Moscow Student Budgets
I spent about $100 a week on food and incidentals
Prior to arriving in Russia, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of the money I’d be spending on a daily basis. The SRAS budget guide was helpful, but of course, each budget is individual and composed of numerous small purchases, making it hard to gauge just what one should plan for. After a few weeks of figuring out a rhythm of places I would eat, food I would get at the grocery store, and how much trips and activities would cost me, an actual budget began to take shape.
Now at the end of my program, I can see that I have spent about $100 a week in Moscow, including food, both at restaurants and from the grocery store, transport, shopping for souvenirs, and nights on the town. All in all, this is a very reasonable amount of money compared to some cities in the United States and Europe. I think it would be hard to spend less, though of course spending more is possible if you want a taste of the Moscow high life at times.
That being said, any budget you devise in Moscow can be fairly flexible. In general, I would say it is easy to live here on an American student budget. Most of the meals I’ve eaten in the cafeteria at Moscow State University have cost less than 200 rubles, which is just a little over three dollars. It is a buffet style, so it depends on how much one chooses. I would say that my appetite is average, but yours and the cost of your meals might differ somewhat.
The metro, which served as my main form of transportation, and which is incredibly efficient, is also relatively inexpensive compared to other subway systems in the world that I have used. Every entry, so long as you buying cards of at least 40 rides a piece, is about 32 rubles (almost exactly 50 cents on the current exchange rate), and it is by far the cheapest method of commuting in Moscow. Buying 60-ride cards can cut that cost by another six rubles or so.
Riding the metro twice a weekday for 8 weeks ran me about 2,560 rubles, a little under 40 dollars. Taxis and ubers are more expensive, though again, less than you would expect in America. A trip from MSU to the center of Moscow will run 300-400 rubles, so in the region of five dollars.
What is handy about activities in Moscow is that with a student ID, provided by Moscow State when on an SRAS program, many things will be either discounted or free of cost. I saved a good deal of money with my student ID while going to museums, even entering the incredibly cool Space Museum for free. Other exhibitions I’ve gone to cost around 100-250 rubles, more than half off the full price because I was a student.
Shopping is also helped by the weakened ruble, and a noticeably high amount of stores in Moscow (particularly high-end retailers) have sales during economic recessions in order to ship more merchandise. While prices at high end retailers might actually be higher than they would in the America or Europe due to import taxes, sales and weakened currency can cancel that out and then some. Prices at major souvenir markets (Izmailovsky in particular) are slightly inflated as well because of the high amount of tourists who come through, but overall are reasonable for good-looking souvenirs.
Overall, Moscow has been an affordable city. If one is smart with the money available and tends to stick to cheaper transportation and relying on the student ID, living comfortably here on a student budget is not difficult at all.