Bolshoi in Russia: Moscow truly is a ridiculously expensive city

Greetings from Moscow! Bolshoi in Russia is my variation on Big in Japan. (Bolshoi means “Big” in Russian. Get it?) Stay tuned for my live dispatches from Russia this week.

Moscow has been ranked the world’s most expensive city for two years now. Still, it’s one thing to see the ranking in the newspaper and another thing to actually be here and pay the prices. In an average bar or restaurant, this is what you are looking at:

  • $5-10 for a shot of vodka
  • $8 – 10 for a latte (and they insist on putting a straw into it, to make matters worse)
  • $8-10 for a beer (sometimes, they put a straw in beer, too)
  • $20-$30 for lunch (and I am taking sausages, not an actual meal)
  • $50 for a decent dinner

It is the price of coffee which would kill me here. It would be very hard to just hang out in a coffee shop without going completely broke.

The funny this is, the average salary in Moscow is about $1,500/month. Most people, however, make less than $1,000. How do they afford this stuff? The easy answer is they don’t. You see kiosks all over Moscow where people grab lunch, dinner or beer to go. Every metro station has a cluster of these kiosks and people simple hang out outside of them, drinking beer and talking. What do they do in the winter? You got me.

There are, however, some really affordable aspects of life in Moscow:

Take metro tickets, for example. They are only 19 rubles, or roughly 80 cents. The subway system has great coverage and is extremely efficient. Trains come every 1-2 minutes. They pretty much have to because the subways are always packed.

Another bargain in Moscow? Theater tickets. We paid 300 rubles (or about $15) to see a classical music concert in the Moscow International Hall of Music. Really nice venue, great music, all that for the price of two lattes. As much as I love coffee, I would have to opt for music here. Even the Bolshoi Theater has bargains.

The other thing that is fairly affordable in Moscow is sushi. Like many place around the globe, Moscow was swept by the sushi wave about five years ago. So many new sushi restaurants opened, that they all had to reduce prices. Mind you, it is still not a bargain, but comparing to everything else in Moscow, California roll for $10 is a good deal. They really go crazy with rolls here, by the way. Most of them don’t even have fish in them. You can get a Caesar salad roll, (yes in a Japanese restaurant), pizza roll, ham and cheese roll…you see my point.

Let’s see, what else if affordable in Moscow? How could I forget! You can see dedushka Lenin in his tomb for free! I saw him today. He looks very peaceful in there. I couldn’t tell if he is real or if its just a wax figure, as some conspiracy theories suggest. At the end of the day, who cares.

Then, of course, there is vodka. You can get some good deals on Vodka, but I wouldn’t suggest going with the cheapest stuff. You an get a shot from as little as $3 to as much as $20. Russian Standard is a good brand. A shot would set you back about $5. With a little vodka in you, the cost of hanging out in Moscow doesn’t hurt as badly.

From Russia, with love.