Accommodation Arrangements: finding a place to live in Russia
This is a very basic kind of accommodation and it allows to save a lot of money and provides an easy way to meet a lot of young people.
The quality of accommodation really depends on the university. In Moscow (especially MGU) and St. Petersburg dormitories are quite good and can be compared to the ones in American universities (though in Russia they are much less expensive). In smaller towns dorms may be quite run-down, so it's better to check before what you will be getting with your university. Check also if there are any problems with hot water.
If you're staying for 3-4 months it is just too much headache and expense to run around for an apartment, so getting a dorm is the best option (unless you find a shared apartment).
If you're planning to stay longer than a year, then you can still get a dorm room for a month or two and directly when you arrive to Russia start looking for an apartment or a roommate to share an apartment with.
The price is usually about $100 per month for quite a small room with catering facilities and showers outside.
Allows you to get the feel of what life in Russia is like, but may be slightly expensive for what there is, because most homestay owners (in Moscow and St. Petersburg especially) are used to charging $10-$15 per night for a room. You may be interested in living there for a week or two, but after that period you may also start feeling like being pissed off by your neighbors, because you will be tired of their presence and want some younger people around (because most homestays are run by people in their 40s).
So, if you want to get all the good stuff that homestay can have, but not to feel as if you're visiting your parents, check out the next option:
Until recently, there was not a single roommate matching service in Russia and the few people who lived together sharing a flat would find each other at work or at school. So it wasn't a very popular way of accommodation for foreigners, because you can't get to know someone before you actually get to Russia, and once you find someone, it's time to go back home... :-(
However, nowadays everything is different — we created the first Russian roommate matching site - FlatMates.Ru which allows you to search for roommates in any Russian city. At the moment I'm writing this (Feb 2004) there are already about 250 members - one month after it was launched - and there are a lot of Russians who are eager to rent an apartment with someone else. So, if you're up to it, just go to flatmates.ru/eng/ to browse profiles.
There's also some information on apartment rental costs in major Russian cities as well as useful advice on renting an apartment and checking out your future flatmate.
Renting an Apartment Alone
This is the only option that will allow you complete privacy. Renting an apartment in Russia is not as cheap as most people think. For example, it's simply impossible to rent a one-room apartment in Moscow suburbs (the cheapest it could be!) for less than $300 US per month. Plus, you'll have to pay a service fee to the real-estate agent who finds it for you (usually, 70%-100% of one-month rent). And if you try to find it by yourself, most likely it will be some sort of scam, so don't even try.
If you want a decent western-style apartment in a good comfortable area in Moscow, it will cost about $1000 per month. If you agree for a compromise (that is, something not completely awful and not necessarily central), then you may be able to settle for $500 US per month, if you know how to bargain.
More info on rental prices in Russia - on FlatMates.Ru site.
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