Moscow Do's and Dont's
Moscow is a remarkable destination that might appear a real highlight of your Russian vacation. Take a look at some essential tips for your first-time visit to the city.
Don't rely on Moscow trafficMoscow is one of the world's capitals of traffic jams so we'd advise you to be careful when planning some tours or activities. Avoid driving around the city during the rush hour traffic. We'd recommend you not to plan day trips out of Moscow on Saturday or Sunday in summer. These days locals go to their dachas so you might face a horrendous traffic jam on the way out of Moscow or back.
Do use the metroDriving around central Moscow is best at a weekend or afternoon hours during the week. It is best to plan your day trip out of Moscow on any day except the weekend. Why not get used to the Moscow metro? Moscow metro is a convenient and beautiful transport system. After the World Cup 2018, it has become much friendlier to western visitors. Today you'll find many signs in English that will help you get around. It will be a good idea to take a metro map with you just in case. You could circle the point of your destination and ask people around if you faced any difficulty.
Don't try to predict Moscow weatherAre you hoping to discover a white snow Christmas in Moscow? These days the weather is very unpredictable and might easily ruin your plans. Some winters in central Russia are very mild, and the first snow may come only late-January. Be careful if you schedule some winter fun activities such as troika rides or dog sledding.
Do plan your weather-dependent activities wiselyThink of back up plans if the weather is not appropriate and make a list of indoor attractions or activities. In Moscow or St Petersburg, you may visit museums, restaurants, join masterclasses, or meet the locals. In wintertime, you can always skate as many of the skating rinks use artificial ice. To get a truly authentic experience, you may also visit the traditional Russian saunas.
Don't purchase Bolshoi tickets the last momentBolshoi Theatre is so famous that tickets get sold rapidly. On short notice, you may only buy the tickets from ticket touts, but most probably it'll be a rip-off.
Do book your visit to the Bolshoi as early as possibleThe tickets are usually available for sale 3 months in advance. You'll need to purchase the tickets online from the official Bolshoi website. As an alternative, you may attend a ballet performance in a different theatre. Muscovites usually watch ballet and opera in other theatres such as Stanislavsky theatre or Novaya opera. These theatres are less known abroad, but the quality of the production is also very high.
Do not forget of a dress code in a churchIt is polite for women to put on a scarf when entering a church. It is not compulsory but more respectful for a tourist woman. However, all men must always take off their hats.
Do think of what to wear in a churchWomen entering a church should wear a knee-level skirt and have covered shoulders. In most cases, you can borrow a shawl at the church entrance. The situation might appear more difficult for a man wearing shorts as the church doesn't have anything to borrow.
These rules apply only for certain churches with strict rules such as Christ the Savior Cathedral. When you enter a museum church such as St Basils’ cathedral there's nothing to worry about.
Don't expect to see May 9 parade on Red SquareAre you willing to watch the parade on May 9? In fact, the only chance to see it is on TV unless you booked a table in one of the rooftop bars near Red Square. On May 9, they do not allow anyone to approach Red Square. Besides, most of the central streets are blocked as well, so it will be tough walking or driving around central Moscow.
Do watch the rehearsals a few days earlierIf you are interested in the military parade, you'd better come to Moscow a few days earlier and watch the rehearsals. The access to Red Square is not available, but you may view the military vehicles moving along one of the central Moscow streets.
Don't drink tap waterTap water in Moscow and many other big cities is safe for drinking; however, most locals never do it. It's safe for teeth brushing or washing fruits or vegetables.
Be ready to pay for water at the restaurantMost hotels have water coolers as well. In general, bottled water is very cheap in shops, but it might appear rather costly in a restaurant. Water is never free in restaurants. When ordering water, it's safe to check the price, and it's much cheaper to order Russian brands of water. Otherwise, the waiter will most likely bring you the most expensive water they have, and it might cost almost as much as the cost of your entire meal.
Don't carry wallets or other valuable in back pocketsPickpocketing is not that common in Moscow, but it happens sometimes.
Be careful when you are in a crowded public place.