Rostov-on-Don (normally referred to as simply Rostov - not to be confused with Rostov Velikiy, a much smaller town north from Moscow) is a unique city for Russia, being formed of two adjacent towns, one of which was ethnically non-Russian. Two towns, one of which was original Rostov-on-Don, and the another Nahichevan-on-Don with predominantly Armenian population, were merged in 1928. The modern city still has two distinct central areas and Armenians form a major national minority in Rostov. Former border area between two towns was turned into a modern city's main square (Teatralny square) and the biggest city park.
Rostov-on-Don Airport  has been moved out of the city to a new location (sometimes referred to as Platov Airport) in December 2017 and now has brand new terminal, with majority of flights handled via jetways. It is located 40 km (25 miles) north-east of downtown Rostov-on-Don. About 80% of operation is domestic; however there are scheduled fligths to a number of neighboring countries including Turkey, Israel, Belarus, Armeria, Germany, UAE, Czech Republic. Foreing carriers with regular flights to Rostov are Turkish Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, flydubai and Belavia.
Public transportation from the airport to the city is currently limited to one bus route. Line 700 travels to the main railway station Rostov-Glavny (as well as the main bus station and local railway terminal, all co-located near downtown), with an intermediate stops near local bus station (Prigorodny Avtovokzal) at Sholokhova St and further stop in the city centre at Voroshilovsky Avenue. On the way from the airport, stops on demand are also possible at any public transport stop along the route. The trip takes 60-75 minutes and costs 100 roubles. Luggage (bigger than cabin size) is extra at 50 roubles a piece. In daytime the interval is 30 minutes with departures in 00 and 30 minues of each hour and most buses are fairly comfortable. At night (23.00 to 6.00) departures are once an hour and the line is operated by quite basic small buses.
Any taxi offered at the airport itself (both from official stand and unofficial touts) will be overpriced. Regular fare (approx. 600-1200 roubles depending on the destination in the city and traffic conditions) can only be obtained from mobile apps of major taxi companies (Uber, Gett, Yandex Taxi, Maxim).
The airport has automated lockers - 300 roubles for 24 hours or 100 roubles for 1 hour (bigger luggage twice that price). When departing internationally, it's possible to access domesctic airside area with better choice of cafes and shops before clearing customs and border control. However, the only budget cafe, Vkusnolubov pancake outlet, is landside near arrivals.
Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the airport, and there are multiple power outlets in virtually all cafes in the terminal and in sitting areas in airside. All cafes and most other facilities are 24 hours. This doesn't, however, include currency exchange, as the bank branch operates only standard bank hours. For those coming without Russian currency, there is plenty of bank machines. Two of them can exchange euros and US dollars into roubles (turn right from arrivals, machines are near bank office).
By train. Rostov-on-Don has several train stations, but only main station Rostov-Glavny normally handles long-distance trains (occasionally in summer, a small number of slower long-distance trains may be routed through Rostov-Pervomayski, a smaller station in the far west of Rostov - twenty-minute taxi ride from downtown). Rostov-Prigorodny terminal, located 300 metres from Rostov-Glavny, handles local and commuter rail routes.
Both Rostov-Glavny and Rostov-Prigorodny are centrally located and are only a five-minute taxi ride to downtown. Square in between, which also houses main bus station, is a major hub for city transport as well, with several dozens routes to almost anywhere in Rostov. Downtown is served from there by frequent departures of buses 3, 3A, 7, 67, 70, 80, 98 and trolleybuses 1, 2, 22. As with the airport, taxis ordered via the mobile app are considerably cheaper than those offered at the station itself.
Main station Rostov-Glavny has a spacious terminal with plenty of seating both in the main building and in the concourse over the tracks. Free Wi-Fi and multiple charging stations are available. Ground floor has a small food court with 3 decent food outlets, located opposite of the main entrance. Baggage lockers are near the entrance. Most facilities are 24 hours.
It's best to arrive at the station at least 10-15 minutes before departure to clear security (located in a separate pavillion before entrance) and navigate your way to the platform. As in many other Russian stations, platform numbering is complicated. For each train, both platform and track numbers are mentioned on station boards and in announcements. In Rostov, Platform 1 has Track 1 only, Platform 2 has Tracks 2 and 3, Platform 3 has Tracks 4 and 5. Same numbering is used at adjacent Rostov-Prigorodny commuter trains station.
