Travelling abroad requires a vague bit of knowledge of the chosen country, but just having information will not be enough if that country is Russia. One of the most important topics when going abroad, along with language, politics and culture, is money. How much are you going to spend at your destination?
While I was planning my long stay in St. Petersburg, I had to consider my daily expenses twice. Travellers –either studying or traveling– can expect diverse costs and rate conversions that will represent an issue for their finances. In my very own case, I was aware of the living costs and prices. None of the blogs and sites I visited informed me about real average costs, and planning for my trip was a complicated financial issue.
Before migrating to Russia, the predicted prices of some goods were correct but politics –specifically sanctions– has affected my pocket. St. Petersburg has become more expensive now. I used to have a daily budget but since prices have risen, I had to adjust it.
There is a significant disparity between costs of things such as Internet and food. I never expected to be paying 250 RUB for mobile Internet and phone calls while purchasing a branded coffee for same amount of money. There is an evident economic difference between the tangible and intangible, and the Russian food basket.
Settling in a different country might blur your definition of cheap versus expensive. Since you are in a foreign country without access to “first-hand” information about ‘where to buy’, purchasing food, dining and drinking will be an expensive choice everywhere. After the food embargo, prices have risen about 11% and the variety of products has diminished. The prices of dairy products, fruits and vegetables, coffee, meat and oil have reached an unbelievable price.
At the same time, the experience of food shopping has turned into an uncomplicated task. Before the sanctions came into effect, supermarkets had a wide range of products. Nowadays, people have pretty much one choice: Russian products. If you are interested in obtaining high quality European food products, I highly recommend changing your daily supermarket to a gourmet supplier. Additionally, since Switzerland escaped the food ban, customers can still get high quality Swiss cheese.
As a Mexican “expat”, I am constantly struggling –so far– with the cost of living in St. Petersburg. If I compare the average prices of fruits and vegetables in Mexico versus the average costs here, the percentage difference is about 20%, making Russia an expensive country for foreigners. A first-hand Russian native source added that prices have risen by 10%, even though the media are trying to convey that there has been ‘no sharp price rise’.
Russia has become more expensive now so if you’re coming to the city of Tsars, do not forget to bring cheese and a good coffee with you.