Tag Archives: travel to Russia

The Realities of Expat Living in Moscow 2016

Let’s break down some metrics:

I live in a 2-room flat less than a 10-minute car ride to the city center (Prospect Mira for those of you who know the area).

It’s Western renovated and ran about $1330 (40k rubles) before the ruble devalued. Concurrently, most apartments in Moscow have either kept the same rental price, or have actually decreased in price in order to find tenants.

So, while someone’s income has decreased because of the exchange rate in dollar terms, so has relative housing cost; over $8k a year in my case (roughly $675 a month). That 40k includes gas, electricity, landline, cableTV/internet, trash, water and my Tajik Concierge. Great guy, and very helpful.

If I were to go back and live in a comparable flat in Los Angeles, the same cost would double, minimum.

I would also have to buy a car, so we’d be talking conservatively about another $600 for car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance for an average $20K ride. My transportation costs average about $150 a month (metro, taxis, g/f’s car, etc.).

The next biggest expense is of course food. I spend at most 1000 rubles a day. I really can’t see spending more than this, and 1000 could probably be chopped in half if push comes to shove. But for the sake of argument, let’s double it to 2000 and use this for reference.

Housing, utilities cable and WiFi internet – 40000

Transportation – 10000. Remember I’m an expat and don’t need a car here.

Food – 60000, and believe me that is an ambitious sum, more like 30-40000 at most, but again for the sake of reference. We’ll use 60k to include entertainment such as eating out, movies, theatre, etc., and a daily 300 ruble Starbuck mocha that I could easily do without, etc. This factors in a 35% rise in food costs during the devaluation period.

Restaurants/cafes prices have only increased about 5-10% during this time; closer to 5% all things considered.

Pretty much covers about everything and we’re looking at 106,000 rubles.

Now I understand that it would be nice if you could still stash away about $3k a month, but times they do change. And if you were someone who hasn’t saved for a rainy day (time), then that’s on you.

Nevertheless, that leaves us with 94000 rubles and that is still close to $1500; not bad all things considered.

If you think that things will not improve, or that your time back in the States will be better, I say don’t let the customs agent kick you in the ass on your way out. And good luck with those American women.

All I know is, given the situation, there’s no way I’m heading back, and really, why would I? Simply put, I have a wonderful life here, despite all the oppression I [don’t] feel from Putin.

Contrary to popular belief, life is good here. And it’s especially good if you’re lucky enough to be making 200k rubles a month. 98% of the working population in Moscow would love to make that kind of money. And if you’re one of the very fortunate expats to be making 200k a month or more, then count your blessings. Continue reading

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Russian Ukrainian Adventures Forum Newsletter – Summer 2015

The Forum Has Changed Direction a Little to Include More Travel, Culture, News and Politics.

The site was stuck in what is a dying and declining niche. When the site first started back in the mid naughties, it was firmly aimed at what some termed the “mail-order bride” niche. The FSU dating scene was then – although slowing down – still a vibrant industry. It was mostly centred on Ukraine the last decade or so, and most of those travelling there to meet women were from the US.

However, as you will know, a year and a half ago, there was a western-backed coup d’etat in Ukraine that saw the overthrow of the elected president and the installation of a new regime in Kiev. Subsequently, Crimea reunified with Russia and the east of Ukraine broke away into independent regions. Since then, civil war has raged in Ukraine while the new borders are being defined.

Against a backdrop of significantly reduced dating-related travel to the region, Crimea reunifying with Russia, increased American aggression against Russia, US/EU sanctions against Russia, counter sanctions from Russia, civil war in Ukraine and the MH17 crash, it isn’t hard to see why the forum became quickly dominated by these topics of discussion. So we decided to roll with it and reorganise the site somewhat.

If you take a fresh look at the placement of the forum rooms, you will find the dating and marriage sections have been condensed and moved further down the page. Up closer to the top you will find Cyrillic & Language, FSU News & Politics, Visas, Travel Discussion, Travel Reports, Culinary, Culture, Russian/Ukrainian Media and Expat Chat closer to the top. While we still have a lot of chat pertaining to dating in the former Soviet Union, you will find it isn’t as dominant as it once was.

Guys, if you are already married and haven’t visited us in a while, you can tell your wife it is a political, news and travel forum more than a dating forum nowadays. We know we lost a few of the married guys as their wives objected to them participating in what they saw as a ‘dating forum’. Yes, we still have some dating ads along with other types of ads, but like any site, we have to pay the bills. There is a topic on that here: Site Funding. Supporting Members. Q&A.

We would like to give you a few links to, and a little background about some of the recent popular topics. Continue reading

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Russian Diplomats Being Quietly Expelled from the UK.

