Moscow is voted as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Is it really so expensive to visit Moscow? Do you need to be a multimillionaire to live here? This article helps a budget traveler to explore the capital of Russia.
Getting around Moscow
The cheapest and fastest transport in Moscow is the metro. One ride costs about 80 cents. If you stay in Moscow several days you can get a card for 10, 20 or 60 trips: each ride will be cheaper the more trips you get on the card. Moscow metro has no zones so you pay the same price no matter where you go. The airports are connected to the city by railroad. The air express train costs about 5-10 USD depending on the airport. (This is much cheaper than a taxi which will be 70-100 USD).
If you need a taxi it’s best to arrange it in advance (through your hotel or a restaurant). You should always negotiate the price before you get in (even if a taxi has a meter – it might be a scam). Locals often use ‘unofficial taxis” – it can practically be any private car. All you have to do is to stand on the street and stick your arm out. Usually there’s nothing dangerous about it as people with cars do it to earn some extra money. An important rule is not to get into a car that already has a passenger.
Getting outside of Moscow
There’re lots of picturesque old towns around Moscow. Sergiev Posad, Vladimir, Suzdal are among the most popular destinations. You can get their not only by car but also by local trains and buses. Sometimes a local train can be even faster then a car. A suburban train is called “electrichka” in Russian. 1 trip costs 1-4 USD and you don’t need to book tickets in advance. There’re plenty of local trains going outside of Moscow and it’s better to study the timetable in advance.
A faster option is an express train. It goes without stops or does only 1-2 stops on the way. This is a good option for cities like Vladimir, Kaluga, Tula, Sergiev Posad, Yaroslavl (about 100-200 km outside of Moscow). There’re not many express trains during the day and it’s safer to get a ticket in advance. A cheap way to get to St. Petersburg is by train. Overnight sleeper train is the best option for budget travelers (you don’t pay for the hotel and you sleep on the way). 2nd class is quite reasonable (it can cost from 80 USD) and comfortable – 4 people in 1 cabin. Even cheaper is a 3d class, it’s called “platskart” in Russian. It’s also a sleeper carriage but there’re no doors in cabins. A ticket in the 3d class will cost you about 25 USD. This category is very popular among the locals as it’s convenient and very cheap.
Most of the tourist-oriented restaurants are very expensive. Ask the locals for smaller eateries where you can try traditional food and save your budget. Popular budget chain-restaurants include Mu- Mu, Grabli, Yolki-Palki. Many restaurants offer special ‘business lunch’ menu – usually it’s 12 to 16 on working days. Moscow has lots of nice fast-food cafes. Isn’t it better to try Russian food instead of going to McDonalds or KFC? You can get a delicious Russian pancake in “Teremok” or a stuffed potato in “Kroshka-Kartoshka”.
Moscow has a shortage of reasonably-priced hotels. The city authorities have focused their energy on more lucrative business travelers and at the moment there’re only top-end hotels in the city center. Cheaper hotels are quite far-away. Among the most well-known is Izmailovo hotel complex with a capacity for 10,000 guests. It has a convenient location – the hotel is next to the metro and it takes about 15-20 min to get to the center. Other budget options include the hotel Universitetskaya (10-minute walk from Universitet metro station, doubles 129 USD), a cruise ship Alexander Blok (anchored close to the center of Moscow near the Exhibition Complex on Krasnaya Presnya, doubles 130 USD), Maxima Zarya hotel and the Hotel Molodyozhny. Those who prefer to live closer to the city center can try one of Moscow hostels. The charges range from 20 USD for dorms and from 25- 90 USD for private rooms. The popular hostels are Moscow Home-Hostel, HM Hostel Moscow, Yellow Blue Bus Hostel, Hostel 1, Napoleon Hostel, Capital Hostel, Comrade Hostel. It’s also quite reasonable to rent an apartment in Moscow. A 1-room apartment in the downtown can cost around 140 USD.
Moscow is a very expensive city and it’s cheaper to buy clothes and shoes in Europe. Those interested in souvenirs should visit Izmaylovo souvenir market. It is the leading place to find fur hats, matryoshka dolls, antics and Soviet memorabilia. The market is near Partisanskaya metro station. The vendors speak basic English and accept dollars or Euros. It’s advisable to negotiate. (You might knock down prices by up to 25 percent if you buy a lot).
Online services are getting more and more widespread. You can pay for the tickets to Bolshoj theatre by credit card and collect them in Moscow before the performance. It’s also possible to buy train tickets by Internet without paying commission to a travel agent. (The official website is eng.rzd.ru) The only difficulty is that you have to go to the train station in Moscow to get your ticket (you’re given only a reservation number when you pay online).
Moscow has lots of theatres and concert halls and most of them are not so expensive. A ticket for the Bolshoj theatre will cost you more then 100 USD but in other theatres you can watch Russian ballet for only 15-20 USD. Moscow Conservatory and Tchaikovsky Hall have lots of interesting music events and ticket prices are very reasonable.