Difference between revisions of "Moscow"
Revision as of 22:51, 4 January 2007
Moscow has a population of around 11 million, and covers an area of around 1080 km².
Caroline Brooke, Moscow: A Cultural History (2006: OUP Cityscapes series, ISBN: 0195309529) is a good place to start.
Moscow is located on the Moskva River, which bends its way through the southern and western parts of the city. Most of the main sites are on the northern bank of the river. The other major waterway is the Yauza River, which flows into the Moskva east of the Kremlin.
Much of Moscow's geography is defined by the numerous 'Ring Roads' that circle the city at various distances from the center. With Red Square and the Kremlin forming the very center, the innermost ring road is the Boulevard Ring, which which runs from the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in south-west central Moscow, to the mouth of the Yauza in south-east central Moscow.
The next ring road is the Garden Ring, which used to be the place of Moscow's outer walls. It derives its name from the fact that landowners near the road in Tsarist times were obligated to maintain gardens to make the road attractive. In Soviet times the road was widened.
The recently constructed Third Ring is not much use for tourists but is a heavily used motorway which absorbs a bit of Moscow's traffic. The outer edge of Moscow is largely defined by the Moscow Ring Road, a motorway which encircles the entire city (similar to London's M25 and Paris' Peripherique). Finally, a Fourth Ring is due to be built between the Third Ring and the Moscow Ring Road in the next years.
As elsewhere in Russia, strict visa requirements apply. See Russia#Get in for details.
Moscow has four airports:
Moscow is, by far, the main air traffic hub of Russia and will continue to be as both Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo are undergoing major development plans (both are due to build brand new and large terminals in the next years) and Domodedovo plans to more than double terminal space to 225,000 m² this year (2006) and to invest a further $300 million into construction and upgrades in the next two years.
In the past, nearly all international flights (from outside the former USSR) landed at Sheremetyevo International Airport, commonly called Sheremetyevo II. Sheremetyevo I is actually Terminal I of the same airport; however, it is located a considerable distance from Sheremetyevo II and for practical purposes is a separate airport. Sheremetyevo I handles mostly domestic flights as well as charter flights to resort destinations. However, Domodedovo and Vnukovo are increasingly competing for international flights, and several international carriers, including British Airways, have switched to Domodedovo and so it happened in the year 2005 that Domodedovo ended up as Russia's leading airport in number of passengers, both domestic and international.
If you prefer to go to the airport by car, it is best to call a taxi agency and book a cab. There are many agencies that can provide this service, and the cost ranges from $20-30 or more. All airports have taxi kiosks where you can negotiate the price and get yourself a driver. Don't listen to people offering you a taxi around the terminal, it is most of the time either not safe or will all end up in a major rip-off. For public transportation see below:
Sheremetyevo II is located north from city centre and is best reached by going to the metro station Rechnoi Voksal and taking a bus 851 or a shared, fixed-price taxi called Marshrutka from there. Buses depart very regularly (about 15-30 minutes). Without jams the trip takes about 30-40 minutes and costs 5-40 RUB, depending which one you take and amount of your luggage. If you have plenty of bulky luggage, you should not take Marshrutka. Be careful because the same bus/Marshrutka goes also to Sheremetyevo I and remember that when going to the airport they stop first at Sheremetyevo II and then at Sheremetyevo I. They arrive and depart right in front of the terminal.
Other option is to take a bus 817 or Marshrutka to/from metro station Planernaya. Trip takes 40-50 minutes.
Before registration there's only TGI Friday plus few no-name cafes. TGI can serve coffee to go, but charges ab.360rub for mid-sized cafe latte and serves it in CocaCola-branded paper cups. All cafes and restaurants beyond passport control are equally faceless and overpriced.
Duty-free shops cover a large space, but merely repeat the same choice in 5 or 6 outlets. As elsewhere, only most popular local souvenirs are sold, still with a huge margin.
Domodedovo is located south from city centre and is most conveniently reached by AeroExpress train from Paveletsky Train Station (near a metro of the same name). The trip takes about 40 minutes and takes you directly into the airport. Trains depart every hour starting at 6AM (every 30 minutes in peak hours). Several per day of them reach Kurskaya metro station. In late 2006 another express to Belorusskaya station was launched, giving another edge against Sheremetyevo. Alternatively, you can go to the Domodedovskaya metro station and catch a bus 405 or a shuttle from there--neither is operating at night. There is an express bus connection between Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports, which departs about every 90 minutes.
Vnukovo is located southwest from city centre. Take bus 611 or Marshrutka to/from metro station Yugo-Zapadnaya. Buses depart about every 15 minutes with a trip time of about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can take an express train from Kievsky Train Station, which departs every 60 minutes in peak hours (with intervals of about 4 hours out of peak hours). There is an expressbus connection between Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports, which departs about every 90 minutes.
Bykovo is a regional airport located southeast from city centre. It serves mainly short-haul domestic flights due to its short runway. Take the "elektrichka" train from Kazansky Train Station. It takes about 50 min and runs every 15-20 minutes. Get off at the Bykovo Station. Bykovo Airport is about 400 meters away.
