This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.
Moscow can be an exciting place to live in. With its dramatic history and politics, life can never be considered boring in the Russian capital. Nevertheless, expats in Moscow may experience frustrations including bureaucracy, a difficult language adjustment and extreme weather conditions. Nonetheless, the city offers an attractive lifestyle with its active social life and rich arts and culture scene.
Accommodation in Moscow
With more than 12 million inhabitants, finding the perfect apartment or house can be challenging.
+ PRO: Range of options
There are many different types of accommodation available in Moscow. Expats are just as likely to find themselves in a pre-revolutionary apartment with high ceilings, thick walls and interesting architecture as in a modern apartment block with good facilities and high-tech features. There are also several international compounds with other expats. These gated communities usually offer their own sports facilities and social activities.
- CON: High demand and expensive
With so many people living in Moscow, housing is in great demand and can therefore be expensive. Apartments are also usually small and expats may be disappointed with what their money can buy. Realistically, size, quality and location are the most important factors influencing the cost of accommodation in Moscow. Expats with a limited budget may need to compromise on one or more of these factors to find a home that best suits them.
Lifestyle in Moscow
Moscow is a huge city offering a wide range of activities and events. The expat community is close-knit, giving new arrivals the opportunity to make friends.
+ PRO: Great social scene
There is so much to do in Moscow, with activities catering for every interest. Most groups and organisations are well-organised and welcoming to newcomers. The expat community is busy throughout the year with balls and charity events.
Nightlife within the city is excellent, with a variety of bars, clubs and restaurants to choose from. The quality of museums, art galleries, theatres and concerts is also outstanding.
Moscow is also becoming more child- and family-friendly. Museums such as the Planetarium and Experimentarium are especially exciting for children. There are also several circuses for more entertainment.
- CON: Eating out can be expensive
Restaurants in Moscow can be extremely expensive. Expats may find their social life is limited if living on a budget. Luckily, knowing the right places will help make going out more affordable.
Education and schools in Moscow
+ PRO: International schools are available
There are several international schools in Moscow offering excellent quality education and facilities. There are also good private Russian schools, although only a small percentage of expat children attend these.
- CON: Demand is high and space is limited
The demand for schools outweighs the supply. Therefore, schools in Moscow can be expensive with long waiting lists. Schools are usually located outside of central Moscow. So, unless expats live close to the school, children will have to travel some distance by school bus or car each day.
Climate in Moscow
+ PRO: Many winter and summer outdoor activities
The climate in Moscow is fairly extreme. Winter weather can be beautiful in Moscow with blue skies and sunshine on the white snow. Cross-country skiing is popular with expats and ice-skating is possible all over the city as many playgrounds are made into ice-rinks. Summer is a great time to explore Moscow as the city is generally quieter. There are lakeside and river beaches in Moscow where expats and locals alike can take advantage of the good weather.
- CON: Long winters
The extreme winter weather can make living in Moscow challenging for most of the year. Expats should make sure to have enough thick and warm winter clothing to get them through.
Safety in Moscow
+ PRO: Low crime rate
Despite its size, Moscow feels surprisingly safe. Expats should take the precautions that they would take in any city, however, and avoid walking alone late at night.
- CON: Bribery and corruption
Bribery and corruption are still issues in Moscow, and expats are sometimes affected by this. It's also not uncommon to find incidents of racism.
Healthcare in Moscow
+ PRO: Medical facilities are of a high standard
There are many private medical centres in Moscow with well-trained doctors who can, in most cases, speak English. Dental treatment is also of a high standard in the city.
- CON: Healthcare is expensive
Getting medical treatment can sometimes be expensive, although most expats have insurance to cover these costs. Dental treatment is also pricey, although competitive with other European prices.
Public transport in Moscow
+ PRO: Comprehensive public transport system
Moscow has an impressive public transport system. The metro is not only clean, safe, efficient and fast; it is also a tourist attraction. Daily tours explore the metro system with guides showing tourists through some of the city's most beautiful stations. These stations often resemble palaces, with sculptures, mosaics and even chandeliers. There is also an extensive bus, trolleybus and tram route throughout Moscow. Many of Moscow’s buses now even have Wi-Fi access.
- CON: Crowded public transport during rush hour
Rush hour on the metro can be unpleasantly crowded. Many of the metro stations and trains also haven’t changed all their signs to show both the Cyrillic alphabet and the Latin alphabet. Being able to read place names in Russian is therefore helpful to avoid getting lost in the rush hour chaos.
- CON: Heavy traffic
Bad traffic can put people off travelling in and around Moscow. Luckily, the metro system is good and expats living near transport stops shouldn't have any issues getting around. The traffic could be a problem for those who choose to drive in Moscow, however.
►For a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for basic goods and services in Moscow, see Cost of Living in Russia.
"What I like the most about Moscow is the city itself. It is always clean, vibrant, and full of entertainment and friendly pedestrians. It means that you can walk as far as you want to and feel safe about doing so." Read about Eva's experience living in Moscow as an expat.
"What I like about Moscow is that it’s very dynamic and animated; there is always something to do at any time of the day and of the night!" Read about Laurent's experience and his likes and dislikes of living in Moscow.
Are you an expat living in Moscow?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Moscow. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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