Difference between revisions of "Moscow"
Revision as of 14:00, 25 March 2008
Moscow is the financial and political center of Russia and its biggest сity. The city has a population of around 13 million, and covers an area of around 1080 km².
Moscow is in UTC+3 time zone.
Moscow is located on the Moskva River, which bends its way through 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, roughly following the outline of the walls that used to surround Moscow. With Red Square and the Kremlin forming the very center, the innermost ring road is the Boulevard Ring, built in the 1820's where the 16th centuries walls used to be. It 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, the Garden Ring, 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. It roughly follows the outline of Kamer-Kollezhsky val, the customs boundary of Moscow in the 18th-early 20th century. 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' Périphérique). 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 in 2006 and to invest a further $300 million into construction and upgrades in 2007-2008.
In 1980-1991 all international flights to Moscow landed at Sheremetyevo International Airport, commonly called Sheremetyevo II. Sheremetyevo II had been built before 1980 Summer Olympics. Sheremetyevo I is actually Terminal I of the same airport; however, it is located across the runway from Sheremetyevo II and for practical purposes is a separate airport. Sheremetyevo I handles mostly domestic flights. However, Domodedovo is increasingly competing for international flights, and several international carriers, including British Airways, have switched to Domodedovo and so it by 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 $30-40 or more. All airports have taxi kiosks where you can get yourself a driver at a fixed price. Don't listen to people offering you a taxi around the terminal, it will all end up in a major rip-off. For public transportation see below:
Sheremetyevo north of the city centre is the closest airport to downtown Moscow but the major thouroughfare leading to it, Leningradskoye Shosse, is one of the busiest in the city and is normally a giant traffic jam most of the day.
The surest way to get to Sheremetyevo is to take a non-stop Aeroexpress train from Savyolovsky Station (see below). These depart from a dedicated terminal (facing the railway station, turn left and round the corner) on the hour from 7 am to 11 am and from 2 pm to 10 pm, with an extra serivce at 1 pm on weekends. The train doesn't go all the way to the airport yet. The terminus is Lobnya station where passengers transfer to a bus that first goes to SVO1 and then to SVO2. The train fare is 70 RUB and the bus fare is 15 RUB (payable to the driver; it's slightly cheaper to buy your bus ticket at Saviolovsky Station before boarding the train). The train ride takes exactly 25 minutes; busses are scheduled to depart Lobnya 15 minutes after the train arrives and take another 15 minutes to SVO1 and 20 minutes after that to SVO2. Thus the whole trip is 1 h 15 minutes. However it is possible to take a taxi from the rank in front of Lobnya station at a fixed rate of 120 RUB to SVO1 and 180 RUB to SVO2, shaving off a good half an hour from from downtown Moscow. A new train station is being built directly in front of SVO2. Once it completed, it will take as little as 30 minutes by train from Saviolovsky Station to Sheremetyevo II.
It is also possible to reach Sheremetyevo from metro (subway) stations Rechnoi Vokzal or Planernaya, the termini for the green and purple line respectively. This route, though recommended by major English-language guidebooks, however, only makes sense if you start your journey somewhere in the north of Moscow or have to be at the airport when the train is not running (see schedules above). There are slower buses (#851 from Rechnoy Vokzal, #817 from Planernaya) and faster shared, fixed-price taxis called Marshrutka from both stations. Buses depart very regularly (about 15-30 minutes). Without jams (a very rare occasion) the trip takes about 30-40 minutes and costs 10-40 R, 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 to make sure which terminal your bus or Marshrutka goes first to. During the rush hour the Planernaya route will be slightly less prone to traffic jams.
Most flights from/to Sheremetyevo II are operated either by Aeroflot, or by its partner international carriers, mostly members of the SkyTeam alliance. Check-in starts 2hrs before departure time (3 hours for the US-bound flights).
The airport has banking and bureaux de change, and ATMs are available in both the Arrivals and Departures areas. Remember to change your rubles into Euros or USD before departing Moscow for other countries as almost no other country will cash in your rubles for you. Duty-free shops operated by Aerofirst Moscow Duty Free  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. This terminal also has a hairdresser, pharmacy and a medical office as well as at least two travel agencies.
The information desk is in the main hall and sometimes you are lucky enough to get someone that speaks reasonably good English. The number is (495) 956 4666. You can also call an Intourist representatives (available in Terminal 2) that can provide tourist information (495) 578 5971.
