Kapitoly Mall near Moscow State
Kapitoly Mall near Moscow State University is where most students do most of their shopping

Note: When this article was written, the conversion rate was $1 USD to 65 RUB. Hello everyone, I’m Jack. I studied with SRAS’s 2016 summer language program in Moscow. Living here can be expensive or cheap. It all depends on you. I came to Moscow planning on spending about $70 a week, but over the course of the program I ended up spending closer to $90 a week. I’ll try my best to run you through the obvious expenses and hopefully shed some light on the not-so-obvious ones as well.

Food: 250 RUB (~$3.85) per meal in the MSU cafeteria. I’m not really a breakfast person, so that left me spending approximately 500 RUB (~$7.70) total per day on lunch and dinner from the cafeteria. There were some days where I ate out, and those meals cost anywhere from 325-1000 RUB ($5.00-16.00). Obviously you can spend far more than that at restaurants, but I kept to the cheaper places. Over the course of my nine weeks in Moscow, food cost me around 35,750 RUB ($550). If I would have cooked for myself instead of using the cafeteria, I probably could have saved about 25% or ~9000 RUB (~$140).

Food for the Summer: $550

Drinks: There are drinks you need and drinks you don’t need. The one drink you do need is water. You can either buy a water filter or you can buy 5L jugs of water. I went with the jugs of water. I exercise every day, so I go through about 2.5L of water a day. That adds up to a 5L jug every two days. Over the course of my stay in Moscow, that’s about 31 jugs. Each jug costs 105 RUB, giving a total of 3,255 RUB or ~$50 spent on water.

Expect to pay 35-65 RUB ($0.50-1.00) for a small soda and anywhere from 65-455 RUB ($1.00-7.00) for your average alcoholic beverage. Buying drinks in a store will obviously be closer to the lower end of that price range. Buy drinks in a bar and the sky is really the limit. This didn’t really factor into my budget (~$10 or 650 RUB) too much as I only drink soda and beer once every few months. Nor am I a big drinker of caffeine, though that’s very cheap here. You can get a packet of instant coffee for 15 RUB ($0.25) or less in the checkout lines of stores.

Drinks Total for the Summer: $60

Transportation: Taxis and Ubers can range from about 299 RUB ($5.00) to infinity. I never took them and instead stuck with the metro. The metro costs 50 RUB per ride if you buy individual tickets, but you get a significant discount if you buy in bulk. I bought 40 rides at once and it cost me 1400 RUB ($21.50), which averaged out to 35 RUB ($0.52) per ride. I used the last of the 40 just before my time in Moscow ended, so I’d say 40 is the perfect amount. If you have an internship, you probably need twice as many. Marshrutkas are another cheap option that are similar in price to the metro, but I never really used them.

Transportation Total for the Summer: $21.50

Internet: You’ll definitely need it. Internet can be found for free in the lobby of your dorm, as long as you don’t mind sitting in chairs without a good table for doing work on. Otherwise you can pay 550 RUB ($8.50) per month for a wired internet connection in your dorm room. I did that and bought two month for a total of 1100 RUB ($17.00), which was more than worth it as the speed was up to 100 megabits per second. There was an Ethernet cord left in my room by the previous occupant so I didn’t need to go out and buy one.  However, I did go out and buy a wireless router in order to connect my phone to the internet. That cost 1300 RUB ($20.00).

              Internet Total for the Summer: $37

Telephone: SRAS will lend you a phone. You won’t need to put more than $10 on it, texting is cheap here.

Phone Total for the Summer: $10

Toiletries: Most people forget about this section. You’ll need to buy toilet paper for your room and laundry detergent at minimum. Depending on what you brought, you may also need to buy soap, cleaning supplies, and razors. I spent about 1625 RUB ($25.00) in this category, with the majority of my money going to laundry detergent, then soap, then toilet paper.

Toiletries Total for the Summer: $25

School Supplies: Depending on your teacher, you may need to buy books and paper. Fortunately, textbooks are much cheaper here than they are in the USA. I had to spend 650 RUB ($10.00) on a textbook for class, but that was all.

School Supplies Total for the Summer: $10

Miscellaneous/Souvenirs: Bring $100 (6500 RUB) for unplanned purchases. You might want a donut at 12am or a souvenir from a street vendor. Maybe you see a really good looking ice cream cone on Arbat Street. Some people think that you shouldn’t buy souvenirs until the end of your trip, but that’s silly. You might never get back to that exact spot or the thing you wanted to buy might be gone when you return. If you want to make an impulse purchase, go ahead and do it. You likely won’t be back in Russia anytime soon.

Miscellaneous Total for the Summer: $100


Total Spending:

              Food                                  –             $550.00

              Drinks                               –             $  60.00

              Transportation               –             $  21.50

              Internet                            –             $  37.00

              Telephone                        –             $  10.00

              Toiletries                          –             $  25.00

              School Supplies               –             $  10.00

              Miscellaneous                 –             $100.00

                                                             =   $813.50


Thus my daily spending (63 days) averaged out to $12.90 (830 RUB) and weekly (9 weeks) spending average out to $90.40 (5805 RUB).

A parting warning: Your bank will charge a conversion fee for changing USD to RUB. I didn’t pay this fee as I had a debit card that waived all foreign transaction fees. If you don’t have a card that waives these fees, expect to pay a fixed amount plus a percentage of your total withdraw every time you use an ATM. It’s best to take out a large amount of money at once to avoid paying more fees than you have to. SRAS has a pretty detailed guide to working your finances and understanding bank charges here. Good luck and have fun in Russia!

Jack Fischer

Jack Fischer

Jack Fischer is majoring in Physics with Russian and Economics minors at Iowa State University of Science and Technology in Ames, Iowa. He is studying Russian as a Second Language with SRAS over the summer of 2016 to improve his command of the Russian language. In the future, he’d like to work for himself and run a business. I haven’t decided on a location yet, but I’m certainly open to Russia or the former USSR territories.

Jack is attending Russian as a Second Language
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