The most typical lodging options for an international student in Russia are a university dormitory, a rental apartment or a host family. It is very important to find the best option within your budget. Consider all 'pros' and 'cons' before committing yourself to an option. The choice of the place where you will stay in a sense defines your academic success.
This is the most affordable option. International and out-of-town students are provided with dormitory places. Normally they are located on the campus or not far from the university. In most cases from 2 to 4 students share a room. In a typical dormitory room you will find writing desks, chairs, closets, bookshelves, beds and nightstands. University dormitories are normally equipped with shared kitchens, gyms, recreation rooms, canteens, and laundromats. There are also locker rooms and bicycle sheds available. A security service operates on the premises.
The accommodation fee is set by the university. It may vary from 150 to 5,000 roubles per month, depending on the university and the city, and makes it a much cheaper option compared to a rental apartment. Payments can be done on a monthly basis or per term. Sometimes you can even pay in advance for the whole academic year. In this case some universities may offer you a discount.
Students who live in a dormitory must follow certain rules. The obvious ones are not to damage the furniture, keep one’s room tidy, not make too much noise (loud music, TV, etc.), notify the hall of residence supervisor of one’s long absence. There is a zero-tolerance policy on drinking and smoking in Russian halls of residence. You will be informed about these rules upon arrival.
You are entitled to a place in the dormitory if you are:
a full-time student, enrolled in main educational programmes (for the whole duration of the degree programme);
a part-time student, enrolled in main educational programmes (during interim and final exams).
Ask the representatives of your university whether you qualify for a place at a dormitory when you are submitting the enrolment application, or search the university's website.
Make sure you clarify all necessary information from the outset:
location of the dormitory;
types of rooms, facilities available;
costs and payment options.
If everything suits you, you can proceed to submit your residence application.
Remember, you can get a place at the dormitory through the representatives of the university only, and only under a tenancy agreement. Companies and agents who claim that they can find you a place at a dormitory are fraudsters.
If your university does not have a dormitory or for some reasons you don’t consider it as an option, then it is advisable to look for a rental apartment or room. Naturally, it will be more expensive, but you will be able to find a location and level of comfort that suits you. If you plan to rent an apartment with your fellow students or stay with a host family, you will be able to choose your neighbours.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are well known for having the most expensive apartments. The smaller the city is and the farther it is from major cities, the lower the rent is. For example, as of 2015 in Moscow, depending on the location and facilities available, a bedsit will cost you around 30-35 thousand roubles a month, and a room around 15-20 thousand roubles a month. In Novosibirsk, the same options would be 50% cheaper.
Some universities help their students find lodgings, which includes finding host families. So, first ask the representatives of your university whether they provide such services. This ensures fast and secure search of lodging options. While looking for a suitable flat, you can stay at a dormitory.
If your university does not provide such services, ask somebody for advice on realtors or try looking for an apartment on cian.ru, irr.ru, avito.ru etc.
Keep in mind that apart from the rent you will have to pay a deposit (a security payment of 100% of the monthly rent) and the realtor's interest 50%-100% of the monthly rent).