What You Should Know Before Travelling to Moscow

The Kremlin on Victory Day
The Kremlin on Victory Day | © Pixabay

Moscow is the city of golden domes, impressive architecture and some of the best museums in Europe. It’s a place which should make its way to every European travel bucket list. Due to years of closed-door policies, many may think it’s not the most visitor-friendly of places. Luckily, that’s not the case. While there are still things to improve on, it is a fun (and safe!) place to see. Here is all the information you need to be well-equipped for your adventurous journey to Moscow.

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Brace yourself for a fair bit of commuting

It might sound like a cliche, but Moscow is very big – and we mean it. An hour-long daily commute is nothing unusual for the locals. As a tourist, you will most likely be much closer to the city centre than an average Muscovite, but since many of the tourist attractions are dispersed across the city, commuting will nonetheless take up a large portion of your day. Luckily, Moscow’s public transport is excellent: Just about any point in the city centre is accessible by metro, and if you prefer on-land transport, there definitely is a tram or bus route to suit your needs. Public transport is the most effective and reliable way to travel around the city, but planning is the key.

Moscow Metro in a rush hour

Forget Google and download these useful apps

It might come as a surprise, but the transport apps which guide your way in other places in the world will most likely not work very well in Moscow. Russia has its own version of Google, and all the associated services which are perhaps more reliable than the Google apps. Yandex Metro is invaluable when it comes to finding your way in the city’s massive underground system. You simply tap the start station and your destination, and the app tells you which line to take and where to change, as well as a rough estimate of the amount of time you’ll spend in transit and possible alternative routes.

Yandex Transport is yet another of Moscow’s logistics essentials. It not only contains a detailed plan of the city, it also has information on all of the bus routes and gives you the real-life location of all the buses currently en route.

A retro bus in Moscow, Russia

Remember to have your passport with you

Russians love paperwork. An official document can go a long way in Russia. This also means that you need your passport to do anything even remotely official: Exchange money, buy a train ticket, sometimes even get into a museum. The police officers in the metro stations also have a habit of asking random passengers to show their IDs, so it’s better to always have it on you. If you’re uncomfortable carrying your passport around, you can make a photocopy of the photo page ahead of time, it should be enough in most cases.

It is possible that you’ll be asked to show an ID by a police officer in Moscow.

If you want to see Lenin’s corpse, plan ahead

One of Moscow’s curiosities is Lenin’s Mausoleum. It is currently run mostly by volunteers and a visit there is free, but the mausoleum is only open on some days of the week at very specific times. Make sure to double-check the opening times here before going, and make sure to be there early – on some days, the queue is very long.

Vladimir Lenin lays embalmed in his tomb in Moscow’s Red Square

Make Kremlin a day-trip

The Kremlin is Moscow’s ultimate must-see, and rightly so: It is an incredible historical monument full of treasures you can only find there. When it comes to visiting the Kremlin, there are a few different options available. Make sure to read about all the different ticket combinations ahead of time and to show up early – the queues can get rather long and certain places in the Kremlin only let visitors in at specific hours. Do visit the Kremlin though; it is most certainly worth seeing.

Moscow Kremlin

There’s Wi-Fi everywhere

Free Wi-Fi is omnipresent in Moscow. Any bar, cafe or restaurant will almost certainly have it. Free Wi-Fi is also available in the metro. You don’t need to worry about the cell data (which can get really pricey in Russia if you’re using a foreign phone number). As long as your battery is charged, you can find your way or contact your family from almost anywhere.

Almost any cafe in Moscow has free wifi available

Moscow is just the beginning!

Moscow is big and beautiful and very much worth seeing; it is also far from everything to see in this part of Russia. Moscow is surrounded by beautiful, very old towns which have witnessed the entire history of the country. They are collectively called ‘the golden circle’. There are tours available to some of the towns individually or to all of them at once. Depending on the route, the tours can take any time between a day and a week. If you have any time to spare, such a trip is a great step toward a fuller understanding of Russia.

Tolstoy’s estate in Yasnaya Polyana, a mere few hours’ drive from Moscow
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