Living in Moscow ?
Health, Transport and Leisure in Moscow
Healthcare: The Best of Russia
As a relic of Soviet times, Russia still provides free full-range healthcare services for all its residents. However, those expats familiar with the public medical system have described treatment as ranging from “unacceptable” to merely “uncomfortable”. Additionally, doctors may charge you extra for medication and disposable needles.
In Moscow, however, the healthcare situation is much better than in other parts of Russia. There are hospitals which are well up to Western standards. Also, Moscow hosts a number of Western medical clinics. Some of these are conveniently located in international neighborhoods. These clinics usually provide general and emergency care, and most of them have dental departments, too.
In any case, comprehensive medical and dental insurance are a must for anyone moving to Moscow. The Western hospitals in particular can be very costly. Also make sure that your insurance covers medical evacuation for emergencies.
Driving Your Car: Get Ready for a Challenge
Driving in Moscow is much like driving in other megacities: traffic is terrible, especially during rush hour, traffic jams on some major thoroughfares do not clear between morning and evening rush hours, and parking spots are in short supply. Furthermore, many roads are in an almost constant state of disrepair. Occasionally, the police block major thoroughfares altogether to let government officials pass through unimpeded.
For those who do want to take on the challenge: once you hold a Russian residence permit, you may only use your national driver’s license for the first 60 days after arrival. Afterwards, expats must apply for a Russian license. More information is available from the Russian Road Police.
Public Transportation: The Safe Alternative
The large red Ms in blue circles all over the city indicate you are near a station of the Moscow metro (метро). Its construction began under Stalin in the 1930s. According to his plans, the metro was to be the “people’s palace”, featuring impressive architecture and beautifully decorated stations. Today, the 12 metro lines cover all of Moscow as well as neighboring Krasnogorsk. Muscovites prize it as the fastest way of getting around Moscow — and the cheapest: a 30-day pass with unlimited rides costs only 34.85 USD (2350 RUB).
Other means of public transportation include buses, trolleybuses and — for the truly Russian experience — marshrutkas. Somewhat similar to minibuses, these vehicles drive along certain routes stopping only upon request. There are two basic rules for the marshrutka. Number one: don’t expect the most comfortable ride. Number two: practice saying the Russian words "Остановите здесь!" (Ostanovite zdes, “Stop here!”) loud enough for the driver to hear you.
The Last Option: Call a Cab
If you don’t want to rely on public transportation, you can use a taxi. In Moscow, it is common to hail one on the street. Be aware, however, that the average taxi driver in Moscow does not speak English. Some basic Russian skills never go amiss. Otherwise, there are several English-speaking taxi services, which you can call over the phone.
Although most taxis are nowadays equipped with a taximeter, it is common to negotiate the price to your destination beforehand. If you think a taxi driver is charging you too much, simply hail down the next cab and see if you can get a cheaper offer. As a general guideline, you should get to any destination within the Garden Ring for around 200 RUB.
Leisure and Culture: There’s Something for Everybody
In terms of cultural activities, Moscow offers enough choice to fill a couple of years’ worth of evenings and weekends. Although closely pursued by St. Petersburg, Moscow remains the center of Russia’s cultural life. There are more than 60 museums waiting to be explored. A performance of classical Russian ballet at the world-famous Bolshoi Theater should also be part of every Moscow expat experience. You could also try to get tickets for the Moscow circus.
Nevertheless, museums and theater are not the only ways to spend your free time in Moscow. There are plenty of beaches and other beautiful spots on the outskirts of the city, which make perfect destinations for daytrips. In fact, many Muscovites spend their entire weekends at their datcha, their weekend home in the countryside.
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