The UK government appears to be quietly in the process of removing Russian diplomats from the UK.

The method they are using to do this is by not renewing or issuing new visas to staff at the Russian embassies in London and Edinburgh.

The press secretary in the Russian Embassy in London today decided to go public with the dirty tricks campaign by the UK government.

Among the tactics outlined are:

Stopping extensions of diplomatic and official visas for those staff members of the Russian Embassy in London and Consulate General in Edinburgh who stay in their positions over five years.
Refusing to extend UK visas for other staff members regardless of the requested period, quite arbitrarily.
A senior diplomat had to depart the UK last month because his visa was not extended.
The Russian Embassy says this is a clear violation of international obligations, in particular, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

According to the Vienna Convention, the functions of a member of the mission come to an end only after a relevant notification is served by the sending state (Russia) to the receiving state (UK). The Convention does not provide the receiving state with the authority to limit the length of stay, with the exception of cases when a member of a mission is declared persona non-grata or an “unacceptable person” by the receiving state.

Thus, by implication, the UK’s recent imposition of time limits on diplomatic visas, suggests the staff members refused visas are persona non-grata. A contravention of Article 9 of the Vienna Convention. In practice it means this is expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK.

Articles 7 and 10 of the Vienna Convention, stipulate that appointment of a diplomatic agent, with the exception of the head of the mission, does not require the consent of the receiving state (the UK in this case) and is done by notification.

Under Article 25 of the same convention, the receiving state shall accord full facilities for the performance of the functions of the mission.

It can safely be assumed that the “full facilities” mentioned, would, among other things, refer to issuance of relevant documents (like visas) enabling unrestricted entry and departure of diplomatic agents to and from the UK.

Despite the Russian Embassy having made repeated appeals, the illegal actions have been already deployed by the Home Office in coordination with the Foreign Office.

Already, in addition to the senior diplomat who had to return home mentioned above, another diplomat left without being able to be replaced this month, and two further staff members will have to leave for the same reason. The extensions of their visas were made for a measly three months, instead of the more typical one or two years.

One might say that the three month visas was in fact giving semi-permanent staff the opportunity to pack up and tie up their affairs before they leave. It is a de facto expulsion.

The Russian Embassy says it is practically impossible to prepare and process replacement staff members within such a limited period of time. And even if they succeed in doing that, the Embassy has been experiencing the same prolonged delays in issuing British visas for their new staff members, causing them to be unable to arrive to take up their posts.

The Embassy also incurs substantial financial losses by paying rent for apartments of our staff while they are sitting vacant. Their would-be occupants unable to get diplomatic visas.

The Russian Embassy says that the British authorities, in no uncertain terms have told them that this is their consolidated position, and the intent is to degrade the ability of the Russian Embassy to function as an effective diplomatic mission.

Such action, as well as being illegal under international law, is clearly aimed at diminishing and limiting the Russian diplomatic presence in the UK and a deliberate attempt by the UK to hamper Russian diplomatic work, in clear violation of the Vienna Convention of 1961.

Such an obvious attempt by the British government to wreck – on purpose – the established international order may prove to be a dangerous gamble by the UK in respect of the Russian diplomatic and consular missions. Such action by the UK will undoubtedly sour relations between the UK and Russia.

Other foreign diplomatic missions to the UK may like to take note of what the UK is doing to Russia here. The UK has has difficult relationships with a number of other countries; how long before they start to quietly expel diplomats of countries without just cause and in contravention of international law?

This is all the more noteworthy at this time as Russia is again looking at ways to relax the rules for people getting visas to Russia.

For me that can’t come fast enough, as I am one of many who has not visited Russia this year due to the onerous extra requirements of biometrics involving personal travel to London each and every time.

The current visa regime for Brits to get a visa to Russia needs swift and radical overhaul. It is unfair to subject ordinary travellers to Russia – many with family members in Russia and/or married to nationals – to extra bureaucracy simply as tit-for-tat because our government happens to be extremely foolish.

Russia could use this diplomatic crisis to overhaul the visa system for Brits and demonstrate to the UK that they are bigger than petty squabbles like this.

As a voting Brit, I would urge the UK government to abandon this pettiness, adhere to the Vienna Convention, and let the Russian diplomats back into the UK. Continue reading

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Russia Should Abolish Visas for the EU, America and the Developed World. Top Russian Official Agrees.

If Western sanctions against Russia are to continue, Russia is in a unique position to take advantage of the situation by relaxing visa rules and welcoming tourists.

Right now, you can get almost twice as many roubles for your money as you could a year ago. This makes Russia cheaper to visit than it ever was.