A new Terminal A is being constructed next to Sheremetyevo II. All Aeroflot flights (including domestic destinations currently operated out of SVO1) as well as other SkyTeam carriers (Delta, KLM, Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, Korean Air) will relocate there after its completion in November 2007.
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) and cost about 150 rubles. Several per day of them reach Kurskaya metro station. In late 2006 another express to Belorusskaya station was launched, giving another edge against Sheremetyevo. When catching a train from DME to the city, note that there are both regular old suburban trains and dedicated non-stop services from the same platform. 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. Note that Domodedovo is the farthest airport from the centre and cab fares are particularly high; if you arrive after the trains stop running, you'll pay through the nose for the privillege of being transported to downtown Moscow.
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 only serves a few 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.
You can buy tickets to any long-distance train by Internet from JSC Russian Railways, but you need to formalize it before trip in manned booths within the stations ("kassa"). Now it's working in Russian language, but JSC Russian Railways promise the English interface by the end of 2007.
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).
Easy access from Finland through St. Petersburg and Novgorod is along E18 road. Road from St. Petersburg to Moscow is also known as Russian Federal Highway M-10. Traffic on M-10 is heavy and driving less relaxing.
Foreign cars – especially expensive ones – might attract unwelcome attention, and there is cumbersome paperwork involved.
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 as the distances are huge, the visitor will most likely use the famous Metro system. It is comprehensive, boasts some great architecture, and is relatively cheap. As of January 2008, a single trip costs 19 rubles, independent of the length of the trip. Tickets are sold only at manned booths within the stations ("kassa"). In several stations there are tickets vending machines. A convenient way to avoid queuring is to buy a multi-trip card for 10 or 20 trips (10 at 140 RUB; 20 at 250 RUB). There are no day tickets or similar offers directed to visitors.
The metro is open from 5:30am to 1:00am - stations close at 1:00am so your journey must be completed by then (more precisely, at 1:00am the last train starts from the end stations, the entrances are officially closed and the escalators are stopped). Before 7am and after 7pm the metro is never busy. Between these times on work days it can be a real squeeze, especially within the ring. Some escalators are a 2 minute ride as the stations in the city centre are very deep. On the escalators stand on the right.
It's important to know that colours in the underground's signs don't necessarily 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 out 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. It is however possible to negotiate the price with them as well - the driver will basically switch off the meter and pocket the fare. You can call a cab over the phone, too, but most Muscovites will only do it during the night or to get to an airport.
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. These get stuck in traffic at rush hour, so worth only taking if you live far away from a metro station. If you are at a reasonably major stop, buy a ticket at the silver kiosks near the station - 1 ride is 17 rubles (multi-ride cards are available too), whereas a ticket bought on-board is 25 rubles. Exact change helps for the latter. Board the bus, trolley-bus or tram from the front door through the turnstile.
There is also a monorail in Moscow, running from VDNKh to Metro Timiryazevskaya. A ticket costs 19 rubles (same as Metro), but the gates currently don't accept standard Metro multi-trip cards. Monorail does not run as frequently as the metro (every 6 minutes at peak hours and around 16 in the rest time), opens later and closes earlier, however recently intervals between trains were reduced.
(NB: There are actually two Tretyakov museums now, the classic one and the 20th Century one. The classic one is where it has always been, the 20th Century one is in the Artist's House Cultural Center across from Gorky Park. They charge separate entry fees.)
Less essential sites, but very worthwhile if you have the time, include:
Moscow has really many attractions, but most of them are not friendly to non-Russian-speaker. English-language newspapers like The Moscow Times, Exile, element, Moscow News and others can help to navigate towards English-language friendly attractions and services.
Moscow has two circuses, the Nikulin circus on Tsvetnoi Bulvar (metro Tsvetnoi Bulvar), and the new circus near the University. Tickets can be bought for as little as 200Rbs, and even these seats are good. Touts may be selling tickets outside and can save you a lot of queueing, and they'll speak more English than the ticket office. Sometimes they are selling tickets at the cover price, and sometime at double price - just ask and make sure before parting with your cash.
The Obraztsov puppet theatre at the very north part of the Garden Ring has performances during the winter in the evening. Everything is in Russian and meant for children, but the stories are simple and quite understandable even if you don't understand Russian. The building has a large clock on its front with a box at each hour from which a puppet appears on the hour for a little performance. At 12 midday all of the puppets appear for a short but entertaining appearance.
