Moscow is the capital of Russia and also the financial, political and cultural centre. During history, Moscow has played a pivotal role in the development of the country and as such offers a rich endowment with excellent museums, magnificent palaces, a vibrant nightlife and excellent cuisine. This travel guide for Moscow helps you get the most out of your trip to Moscow.
Geography and Climate
Moscow is not only the capital of Russia but also the financial, political and cultural centre. Throughout history, Moscow has played a central role in the development of the country and as such offers a rich heritage with excellent museums, beautiful palaces, a vibrant nightlife and excellent cuisine. This travel guide for Moscow helps you get the most out of your trip to Moscow.
Expect old and dirty. In fact, the Moscow Domodedovo International Airport is modern, clean and full of luxury shops and stalls at the same rate as most major airports and at prices, you won’t catch your breath.
Currency and Value
Without really doing my homework, I expected Russia to use the euro. In reality, their currency is the Ruple and you see the prices according to the price followed by “py6”. VAT is included, the price that you see is the price that you pay. The current exchange rate is around 32 lines per US dollar. The value is in the eyes of the buyer, but the price of everyday products other than luxury seems slightly lower than in other large cities. ATMs are numerous, with many choices of rules or dollars.
I expected to be able to decipher the characters or even to understand most titles of newspapers like in the other countries I visited. The difference is that Russia uses a Cyrillic script that is not visually recognizable as the Latin languages of Western Europe (just like trying to read Chinese). That means you get lost and have trouble finding things with the help of panels. Tip, learn to count the number of metro stops at your destination.
I was told that English was taught at school and it was expected that it could communicate with basic needs. The reality is that almost everyone you can help doesn’t speak much English. You hear a conversation in English less understandable in Moscow than in Paris or London. Of course, the big international hotels are no problem, but it is a completely different story on the street or in the shops. Pointer and smartphone images work well as a common language.
I didn’t go shopping, but I expected to find luxury brands and Russian equivalents in our downtown malls. The urban professionals who occupy the metro are all well dressed, but they certainly do not all wear D&G. So they have to shop in places that I have not found. I didn’t go shopping.
Gift shops only seem to exist in 3 zones. The airport, a shop on Red Square and a car-free shopping street called Arbat Street. Speaking of Arbat, it is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Moscow, with the exception of the Kremlin. It housed gentlemen, artists, writers and contained beautiful museums and historic architecture. This is worth a few hours.
I thought it was hard, but once you’ve learned a few things, it’s easy. The Moscow metro (METRO) is fantastic. Easy to use, cheap (with a dollar you can take it anywhere), fast, clean, reliable and frequent (trains every minute or every two hours, at normal hours). As a showcase of Stalinist Russia, most resorts are pretty architecturally beautiful with their high ceilings, marble and ornate chandeliers.
Don’t expect to hail a taxi on the street. The legal does not look for the rates. You may find them available after the Bolshoi or at some train stations but plan to have your hotel book a taxi in advance and wait a few hours in advance so that your taxi can arrive on time. The few times a taxi was requested, they showed as promised. It is best for your hotel to negotiate the price of the ticket and pay in advance to avoid surprises.
I usually walk without paying much attention to my whereabouts. Although I was not sure of my (lost) position and intersecting alleys, I have never observed anything that made me feel uncomfortable. However, I propose to be careful. Stay informed of your environment and travel in a group.
Expected and seen many apartments from the Khrushchev era that looked rather depressing. Apparently they were built a step further from city life and offered each family a private space, even if the walls were as thin as paper and the heat wasn’t working so well. They are quickly being replaced by modern high-rise homes, which appears to be a significant advance.
If you are not impressed by Khrushchev as an architect, you will find that his predecessor, Joseph Stalin, had a much larger vision and had devised a number of Gothic steel skyscrapers. The first was launched in 1941 but was abandoned because steel was needed to defend Moscow (damn Germans!). 7 were built after the war and are now called the Seven Sisters. They are just as imposing as any building in Manhattan and stand out clearly on the horizon.
Museums are numerous and will certainly impress art lovers. For a true taste of Tsarist lifestyle and immense wealth, make a reservation to enter Amory within the walls of the Kremlin. It contains everything from Fabergé eggs to royal carriages. Pass the 1812 museum on the red square. Nothing translated into English and pretty boring in general.
Residents seem to stand in line for almost everything, even if they tend to burst out in front of you, even if you’re not seen as a tourist. It was perhaps the only rude thing I encountered, except for the indifferent service in some stores and restaurants, but not all.
Expectations were not high for cuisine
The expectations were not great for the kitchen, but there were some nice surprises. The first meal in Russia was held in a café in GUM, the 120-year-old Red Square shopping mall. Fantastic food, well presented with talent, good service and reasonable prices for food and wine. During the stay, we enjoyed Georgian food on Leningradsky Avenue. Poor hotel and Serbian food hidden in a bar/restaurant below. The only place where the service was excellent was the Serbian restaurant where they seemed very happy with our presence.
The breakfast is easy to go with lots of cafes, casual restaurants and kiosks. 400 Rules will have a good lunch and maybe even a glass of Russian wine.
Service and Tipping
Muscovites are not supposed to tip, Americans are. This is the simple truth from the mouth of an Aboriginal guide. I was chased when the waiter thought I had no tip and it is not unusual to find a note as a reminder when your tab is presented to you. If you decide to tip, 10% warn wolves.
Don’t expect someone to jump just because you can be a customer. Although many Western customs invade Moscow, the concept of customer service is still in its infancy and there are still socialist norms (think of Paris). The service is usually slow with little eye contact (which may mean that they have to do something), but usually without any inconvenience (think of Paris).