10 helpful tips for tourists in Moscow

Tourists in front of the Moscow University building

Tourists in front of the Moscow University building

Getty Images
If you are traveling to the Russian capital for the first time and intend to explore the city well, here’s a few life hacks that will make your visit more comfortable and enjoyable.

1. Use the subway & other public transportation

Komsomolskaya metro station

Moscow is notorious for its traffic jams. Sometimes, you can drive a kilometer for an hour, stuck in the capital's traffic. Therefore, the best option for tourists is to use the subway, buses, trams and, in the summer, rent electric scooters or bicycles.

To rent a bike, register in advance on the ‘Velobike’ website. There will be a map of bicycle parking lots and other useful information.

Bike rent station

Electric scooters can also be rented via three apps. It is better to register on all of them at once and choose the scooter nearest to you. ‘Whoosh’, ‘Urent’ or ‘Yandex Go’. Prices in them are almost the same (approx. $0.10 per minute plus a $0.55 unlock fee).

Remember to be careful and follow all traffic rules.

2. Buy a Troika transportation card

You can use Troika even in river tram terminals

If you are going to use public transportation, it is best to buy a ‘Troika’ transportation card. Its balance can be topped up at a metro terminal or via the ‘MosMetro’ app. With the help of a ‘Troika’ card, you can easily pay for the subway, buses, trams, as well as surface train lines. You can even go to Moscow Region and see some interesting sights there. Read about how to use Moscow’s subway here.

3. Download an official taxi app

Prefer official taxi rather than hitchhiking

If you still need to grab a taxi (for example, at night, when public transportation is no longer running), it is better to download an app. We do not recommend hitchhiking or using the services of unofficial cab drivers who meet you at train stations or airports. They can take payment in triple the price, and the service can unpleasantly surprise.

You can use the ‘Yandex Go’ app (the same app with which you will have access to electric scooters), as well as ‘Uber Russia’ (AppStore or Google Play) or ‘City-Mobil’. In most apps, you can choose the class of car and additional services: minivan, child seat and others.

4. Plan how to get from the airports to the city center in advance

Aeroexpress train is the most easy way to get from airports to the city center

If your flight is overnight, you will probably need a taxi (check the previous tip!). If you arrive at one of Moscow's airports between 6 am and 11 pm, you can also use the ‘Aeroexpress’ (You can see the schedule and buy tickets online here), as well as regular trains or buses to the city center or to a station convenient for you. And, from Vnukovo Airport, you can even get to the city center via the subway.

5. Buy all tickets online in advance

Tourists in the Tretyakov Gallery

To avoid standing in lines at the Tretyakov Gallery or other museums, where there is always a big rush at temporary exhibitions, it is better to plan your visit in advance. Tickets are sold by sessions every 30 or 60 minutes, so you can roughly calculate the time when to go. Besides, if you buy a ticket online, you'll be sure that the museum is open that day! Plan to visit museums for at least an hour or even two (And in the Moscow Kremlin, for example, you can literally spend the whole day exploring all its museums and churches!).

By the way, if you're aiming for a particular restaurant, it's also better to book it in advance by phone or online. There is no shortage of catering establishments in Moscow, but some popular places can be impossible to get into, due to the large influx of diners.

6. Book a hotel within the Garden Ring (or very close to the subway)

Gorgeous Metropol historical hotel

Moscow is very big, so if you aim to see as many sights as possible, it is better to be based in the city center. The notion of the “center” is still quite large, but, in general, you can get everywhere inside the Garden Ring (Sadovoye Koltso) quite quickly and conveniently. You can find hotels in different price categories, but, if you want to save money or you want to live near Vorobyevy Gory, VDNKh or other locations further from the center, it is better to choose hotels close to the subway (for example, there is a very large hotel complex at ‘Partizanskaya’ station, so it is close to the subway and to the large Izmailovsky forest and park).

Read more about how to book a hotel here and some tips on which location to choose a hotel, depending on your goals, here.

7. Visit a tourist center

Tourist center

If you haven't prepared for your trip in advance and haven't planned everything by the hour, there is help available! There are several tourist information centers in Moscow whose staff speak English. These include those at Vnukovo and Sheremetyevo airports, as well as in Zaryadye Park in the center. They have useful information about all the capital's sights, parks and museums, and also offer travel routes and unusual ways to explore the city, such as taking a ride on a river boat.

8. Choose the best time to travel

Summer or New Year holidays, any time is great in Moscow

Moscow is beautiful any time of year. But, it is especially nice in late May-early June. As well as all summer, if you are not afraid of the heat, but like to sit in the sun on a veranda with a cocktail! We also recommend the end of September, when the city gets its fall colors. And, of course, from the beginning of December to the end of January, when the whole of Moscow is covered in snow and decorated with New Year's illuminations (But, take note, the first week of January can be quite crowded as Russians are on their New Year's holidays).

9. Download ‘Yandex Maps’

Yandex Maps show traffic, public transport situation online and can make routes

Moscow was built spontaneously, so the center is not as orderly in blocks like in New York or St. Petersburg and can be rather confusing at times. It's not that hard to get lost. That's why we recommend downloading the ‘Yandex Maps’ app (AppStore and Google Play) in advance and maybe even pre-program the route you need, marking key destinations: museums, restaurants, public transportation stops, etc. Public toilets will also be marked and you can also track ground transportation on it and see how many minutes are left to the nearest tram.

10. Schedule a week for your trip

Even one day in Moscow is perfect, but a week would be much better for a comprehensive trip

A week will not be enough to explore Moscow completely, but it is enough to leisurely explore the center, parks and main attractions away from the center. This way, you'll also have enough time for museums, walks and maybe even theater play or a concert. Or maybe you'll find the time for some shopping therapy!

And, if you only have up to 48 hours, here’s our express guide on what to do in Moscow!

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