The Novy Opera (new opera) in the Hermitage gardens features operas mainly in Russia most evenings, starting at 7PM. Tickets are normally available from 200Rbs. Ticket office is open from noon-3PM and then again from 4PM-7PM.
You will need a work visa. Not an easy process. Needs to be arranged in advance of travelling. Is a lay to work just need get a good company to support to you
Credit cards usage is becoming more and more widespread but many cheaper stores and restaurants won't accept them, so cash is a necessity. And be sure to break your 5000 or 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 some 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. Don't forget to 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 the centre of Moscow. You can get cheaper souvenirs from Izmaylovskiy Market in Izmalylovo Park and other markets meant for locals [ed...Izmaylovskiy Market is NOT a locals' market. The performing bears at the entrance tell all you need to know. Its an expensive tourist trap, although if you want a paperweight with a picture of Stalin in a snow storm its perfect.] 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.
There are a number of American franchise restaurants, such as McDonald's and TGI Friday's.
Great American-style breakfasts can be had at either of the American Bar & Grill 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. 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.
Georgian: 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.
Japanese: Moscovites are obsessed with sushi since late 1990s, and the boom is not over yet. Japanese restaurants are probably most popular among young Russian women, easily competing with Italian and French restaurants.
Thai cuisine can be found only in few restaurants, and authenticity is well arguable.
Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines are not popular with Russians, but can be found if you are aimed to find it.
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, a growing thing in Moscow. The likes of McDonald's and Rostiks are seen nearby almost every shopping mall. While McDonald's and Sbarros Pizzas serve quite a filling serving for a reasonable price (approx. 150 Roubles for McD and 200 Roubles 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 145 Roubles which is almost $6. Contrary to most countries whereby ketchup and various sauces are given for free, they are usually charged 5 Roubles for a packet of ketchup.
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 is a Russian KFC's franchise, so it specializes in fried chicken.
There are several bars in central Moscow worth visiting.
Moscow has a good selection of tea saloons. Beyond them, high-quality infusion teas (like Newby) are widely available in cafes, both packeted and loose.
Asking to add boiling water to the tea you ordered earlier is a practice that some cafes don't welcome--but normally it's acceptable. However, initiative from the waiter is really rare in this respect.
According to Vedomosti (June 2007), best coffee can be found in:
There is a big need in mid-range accommodation in Moscow, but nevertheless curious traveler could found some useful destinations.
In Moscow there are three main GSM operators (MTS, Beeline, Megafon), and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free or at least very cheap. If you are planning to stay a while and to keep in touch with Russian people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. Buying a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for a bit of paperwork, but it only takes 5 minutes and will cost less than $10.
For calls abroad there is are different cheap pre-paid cards (e.g. Arktel), which you can find at many shops and kiosks throughout the city or in any post office.
Moscow is safer than most Western cities of its size. It enjoys a lower crime rate and is much safer than the second biggest city in Russia, Saint Petersburg. However, drunk people and the police could cause some problems. Some policemen are corrupt and it is best to avoid them. While traveling in Moscow, as well as the rest of Russia, you must always have your passport with you. If you look Middle-Eastern, your papers will get checked often. Usually the police will demand to see your papers to check if you have been registered within three business days of your arrival into Moscow. Most policemen do not speak a word of English but will somehow let you know your papers are not in order and you must go with them to the police precinct. It may be possible to bribe the police with about 500 R and they may leave you alone. If you are reasonably sure your papers are in order, get out your mobile phone and call your embassy helpline. Most corrupt policemen will be frightened enough to let you go before you dial the number. Do not carry large sums of money as it may be taken by pickpocketers or the police.
Non-white people should be especially vigilant since violent attacks have occurred, and most minorities are likely to be stopped for document checks by the police.
Finally, women should take caution walking alone late at night, since they may receive unwanted attention from drunken men. Women should also stay clear of large companies of men in front of bars, restaurants, etc. It is best to walk with a friend if possible.
Since Moscow is the biggest transport center in Russia and one of main point of entries for the foreign tourists, it is convenient starting point for exploring much of European Russia. Even travel to Ukraine and some Caucasian and Central Asian countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan etc.) through Moscow could be cheaper than direct flights from Europe/North America, as travel deals to Moscow are not rare and ticket prices are often pretty low within former USSR.