When travelling from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, trains can be much cheaper than planes, but take at least 15 hours from Moscow and more than 24 hours from Saint-Petersburg. Daytime express trains go to Krasnodar (3-3,5 hours), Novorossiysk (5 hours), Tuapse (5,5 hours), Kislovodsk (7 hours).
By bus. If both rail and air options are expensive, express buses of various companies link Rostov and Moscow approx. 15 times daily. Trip takes 15-17 hours, normal fare is between 1000-1500 roubles as of 2018. Most such buses depart from the square between main rail and bus stations. Same place is full of ticket booths selling express bus tickets to a number of cities in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia. These can be best option for going to places without reliable air or rail link from Rostov, like Volgograd, Stavropol, Elista, or places in Ukraine.
Main bus station ("Glavny Avtovokzal")  itself has buses to all major places in Southern Russia, but these tend to be slower than express buses departing from outside the station. It also has services to dozens of smaller towns around. Tickets for almost all routes can be booked online on bus station website (Russian only).
A number of express buses to Moscow also travel from local bus station ("Prigorodny Avtovokzal"), Sholokhova 126. This station also handles some suburban routes.
Both bus stations are cramped and uncomfortable, with little seating space. Main staion is 24 hours, local station closes for the night.
There is no metro system in Rostov. Transportation relies mostly on buses and minibuses ("marshrutka"). Trolleybus and tram (light rail) systems are of limited use, although all trolleybus and tram routes pass through city centre. The bus system can take time to understand, but is VERY efficient and reliable, with frequent departures (every 4-10 minutes) on most routes in daytime.
There are no day or weekly passes. However, you can buy a local transport card called Prostor for 100 roubles at almost any newsstand - but topping it up can be tricky, as it is currently done only in several dozens places across the whole city and requires understanding some Russian. The card pays off after approx. 20 trips, so it is only good for those coming for at least a week. Contactless payment cards are accepted and bring the same discount.
Standard bus or minibus cash fare is 26 roubles (23 roubles if paid by Prostor card or any contactless Visa or Mastercard card). Trams and trolleybuses are 17 roubles irrespective of the payment method. Pay when you enter (except in some minibuses, where fares are paid when exiting). Free or discounted transfers are not provided. There are no conductors or ticket inspectors in Rostov, and passengers normally don't bother to take tickets after payment.
Make sure to have YandexTransport (Яндекс.Транспорт) mobile app on your phone. It shows the real time movement of all buses, trams, trolleybuses and most minibuses. It also shows any chosen vehicle's route on a map - so you can see where this or that bus could bring you. YandexMaps (Яндекс.Карты) app has the same capability if in city transport mode. Some buses and all minibuses have their entire route listed on the side (in Russian only). Alternatively, route schemes in both Russian and English are posted on some bus stops in the city centre only; just show up to the bus stop, determine the bus number, and wait. Unfortutately, these signes were not updated after route changes in November 2018, so some of them can be misleading.
Minibuses are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at any point along the route - provided that stopping there is not forbidden by road signs. Buses, trolleybuses and trams are supposed to call at designated stops only, but if you are desperate to catch some particular vehicle outside a stop (e.g. in early or late hours or being in a hurry), try to flag it down - some drivers would stop and pick you up.
Buses and especially minibuses in Rostov can get crowded in peak times, but tourists staying in city centre are less likely to experience this. More of a problem is disappearance of most routes at about 9-10 p.m. Very limited service on certain routes operates between 10 p.m. and midnight. In the morning, most routes start operation between 5 and 6 a.m. No night buses exist.
Buses in Rostov are notorious for long waits (up to 3-4 minutes) at certain stops, where they try to collect more passengers. Introducing of non-cash payments in 2017 has led to diminishing of this problem, however it is not yet solved. Expect a bus taking 5-15 minutes more for the same route than minibus.
For a taxi, it's best to use mobile apps of major companies (Uber, Gett, Yandex, Maxim). As with most taxi companies in Russia, only some of the vehicles carry company livery, so the absence of such livery doesn't mean the taxi is unlicensed or suspicious. Just make sure that registration plate matches the one mentioned in the app. A taxi ride within the city center normally costs 100-150 roubles, a trip from centre to the outskirts can set you back 200-300 roubles - however the price can go up 2-3 times in peak times such as Friday or Saturday nights, after a football match or in bad weather conditions. A word of warning: as in the rest of Russia, unlicensed taxi drivers may attempt to scam foreigners. Alwas determine the fare to your destination before getting in the taxi (mobile apps would normally quote the approximate price when you make the order).
