Country: Russia
Currency: Ruble (RUB)
Peak Season: June-August
Shoulder Season: April-May, August-November
Median Temperature: 4.00 C / 39.2 F
Main Languages: Russian, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Metro, bus, trolley, tram, marshrutka, taxi, scooter
Recommended Duration of Stay: 4 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $150.00/day
Tourist Passes: Youqla Card
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If you’re tired of all the pleasantries of the western world and wish to take on a more stoic, more historically-quenching destination, then head on to Russia’s capital, Moscow. Most uninformed tourists would think that Russia is still bound to terrifying communist clutches, but it’s not—Moscow (and the entire country) has drastically changed in the past two decades to embrace neighboring and faraway countries. The city is also home to some of the world’s multibillionaire business magnates and aristocracies. It ranks as one of the most expensive cities to live in, competing head-to-head with New York, Paris, and Japan.

Moscow boasts a lavish, cultural treat for tourists and locals alike, with underground clubs and such, and daytime coffee bars to suite ladies and gents. The musical masterpieces of Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky are oft resonated in theatres and galleries; the tranquil church music also tickles ears. Not to be outdone by classical and contemporary masterpieces are emerging trance and rock bands, some of which are evidently musically endowed than their Western counterparts due to melodic-yet-pensive undertones Russian music has.

Packing List

  • Debit card, credit card and local currency, so have your cash converted at the airport; ATM machines are everywhere, while credit cards are not honored in all establishments
  • Light clothing for the summers and added layers for the winter; if you don’t want your head to get frozen stiff, don an ushanka, the traditional headdress, and bring some water-proof walking boots
  • Essential medication and toiletries; Russia lacks some food varieties and a couple of clothing brands, but commodities are easily found in groceries and pharmacies
  • A decent camera, plenty of memory and batteries; you may also want to bring some good lenses with you, since a lot of historic landmarks are expansive and better suited for panoramic shots
  • Portable multimedia devices, a laptop or a bunch of books/magazines to keep you preoccupied while waiting for a snowstorm to subside; Moscow’s doesn’t brag the best winters after all

Things to Do

  • Touring the Moscow Kremlin, the fortified complex serving as the presidential residence (formerly, tsars); inside are a number of palaces, including the Great Kremlin Palace and the Senate Building
  • Visiting St. Basil’s (Russian Orthodox) Cathedral, the country’s most recognizable landmark to foreigners; its colorful onion domes recite 17th century Russian architecture, icons and murals
  • Appreciating art at the Tretyakov State Gallery; considered one of the world’s greatest museums, it contains more than 150,000 works of Russian artists, including Akimov, Alekseyev and Nikitin
  • Reliving the USSR’s first manned exploration into outer space inside the Memorial Museum of Astronautics; spacesuits, equipment, machinery and documents are worthy of closer inspection
  • Watching a ballet/opera at the Bolshoi Theatre; the theatre had been in operation since 1776 and is one of the earliest venues of Tchaikovsky’s work; state subsidy provides for affordable admission

DON'T

  • Be surprised if no one in the city smiles at you— it’s very rare to see an old local smiling at a stranger; the stoicism is attributed to the widely-held belief that smiles aren’t really necessary
  • Argue with the locals over trivial matters; act low profile and don’t draw attention, since the police are very surveillant on foreigners (especially those from the US)
  • Dwell in the outskirts for too long or you might get kidnapped/robbed; reports about Russian mafia residing in the suburbs is reason enough not to go far from the city proper
  • Rent a car if you don’t want to put your life in peril; Moscow is home to some of the fastest car lanes and speedsters in the world; courtesy of frequent traffic jams
  • Buy souvenirs from the Red Square, as they’re priced excessively; instead shop for cheaper merchandise from Izmailovo Vernissage; buy vodka from stores, and avoid dealing with peddlers