Russia is not viewed as an expensive country. In fact, many view most of Russia as being backwards and not quite European.
Not fitting into these stereotypes are Moscow and St. Petersburg, the countries two largest cities. They have always been known to be pricey and affluent.
In fact, just a few years ago Moscow was one of the most expensive cities in the world (And had the most billionaires of any city in 2011!).
This certainly made living there expensive.
However, due to changes in Russia in the last few years, living in these two cities has become much less expensive. The primary reason is that the value of the Russian ruble declined by nearly 50% in 2014 compared the the US dollar and Euro. This has made the cost of living so much cheaper.
Also, with websites like AirBnb and Uber, living and getting around these amazing cities is cheaper than ever!
Although the prices of Moscow and St. Petersburg aren’t exactly the same, they are somewhat similar. It’s also convenient to compare the two together as the structure of these former Soviet cities are similar. Keep in mind that Moscow is slightly more expensive, though not much more, than St. Petersburg in nearly any aspect.
Let’s delve into the prices a bit more:
The cost of food really depends on how much you cook or eat out. Let’s look at both options.
If you prefer to dine out, you have a number of options. To keep costs down, you can go to Stolovaya’s. These are a la carte style restaurants that serve more home-style foods. High-end restaurants are always high-end, and don’t expect any bargains. Though they may seem like a bargain if they’re charging money in rubles.
Groceries are quite cheap. You can get a big loaf of bread for $0.50 and a big serving of chicken for around $2. Throw in some potatoes and vegetables and you’ll have cheap, yet delicious and healthy meals all the time.
You should easily be able to get by on less than $150-200 per month on food, and even less if you don’t eat as much as me.
Hotels and apartments are, like anywhere you go, be the most expensive aspect of any trip or long-term stay. In Russia, it is particularly high because oftentimes accommodation prices are tied to euros and not rubles, which really defeat the purpose of leveraging a foreign currency in Russia.
Hotels are expensive, and are only good for short term stays. I recommend getting an apartment off of AirBnb, or finding a realtor if you stay longer.
800 euros per month is not unreasonable for an apartment outside the city center.
It will likely cost 1200-1500 Euros per month for a decent apartment near the centers of the cities.
Getting around Moscow and St. Petersburg is never an issue unless you get stuck in Moscow rush hour traffic. Otherwise, there are plenty of cheap and convenient ways to get around.
The obvious choice is the metro, which in St. Petersburg costs 45 rubles (~$0.75) and in Moscow costs 50 rubles (~$0.85). This is much better than my hometown of Washington, D.C. which can cost upwards of $6 per trip during rush hour!
Ride sharing services like Uber are cheap and convenient too.
Fun and Entertainment
Since these cities have so much to see and do, there are plenty of free options such as visiting churches and monuments. But of course you will want to do more than free activities, especially if you plan on living here long-term.
Coffee shops and bars are reasonably priced. If they’re in rubles, it’s that much better cost-wise. Of course, entertainment budgets always vary, so this depends on your interests (and alcohol consumption!)
How Much it Costs to Live in Moscow and St. Petersburg for a Month
Again, at the end of the day, it all depends on your lifestyle. But when I was in St. Petersburg I spent a lot less than I expected. In total, it was about $1400 for the whole month.
My apartment was 900 dollars, food was ~200 dollars, transportation was no more than 50 dollars, and going out to bars, restaurants, activities etc. was around $250.
For a beautiful, clean and cultured city this is a bargain! I don’t see the Russian ruble climbing back up in the next few years, so no need to rush there. Although I’ll be going back soon!
P.S. Plan on using AirBnb while staying in Russia?