Moscow lies at the western end of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing, Ulaanbaatar and Vladivostok. You can reach here from almost anywhere in Europe and Central Asia. Moscow is also the main railway hub of Russia.
Moscow has nine train stations, each (except Savyolovsky one) offering long-distance and local train services. Savyolovsky Station offers local train service only. All are located relatively in the center of Moscow and have metro stations nearby.
The direct way to drive from Germany, Poland, or Bielarussia is along E30 road. However EU or American citizens have to get Belarussian visas to pass through Belarus, so it could be more convenient to go via Latvia (the nearest border crossing between EU and Russia on this direction) using E22 road (starting in Riga).
Intercity busses to Russian and some former Soviet Union cities depart from the intercity bus station (автовокзал) at Shelkovskaya Metro station (the last station of the dark blue line, in northeast Moscow). This is the only place in Moscow from which public transportation is available directly to Suzdal. Also, some intercity buses depart from Komsomolskaya, Tushinskaya, Yugo-Zapadnaya, Vykhino, and Domodedovskaya Metro stations.
Moscow is also served by passenger ships. Most of them are used for river cruises, but there are still some that serve as ordinary public transport, like train. There are two river terminals in Moscow.
Central Moscow is best explored on foot, but the visitor will most likely use the famous Metro system. It is comprehensive, boasts some great architecture, and is quite cheap. A trip costs 15 rubles/$0.57 (convenient way is to buy tickets for 10 and 20 trips - trips became cheaper: 20 tickets 230 RUB [Verified October 2006]). It's important to know that often colours in the underground's signs don't correspond to the ones on the maps, so the green line is not necessarily indicated by a green sign (that could be the sign for the gray line). To not miss your path refer to numbers, that is to say: line 3 is line 3 whatever colour is on the sign! There are no English signs inside so have your itinerary ready beforehand or learn to read cyrillic, which is not impossible. Don't let yourself be stressed by the huge masses of people. The Russians also take their time to study the tiny signposts to see where to change trains or which exit to take. Don't use the metro if you are claustrophobic as the air is getting thick especially at rush hours. The most interesting in terms of decor are Komsomolskaya and Novoslobodskaya on the ring line, Kropotkinskaya on the red line, and Mayakovskaya on the green line (watch for the mosaics on the ceiling)
In Russia and Moscow the difference between hailing a cab and simply hitchhiking is blurry. It's an old Russian tradition for drivers to offer rides to strangers, for a fee. For many Russians it's like a second job. Generally, wherever you are, at any time of day or night, you can get a 'cab' in a matter of minutes or seconds by holding out your hand. Hold your hand out low by your hip, not up high as they hail cabs in American films. Normally, you tell the driver where you're going, and negotiate an amount with you naming the first price. For many locations, giving the closest Metro stop is the best plan of attack. If you don't like the amount one guy is charging, you'll doubtlessly find another driver in a minute or two. Sometimes, when you tell the driver where you're going, he'll decide he's not going in that direction and drive off. Keep in mind, though, that very few drivers will speak English.
You should be able to get between most destinations within the Garden Ring for RUB 200 or less, unless it's not a national holiday or hours when metro doesn't work. For example a typical charge for a New Year Eve is RUR 500.
There are several taxi services operating in Moscow, the most noticeable on the streets being The New Yellow Taxi (Novoye Zholtoye Taxi) - the cars are yellow Fords or Volgas (Russian car brand). They will charge the minimum rate of around 250 roubles no matter the distance. Do not take these, although they are registered, legitimacy means nothing, and you will find yourself feeling extorted when the meter reads 2,000RUR for a 10 minute drive. But hey no worries, you will probably get "special price" of only 1000RUR!
Other means of public transport
Although it is often neglected, there is more to Moscow public transit than the metro. Moscow has wide network of bus, trolley-bus and tram lines.
There is also a monorail in Moscow tightly integrated with metro lines and stations.
Less essential sites, but very worthwhile if you have the time, include:
Moscow has really many attactions, but most of them are not friendly to non-Russian-speaker. English-language newspapers like The Moscow Times, Moscow News and others can help to navigate towards English-language friendly attractions and services.
You will need a work visa. Not an easy process. Needs to be arranged in advance of travelling.
Don't plan on using your credit card as you make your way around. Many stores, restaurants, and even the long-distance trains (for example to St Petersburg) won't accept them, so cash is a necessity. And be sure to break your 1000 RUB notes where you can, as the smaller merchants, street vendors and even many metro clerks will likely refuse them. While you are able to get many smaller vendors to accept US dollars and Euros, it is always best to change currency, which is not a problem as currency exchange spots are everywhere in the major cities. If you are a first timer in Moscow be streetwise, as locals sometimes tend to cheat the foreigners. For example, check the change returned to you and do not simply say yes to what you do not understand. You might just get an extra Apple Pie after simply ordering French Fries from McDonalds.
Buying souvenirs can be quite a chore if you do not stay in Center of Moscow. You can get cheaper souvenirs from Izmaylovskiy Market in Izmalylovo Park and other markets meant for locals. Remember that most Russians may not be excessively friendly to visitors. Walking out in the middle of a bargaining session will NOT, most likely, get you the price you want; instead insults will be hurled towards you.
