In 2014 I moved to Moscow for the first time. I was then a student who already lived in two different foreign countries. But Russia was a different animal. This was not just another European country to feel good about. It was a big bad, scary, unknown Russia.
I had a lot of questions then and I wish someone would write me such a guide.
That is why I have summarized in this article everything I know about life in Russia and the move to Moscow. Each section will answer the most common questions people have about moving to Russia.
Do people speak English in Moscow?
The bad news is that English levels in Russia are still pretty bad, though slowly improving.
The good news is that you can get by without knowing Russian, especially if you stick to the big cities.
In Moscow and St. Petersburg, I would estimate that about 50% of people under the age of 30 can at least to some extent communicate in English. Ordinary Russians over the age of 30 usually do not speak English. In all the other cities, it’s much less than that.
Knowing Russian is very useful and convenient But I would not say it is mandatory. Yes, it’s more pleasant if you really understand what people want from you. It also helps you a lot in making friends. I will do Highly recommend learning to read the Cyrillic alphabet. If you do not even know how to read, you will feel pushed to the level of a two-year-old child.
How safe is Moscow?
Moscow is 100% safe to travel to.
If you are a tourist and intend to visit Moscow for any reason, you have nothing to fear.
I am by no means a massive traveler but I have been to a number of countries in Europe and the US. Moscow and St. Petersburg are as safe as any other major Western capital.
There is very little petty crime like pickpocketing, scams or strangers and the like. It is very likely that you will not encounter a little corruption by the police, since this was blown up a few years ago.
You can go out at any hour of the night inside the city center. The amount of shady people or places where you will feel uncomfortable is close to zero.
Russians have great appreciation for Western tourists. Both Asians and blacks are generally fine. They tend to belittle Central Asian immigrants, who do a lot of low-wage jobs in Moscow and are second-class unofficial citizens.
So if you are away, or you may be mistaken that you are away, it may be a little unpleasant here and there. But nothing will jeopardize your security.
Speaking English always opens a lot of doors in Moscow, even if you may not be understood all the time.
How is the weather in Moscow?
The climate in Moscow is very continental. The air is very dry in contrast to the air of New York City for example. That city felt to me like a beach resort. Very high and very low temperatures become a little more bearable.
Between December and March, the temperature never rises above 0C for a longer period. January and February are the coldest months and yes, you will easily get several days in a row where it is -20 degrees Celsius or less.
This can be good or bad news, but St. Petersburg, for example, is much worse in this regard. I experienced 27 degrees Celsius there and it was pretty cold to say the least.
The actual summer lasts only three good months, June to early September. It usually warms up quite a bit with temperatures around + 25C, sometimes even above that. Outside it is tolerated thanks to the dry air. In the metro you will be sweaty and sticky. More or less the same in winter to be fair.
The funny thing about the weather in Moscow is that there is almost no spring and autumn.
The end of April and especially the beginning of May is when the real spring begins in Moscow. The norm is 15C + in May but it can get even warmer (and colder …). June is usually already a summer month.
By the end of August, one can feel that summer is already recovering and September is the only real autumn month in Moscow. The temperatures are still moderate, so it’s still nice to be outside.
How to take taxis in Moscow
Yandex Taxi today is actually often the cheapest option to get a ride. Inside the city center, you will have a hard time spending more than 500 rubles (~ $ 8), even if prices go up during peak hours. Yandex Taxi gives you the option to choose a fixed price or travel by the meter. The first is usually better.
Yandex is the cheapest and most reliable option. Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, this is also the most common app. That’s why I recommend Yandex in most of the smaller cities in Russia.
Uber is a decent and fast option although it can be more expensive, especially if it has a price increase (which can happen to the experienced party man on a Saturday night). Their customer support is friendly and any problem is usually resolved quickly. Their drivers are the weakest of all the big companies.
Gettaxi is similar to the other options. Prices can be a few percent higher, but you may also grab a cheaper ride if the other apps have price increases. I have been using Gettaxi more and more lately and I am quite happy with them. Gett will usually happen at 10% from Uber, but I found it to be worth that difference in terms of service.
How to find an apartment in Moscow
For short term rentals Airbnb is the most convenient option. For long term rentals you have several options.
My favorite option is to use a site called cian.ru. This is without a doubt the best and most common site for buying and renting properties in Russia. Everything is in Russian but Google Translate will help you. It is constantly updated and most of their suggestions are legitimate. There are also options to filter to different parts of the city, filter by metro station and all sorts of other things.
This is by far the best site and the only thing I would recommend using. The only small downside is that many of the offers come from real estate agents and are therefore subject to a commission. If you do not speak Russian, you will have a hard time negotiating with the landlord yourself. Still, it is a price worth paying.
The cost of living in Moscow
Here is my basic rule of thumb for detailing the cost:
How to find a job in Moscow
Finding a job is pretty hard. Russian companies can not easily employ foreigners because foreigners need a work visa. In order to obtain such a work visa, they must complete an elaborate process that proves that you are competent enough and required to do this work. This is why finding a corporate job in Russia is foreign is a pretty difficult process. Most companies today are no longer willing to hire a foreigner illegally. In addition they also do not want to take on the costs and time to get him a work visa. If you still want to try your luck, head hunter Is the best site to start looking for a job.
Another option is to be sent to Russia as an exile. I can tell you about it like the next guy because I know nothing about the process. However, it is much better than finding a job in Russia, because they will pay you a western salary, you will get help with housing, insurance and all the money. If you are a corporate employee, do so.
The last option is a freelancer or your own business. You can always teach English but I really recommend not. Being self-employed is great because if you earn hard currency but spend in rubles, you are doing geography and taking advantage of the relatively low cost of living.
There are two possible ways to live legally in Russia. You need a visa as a qualified specialist or a work visa.
To be hired as a highly trained specialist, you must earn above a certain income threshold and be of exceptional value to your employer (the burden of proof is on them). In short, if you are an exile or working in a higher position, this will not be a problem. If you are beginner or self-employed, forget about it.
You can also get a work visa from a Russian company. However, it is expensive and time consuming for the company so it is unlikely that they will do so. There is a way to get a work visa and legally own your company in Russia. This way you can live legally in Russia while you are a freelancer or own your own business. Contact me for additional legal and administrative advice and assistance regarding owning your own company in Russia.