In the 1940’s, Stalin decided that Moscow was lacking in skyscrapers, and he commissioned the construction of 7 amazing Gothic looking buildings, nick-named the Seven Sisters.
They are one of the things that I was really looking forward to seeing in Moscow, and was not disappointed – they are spectacular!
Fondest memory: We didn’t get the chance to see them all, but did get a close up look at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and a glimpse of the Hotel Ukraina and the Kotelnicheskaya Apartment block.
The tomb of the unknown soldier is just outside the Kremlin walls and through the gates which lie next to the line to see Lenin's Tomb. The Russian soldiers who guard here stand perfectly still, like at most such memorials.
Fondest memory: There is a changing of the guard here, though I didn't actually get to see it. There is also an eternal flame for remembrance.
In September 2004 a decree came into force that outlined a new procedure for foreigners who work for Russian companies to obtain multiple-entry work visas. The new work visa can be obtained only on the basis of the employee holding a work permit. Once the employee of a Russian company has obtained his work permit, his company should apply to the Interior Ministry for his or her work invitation.
When this is issued, the employee applies with the invitation to the Russian Consulate in his home country for a single-entry, no-exit three-month work visa. After the employee enters Russia on the basis of this visa, his or her employer can apply to the Interior Ministry for a multiple-entry six-month or one-year work visa. This multiple-entry work visa enables a foreign employee to leave and enter Russia whenever he or she wishes and is the only legal grounds for working permanently for a Russian company in Russia.
The procedure for employees working for foreign companies is exactly the same, except that in addition to a work permit they have to obtain an accreditation card from the relevant authority. Then, instead of work visas, they receive a multiple inosotrudnik, or "representative (branch) office employee" visa.
Fondest memory: For more information on Russian Visas check-out
Customs regulations have changed recently in Russia, and anyone that is familar with the tortuous procedures for declaring money brought into or out of Russia in the past may be pleasantly surprised.
Anyone can now bring $3000 into or out of the country without declaring anything at customs. If it is about $3000, but below $10.000 you need to declare it, but there is no problem. If you are bringing in or out more than $10.000 then you do need to show the source of such funds.
In the past, you had to declare everything; the limit was just $300; you were not allowed to bring rubles in or out; and even minor violations risked fines and or confiscation. This is a very positive step in the right direction for Russia.
I always suggest you carry some cash, just in case. There are exchange booths everywhere and their bid offer spread is better than anywhere else in the western world. However, the best way to get rubles or dollars is to use an ATM, which are also almost everywhere. And, it will be cheaper to buy your rubles onshore than at home.
If you need to use Western Union or one of their competitors to get cash, remember it will cost you up to 10% in commissions, which unless you are broke and desperate, it is much better to use your credit card. Please keep in mind that most banks are closed on the weekend, and not every bank will give a cash advance against a credit card. Naturally, you must have your passport for identification, too.
Fondest memory: Always be careful when using an ATM. Protect your password, and make sure no one is taking too great an interest in how much money you are withdrawing. I personally do not like sticking my credit card into a cash machine, just in case it gets eaten. Something to think about if you are planning to leave the country in less than a day, and you won't get your card back for several business days (if at all). A bank card is much better, as it can more easliy be cancelled, and then re-issued.
Like driving my car on a full tank, I prefer to get more cash before I run out. Cash is still universally the preferred method of payment in Moscow, although in emergencies, you will survive on credit cards.
In case U need to get in touch with the rest of the world there are many internet cafes around the historical center of Moscow:
One is in the Commercial centre Manezhnaja Ploshchad,north of Alexander's gardens, next to Mc Donald.
Another is at the beginning of Rozhdestvenka Ulitsa (4th floor) of the first building.
A third is in a pedestrian street crossing Tverskaja Ulitsa after Hotel National (maybe the street is the Kamergerskij Pereulok but I'm not sure)
The prices for one hour of surfing is 60 R.
To visit Russia U need to get a visa .
to get it U nee an infitation from a russian citizen .
In case U plan to stay in an Hotel, the Invitation can be issued from it.
Usually there are some specialized services' agencies that can help U with the steps to get the visa but anyway U need the followings documents to send to the russian embassy of your country:
1)Passport with at least 6 month of validity left
2) 2 pictures of yourself
3) Invitation from russian citizen.
4) 30$ more or less
(Obviously I'm speaking about what happen in Italy.... maybe in other countries things are slightly different)
The procedure to issue the visa takes 3 weeks more or less but if U need to have it quicker U can request an urgency procedure, but be adviced that it will cost more and more in proportion to how many days are left before your departure.
U can get one even in 24h but it could cost up to 150$.
