Students in Irkutsk report spending about $35-50 a week average over the course of their stay. This covers groceries, eating at the university cafeteria, city transport, an occasional meal out, school supplies, mo
dest weekend entertainment, and other general living expenses. Note that this guide assumes 65 rubles = 1 US dollar. Prices current as of September, 2019.
1. Getting Started
Packing beforehand: Bring appropriate clothing, any electronics you need, and any prescription medication you are taking in amounts to last your time abroad. Check our packing guide for more information on preparing for your trip.
Card Fees. Call your banks and credit cards! Let them know the dates you’ll be abroad, otherwise, they tend to shut them off when they appear abroad – assuming they’ve been stolen. Note that most US banks will charge fees for every transaction you make abroad. $5 and/or 3% for every ATM withdrawal, for instance, is not uncommon. Make sure you understand these fees and factor them into your budget. See our Guide to Managing Cash Abroad for more information.
After You Arrive: There are usually a few initial, one-time expenses for students getting started. All of these can be bought inexpensively in stores near the main dorms. A few common costs include:
- Pot/silverware/plate/cup: $10 (if you want your own; the dorms have these for communal use as well)
- Water filter: $10-15 (or $2 for 5 liter bottles – folks generally don’t drink from the tap)
- Pens/erasers/school supplies: $10
- Textbooks: generally not more than $15 per semester (usually available on campus)
2. Incidentals & Other
Flexibility: You should always plan some flexibility into your budget. There will always be expenses that you didn’t plan for – a new umbrella, a better coat, a short trip that a new friend invites you on that is too good to say no to, you get the point.
Hygiene: Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and toothpaste – in brands you are likely to recognize – run about $2.50 per package. There are quite a few local Siberian brands made of local herbs and ingredients that are quite good and cheaper, though. Feminine hygiene products are around $4 per box. Haircuts for women can be found for $10.50
Gyms: Expect to pay about $12 per session or $85 per month for a clean, modern place. There are cheaper options – and the university itself has a lot of sports clubs and free courts that be taken advantage of for free. Ski rental at Dinamo (Динамо), a local facility, is only $3.50 per hour, and entrance to the complex itself is free.
Laundry: A laundry machine is provided in the dorms, but no dryer. You’ll need to purchase your own detergent as well (generally $3-5 for a package that will likely last the semester/summer). To dry, the laundry should have a collapsible drying rack (сушилка) – although some students like to get their own (easy to find for $10-30), so as to always have space and to keep their drying clothes in their room.
3. Food and Shopping
Groceries: Most students shop at Udacha or Slata, discount supermarkets a short walk from the dorms. Making simple dishes is fairly comfortable in the dorms. Try frozen pelmeni for easy dinners – a $3-5 bag can be stretched into 3-4 meals. Average weekly grocery bill: ~$10-25 per week. Slata also has lots of ready-made food for a quick and cheap meal and offers discounts after 9pm.
University Cafeteria is quite cheap, around $1.5-3 for a decent lunch. You can also get pirozhki and other smaller items for less than 50 cents. Average weekly spending at the cafeteria: ~$8-15 per week.
Eating out: There is a broad range of restaurants and cafes. There are several cafeteria-style cafes around campus where you can get a main, side, salad, and drink for around $4-6. For fast food or street snacks, you might spend $0.5-$5. Try a local chain like Poznaya 38. Middle level restaurants will offer meals for $10-15. Many places offer “business lunch” where you are able to get an appetizer, main, and dessert for lunch from a limited menu for $4-8.
Coffee: A regular coffee is usually somewhere around $2.50, or $1.50 at a takeaway place or food stall; you can get fancier coffee drinks for $4–5.
Average weekly total food spending: ~$20-$30 per week
Public transportation is nearly always 20 rubles (about 30 cents) and 25 rubles (40 cents) after 8pm whether bus, marshrutka, or tram. The trolleybus (connected to the powerline above it) is 15 rubles. Buses and marshrutki are the most common, fast, and convenient mode of transportation; the trams are slower but more aesthetically pleasing. The approximate wait for transport is: Marshrutka: 2–20 minutes; Bus: 5–15 minutes; Tram: 10–25 minutes. Between 8am and 8pm, they run much more often, while after 8pm, much less. Be prepared to fight for your spot in the public bus, marshrutka, or tram during peak hours. For regular in-city buses and marshrutkas, you pay directly to the driver when you get off. On the tram, a ticket collector will come by once you board and give you a ticket/receipt.
Taxis: Yandex Taxi and Maxim are the favored ride-hailing apps. You can also call Maksim at 7 (3952) 500-600 or you can order online. Connect your credit card to the account for maximum security (no bargaining or cash involved!). Rides are usually around 130-150 rubles ($2.20-2.50). 300 rubles ($4.60) will get you to the airport – one of the most expensive rides to order.
Average weekly transport spending: ~$5-10 per week
See our Packing List for more information about bringing electronics to Russia.
Mobile service and data: SRAS will supply you with a simple mobile phone while abroad. Students that use only these phones to call and text report spending around $2 or less per month. Students with unlocked smartphones (check to make sure yours in unlocked before you leave) who get local SIMs for data and calling report spending around $3.50 to $10 per month. This is recommended, as it will allow you to use online maps and taxi service apps. Cell service in Russia is usually pay-as-you-go with a monthly fee or prepaid service. You will not need a long-term contract. Students can also look into international plans through T-Mobile and Verizon that can be handy if you plan to talk a lot to folks back home while abroad. Activate these before coming abroad.
High-speed Internet: Private high-speed wireless internet is available through private companies at the dorm. Costs run about $7-20 monthly, plus about $25-100 in startup costs for the router. If you are an infrequent internet user, it’s fairly easy to log on to WiFi at cafes and coffee shops for free. You will need to use a Russian phone number to do so.
Internet cafes / City Hotspots / Free WiFi: Internet cafes are getting rarer – and largely are now either copyshops or gaming centers. Try Lider, at Krasnoarmeiskaya, 7, centrally located near Lenin and Karl Marks Streets. Costs run around $1.5-2 hour.
Average total MONTHLY spending for communication: $2-15
6. Free Time, Other
Performances: Theater tickets at major theatres, ballet, and classical concerts won’t be more than $10. IMAX movies are about $10, and standard movies $4 or $5.
Clubs: If you go to a local place outside the center, beers will generally run $3-4, and mixed drinks for $4-5. If you’re in the new, more touristy center, a beer could cost you $5-8 and mixed drinks $8-14.
Travel: If you are going to blow some money in your budget – SRAS recommends you do it on travel. See more of the country and wider region and meet more of the people while you have the chance to do it quite inexpensively. Look at SRAS’s extensive travel site for info about in (and out) of country destinations. Train tickets to nearby Ulan-Ude are about $60 round trip and hostels there about $8-10 per night. Look for tickets on pass.rzd.ru or tutu.ru and for hostels on booking.com. You can also look into flying via Skyscanner, but Irkutsk actually isn’t much of a passenger air hub and tickets can be more expensive than you’d think. You can find more information about domestic air travel in Russia or domestic train travel in Russia from our site. Let SRAS know EVERY TIME YOU LEAVE IRKUTSK! This is for safety, but also because there may be registration or visa issues involved in your trip that we may need to advise you on.