Expat Russia

For many expats, Russia has always been a destination that at times seemed mysterious and secret dating back to the long cold war. While during the cold war it was impossible to visit, yet alone live in Russia, today Russia is attracting many travelers looking to see this beautiful country and people. Here is some more information about living in Russia.


Russia is the largest country in the world that spreads across two continents (Europe and Asia). There are many different areas of Russia, each with its own climate. European Russia that extends from Eastern Europe to the steppes is mostly continental with seasonal weather that is cold in the winters and mild in the summers. To the far south of European Russia, temperatures are very comfortable with moderate temperatures that don’t usually fall below freezing. Siberia is a tundra climate in the center north. It is extremely cold and lies frozen for most of the year.


The Russian Federation is characterized as a semi presidential federal republic. It is the largest country in the world covering two continents and is made up of many types of cultures and people. Most Americans are common with the European part of Russia with major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. In these areas there is generally lots of infrastructure; however most of the infrastructure might not be up to the level that Americans are used to.

Russia has a large disparity between rich and poor and those in the cities generally have more material goods than those in rural areas. For those that are thinking about living in Russia, it is important to note that Russia has an extremely difficult and complicated visa policy. It is very difficult to receive a visa from Russia and requirements can change frequently. For those looking to visit or become an expat in Russia, you must first find a sponsor and then apply for a visa. No visas are available at any point of entry into Russia. Most expats or tourists find sponsors such as hotels, tourist agencies, companies or families and friends that reside in the country.

There is usually a set limit on how long a tourist or expat can stay and this is dictated by your visa. It is important to note that your visa will have two dates, the first which is the date you can enter the country and the second is the date in which you must leave Russia by. If you are sponsored by a tour service, the dates are usually the dates that your reservation is for, if you are sponsored by a friend, the visa generally lasts for 30 days. You can find out more information about entry and residency requirements at the Embassy of the Russian Federation.

Tax System

The Russian tax system has generally low individual income taxes and a moderate corporate tax. The individual income tax is a flat rate of 13 percent. The corporate tax rate is 24 percent. Besides these taxes there is a Value Added Tax (VAT), a transport tax and a property tax.

Medical Care

Medical care in Russia is adequate at best. While medical care is usually easily accessible in major cities, adequate care can be difficult to come by in rural or outlying regions. Even in cities such as Moscow, medical care is below and not usually in line with Western standards. Many hospitals may not have up to date equipment or qualified personnel.

If you are living in Russia for a short period of time and require medical attention, you will normally need to pay out of pocket either in cash or with a credit card. If you have been hired by a company doing business in Russia, they have probably set up an agreement with a private clinic and have an insurance plan for their employees. You may also want to look into travelers insurance with a medical component.

Real Estate

For those foreigners looking to purchase property in Russia, it is now legal; however there may be certain types of restrictions or legal procedures that you must follow. It is imperative that you talk to a real estate lawyer in Russia for more information. Unfortunately, contracts and corruption exist in Russia and for many investors and property owners still find it risky to purchase certain types of property.

In Moscow, real estate prices are extremely high, sometimes rising above prices in London and New York. For many expats looking for short term accommodations your best bet is to rent or lease an apartment or condo. Prices can still be high in Moscow for renting/leasing.

For other areas of Russia, you may be disappointed in the quality of housing available. In rural areas, housing is not built to Western building codes and materials are shoddy. Prices can be dirt cheap for rent, but you get what you pay for. Modern amenities in some areas can be non existent and normal plumbing and gas in some areas may be hard to come by as well.


Shopping in Russia is hit or miss. For instance, you can find top luxury brands in Moscow, but in the same city have a tough time finding certain necessities. As you travel into rural or outlying areas regular products and certain necessities are hard to come by or even non existent.

If you are sticking to the major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, you should generally find all the products you require, entertainment is also available including clubs, bars and restaurants.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Russia varies tremendously. For instance, Moscow has one of the highest costs of living in the world, mainly due to housing, however for those living in the outlying areas of Moscow or other big cities in Russia, the cost of living can be extremely affordable. The minimum wage in Russia is usually less than $1000 per month in US dollars, so for someone on a tight budget, you should be able to live quite well against Russian standards. Unfortunately, the average quality of life in Russia is low, especially in the outlying and rural areas. However for those that are interested in seeing Russia, the lack of necessities, cost of living and sometimes hardship of the country is worth it for the experience alone.

Web Sites for Expats Living in Russia

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