This is the only tourist street in the city and might be your only chance to do some souvenier shopping. There are a certain number of steet musicians and performers as well as an eclectic variety of international cuisine. My Russian hosts said this street is known for having good-priced restaurants.
Fondest memory: Sadly, the souveniers here are all very high end. Finding a couple of cheap refrigerator magnets or shot glasses is difficult, they prefer the pricier matroschka dolls. Some English is spoken here, but not a whole lot, its really geared for the Russian tourist not the international tourist.
One thing you may notice, and it may confuse you, is that there are many different city codes for Moscow when dialing. This is not surprising in a city the size of Moscow with a population of more than 12 million inhabitants and almost as many mobile phones.
So to dial from abroad you do not drop the zero as is common in Continental Europe. For example the country code for Russia is 7 and one of the city codes for Moscow is 095, therefore you would dial +7 095 555 8888, if that was the number you needed. Using whatever international access code as required be it 011 from N. America or 00 from the rest of Europe.
The city codes most commonly used are
095 landline & MTS mobile
and the new 499 dialing code. Depending on who the mobile phone provider is?
Most landlines are 095 in the city center. When dialing from within Moscow, drop the +7 and add a +8 for local numbers. If you already have +7 095 555 8888 preprogrammed into your mobile, for example, it will still work.
Mobile cards are prepaid cards and not billed monthly. Therefore, you have to make sure you have enough money on your card, which can be tricky, especially if you are using a Russian phone card, but traveling outside of Russia. If your card runs out, you cannot make anymore calls until you get back to Russia and make a payment on your account. You get used to it, but if you are used to receiving a monthly bill it is annoying at first.
Fondest memory: Calls within Moscow are extremely cheap. International calls on your mobile telephone are very expensive, regardless of whether you initiate the call or receive it, as you get billed roaming charges. I had an MTS phone card and an international call to Germany cost me approximately $2.00 per minute. In comparison a call from Germany to a landline in Moscow only costed $0.02 using one of those cheap dialling codes at the time.
Dialing emergency services of Moscow (01, 02, 03, and 04) as well as exact time service (100) has remained unchanged for both 499 as well as 095 code for MGTS subscribers.
For more information please refer to Moscow City Telephone's (MGTS) webpage:
Favorite thing: The official currency here is the Rouble, but Dollars are widely accepted. You can readily withdraw them from ATM's, often it can get confusing when paying in Dollars and getting change in Roubles and vice-versa. It wouldn't surprise me if I was conned at least once.
Getting past the Russian border can be a longwinded and awkward process. Of course you must have a visa, then there can be a lot of hanging around at the border checking luggage.
NB Taking roubles out of Russia is a crime!!
I never knew at the time and luckily my wallet wasn't checked.
In a city as large and historically rich as Moscow, it might be wise to employ a tourist guide. There are plenty wandering Red Square and the Kremlin, many speaking excellent English and other languages.
Check beforehand how much they will charge and how long the tour will be, and be aware of the extra costs involved in entering tourist spots.
If you bring your own laptop but there is no hook up, then you can buy an internet card for dial up service. I used CENTEL a lot. Although the instructions come in Russian only, it's easy to use. Just make a new connection and user name and password are provided on the card.
What the card looks like you see on the picture. Can be bought in most kiosks or postoffices.
Good news concerning the goods to declare to custom:
Now the only things that must be declared is cash over 3000$.....
There are no more the problems about mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices like some years ago.
Even the caviar has not to be declared when departing. Of course if u buy a ton of it...... ;-p
If you are traveling with a tour group, there's no need to incur the additional cost of a visa service agent which can add $30+ to the already high cost.
Your tour company should issue you a visa support letter which will come from the hosting Russian tour company. We added several days onto our tour and the visa support letter covered the extra days. Be sure to ask your tour company to do that. In addition to that letter, I also sent a copy of the invoice from the tour company and a description of the tour from their webpage.
The best source of information is the Russian Consulate page at www.ruscon.com. If you follow the instructions on this page carefully, you should have no problem.
A couple of things to note:
- men between the ages of 18-45 have to fill out an additional form (we require their men to do the same thing to visit the US, tit for tat)
- form of payment needs to be a money order or a cashier's check
- I always send my passport via Federal Express or some other service that I can track its arrival
- the visa takes up a whole page of your passport so if you don't have any blank pages, you need to get some added which can be done for free with the US Passport agency
Gone are the days of changing rubles on the street on the black market.
ATMs are everywhere in Moscow. You can withdraw currency in either rubles or USD (and perhaps other currencies but I wasn't paying attention). I did not have any trouble finding one with a Cirrus logo.
We saw many currency exchange booths, I've read that it is better if you have newer currency in good condition.
Credit cards were accepted at some places.
USD were accepted by vendors at the tourist markets, frequently prices were quoted in both USD and rubles.
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