Tag Archives: Russian corruption

2013 Musings from Togliatti, Russia: Cost of Living, Money and Finances

People have said for a long time that to replicate a western lifestyle in Russia costs more than at home. And it does.

When you subtract the stuff that is laughably cheap, what remains is way overpriced. But its true that if you just go about your day, have lunch somewhere, take a few taxis, have dinner somewhere, buy a few provisions from a grocery store, maybe take a boat trip or do something each day, you will be surprised how the money just drains from your wallet.

Those prices quoted above by mhr7 for Ukraine are how it used to be in Estonia. Then they joined the EU and everything shot up almost overnight.

In Russia, if you look at locals, many of them are tooling around in BMW, Audi and other imported cars. Those cars cost almost twice in Russia than they do at home. And we know few will be on finance. That means the bloke in the BMW jeep likely coughed up close to £50k for that car. Well, he isn’t on £200 a month is he? Local oligarch perhaps? Five years ago you saw the odd one and you may think so. Now go to a decent restaurant or the yacht club and these cars are lined up outside.

We took a boat trip for a couple of hours down the Volga. Tickets were maybe £5 each. The guy ahead of us brought three pals, a big pizza and crate of beer so he and his buddies could chill out. So tickets £20, pizza and beer maybe another £15. So this average bloke spent £35 for a two hour chill with his pals. So he isn’t on £200 a month either.

I would recommend any visitor budgets for £100 a day, excluding accommodation. And have a back up card in case he runs out.

Anyone who can live in Russia on £200 a month rides the bus, shops in the cheap market and eats only home cooked cabbage and potatoes. Whilst many do live like that, what I guess we can call the middle class is growing quickly and noticeably. People are buying the new houses as they are built, people are buying new cars, both local ones and imported ones. People are dining out more. People are remonting their dachas. People are holidaying abroad. People are spending money, so that money is coming from somewhere.

The only explanation is that the economy is starting to work as it should. Government is spending money on improving infrastructure. That money eventually filters down the food chain to the baker, the butcher and the candlestick maker. Continue reading

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Samara KUF Russia Passport Control Problems

Samara Passport Control

I always found Moscow a bit of a pain to connect internally through (although I gather it has improved since I last went through there), and the flight is shorter from the UK to Frankfurt and from there to Samara. Plus the FRA-KUF route is served by Lufthansa and not Yuri Air so is usually on time and half decent. And being a German airline, the luggage usually arrives at the same time as me. Added to which, the UK to Frankfurt and then Samara is almost a straight line on the map. It only involves a 2 hour flight to Germany and a four hour one to Samara.

If you time it right, and are lucky, the connection time can be 40 minutes. I couldn’t get these times at all this time, so I had to wait a dreary six hours in Germany. Still, they had free wifi and I can manage Bratwurst and black coffee. And I bought a nice shirt at half off. I have schoolboy German so know pleasantries, numbers and basic transactional speak in German, so I can get by without looking like a dumb foreigner who must desperately seek out an English speaker.

And while we are in Germany, what’s with all the German guys with little oriental women suddenly? Its like an explosion. For a while I thought I was in Scandinavia by mistake. :chuckle: Not sure if they are Thai, Philippine, Korean or Chinese. Those ladies don’t look all that different to each other to my eye. But for sure, German men, like their Scandinavian cousins have gotten a taste of the oriental woman. To be fair, some of the women looked pretty good catches for the average square-looking badly dressed middle aged German guy. Some of those women have pretty good fashion sense and they seem to take care of themselves. Pity the same cannot be said of the men with them.

Samara has always been a drag to enter Russia through. One agency website a few years ago specifically and emphatically advised against it and said ONLY use Moscow and connect internally to avoid being rolled for a bribe or given a hard time there.

On my old topic from a few years ago, Olga recounted a would-be corruption tale here and they tried to roll my wife on a visit in recent times too. Only that she recognised the customs guy as an ex student of hers did she get out of it – the guy ended up carrying her bags to the car outside. :chuckle:

I have always found them to be slow but you get there in the end. The more old visas you have (and they look), the more they see you are not a newbie and let you by without grief. That has always been my experience anyway.

However, in 2008 it took an age to get in. But I got in.

But last time I went there was some sporting event going on. They had nice English speaking female staff out in the foyer helping foreigners, handing out pens and helping with immigration cards. At the time, I cited this as “changing Russia” and assumed the old days had gone.

Nope. Regression has occurred.

I had no pen. I always have a pen, but this time I didn’t. I needed to fill in my immigration card as they hadn’t given them out on the airline as usual. No problem, pens will be on the counter. Nope. No problem, I’ll borrow one…….

But nobody else seemed to have one either. I identified an American by sight (and non American travellers will know how I did that – ask if you want me to elaborate). He had the big fanny pack with pens. He gave me one. It didn’t work. 😀

Not to be defeated, I asked a passing customs guy. He had one in his hand but wouldn’t lend it me. (:)

So I wandered past the queue and asked a border guard. He had a pot of pens but said no. :duh:

So I went to the next cubicle, and that guy lent me one.

Then I noticed on the immigration card, one could choose between being a “Male” and a “Famale” – I mean my god, – on an official document? If they cant get basic stuff like that right, is there any hope? :'(

So eventually I arrived at the cubicle to find a very bored and angry looking woman. The usual Russian bureaucrat behind glass. I make a point never to understand a word of Russian in such circumstances unless it behoves me to do so. But I slipped up.

“Gavarit pa Rooskie?”
“Nyet” – shit. :'( “Ummm. I don’t understand?” :innocent:
Her: 😀

Then we have the usual five minutes of her reading all my old stamps and visas.

She then starts to write the usual War and Peace on her computer whilst intermittently intently staring at the screen. After a few minutes of this, I am thinking ‘Really, how long does it take?’ I am bored by now and say “problyema?” and quickly cough, and say again “is there a problem?” (Hours in Germany plus the flights had dulled my reactions and I was ready for sleep)

She says “Da, probleyma” and then something else garbled that I didn’t get about the issuing of my visa. Well, I know this gag, this is the old in a side room and invitation paperwork and $50-$100 gag I am being primed for. So I changed tack.

“Do you speak English?”
“Nyet” (Touche – well played, love.)
“I think you do. You must in your job. My visa was issued in London, I know there is no problem with it. However, I have people waiting outside to collect me, one of whom is a lawyer, I can call him and you can speak to him on my phone to clear up any misunderstandings if that helps?” (Complete bollox by the way, but worth a shot – and I cant do that sentence in Russian.)

Long delay with no eye contact……………..

Suddenly, feverish stamping happens. 🙂 (When the stamping starts, you know you are in and its done). She pushes my visa and half registration slip back at me and looks the other way without a word.

I take them and go to move through the gate. But it is still locked and the lights are still red. Silly game huh?

“Dyevooshka?” I said mischievously while pointing at the red lights. She does this face (:) together with a big dramatic sigh (like she had released it three times already but I was too stupid to walk).

“Welcome to Russia” I said back to her as I walked through the gate. I can feel a Tweet to Medvedev coming on…….

What do these people get out of this? Surely it takes less energy to not do all the sulking, sighing, delaying and just do your damn job! Check the visa and stamp it, What two minutes tops? Why should it take fifteen minutes and fifty overheated people behind you?

New Russia indeed………. Continue reading

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