Moscow is the largest city in Russia and the center of the country’s expat community. The expat community has really grown there over the last decade. It is fun, vibrant city that is constantly changing. It is a city that expats need to be thoroughly prepared for before they arrive.
Do I Need to Speak Russian?
While it is not an absolute necessity, it will definitely make life a lot easier to be able to speak at least basic Russian. Even more important than speaking the language is reading it.
The Cyrillic alphabet is very foreign, and it will be very difficult to navigate around the city without being able to read Cyrillic letters. Make sure to master this skill before arriving in Moscow.
Is It Easy to Get Around the City?
The public transportation system in Moscow is very good. The subway is the best way to move around the city. The subway system is very inexpensive, safe and clean. Trains run from 6 AM to 1 AM every day of the week. This means that those who go out late at night will need to take taxis.
Taxis are the opposite of the subway when it comes to price. The cost of taxis in Moscow is staggering. Always makes sure to agree on a price before getting into a taxi to avoid an argument with the driver. Any ride that is within the Garden Ring should cost no more than 200 rubles, but the driver will automatically try to double that when he realizes his passenger is a foreigner.
Is the City Safe?
People who have only experienced Russia through the movies may be very wary about moving to Moscow due to safety concerns. For the most part, these safety concerns are overblown. The city is generally pretty safe. Most of the crime that takes place in the city is petty crime. Pickpockets love to work crowded areas, which means that people need to be mindful of their surroundings and keep their valuables secured.
ATM robberies have become a problem in recent years. These come in two forms. Sometimes the robbers look to grab cash from people using the ATMs, but sometimes businesses run fraudulent ATMs that will shortchange people when they use them. Always be sure to use ATMs in Moscow that are in well-lit areas at reputable banks.
Is the Cost of Living High?
The answer is yes. The cost of living in Moscow is shockingly high. In fact, it is not much less expensive than Tokyo. It is one of the most expensive cities in the world with a cost of living that is higher than London. The prices for food, accommodation and electronics are all incredibly high. Those who want to save money can live in an area that is farther from the city center, but rent will be high throughout the city.
For example, the price of renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Moscow will be around 50,000 rubles, which is roughly $1,500. A similar one-bedroom apartment outside the city center will rent for 30,000 rubles, which is around $900. These are prices that rival any city in the world.
Another thing to think about is that the ruble is not a very stable currency.
It goes up and down a lot, and those who are paid in rubles may find that they can buy much less one month than they could the previous month. It is always best for expats to get paid in dollars or euros if at all possible.
How Are the Schools?
For expats with children, the school situation is troublesome. The public schools are not very good. They pay very low salaries to teachers, and the curriculum has still not been completely ironed out after changing over from the Soviet-era curriculum. It is free for expat children to attend Moscow public schools.
Most expats will want to send their children to international schools, but these are very expensive. The bare minimum that expat parents can expect to pay for their children to attend an international school in Moscow is around $15,000 a year. The best international schools in Moscow charge around $25,000 a year. That is more expensive than many universities.
In addition, most international schools have long waiting lists that give preferential treatment to children of diplomats and other government workers. Expat parents should apply as early as possible to gain their child a slot in an international school.
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