Most tourists will find eating out in Moscow quite expensive. It does not have to be that way, but the most visible options generally are. Although the restaurant scene in Moscow is a vast improvement from Soviet times, Russians still eat out infrequently and regard restaurants as a luxury.
There are a number of Western (American) franchise restaurants, such as KFC and TGI Friday's.
Great American-style breakfasts can be had at either of the Amerikanski Bar locations, as well as thick juicy cheeseburgers.
A huge and quickly growing range of restaurants, with a matching range of prices, has developed in Moscow. The average cost per person for a middle to top class restaurant will be $30 to $200 (more if one goes for vintage wines). A quick 'canteen' style meal in a 'Stolovaya' can cost about $3. The chain restaurant 'Moo-Moo' offers adequate quality canteen food, with English menus, for around $5 pp. Most Muscovites do not eat in even cheap restaurants very often, although lately a lot of new "middle-class" restaurants have opened, sprawling with families on weekends. The omnipresent McDonald's have outlets near many metro stations.
Besides Russian cuisine, one variety of ethnic food that is strongly recommended while in Moscow is Georgian. This cuisine is generally spicier than Russian food, and there are a number of reasonably priced Georgian restaurants in Moscow.
Fast Food is a growing thing in Moscow. The likes of McDonalds and KFC and Rostiks are seen nearby almost every shopping mall. While McDonalds and Sbarros Pizzas serve quite a filling serving for a reasonable price (approx. 100Roubles for McD and 150Roubles for Sbarros), most other fast food outlets including the local fast food chains will not fill you up in one serving. A potato topped with 3 choice toppings will cost you 145Roubles which is almost $6. Contrary to most countries whereby ketchup and various sauces are given for free, they are usually charged 5Roubles for a packet of ketchup. Be wise when ordering and do not get cheated because they tend to take advantage of foreigners who speak no Russian at all. Get used to the Russian's attitude of hurling insults at you for ordering incorrectly. Customer service is still unknown here.
There are several chains of outdoor stand-up food vendors, usually located around metro stations. Two to look for are:
Another cheap option is fast food. There are several chains of restaurants that are now very widespread, and again are usually located near metro stations. The 1990 opening of McDonalds was an international event, and now it has over 70 outlets in Moscow. Rostiks, a Russian chain, is KFC main competitor, and specializes in fried chicken.
Kruzhka  is a chain of "beer restaurants" which serves cheap food and, as its name suggests, mugs of beer. It can be found in 20 locations around Moscow. The menu is relatively simple, consisting mainly of types of Kebab and shaurma, with fries. Sport events are on often shown on televisions or big screen.
There are several bars in central Moscow worth visiting. Tema bar (Theme bar) is located near Chistye Prudy boulevar (Potapovsky pereulok, 5). It boasts quite a long cocktail list, including all time favorites like Screwdriver, Cosmopolitan and Manhattan. The bar is packed on Friday and Saturday nights.
Gogol' Bar (Speakeasy) is located on the posh Stoleshnikov pereulok. The street houses the De Luxe brand shops such as Chanel, Burberry, Cartier etc. The entrance to the bar is between Vivienne Westwood and Lancel boutiques. The interior, menu and drinks are quite simple. Musical performances every weekend. During winter the small yard is used as a skating rink. There are also Gogol' Bars on Arbat and Maroseika street.
In Russia there are many GSM carriers, and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free. If you are planning to stay for a long while and to keep in touch with Russian people; then you should consider buying a SIM card of a local carrier instead of going on roaming. For calling abroad there is a very cheap phone card (i.e. 120 RUB for about 10 minutes of conversation toward Western Europe). This card can also exploit IP technologies and so give you very cheap rates (i.e. 1 hour for 10 RUB toward Western Europe). You can find this card in any Post Office and in many shops and kiosks in the City (however, the Post Office has lower prices).
WiFi Wireless hotspots
See wifi.yandex.ru for a list of free WiFi internet hotspots in Moscow (most are in cafes and restaurants).
It is well known that Moscow is not the safest place to be. The common advise to give to travellers is to not walk around in the middle of the night. Even at times from your hotel rooms you will be able to hear drunkards strolling in the cold and shouting random things.
As for younger travellers, ALWAYS STAY IN A GROUP. Acting like a tourist will actually attract negative attention towards yourself. Keep in mind that most Polices here don't speak a word of English, therefore the smart thing to do if you got harrassed or even assaulted, tell it to your hotel manager or your travel agent if he/she is in Moscow.
Upon seeing skinheads ,mostly in Metros at night, take a run for it because they hold no mercy towards foreign looking people. And like most people in the rest of the world, no passerby will stop to assist you or to stop the harrasser even if they are next to you while you're being harrassed.
St. Petersburg: Get the overnight train to St Petersburg. Leaves Moscow at midnight and arrives the next morning at 8AM. Pay the extra money for a 1st class sleeper cabin which has 2 comfortable beds. Included in the price is a small snack for supper/breakfast. There is also an attendant for each carriage who is willing to make tea in classic metal and glass tea glasses. Very civilised way to travel.