For decades, Russia was off limits to Americans, and then in the early 90’s with the fall of the communist government, the borders were once again open to Americans. Today, Russia and especially the capital city of Moscow are extremely attractive to the many tourists and expats looking for a new place to visit and live in. While Moscow has had its ups and downs in the past decade, oil and natural resources have made this cities economy thrive in the last few years. If you are looking to visit this beautiful and once elusive city, here are some tips.
The climate in Moscow is continental. Usually Moscow has long winters which can be bone chilling cold. Winters are also dark and gloomy with around 6 hours of sunlight. While temperatures are generally at or below freezing during the winter, cold spells can put a deep freeze on even the most hardy tourists and expats.
Summers in Moscow are quite warm with high humidity. There is a lot of day light during the summer months and temperatures usually range from the high 60’s to the 70’s. It does rain in Moscow; however it mostly comes in the form of snow during the winter months.
The Russian Federation is a semi presidential federal republic. While no longer communist, democracy in Russia is far different from the United States, it is important to understand and review the current laws before traveling to Russia. Moscow is the capital city of Russia and in many ways the richest city of Russia. Russia has become an economic powerhouse due to the sale of oil and gas along with other natural resources in the last decade. During this time many Russians have become phenomenally wealthy and many of the newly rich live in or operate out of Moscow. While there are many wealthy people living in Moscow, there is a large, extremely poor working class in the city as well.
Moscow is one of the most expensive cities to live in usually due to the influx of the newly rich. Prices for luxury goods can be extremely high and housing and accommodations can cost more than in London or New York.
For those looking to live or even visit Moscow, you should be extremely careful. Foreigners are usually targeted for crime and in many cases violent types of crime. There are also plenty of scams targeted towards foreigners. For those looking to start up a business, extortion and corruption do exist.
Regarding entry and residency requirement, Russia is one of the most difficult places to travel to and become an expat in. Before traveling to Russia, you must first find a sponsor in order to receive a visa. You can not receive a visa at any point of entry; a visa first must be acquired. Usually most tourists are sponsored by hotels or tour services. However for those seeking to live in Russia for the long term, you will need to be sponsored by an employer, family or friend. Even with a sponsorship, a visa may only be 30 days or less making it very difficult to live in the country for the long term. For more information on visa and residency requirements, please visit the Embassy of the Russian Federation.
The tax system in Moscow is considered to be low to moderate. In Moscow, there is a flat tax in effect for individual income. The individual income flat tax amount is 13 percent. Corporate income tax is higher at 24 percent. Moscow also has other taxes including a Value Added Tax (VAT), a property tax and a tax on transport.
While Moscow is a modern city with adequate infrastructure, its health care system is not up to Western standards and in many cases is far below them. While medical care is accessible, many hospitals and clinics lack common medical equipment and supplies. Standards are very different than in the west and trained personnel in many cases can be hard to find. For those that are planning on living in Moscow, your best bet is to find a private clinic that fulfills your needs. Usually payment is in the form of cash or a credit card. While there is health insurance, public healthcare is usually not adequate for foreigners looking for high quality medical treatment.
For those that are staying for a short period of time, look into purchasing travelers insurance that include a medical component as well as medical evacuation in the case that you become seriously ill or are seriously injured.
Moscow has one of the hottest real estate markets in the world. Prices for luxury apartments, condos and homes are astronomical and in many cases even more expensive than in London or New York City. Most experts believe that the rise in prices is usually due to the influx of newly rich Russians looking for luxury and status. It should be noted that many homes, although quite expensive are not made with top quality materials or even meet Western building codes.
Foreigners looking to get into the Moscow real estate market can easily purchase property in Moscow. However, it should be noted that contracts are sometimes not recognized and corruption is known to exist. If you intend to purchase or invest in real estate it is important to hire a real estate attorney in Moscow. Purchasing real estate in Moscow does not mean that you can automatically reside in Moscow; you should first consult visa and residency requirements before traveling.
For those that are looking to live in Moscow for the short term, renting or leasing is the most popular choice. While properties in the heart of Moscow are expensive, in outlying areas where the less wealthy live, prices can be extremely affordable. It should be noted that in certain areas of Moscow, normal amenities that are common in the US are non existent or extremely difficult to find. Many apartments in the outlying areas of Moscow are dilapidated and may be without vital services.
Shopping in Moscow is hit or miss. While necessities are easily accessible, it can be less convenient than in the United States or Western Europe to purchase. Luxury goods are available in Moscow and prices can sometimes be astronomical. It is also important to note that goods and items that we take for granted can be extremely difficult to find in the heart of Moscow and especially in outlying regions of the city.
As far as entertainment goes, Moscow does have its share of entertainment such as bars, nightlife and restaurants. There are also sports facilities such as gyms, pools and golf courses.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Moscow is extremely high; in fact it ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. While Moscow is very expensive, bargains can be found. Most of the expense is in the form of housing; however quality food, transportation and goods can be astronomical as well.
For those on a small budget, you can easily survive, however you might not be comfortable living in Russia due to the extreme cold, lack of amenities and lack of infrastructure and services that are widely available in Western Europe and the United States.