Monday, April 10, 2017

Moscow, Russia: 100 Travel Tips

      Russia is a beautiful country, don't be misled by misconceptions and stereotypes. Moscow is one of the most visited cities in Moscow and here are some travel tips I picked up along the way that hopefully will make your first trip to Moscow more enjoyable. 
Moscow beautiful places

General Tips in Moscow (and all of Russia)

Russia beautiful places


Tourist Help

1. If you need any kind of help as a tourist, there is a call center specially for this, operating 24/7. Currently they only have 2 language options: Russian and English. 8-800-220-00-01, 8-800-220-00-02, 8-495-663-13-93
2. There is also a Volunteer Tourist Centre of the Moscow City. 


Language

3. I gonna be honest, Language is a problem in Moscow, because most people only speak Russian. However, you can occasionally find Russians who speak good English. So don’t be afraid to ask. 
4. I recommend learning some Cyrillic before traveling to Moscow. At least you’ll be able to read (without understanding, but it’s okay. )
5. Download Google Translator in your smart phone. This free voice translator is also very useful. 
6. Always say “Zdrasvuitie” to greet someone, “Izvinitie” (excuse me) and “Spasiba” (Thank you.) Read more: 13 useful Phrases


Money

7. Only Ruble is accepted. 
8. Credit cards are not widely accepted outside of hotels and restaurants, so it is important to have some cash with you. 
9. If you need to exchange currencies, do it in a Bank. I recommend Sberbank/ Сбербанк (Personally use this bank), if you don’t remember the name, just look for a green bank.


Prices


10. Unfortunately, in a lot of places that don't put forth their prices in the first place, foreigners are charged a higher price
11. Students normally get into museums and galleries for free or at a heavily discounted price, so don’t forget to flash your student card


Weather

12. Expect drastic changes. After being here for 6 years, I don’t know how to predict either… Side note, I am still waiting for the last snow, but judging from the current situation, I think Summer is coming. Download the weather forecast app.  
13. Pack in a sweater or 2 even if you travel in Summer. You’ll never know when you’ll need it. 
14. In winter, leaving your hotel without a hat, scarf, gloves and warm shoes is dangerous!
15. Do not walk near the buildings during winter because the falling ice icicles can kill! Be warned. 
16. You'll need good shoes to walk on ice. Believe me, it is not as easy as it may seem. 
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Culture


17.  Do not smile randomly to people on the streets. Only drunk people do that. 
18. People seems to be always in a rush in Moscow. So if you need to ask something, better look for someone in Uniforms
19. You might be taken back by the queueing culture in Russia. Most of the time, there is no Queue, only a big crowd of people standing randomly and start shouting at each other at one point. Occasionally, there will be a line in the beginning, but the line will eventually tail off into 2 lines and then into 4 and then into a big crowd (you'll start noticing that in airports). 
20. When going indoors, remember to take off your outside shoes and change into house shoes to keep the floor clean.
21. Respect for the older generation. For example, in Russia, people gives up their seats to older people on all modes of public transportation, 
22. Turning food down or leaving food on the plate is considered impolite.
23. Tip your waiter if you want to. This is not obligatory. I usually don't tip unless I really like the waiter. 


Transportation From the airport(s)

24. There are 3 airports in Moscow— Vnukovo, Sherylmetylvo and Domodeodovo, so make sure which airport are you landing at! 
25. To reach the city center, the fastest way is by taking the Aeroexpress (hourly service). One way fare is 550 Rubles ($9.50).  
26. They recently have an app for the Aeroexpress. (Available for iOS, Android, Windows).  
27. There is actually another budget-friendlier way, but you’ll have to speak a little tipsy bit of Russian to pull it off— by taking a bus or Marshut (little van). Fare starts from 160 Rubles and they send you to the nearest Metro station. You can continue taking the metro from there (Fare: 55 Rubles)
28. Alternatively, take a taxi, but DO NOT take those offered in the airport. I am especially angry with the “official looking” taxi service at the counter (Black and yellow logo), because they tried to con me too many times. Imagine this, I speak Russian and they try to offer me a ride starting from 3400 Rubles. After telling them off with a clearly annoyed facial expression, they pressed the price down to 2000 Rubles…. what would they do to Foreigners who speak only English?!
29. If anyone really need a taxi ride, I recommend calling an UBER (price range 1000-1300 Rubles per car), or GETT (Slightly more expensive than UBER, but still cheap. )
-Het $5 off your first GETT ride-
30. If you prefer a registered taxi service, then Russian taxi company with English-speaking operators, the "Angel-Taxi" would be your best bet (They do not charge journey time, so you can be sure that the drivers always take the shortest route). 


