Moscow is a vibrant, modern, and beautiful city. Forget the stereotypes, if it’s your first time here, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. But, just like anywhere, there are peculiarities that you need to know about, aside from not putting your smartphone in your back pocket and not being rude to the police.
1. Avoid driving and, during the rush hour, and even taking an Uber. No, don’t avoid it – don’t even think about it! Traffic jams are literally endless, so always go for the metro. It’s the fastest and most convenient way of getting around and there is free Wi-Fi! Not only that, the metro is also an architectural museum on its own with many stations made of marble, decorated with mosaics, beautiful artwork, and statues. Some trains are dedicated to different themes, like Russian cinematography or wild nature, and are turned into exhibitions. In the summertime, river boats may take you through part of the route as well.
2. Don’t stand by the edge of the platform in the metro, the trains come into the station faster than you may be used to.
3. Don’t buy the single-ride tickets for the metro, go for the Troika card. That way, a single ride will cost you $0.5 instead of $1.
4. Don’t start crossing the street until you’re 200% sure that it’s safe. A green light for pedestrians is not always a guarantee of safety, especially on streets that are wider than 2 lanes, so watch out for yourself.
5. Don’t count on the first person you approach on the street with a request for help to be able to assist you. Not everyone speaks English, so try to approach younger people, the chances they will speak English are higher. Moscow is a huge city and not only are many people you see in the streets not Muscovites, but have come from other cities within Russia, people can also be living in quite remote areas and might not be familiar with the neighbourhood where you ran into them.
6. Don’t be put off by the serious faces – it’s just the façade, just go ahead and ask your question. Russians seem very reserved but are actually very approachable, friendly, and helpful.
7. Don’t overestimate yourself and your physical stamina — Moscow is huge, the distances are far greater than you may think. Plan your route for the day, with plenty of breaks.
8. Don’t rush to the museums in the mornings and early afternoons, especially, on weekends. Crowds usually subside towards the evening, a few hours before closing.
9. Don’t trust the taxi drivers at the airport. The ones who jump at you as soon as you walk out of your gate. Their services are overpriced, to put it mildly, so Uber is your best bet. On average, an Uber ride to any destination within the city should cost you about $20 — $30.
10. Don’t expect everyone to drink vodka. You will be surprised at how few people actually will.