Note: Many statues and monuments not listed here can be found in almost every public park and major street of Rostov.
Most Western-style shopping malls are in the outskirts of the city. The three relatively close to the centre are:
The best authentic shopping can be done at the Central Rynok (Bazaar/ Farmer's Market) in downtown Rostov. (See "Do" Section, above). This Rynok, located on Stanoslavskovo Street sells everything. It is an interesting place but be careful, criminal's activity possible.
If you are uncomfortable speaking Russian, but need to buy groceries downtown in a familiar supermarket-type environment, try the following chains (all of them are present across Russia):
It is not recommended to shop in the upscale department stores (such as TsUM, on the corner of Bolshaya Sadovaya and Buddyonovskiy), where prices are inflated and store clerks are intimidating.
Many souvenirs sellers, graphists, painters with his pictures, may be founded in undergrounds at "Voroshilovskiy prosp / Sadovaya st" and "Buddyonovskiy prosp / Sadovaya st", in Gorky's Park in Saturday and Sunday, at Beregovaya st.
If you are interested in "swap meet", visit "Radio Rynok" (radio market) on Guseva str (on hill), it works Saturdays and Sundays from 09.00 to approx. 13.00. You may see old "one-storey" Rostov near that market, cobblestones roads, and look for different electronic used equipment near (outside) that market, many from soviet era: radio receivers, headphones, old vynil, electronic parts and other. Inside market, under roof, you may find used and new electronic stuff, TVs, cell phones, notebooks, CDs and other. This is an interesting place for nerds and retro-electronics collectors.
Rostov has enourmous choice of eateries of all sorts. As with other southern places, locals have a passion for good food. This results in overwhelming quantity of cafes everywhere and a whole 3-kilometer strip of restaurants on the left bank of Don river. Most Russian chains and some international ones, such as Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway etc, are also present.
Rostov also has several local chains of cafes and fast food outlets. The ones with decent budget food are:
For a more upscale experience in the city centre, try a bunch of restaurants located in the former tobacco factory building. Korova (Корова) (Gazetny 84), Bukovsky (Буковски), Vino & Myaso (Вино & Мясо) (both at Gazetny 99) are among many options there.
If an English-speaking visitor wishes to eat in a sit-down restaurant, be warned that in southern Russia most restaurants do not carry a copy of their menu in English. Also, service at these restaurants is slow compared to North American sit-down restaurants. It is not uncommon to spend half an hour waiting for your meal, even when the restaurant is not busy. For travelers on a budget, be warned that a meal for two in these restaurants often costs more than 1500 rubles ($40), and the portions are comically small.
Perhaps preferable is the cafeteria-style restaurant that is ubiquitous in Russia, where non-Russian speakers can point at items on display, or load up a tray. Most cafeterias carry good quality, authentically Russian food at reasonable prices.
For those of you still reading who still want to go to a sit-down restaurant, the best ones are on the River Embankment (See section "See", above), on the north bank of the Don. These include: Frau Mueller (Фрау Мюллер) (German Cuisine, 29 Beregovaya Street), Osaka (Japanese Cuisine, 30 Beregovaya Street), and any of the ship restaurants docked at the bank.
Tap water is relatively safe, but definitely not recommended for drinking or using for tea or cooking. Use bottled water instead (See "Buy" section, above), available in 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 or 5 litre bottles almost everywhere for 15-50 roubles. In summer time kvass points pop up on streets (Starominskiy, Otlichnik and other kvass).
Westerners will appreciate the Don Plaza Hotel (sometimes called the "Intourist"). This four-star hotel is a three-star on the North American rating, and features a fantastic free breakfast buffet. I'm not kidding. This breakfast is freaking amazing. The Don Plaza has quite small rooms and spotty Wi-Fi, but makes up for those shortcomings with a really, really, really, really good breakfast menu.
Other options for hotels with less-illustrious breakfasts include the Hotel Rostov (corner of Krasnoarmeskaya Street and Buddyonovskiy Prospect) and the Hermitage Hotel (54 Ulyanovskaya Street).