City Transportation 


31. Do not attempt to drive, because Moscow is famous for its traffic jams
32. Take the Metro… you are in for a pleasant surprise! Ticket cost only 55 Rubles. Navigate easier by using the Moscow Metro App
33. Moscow boat trip is such a cool way to go places. Averagely, it costs 500-700 rubles per person. 
34. Walk to explore the city better. Download an offline Moscow city app. 
35. Rent a bike. For that, you'll need to leave a deposit. It can be an identification document or money. In major Moscow parks, rental starts from 200 rubles per hour.  
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Accommodation

36. I used Couchsurfing to save up and to mingle with the locals. The Couchsurfing community in Moscow is quite happening.  
37. Most of the time the information listed on Airbnb is very deceiving. For example, I was searching for an apartment that could accommodate 10 and I saw a "hostel" listed its property as "Entire apartment", the maximum number as 10, stating that it has 5 rooms. I contacted the host immediately only to find out the information is all wrong. Literally ALL WRONG. so, my advice? Do not attempt to use Airbnb in Russia if you are new to it. 
38. There are a lot of cheap hostels starting from 200 Rubles, but do not be tempted! Try searching for hostel above 350 Rubles with good references on Booking.com
39. My recommendations for hostel (solo travelers): Bear Hostels, the largest chain in Moscow. They are all close to the Metro stations: Mayakovskaya, Arbatskaya and Smolenskaya. 
40. Some hostels have special rates — for example, the “Night Tariff”, that let you stay in a hostel from 11 p.m. to9 a.m. at a discounted price. 
41. Another highly recommended hostel is "Godzillas". Funny name, I know.  It is the first independent hostel in Moscow. 
42. If you come with your family, looking for an ensuit family room (spacious and come with private bathroom), I recommend Netizen Hostel, which is slightly further from the main attractions but located near to a metro station. 
43. For those looking for a family room near the Kremlin and don't mind sharing bathrooms with others, Kremlin light hostel is a good choice.  
44. Hotel recommendation: The Lotte Hotel Moscow, named the best city hotel in Russia. 
45. Normally, your hostels/ hotel should be able to help you with your invitation letter (Visa supporting documents). Some accommodation offer free assistance, a small fee under 1000 Rubles is acceptable. 
Moscow Night view

Food

Where to Eat in Moscow
46. Expect high price in restaurants
47. Yes, there are Starbucks, McD, pizzahut and KFC. This is not Mars. 
48. I highly recommend Cafe Shokolatnitsa because it is my favorite cafe chain in Russia. 
49. Yolki-Palki is another cafe chain that I recommend. Those who are very hungry should definitely try their all-you-can-eat buffet. 
50. Look for a “Stalovaya” for the cheapest meal.  
51.  Visit the Yamarka (morning markets) if you happen to visit on weekends. 
52. Eat in the parks once in a while. It is the easiest way to make friends. 

How to eat well in Moscow
53.  Aim for "Business Lunch set" in cafes and restaurants from 12pm-3pm (standard). 
54. For the set, you will get a soup, a main and a drink for one set price, below 250 Rubles.  
55. I recommend checking out the food section in hypermarkets and try out all their salad (take that as a challenge)! Read more on which salad to try! >>
56. Want locals to show you where locals eat? Check on Couchsurfing hangout or EatWith.

What to eat
57. Try Russian Traditional Food. Read more for ideas >> 
58.  Try innovative food. Read more about Fusion food in Moscow >> 
59. Try Sushi in Russia! I know it doesn’t sound like a good idea but believe me, it is. I’ve been to Japan, but Russian Sushi is something completely different. I like how they incorporate western ingredients into Sushi. Some sushis are generously loaded with cheese! Read more about Sushi in Russia >>
60. Try bizarre food. Need ideas? Read this article >>
Russian pancake

Souvenirs. 