However, the current onerous requirements and unnecessary bureaucracy to obtain a visa to Russia has been holding Russian tourism back for many years. The current visa system is inconsistent, inconvenient, and puts many people off travelling to Russia. Visa registration once in-country, differs across Russia and can also prove cumbersome and problematical.

Oleg Safonov, head of Rosturism, the Russian Federal Tourism Agency agrees. He proposes to scrap the lot.

Safonov’s latest proposals, as reported on Interfax, include electronic visas, visas on arrival and simplification of the registration process. Travellers to Russia will very much welcome the moves, if implemented. Russia is a little late to the party with this; they should have done it years ago.

Russia already allows visa-free entry to citizens of some countries. But they are not the countries that significant tourism revenue is derived from. Rosturism recently announced that the number of foreign tourists coming to Russia grew in 2015 by 16.5 percent. Chinese tourists account for most of that growth to date. Russia now has an eye on increasing tourism from the rest of the world.

Readers of this site will be aware of the constant hysterical warmongering and hyperbole that Western politicians and their cohorts in the pliant mainstream media churn out day after day. One of the best ways to counter this misinformation war waged by the West is to allow people to easily visit Russia and see what it is like for themselves.

And who doesn’t want a selfie on Red Square?

Only when more people begin to visit Russia will the skewed perception of Russia abroad change. Visitors will see that much of what they read and hear in their local media is patently false and concocted for purely political reasons.

Relaxing visa restrictions means easy travel, especially for Europeans who are only a budget flight away. Over time, more contact between Europeans and Russians will improve political relations. It is hard for politicians to sell us lies about places we have actually been to. Western media will then find it harder to recycle the ludicrous US State Department propaganda we see daily in our newspapers now.

If Russia is to develop the tourism industry it tells us it wants, things need to change faster. Instead of occasionally tinkering around the edges of the visa system to allow for sporting events and cruise arrivals to specified ports with a host of conditions, it is time Russia’s visa system had root and branch reform.

Tourist visas could easily be issued on arrival; fingerprints could be taken at the same time. Invitations and registration need to be scrapped altogether. They are relics of the Cold War and serve little practical purpose today. An online visa waiver system, similar to what the US uses would work far better. Oleg Safonov from Rosturism gets this.

If Russia is going to have wider appeal to tourists, the visa system needs urgent radical reform. It will be impossible for destinations such as Sochi and Crimea to become popular with nearby Europeans if obstacles in the form of the current visa system remain in place.

The time for Russia to act is now. The rouble is currently good value for foreigners. Let people come and spend their money in Russia. Continue reading

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NATO trains terrorists who destabilize situation in Ukraine

About 400 elite commandos from a notorious US private security firm, Academi, are involved in a punitive operation mounted by Ukraine’s new government against federalization supporters in eastern Ukraine, the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.

According to the newspaper, Academi mercenaries participate in attacks against federalization supporters near Slavyansk. So far, it’s unclear who hired them.

Media reports claiming that the Ukrainian leadership wants to recruit personnel from private foreign military companies “to maintain law and order” may suggest that the Kiev regime wants to suppress civil protest and discontent, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Anyway, one can state that in the absence of support from the Ukrainian population, the Maidan government has only one option if it wants to remain in power – to mobilize any support possible from foreign sponsors, including foreign mercenaries,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a commentary.

Contractors from private security companies are supposed to do what NATO cannot do openly, they train terrorists who destabilize situation in Ukraine, Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

“Those organizations (private security companies) will do what NATO cannot do openly. They can train people to be terrorists,” Chossudovsky said, adding that in Syria private contractors were training al-Qaeda.

“We are talking about the continuation of US policy of military intervention in Ukraine and a preparatory stage for a massacre in southeastern Ukraine,” Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense monthly Russian-language magazine said, adding that the deployment of mercenaries from a private company Greystone Ltd. may be financed by Ukrainian oligarchs and organized in coordination with the US State Department.

Michel Chossudovsky told RIA Novosti that mercenaries are normally hired by governments, but options are numerous as they operate covertly and do not identify themselves. Continue reading

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Ukraine: So What is Vladimir Putin Really Planning?

Unlike most westerners, I do not blindly believe western media, I do not subscribe to the “America good – Russia bad” media hysteria being shamelessly stage-managed by our governments. Perhaps having a Russian-born wife makes me take a more balanced … Continue reading

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GoGabber Forum Newsletter Septermber 2013.

If you haven’t visited GoGabber in a while, allow us to bring you up to date!

