Russia Expat Guide

 

Settling In

 

 

Bureaucracy

Generally speaking, I can’t give any specific recommendations on getting into Russia apart from how to get a temporary re-entry permit on account of one’s Russian passport becoming dated (a rather exotic situation that won’t apply to many people). But I understand that getting a Russian visa is relatively trivial, at least relative to the hurdles that Russians have to leap through to visit many Western countries.

Barring a few exotic exemptions, it is currently impossible to get a Russian citizenship unless you are willing to give up your other citizenships. This will not be workable for most people. Alternative solutions:

  • Get a multi-year reentry visa.
  • Get residency.
  • Get citizenship in one of the “easier” CIS states, and utilize an easier route to Russian citizenship through that (Armenia is often recommended for this).
  • This requirement may be dropped over the next few years.

As I understand, if you are a foreigner and are planning to stay for more than 7 days, your hosts (hotel, landlord, etc.) are required to register you with the police/post office.

 

Finance

People who are staying in Russia for the long haul may be well advised to get an account with Sberbank, the Russian banking giant. They have a highly convenient and digitized mobile app that allow you to send money to anyone if you have their phone numbers (Russian grandmothers were using it to collect rent money while Americans in Silicon Valley were still mailing in checks to their landlord), and it also offers a variety of savings accounts and competitive brokerage services.

I have found Transferwise to be the cheapest and most efficient service for sending and receiving money from abroad.

 

Health & Fitness

One can either make use of state healthcare insurance, or opt for private clinics that tend to have better quality service at much cheaper prices (e.g. American Medical Center).

As regards sport and fitness

  • Almost all Russian housing developments feature playgrounds with calisthenics equipment, such as pull ups bars, benches, etc.
    • No reason not to use them, if you’re not particularly self-conscious about being seen to be using equipment that’s primarily installed for children.
    • Map of outside workout areas in Moscow (and Russia) here: https://workout.su/areas/city/1-moskva
  • There is no shortage of gyms, e.g. the USSR Fitness chain seems highly rated.
  • There are a number of rock climbing gyms, e.g. Limestone, Rockzona, Skala City, and X8 seem especially high-rated.

There are three sports that I like, and on which I can some advice: Shooting, skiing, and horse riding.

  • So far as guns are concerned, Russia is unfortunately not the United States. Shooting ranges are not that all that frequent, and bullets are expensive.
    • In the South-East area where I live, there is an indoors shooting range called Object [theobject.ru], which is highly modern and convenient, but you need to take lessons from them and pass an exam before you can use their range.
    • There is also the SSKVOO [sskvoo.ru] outdoors clay pigeon shooting range. Acquiring guns in Russia (legally) is a complex process that needs a separate article.
    • The Labirint complex near Kievskaya hosts paintball, laser tag, and an underground firing range.
  • For obvious reasons, horse riding and skiing/snowboarding relate more to outer Moscow oblast and Sochi/Adler, respectively.

 

Shopping

Online shopping. Ozon. How to not get scammed.

Libraries.

Food markets.

 

Transport

Metro. 38 rubles. Troika card. Wi-Fi setup.

Buses.

Don’t use gypsy cabs.

You can also buy your own car, though to be frank there’s not that much point doing that in Moscow, where taxis are cheap and the Metro can get you almost anywhere. If you want to get a driving license, you will need to spend an ungodly amount of hours on mandatory driving lessons. (Fortunately, if you already have a driving license from a country that is a member of the Vienna Convention – that is, most countries that are not the United States – then you could exchange your license for a Russian one). You will need to obtain proof from a drug-testing dispensary and a psychiatric dispensary located in your area that you are not a drug addict, an alcoholic, or suffer from mental problems. You will also need to bring a medical certificate of clean health from a clinic (they will guide you through it). You will then need to sit a theoretical exam, and two driving tests – one that tests you on maneuvers, another one that tests you on real world driving.