61. Don't buy anything in the center, it can be really expensive. The Red Square and the Old Arbat Street are the most popular tourist places with expensive souvenirs. 
62. Visit the Vernissage in Izmailovo, and don't forget to haggle.
63. Read here for ideas on what to bring home as souvenirs >>  

Safety

Generally
64. Beware of Pickpockets in the metro stations or any crowded places. 
65. Be careful when crossing the roads due to high level of vehicles. 
66. Although the night view in Moscow is extremely beautiful (Read this post to find out HOW BEAUTIFUL!), I don't recommend walking alone at night, especially near bars and night clubs. 

Registration

67. Don't forget to REGISTER your visa within 3 working days of arrival. Your hostel will do this for you, but I've seen hostel staff declining to do this for free. (that is why it is important to choose a decent hostel.) 
68. If you are staying in a friend's house instead, register at the office yourself. Go to ul. Pokrovka 42 at 9-6pm. Lunch break at 1-2pm. 
**** Foreigners have the right to stay in Moscow without registration for up to a week. But I usually register anyway, to avoid problems.

An Encounter with the Police 
69. Always bring your passport with you (required by law). The police have the right to detain you for up to three days if you don't bring your documents with you. 
70. However, when stopped by a police officer, always ask for his position, rank, surname and his official identification (if he didn't do it at the first place, which he should). 
72. If someone asks you to pay a fine on the spot, without presenting a receipt, contact the Service for Personal Safety. Important contacts: Russian police – 02. You can also call your embassy when facing such situation. 

Scams
72. Do not buy cheap cell phones from random people near the metro/train station. Most of these are stolen phones. 
73. Just like other countries in Europe, there are gypsies in Moscow. However, in my humble opinion, these gypsies in Moscow are most moderate when "bothering people". In Europe, some of them are really persistent and could get physical (Read this article about scams in Europe). Here in Moscow, you can still tell them off easily by saying "Niet" (No), or simply don't talk to them. 
74. Don't borrow your phone to random people asking for help because fraud involving phone credits is common. If you would like to help, ask for the phone number he/she want to call and open the loudspeaker/earphone for him. (Don't let them key in the number by themselves, they might transfer your credit to their phone.) 
75. Taxi scam is common. Refer to point 26 and 27. 
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Water and Electricity


76. Never drink water directly from the tap. Always filter and boil it. 
77. It is advisable to buy bottled mineral water.
78. Since it is hard water from the tap in Russia, expect a little hair loss during the first few days.  
79. The plugs in Russia are the two-pin thin European standard, hence bring an adapter.
80. Always bring a portable changer especially if you are traveling in Winter because phones' battery life plunges in low temperature.   


Things to Do

81. There is an app called "Last-minute tours", which allows you to browse last-minute offers from thousands of Russian tour operators. (Available for iOS, Android, NX-OS).
82.  Look for the best spot to enjoy Moscow skyline. Read more >>
83. The MUST DOs. Read more >>
84. the not-so-touristy. Read more >>
85. Look for interesting free things to do in Moscow! Read more >> 


Festival and Events

86. 8th March, International Womens day. Read more about it >> 
87. 9th May,  Victory day. Enjoy the spectacular Millitary parade. 
88. New Year eve. Watch impressive fireworks! 
89. 7th January, Christmas. Look for the Blue Santa and his granddaughter.  
90. February or March, Maslenitsa. A week-long celebration before Lent. Eat Russian pancakes until you can take no more! 
91. 23th February, Defender of the Fatherland Day. 
92. 12th June, Russia national day
93. 4th November, Unity Day. 
94. 1st May, Labour Day. 


Day Trips from Moscow

95. Suzdal and Vladimir. Read my experience >>
96. Sergiev Posad. Read my experience >>
97.  Estates: Uzkoe Estate, Bratsevo Estate, Vinogradovo Estate, Kuskovo Estate (Moscow Versailles), ”Grachevka" Park and Estate. 


Some EXTRA Tips

98.  Here are the list of places where you can safely connect to WIFI for free: city parks, Metro, libraries, museums. But, you'll still need a Russian phone number to register
99. Alternatively, find free wifi where you do not need to register your phone number. Read here >>
100. How to find the cheapest flight to Moscow? Read here >>
Aeroflot


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Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my personal experience. 
 If you have more tips, feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

4 comments:

Discover Andaman said...

Thanks for sharing such useful tips here. Keep up the good work.

Wingo Cabs said...

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