As you probably know, the forums came under new ownership and management in late 2012; almost a year ago now. A lot has happened since then. GoGabber has its roots in the dating genre, but had morphed into a general chat site (in English and Russian languages) over the years. Following a member vote on the future direction of the site, it was decided to try to point the site slowly towards slightly more specific niches: World events, the economy, news and politics. With maybe a little travel, holidays and places thrown in (well, we like to be diverse).

Of course, you can still talk about pretty much anything at GG, but if you like political and current events debate or travel, then come and have another look as GG is changing.

Current Popular Topics:

US and Arab Intervention in Syria Imminent (Hot Topic!): http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=9955

Another Form of Computer Fraud: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10757

Muslim Riots In France – Guy Strangled Cop Giving Ticket To His Veiled Wife: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10748

The Gibraltar Issue: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10830

The Third-World Hellhole That is Detroit: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10747

Bribery in Russia: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10736

The Most Surprising Things About America: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10866

Mumbai – The City of Contrasts: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10662

Observations from Togliatti, Russia: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10807

Bread/хлеб: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10863

Most Online Dating Sites Won’t Match Republicans With Democrats: http://www.gogabber.com/showthread.php?t=10836

What else is going on?

We have recently moved over to new super-fast UK dedicated cloud servers, so the site is nice and fast as a forum should be. We have continued to repair the little faults and update the site over the last few months, so everything is working like it should (fingers crossed).

Like any forum, GG has suffered its fair share of trolls and troublemakers over the years. However, over the last year or so, the moderation team has undergone some pretty drastic changes, and we are firmly on top of both spam and former troublemakers now. So you may find the atmoshphere at GG has changed for the better since you last looked in.

We have recently re-activated the site’s long-forgotten Twitter account. If you are a Twitter user, please follow us, tweet any of our topics that interest you to your followers using the buttons in every topic, and generally help us spread the word about GG any way you can. Find us at @gogabber_com Continue reading

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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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2013 Musings from Togliatti, Russia: Restaurants & Eating Out.

Eating Out in Togliatti.  When you visit a place, you don’t really want to start cooking do you? So restaurants are going to feature. However, in my experience, this is something Russia hasn’t quite got to grips with yet. We … Continue reading

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2013 Musings from Togliatti: Taxis and getting around in Russia.

Getting around.

When I first went to Togliatti, when you wanted a taxi, you just stood by the road with your hand out and someone would stop. Negotiate a price before you get in and job done.

It always used to concern me the thought that any weirdo could stop and pick up women, and anything might happen. And indeed, sometimes it has done from what I have heard.

Happily, this practice seems to have mostly stopped. Now like anywhere else, you call a taxi, and a few minutes later you get an SMS that tells you what car it will be and how many minutes. Quite efficient really. Prices are really cheap still, anything between £2 and £4 takes you across town.

However, the quality of the said taxis, and the drivers, still leaves much to be desired. Most seem to be the crappiest old Ladas and other budget rubbish available. The quality of repair is terrible. Blowing exhausts, clunking suspension, dodgy brakes, etc. Interiors are generally filthy and the drivers personal hygiene leaves much to be desired. Bloody awful all round.

After the first few days of this, and trying several different firms to find they are all the same, I began looking out for liveried taxis to take a number from. There are some. But again, it often is the case that you take a number from a smartly liveried car, and the usual plain smashed up Lada arrives with foul smelling Ivan at the wheel smoking a Parliament. Cunning trick.

In one of the restaurants we visited, there were some business cards that proclaimed their taxis were “new foreign cars”. But when you call, a foreign car will be an hour, and a smashed up one can be there in minutes. :chuckle:

I expressed concern that I didn’t want my wife and daughter travelling about in a piece of smashed up crap with no brakes, even if it is £2. There must be a proper firm out there somewhere.

My wife asked a girl she knows who she calls a “new Russian” and got a number of a firm called ‘Elite’: 702 702.

And guess what arrived? A brand new Chevrolet with aircon, with a rather fetching young lady driver! And she was a good driver too – which makes a change there. So that’s the taxi problem solved. :nod:

Not all drivers at that company are women, but the cars are generally better than most and the drivers are not smoking and juggling two mobile phones and a taxi radio whilst driving. As all the cars are liveried, they are image conscious one told my wife when asked. The price was just the same as a smashed up one. That wont last…..

For the hell of it, we took a trolleybus on a couple of occasions. These have not been updated yet and are still the creaking rattling relics of yesteryear. They are ridiculously cheap. Pennies.

I suspect the new liveried taxis are where local travel is heading, and the smashed up taxi will soon become a thing of the past. As soon as the local cops cotton on to the fact that taxis in bad condition are easy targets for fines, as are people on phones, I reckon they will be forced off the road in a changing Russia. Continue reading

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