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Thrifty Thursday: One Month of Intensive Russian for Less Than $850

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When it comes to traveling to certain parts of the world, it almost seems like a crime to visit and not practice a foreign language since the cost of those lessons is so cheap. Kyrgyzstan is one of those places. I simply cannot imagine visiting the country and not taking up some intensive Russian because the cost to me is but a fraction of what you would find in the US and Australia.

Seriously, in some parts of the world, a one-on-one Russian lesson will cost you over $50 per hour! I don’t think I would get very far in those lessons before going over my budget.

This is why I love Bishkek so much. It’s a cheap and friendly place to travel, and I can get quality language lessons for around $4 per hour. That’s FOUR dollars. My mind is blown whenever I put that down on paper.

London School in Bishkek

The London School in Bishkek

On my last visit for 4 weeks to Kyrgyzstan where I took 80 hours of intensive language lessons, stayed in the school dorm with free (although crappy) Wi-Fi and a maid cleaning once a week, I paid less than $850 USD.

Here is the breakdown:

  • Kyrgyz Visa – $70
  • Language School Reservation Fee – $50
  • Language Lessons (15,200 som) – $333.40
  • Textbooks (500 som) – $10.97
  • Dorm Room (7280 som) – $159.68
  • Transfer from Airport to School (900 som) – $19.75
  • Taxi from School to Airport (500 som) – $10.97
  • Food (6917 som) – $151.72
  • Local Transport + Marshrutka to Bokonbaeva (990 som) – $21.72
  • Entertainment (560 som) – $12.28
  • Phone Credit (410 som) – $9
  • Total: $849.49
  • Per week: $212.37

What’s Included; What’s Not

This price list was created using a pile of receipts and my personal notes, but I do believe I missed a couple of bucks here or there (nothing major), as well as left out the cost of my medicine when I was sick and the souvenirs I bought (your spending will vary). Another thing to keep in mind is your trip’s purpose. If you plan to do heaps of touristy things and more weekend trips, you will pay more.

However, I’m 100% positive I could have done some of the trip for way cheaper.

Yummy pizza.

Best pizza in Bishkek.

When you look at food, you might not realize that I ate out at quite a few restaurants in Bishkek, and they happened to be the fanciest places in town! Instead of 200 som for dinner, I paid in the area of 500 while enjoying wood-fired pizzas with house wine, Georgian crock pots of beans and walnuts, and Korean BBQ. These are all splurge meals when considering how cheap you can get a meal at more local establishments.

I also went to the fancy coffee shops (Foye and Coffee Time) on numerous occasions, and I partook in the expat fave of Fat Boys twice. These sorts of experiences add to the rates.

In addition, I did most of my grocery shopping at the nice shopping centers, which make food costs quite expensive compared to shopping at the bazaars. If the weather were nicer, I could have saved a good chunk by getting large weekly hauls.

Putting It Into Perspective

dorm room

My dorm room in Bishkek.

Let’s think about this cost in Sydney terms. If you are renting a room in an apartment in Sydney, you are most likely going to pay in the area of $250 per week, but upwards of $400 per week depending on location, size and niceness. Since I’m more of a budget-minded individual, let’s shoot for $250 per week, which may or may not get you a shit-hole type place closer to the city, or get you a spacious but more inconvenient room 40+ minutes away.

For less than the cost of a room — a simple room — with no utilities and no food… with no public transport, phone or entertainment, I received my room, my meals, my transport and 20 hours of intensive language lessons in Bishkek. Doesn’t that seem like a more productive way to spend your money?

Cost Per Hour of Language Lesson

I already mentioned that the cost of the language lessons themselves are in the area of $4 (USD), but that’s not including all the other costs that are involved, like needing a place to stay and providing meals. So, I decided to break it down. Over the course of my 4 weeks and 80 hours of lessons, I spent $849.49. If we divide that out, we get:

$10.62 per hour!

Still a freakin’ bargain if I saw one!

Ok, ok, but you’re probably thinking, “Uhm, don’t I have to fly there? That adds on a heck of a cost to this whole program.”

Yes, you are right. But, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • My flight also provided me the opportunity to visit Turkey for the first time, as well as Bangkok. In that sense the price is sort of spread across multiple travel opportunities.
  • I paid a few hundred dollars more to get business class flights (using double miles!), so I technically could have saved a little money if I so desired.
  • The longer you stay, the less your per day or per hour of language lesson cost becomes. I recommend a minimum of a month, but after 2 or 3 months, your cost is minimal.
  • Traveling to Kyrgyzstan for language study also provides a unique cultural experience.

My business class flight cost: $1543
My per hour of lesson cost for the flight: $19.29
My overall per lesson cost: $29.91

Conclusion

For one month of language study, I spent a total of $29.91 per hour of one-on-one, intensive lessons. When you think about the idea of spending $25 per hour in a city in Russia, or $70 in Sydney, for just the lesson ALONE, you really should not disregard the option to get that — and so much more — in Kyrgyzstan.

Thrifty Thursday is seeking guest bloggers to share their very own mind-blowing budget-busting travel tips. DIY tours and gear, extreme savings, how-to-have-a-$25-travel-day posts — anything that shows the numbers and is not your standard “don’t eat out” type tips are welcome. Contact Brooke.

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12 Responses to Thrifty Thursday: One Month of Intensive Russian for Less Than $850

  1. tunimaal January 20, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    4 dollars an hour to learn Russian?????? In Japan people do pay 30 to 70 dollars an hour to learn a foreign language… I do charge 30 dollars to my student here in Tokyo and I have over 20 students….. So 4 dollars is so cheap that you must enjoy it

    • Brooke January 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

      Yep! It’s so cheap! It was similar prices to learn Spanish in Guatemala. LOVE IT.

  2. Alouise January 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    This is a great post, and I love how you break everything down. Paying $4/hour for a language lesson seems like a steal of a deal. Maybe I should start learning Russian.

    • Brooke January 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      You can get the same sort of deal with Spanish in Central America. It’s a very good deal!

  3. Sam January 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Great post, you covered all the angles and have shown that there really is no excuse for learning Russian anywhere else other than Russia itself.

  4. dtravelsround January 23, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    For $4 an hour, how can you say “no”? So cool!!

  5. Candice January 24, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    Amazing! Wish it were that easy to learn French in Canada, hahaha.

  6. Mary @ Green Global Travel October 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    I would love to spend time in Central Asia and would be thrilled to no end to spend it studying Russian! Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and detailed account of your experience and expenses!

  7. Jo May 11, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    Hi Brooke! What school did you go to? Great post, I’m thinking of doing this myself!

  8. Anna June 13, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Hi Brooke, thank you very much for this informative article. Would you mind sharing contact information of the school where you stayed/studied? Would you recommend staying with a local family for the duration of study? Also, what is the best season to visit the country? I’ve been living in the Middle East and have often found winters unbearable due to lack of reliable heating systems. Thank you so much in advance.

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