals. Moscow, in particular, offers a wider range of entertainment options and is known for its vibrant nightlife.

Cost of education in Russia

Education in Russia is considered more affordable compared to many other countries, although this can vary depending on the type of education. The quality of education offered in public schools varies, and private and international schools generally offer higher standards of education. In terms of the best schools, it can depend on the individual needs and preferences of the expat. Private and international schools in major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg are known to offer high-quality education.

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 before Russia's war in Ukraine. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

RUB 135,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

RUB 73,000

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

RUB 70,000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

RUB 40,000

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

RUB 138

Milk (1 litre)

RUB 92

Rice (1kg)

RUB 114

Loaf of white bread

RUB 54

Chicken breasts (1kg)

RUB 440

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

RUB 186

Eating out

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

RUB 3,700

Big Mac meal

RUB 380

Coca-Cola (330ml)

RUB 81


RUB 207

Bottle of beer (local)

RUB 85


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

RUB 2.88

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

RUB 540

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

RUB 11,300


Taxi rate/km

RUB 15

City-centre public transport fare

RUB 51

Gasoline (per litre)


Work Permits for Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.

As with many things in the country, the process of getting a work permit for Russia is awash with bureaucracy and red tape.

There are national quotas restricting the number of foreign individuals who are granted the right to work in Russia. This changes yearly depending on the Russian economic climate and the policies at the time. 

For an expat to obtain a work visa, their employer needs to have a work permit to hire foreigners. Once employers have this, they send a letter of invitation to the expat. The expat can then apply for their visa.

Work permit applications in Russia

Types of work permits in Russia

The main types of work permits are the Standard Russian Work Permit, the Russian Work Permit for Highly Qualified Professionals and the Work Patent for People from the Commonwealth of Independent States. 

Expats working for private individuals and those with specialised, high-demand skills will find it much easier when processing their paperwork. Expats earning in excess of 1 million RUB per annum are considered highly qualified specialists. They are usually considered exempt from quotas and can be granted a three-year work visa. This visa can usually be processed quickly, within 14 days, and entitles close relatives to Russian visas.

Expats from the Commonwealth of Independent States don’t need to apply for a visa. Instead they can apply for a work patent and must do so within 30 days of arriving in Russia.

Work permits are issued for one-year periods and can be extended from within the country.

Standard work permit application process

In order to legally work for a company in Russia, expats must obtain both an entry visa and a work permit. If both procedures are undertaken simultaneously, the entire process can take roughly three months. Luckily, much of the burden of organising this documentation falls on the shoulders of the employing company who will inform the expat of any necessary documents.

Employers who wish to hire expats must apply for their own employment permit before they can legally employ non-locals. The employer will first file a formal declaration of need, and then apply to the Russian Directorate of Migratory Affiars (GUVM). If approved, employers then receive an employment permit. The permit outlines how many expats of a certain nationality the company can hire and for what positions. It also allows employees to apply for a work visa.

Along with the work permit, the employing company receives a formal visa invitation letter. They will pass this letter of invitation onto their expat employee. Expats will use this document, along with supporting documents, to apply for an entry visa at their home country’s Russian consulate or embassy.

Medical examination and work permit collection

Once the entry visa is approved and issued, expats can travel to Russia in accordance with the date listed on their visa. In order to be granted the work permit, it's necessary to first pass a medical test in a registered Russian state clinic. Expats should bring a fluent Russian speaker with them to the clinic, as it's likely that state healthcare professionals will not speak English. 

The combined testing and processing time is usually one week. After this examination, the employer will present an expat with their work permit, a small plastic card, and will advise them of additional registration formalities to be completed.

*Work permit requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their nearest Russian embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Articles about Russia

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.