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Living in Moscow

Cost of living

According to numerous surveys, Moscow is Europe's most expensive city. However, if you question people in the streets of Moscow as to what they think about cost of life in Moscow, you will find out something different. Muscovites, whose average monthly income is roughly $800-900, somehow manage to survive in this 'most expensive' city.

So what's the trick?

Surveys measure the comparative cost of over 200 items. These include the cost of housing, food, clothing, and household goods, together with transport and entertainment. Muscovites do not reside in business class hotel rooms or rented apartments, most of them have their meals either at home or at work, few buy their clothes in Prada boutiques.

So what are Moscow's most costly items?

Without doubt, housing comes first. A renovated, equipped and furnished 100 sq.m. 3-room apartment in central Moscow can cost as much as $3.000 per month.

Luxury cars sell in hundreds to the once called 'newly rich' and, expectedly, cost a good deal more than anywhere in Europe.

Famous haute couture brands are extremely expensive. It's no wonder that even well off Russians prefer to purchase their Gucci's and Ferre's somewhere in London or Milan.

Dining out can be costly. A 3-course meal with wine in a fancy restaurant is likely to cost you up to $100 per person.

And what is relatively cheap in Moscow?

All domestic goods, food and drinks, fast food, public transport and taxis, sightseeing tours and travelling, entrance fees to museums, books and press, petrol, sports, services.

Out of several thousand Moscow restaurants several hundred serve meals of decent quality at reasonable prices.

You can get an idea of  average prices on common goods and services in Moscow here:


Personal Opinion

When it comes to a discussion on costs of living, Moscow is a tough one to crack. For several years running, Moscow has been rated as the world's most expensive city for the expatriate living here [http://www.mercerhr.com/costofliving]. However, two things to bear in mind are that (1) this is typically comparative to average income, and (2) it depends on what you choose to look at and what you don't (ie, are you thinking about transport and staple foods; or about rent, dining, and clubbing till dawn?).

In my experience, the main burden in Moscow is cost of renting. That can sting you for between $600 and $800US / month for a room in a shared flat, to between $1200 and $1500US /m for a flat of your own (with one or two bedrooms). By the way, these flats may or may not live up to your expectations based on standards back home (with emphasis on 'may not'). Also, before the credit crunch, finding a flat through an agency had exorbitant fees associated with it (a month's bond to the landlord - don't expect to ever get it back; a month's rent up front; and a month's rent as the agent's fee). Apparently it is not so bad at the moment though; just don't expect it to last.

Incidentally, if you are planning to come to BKC on a standard contract (eg, salary plus benefits like accommodation), then you won't have to worry about costs of renting.

Once renting is removed from the equation, Moscow becomes a much more affordable city. The things you really need (monthly Metro ticket [90 days unlimited for only $75US], standard groceries, and so on) often come in for about the same as what you might pay anywhere else, and well below London prices. Predictably, it is only the things you don't so much need that carry the price tag: coffee at a posh inner-city cafe (up to $6US); beers at an inner-city pub or club (between $4 and $8US / 500ml - no joking - $8!); a big night out (up to several hundred dollars alarmingly easily).

Certain things you might make a savings on: other electronics - especially laptop computers, local transport, vodka, Russian lessons, cigarettes (and if you're trying to quit, this really won't help).

As a fairly experienced traveller, I can say that for me what it all boils down to is really not about income vs costs of living at all, but rather about potential for saving compared with a certain standard of living. On a teacher's salary, even with going out much more than I should and living something of a yuppie lifestyle, I have been able to save a lot more here than I ever could in Sydney, Kassel and Stuttgart (Germany) and Daejeon (South Korea). I have done better here than in 14 other cities throughout six other countries.

In conclusion, when talking about costs of living in Moscow, if that means renting and clubbing to you, then, yes, it is an extremely expensive city, but if you have those things sorted and under control, then really it is quite easy to do reasonably well in this place.

Jonny Harman
4 years experience in Moscow



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