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Health, Transport and Leisure in Moscow

Curious about living in Moscow? The city has changed a great deal in recent decades: once the center of Communist power, it has become a vibrant international metropolis. Check out this InterNations guide for all the important info — from international schools to instructions on how to use a Russian taxi.
Expats shouldn't miss the opportunity of seeing a performance at Moscow's Bolschoi Theater!

Healthcare: The Best of Russia

As a relic of Soviet times, Russia still provides free full-range healthcare services for all its citizens. Expats also have access to these services, so long as they hold a valid health insurance policy, funded by either themselves or their employer. However, those expats familiar with the public medical system have described treatment as ranging from “unacceptable” to merely “uncomfortable”. Additionally, doctors may charge you extra for medication and disposable needles.

In Moscow, however, the healthcare situation is much better than in other parts of Russia. There are hospitals and medical clinics which are well up to Western standards, some of them conveniently located in international neighborhoods. These clinics usually provide general and emergency care, and most of them have dental departments, too.

Here are some well-known international hospitals in Moscow:

In any case, comprehensive medical and dental insurance are a must for anyone moving to Moscow. The Western hospitals in particular can be very costly. Make sure that your insurance also covers medical evacuation for emergencies.

Driving Your Car: Get Ready for a Challenge

Driving in Moscow is much like driving in other megacities: traffic is terrible, especially during rush hour, traffic jams on some major roads do not clear between morning and evening rush hours, and parking spots are in short supply. Furthermore, many roads are in an almost constant state of disrepair. Occasionally, the police block major roads altogether to let government officials pass through unimpeded.

For those who do want to take on the challenge: once you hold a Russian residence permit, you may use your national driver’s license for the first 60 days after arrival, although this is worth checking with your local embassy. After this period, expats must apply for a Russian license. More information is available from the Russian General Administration of Traffic Safety (GIBDD) (website in Russian only).

Public Transportation: The Safe Alternative

The large red “M”s in white and blue circles all over the city indicate you are near a station of the Moscow metro (метро). Its construction began under Stalin in the 1930s. According to his plans, the metro was to be the “people’s palace”, featuring impressive architecture and beautifully decorated stations. Today, the 14 metro lines cover all of Moscow as well as several neighboring cities. Muscovites prize it as the fastest way of getting around Moscow — and the cheapest: a 30-day pass with unlimited rides costs only 2,000 RUB (approx. 35 USD).

Other means of public transportation include buses, trolleybuses and — for the truly Russian experience — marshrutkas. Somewhat similar to minibuses, these vehicles drive along certain routes stopping only upon request. There are two basic rules for the marshrutka. Number one: Don’t expect the most comfortable ride. Number two: Practice saying the Russian words "Остановите здесь!" (Ostanovite zdes, “Stop here!”) loud enough for the driver to hear you.

Sit Back and Relax: Call a Cab

If you don’t want to rely on public transportation, you can use a taxi. Despite many people in Moscow hailing cabs on the street, we would advise expats to call or order them online in advance, due to the high numbers of illegal taxis on the roads. Although these can be cheaper than regular taxis, they are not regulated and can be dangerous for foreigners.

Instead, it is recommend to use apps and services like Uber, Yandex, or Gett to order a taxi, which in theory means you don’t even have to speak Russian. However, some taxi drivers may require you to negotiate a price to your destination beforehand, rather than using a taximeter or fixed rate.  

Leisure and Culture: There’s Something for Everybody

In terms of cultural activities, there is enough on offer in Moscow to be busy every evening and weekend if you so choose. Despite St. Petersburg’s popularity, Moscow is still the center of Russia’s cultural life, and there are countless museums and galleries to explore. A performance of classical Russian ballet at the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre is also a must-see for any expat as is the Great Moscow State Circus.

Contemporary art in Moscow is also enjoying a renaissance. New exhibitions and venues are opening every year, with one of the powerhouses the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Gorky Park. It’s also worth checking out the Winzavod Center for Contemporary Art and Artplay, both of which are located in former factories. The city also hosts the Moscow Biennale, which brings together artists and creatives from all over the world.

Of course, your leisure time in Moscow doesn’t have to be filled by cultural activities. There are plenty of beaches and other beautiful spots on the outskirts of the city which make perfect destinations for daytrips. In fact, many Muscovites spend their weekends at their dacha, their weekend home in the countryside.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

Jürgen Hofmeister

"When I came to Moscow I barely knew anyone, but now I've got dozens of expat contacts from dozens of countries. "

Caroline Hayes

"At the first InterNations Moscow event that I attended I was absolutely delighted by the elegant atmosphere and the high-quality expat crowd. "

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