Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media

Planning

Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens require a valid passport and a visa to enter the Russian Federation. For visa requirements, visit www.ruscon.com or your local Russian Consulate.

Security: Considering its size, Moscow is a remarkably safe city. That said it is always wise to be cognizant of one’s surroundings. Pickpockets are present in crowded places. Foreigners are also advised to be cautious about taking taxis from popular expat bars and clubs, especially late at night.

Time: Moscow is eight hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time.

Money: The Russian Federation’s currency is the Russian ruble. For current conversion rates, visit www.oanda.com/convert/classic.

Phone Calls: The area code for Moscow is 495. For phone calls to Moscow from within Russia, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 495 seven-digit phone number. For phone calls to Moscow from outside Russia, dial the international access code 7 495 seven-digit phone number. Within Moscow, dial only the seven-digit number.

When to Go: Moscow’s extreme continental climate means hot, humid summers and extremely cold winters. From June to August, temperatures are generally in the 70s or 80s°F (20s°C), while winter months are consistently well below freezing. It stays cold into April, which makes for a short, muddy spring. Autumn is pleasant and mild, although also very short, as the first snow usually occurs in October.

Getting There: Over 20 international airlines fly into Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), or Sheremetyevo-2, which is located 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) northwest of the city center. About 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of the center, Domodedovo Airport (DME) offers an increasingly attractive alternative for its smaller size and convenient transportation.

Getting Around: Driving in Moscow is discouraged, as road rules are often flaunted and traffic is deadly. An easier option is the Moscow metro, which runs frequently and is easily navigable. Calling a cab is another easy and economical option. Indeed, it’s common to flag a taxi on the street, in which case the car that stops may be an official taxicab or a private citizen hoping to make a few extra bucks.

Checklist

Attire: “Consider your travel wardrobe very carefully," advises Simon Richmond, coordinating author, Lonely Planet Russia & Belarus. Muscovites are fashion conscious, but extreme weather conditions dictate clothing choices.

Visa: All foreigners need a visa to enter the Russian Federation. Visa regulations are complicated and often changing, so plan in advance and allow plenty of time to obtain it. The less time you allow, the more it will cost.

Photocopy of Passport/Visa: In addition to the documents themselves, you should bring photocopies to carry around with you. With the exception of customs, overly vigilant police officers have been known to deposit visitors’ passports into their pockets. “Never hand over your passport,” warns Richmond. Showing a photocopy at security checks will safeguard against this sticky situation.

Phrasebook: With a few exceptions, signs around Moscow are in Russian only, and most people that you meet on the street or in the service sector do not speak English.

Seasonal Clothing: “If you’re visiting in winter, thermal underwear, a warm coat, hat, gloves and non-slip shoes will be lifesavers,” suggests Richmond. “In summer, if you can bare it, sandals with socks are a way to blend in.”

Headscarf: Traditionally, women must cover their head when entering an Orthodox church. While many churches do not enforce this rule (especially the most popular tourist destinations), many working churches do. Significantly, women are required to wear headscarves in the Trinity Monastery of St Sergius (Sergiev Posad) and Novodevichy Convent.

Money: In 2007, Mercer Human Resource Consulting ranked Moscow as the most expensive city in the world for expatriots. Expect to pay dearly for hotels, restaurants, nightlife, and entertainment. Says Richmond, “Credit cards are sometimes accepted, but cash—lots of it—is best.” Most Moscow ATMs (bankomat in Russian) are compatible with international networks. Otherwise, bring crisp, new bills (US dollars or euros), as banks will not accept any wrinkles, tears, or pen marks.

Pain Relievers: Richmond recommends bringing “a bumper-sized bottle of aspirin.” Vodka-fuelled hangovers are an unavoidable consequence of a fun-filled Moscow night.

Web Links

Moscow Metro

The history, art, and politics of the Moscow metro. Also includes trivia, updated maps, and plans for expansion. engl.mosmetro.ru

Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears

Anonymous but insightful blogger gives astute analysis of Moscow’s entertainment and nightlife scene. moscowdoesntbelieveintears.blogspot.com

The Moscow Expat Site

News, cultural calendar, restaurant reviews, real estate listings, and survival guide. Sign up for the Expat List for ongoing expatriate information. www.expat.ru

Moscow Taxi

A fantastic resource for travelers, including reviews of popular sights, restaurants, and hotels, as well as suggestions for children’s activities and excursions from the city and an active discussion board. http://www.taxi-in-moscow.com/

Russia Profile

Covers politics, economics, and culture, including book and film reviews. www.russiaprofile.org

Way to Russia

Restaurant and accommodation options and lots of information about local events, sights, and transportation. www.waytorussia.net

Local Media

Afisha

A glossy monthly magazine (Russian only) that is the go-to guide for Moscow’s hottest spots and current trends. www.afisha.ru

The Exile

An offbeat—and sometimes off-color—English-language bi-weekly newspaper that is famous for its forthright reviews of restaurants and clubs and its biting commentary on politics.

The Moscow News

The country’s oldest English-language newspaper, published weekly, which focuses on domestic and international politics and economics. www.mnweekly.ru

The Moscow Times

An excellent English-language daily newspaper that covers local, national, and international news, as well as entertainment and nightlife. Also publishes a quarterly glossy entertainment magazine. www.moscowtimes.ru

Novaya Gazeta

A famous liberal publication, known mainly for its political critic-columnist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed mysteriously in 2006. Published in Russian, but the online edition prints some stories in English. www.novayagazeta.ru

Vedomosti

A widely read national newspaper affiliated with the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal. www.vedomosti.ru

Share

About Moscow and Russia

  • Photo: Saint Basil's Cathedral in Red Square

    Moscow

    Get travel tips, see photos, take a quiz and more with National Geographic's Ultimate Guide to Moscow.

  • Photo: The colorful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral

    Russia

    Explore Russia through facts and photos, related features, a country map, and more.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Join Nat Geo Travel's Communities




2014 Traveler Photo Contest

  • Picture of a supercell storm in Colorado.

    See the Winners

    See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.