St. Petersburg offers some of the most varied housing options among Russian cities; that’s why you have every right to be picky. Here’s how to categorize some of the choices to help you find a perfect place to live.
Money, for better or worse, is the key factor that consequently restricts our further demands, so it is crucial to determine your budget at the outset. Otherwise, what’s the point in renting a luxury flat with a great view and eating instant noodles for weeks? According to NUMBEO and personal experience, a decent one-room apartment in the heart of St. Petersburg is about 39,000 rubles ($520) per month on average, while outside the city center you’ll be charged around 25,000 rubles ($330) for a one-month stay. If you feel like that’s too pricey, but still prefer not to opt for a dorm, consider renting a room – prices for one with a central location vary from 12,000 to 16,000 rubles ($160-210). Or maybe you’d like to stay at one of the dorms provided by ITMO and call it a day?
Once your budget is set, it’s time to define a district to settle in. Keep in mind that in St. Petersburg, it will take you about an hour to get downtown from the suburban areas, so if your morning sleep is the most important part of your day, save yourself from routine tardiness in advance. Regardless of your area of preference, we’d recommend opting for accommodation located within walking distance to a metro station if possible. There are various rankings of the best districts to reside based on infrastructure, safety, or ecology. On the top of the list are the Vyborgsky, Moskovsky, and Primorsky districts.
In general, ITMO has campuses all around the city center, located on various metro lines, which make it a convenient destination point from every angle.
Here, a bit of self-assessment comes in handy. Ask yourself what’s more comfortable for you: living alone or sharing an apartment with someone else. If it’s the second, are you ready to live with a complete stranger or only with someone you already know? Every option has its pros and cons: for example, it’s easier to share the utility bills together, but at the same time, you may feel limited in your personal space. Being an international student can be challenging sometimes, so it might be good to have someone who has your back. Once again, it’s important to listen to yourself.
Next, let’s decide what, in your opinion, should be there in your dream nest. White walls for your aesthetic insta pics? A stove and a microwave for your culinary masterpieces? What about working space? Or maybe you won’t ever spend a night on a pullout couch. For a better understanding of what to expect from the average Russian apartment, check this article. One more comment for St. Petersburg: lots of historical buildings in the city center have very narrow courtyards, so if your potential room has windows looking out into one, don’t expect much in terms of astonishing views or, sometimes, even daylight.
Of course, while setting your demands, don’t forget about your budget!
Now that we have a perfect picture in mind, let’s start our research! There’re various handy services and apps to help you with that, available both in Russian and English – check the full list in our guide.
Oftentimes the five measly photos of the flat won’t give you the full picture: some tenants provide blurry, poor-quality photos that make even a decent option look less than inviting. Thus, it’s better to invest your time not in scrolling, but in gaining empirical experience and seeing the accommodation for yourself. The more – the better. This advice is not applicable if you don’t see a single more-or-less attractive option. Patience is an essential quality, too.
Before seeing the place, there are several topics worth discussing with the potential landlord:
Registration. Foreign citizens must register at their actual place of residence in order to receive their migration registration card. Not all landlords are eager to help their tenants out with the paperwork, so be sure to clarify this point right away.
Contract. Is there any? Is it month-to-month or longer tenancy? Please note that the contract will need to be signed in Russian.
Utility bills. Are they included in the rental fee? How much are they in winter and in summer? Due to the climate, heating in Russia is turned on from October to April, so during this period, your bill will gradually increase, especially in older houses. Also, ask what’s included in it – there may be additional expenses, like internet.
Deposit. How much is it? Is it possible to divide it into smaller parts? What are the conditions for getting it back in full when moving out?
Insects and rodents. Are there any? Has the place been disinfected?
Neighboring apartments. Who lives there? Are they noisy? Did you ever have to call the police?
Let’s see the place! Firstly, schedule the meeting for the time that you find more convenient – speed dating with an apartment won’t do you any good. Also, it would be great to take a Russian-speaking friend with you for convenience.
You may be meeting there with a landlord themself, or an agent (whom you’ll pay an agent’s fee if the deal is scored), or maybe even the previous resident, but the questions to discuss are always the same. When looking at a potential accommodation, take nothing for granted. Pretend to yourself that you are an investigator and be ready with questions (write them down ahead of time). Is there hot water in the tap? Do the windows open? Are there any tools for minor repairs?
If there are potential flatmates, try to get to know them a bit – from their current work and bad habits to their sleep schedule, and get ready to tell them about yourself.
So, if the reality meets your expectations, thoroughly read the contract (ask Buddy System or a Russian friend for help if need be) and sign. We hope you’ll find a perfect place to enjoy both sunny and rainy days!