Russia at a Glance
Living in Russia123RF
The infamous Russian winters are no exaggeration, but Russian summers can be surprisingly hot.
All citizens and expats are covered by a complete range of state-funded free medical services. Some of those returning from their time abroad in Russia have noted, though, that the quality might be somewhat lacking in comparison to what they were used to from back home.
However, those of you who are going to be living in Russia’s large expat magnets, particularly Moscow and Saint Petersburg, do not have to worry about their health. Doctors and clinics are well up to very good standards here, and many doctors and members of staff are fluent in more than one language. The international institutions are often located in convenient proximity to the well-known international and expat neighborhoods.
These clinics come at a price, however, and we recommend any future expat interested in living in Russia to either get an all-encompassing international health insurance policy, or to discuss the matter of a corporate health plan with their future employer.
Those of you who depend on prescription medication should make sure that their particular product is legal and/or available in the country prior to relocating to Russia. The amount of any medication you can import to the Russian Federation is very limited, so clarify this issue well in advance in order to avoid facing discomfort while living abroad in Russia.
Education and International Schools
As an expat with children, you will be looking for an adequate educational institution for your offspring. You are in luck! Public schools abound and are generally free of charge to anyone living in Russia, including expats. If you would like your child to be fully immersed in the social and academic life in Russia, this is probably the way to go.
Depending on the city in which you’ll be living in Russia, there might also be a good selection of international schools. Obviously, the selection is largest in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but don’t forget that the other cities we have introduced you to in our article on moving to Russia are fairly big and have some fine institutions, too.
As waiting lists and times can be quite long, make sure to enroll your child as soon as you know you’ll start living in Russia soon if an international school is your method of choice. A word of warning: Tuition can be pretty steep, so if you are on a budget, you might want to look into other possibilities.
Many expat newcomers know what they fear most about life in Russia: the Russian winter. True, winters can be long and extremely harsh in Russia and are infamous for a very good reason. Temperatures can go as low as -30°C and lower at times.
However, due to the humid continental climate in most of the country (and many expat locations), you should never forget to be prepared for hot summers as well. Experiencing 35°C in Moscow during July is quite common and might surprise many an expat who thought living in Russia meant wearing long coats and wooly hats. Pack accordingly!
Traffic and Transportation
As a general rule, road conditions in Russia are fairly good. However, due to the immense size of the nation and harsh weather conditions in large stretches of its territory, cars have little importance when it comes to long distance travel. All larger cities are accessible by plane. Many cities with larger expat populations also feature subway (metro) systems and adequate public transportation options.
Driving can be quite time-consuming in those cities, as many roads are hopelessly congested most of the day. If you are not dependent on your car, try to either use alternative means of transport or pick your route for your commute to work very carefully. Please keep in mind that your driver’s license is only valid for the first 60 days of your new life in Russia. Apply for a Russian license if you’d like to use a car after that period.