General advices, Moscow
Despite the usual snowy image of Russia, summers in Moscow are hot, usually upwards of +25, and frequently over +30. Hence, pack plenty of summer clothing - especially as cheaper fashion such as, say, H&M, is harder to come by. And, in general, Moscow is expensive where clothes are concerned, designer or not. Comfortable shoes are again a must, but there's no need for strictly 'outdoors' clothing. Have something sensible for church visits (ladies should have a skirt and a scarf, ideally).
If you are planning on going out, it's very much 'dress to impress', especially in the city centre, so you may want to think through your outfits (posher places can have pretty strict dress code/door policy)
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: You can buy everything, but it may turn out to be more expensive than at home.
Photo Equipment: Camera and memory cards, naturally. There are no special lens recommendations, but a tripod will come in handy if you're seriously into photography. If you forget memory cards, they can be bought quite cheaply in pc stores so not a big issue (but don't necessarily count on being able to find them right by the site you're photographing as was the case in Rome, Paris or London for me.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: No real need for these
This is no place for the faint-hearted, as one oligarch’s Scottish pal said just before another oligarch stole their fortune. When in Moscow, do as Muscovites do. Or as most Muscovites would do, if they had more common sense.
Leave high heels and fancy dresses at home. Forget anything white, silken/lacy, easily soiled and spoiled, unless you have a silver Bentley with a personal driver and a Swiss bank account. But then you would not have been reading these pages, I expect.
I would not recommend flip-flops, either, if not for propriety reasons, then for your own safety – you do not want to leave one on the platform in the rush hour with the other on a fast-moving metro train, hopefully with both legs to accompany?
If you are going to spend most of your time outdoors, and that’s what I, for one, normally do on a travel, dress as a back-packer - and feel like one, too, it will save you a lot of disappointment.
If, however, you are on theatre tour, or if you are planning to visit a museum, a church or a decent Moscow home, please note: rules still apply. Not anything exotic, just universal rules of propriety. For all that shock economic therapy of yours, we are not all petty mongers yet.
Photo comes from ' Moscow in early1900s' by V.Ruga and A.Kokorev
I must admit that I am a huge fan of the "In Your Pocket" guides.
They are usually an excellent resource for information about travels to Eastern and Central European cities.
So I was more than happy to pick up the latest edition of "In Your Pocket - Moscow" for free at the Hotel Maxima Irbis where I stayed for a few days in October 2009.
The guide not only provides helpful basics, but also many off the beaten path tips and background information, which I didn't find in any other guides. Apart from that the restaurant reviews are usually entertaining to read and sometimes even helpful.
The "In Your Pocket" guides can also be downloaded free of charge from their website.
Luggage and bags:
Bring a backpack to take for when you walk. Pack water, toilet paper, snacks,travel book, language guide, and umbrella
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Wear hiking shoes.
Miscellaneous: A language book is essential. Buy The New Penguin Russian course for beginners and study it 3 months before you travel. Knowing how to read street signs and speaking some Russian is essential!
The Moscow Times is a daily newspaper in English language, which has been published in Moscow since 1992.
It is distributed for free in hotels, restaurants, pubs and similar places.
I found it very helpful to pick up the latest edition of the Moscow Times during my days in Moscow, as it not only reports about the latest world news but also about local events.
It is highly recommend to have copies of all your important travel documents, like passport, visa and registration. Just in case the originals get stolen or you lose them, the copies can be very helpful to get replacements from your embassy.
There are different opinions about what you should take with you during the day: the originals or the copies. In fact it is not an obligation to carry an ID in Russia, but on the other hand the police can stop you and ask for your documents.
Honestly speaking, as I wasn't interested in ending up in a Russian police station, I always took the originals with me. However, in 22 days in Russia I was never stopped by the police.
I found it difficuIt to get a free detailed map of Moscow as the city doesn't have a Tourist Information Office. Most large hotels offer free maps, but these usually only concentrate on the very city centre.
Be prepared to feel completely lost without a proper map. So I recommend you to buy a detailed map in one of the large book shops or small kiosks of Moscow.
I bought the "Moscow today - City Map" which has street names in both Russian and English. Besides a big Moscow map it also includes a detailed city centre map, a street index and a metro map.
I bought the map at "Moskva Knigi" in the street ul. Tverskaya 8. The price was 47 Rubles (1,30 Euro, 2005).
On both of my trips to Moscow I mainly used the "Rough Guide - Moscow", which I bought in 2005 just before my first trip to Russia.
I read quite a lot in this book before, during and after the trip. The book offers a gorgeous mixture of sight seeing descriptions, lively reviews of all kinds of places as well as interesting political and historical background stories.
On my second trip I also used the "Lonely Planet - Moscow" guide, just to compare the two guides.
If I had to buy only one guide book I would definitely go for the Rough Guide, as it is much more detailed and even cheaper in price.
Rough Guide: http://www.roughguides.com/
Lonely Planet: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/
Voltage is 2 pin 220V (Need 3 pin to 2 pin adaptor) same as the U.S for your mobile charger etc.
Currency is Rubles. USD and EURO popular and accepted for big transactions.
Russian language is essential. At least know how to read the alphabet.
Your mobile phone and local contact at your embassy is a life saver.
Luggage and bags:
Bring a waterproof rucksack if you intend to walk around a lot.
A money belt or neck purse - recommendably a waterproof one.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: With temperatures around or below freezing I would recommend bringing:
Sturdy shoes with lots of grip (the pavements may be rather slippery!)
An umbrella (is might rain or snow - especially useful if it is sleeting)
A scarf (Moscow can be pretty windy)
A thick coat (ideally something like a thick waterproof anorak)
Sunglasses - if the sun comes out on the snow you can struggle without them!
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: NeoCitran - if you think you are coming down with a cold but want to keep on going!
Photo Equipment: You might need more sets of batteries for your camera - as the temperatures plummet so can battery life.
You already know it will be cold and you will need a warm hat, scarf, thick coat, woolly socks and sturdy shoes. This is a good start. But in Moscow they don't use salt and grit to break down the snow and ice, they use a chemical substance that over time will dissolve the glue holding your shoes together (my old hiking boots split apart after a month). And if you have a nice coat watch out for bald patches forming around the back of it where you flick mud up as you walk. Take shoe polish and clean your shoes as often as you can to keep them in good nick.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: You know winter is cold but did you think it would be dry? With all that snow? Yes it is! The sub zero temperatures will suck moisture out of you outside and the central heating will suck it out of you inside. Take a mild or moisturising soap and moisturising lotion and use it if you don't want your skin to go scaly.
Luggage and bags:
The streets and sidewalks are uneven, and this creates an oasis for puddles, large and small' to accumulate. At certain times, it is next to impossible to get across the street without stepping around them or sometimes through them. Bring rubber soled shoes for the winter months. Leather soled shoes will quickly be destroyed, and your feet will be wet and cold all day long.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Moscow is so much nicer with fresh snow. Much nicer than the brown sludge that will replace the clean layer, if it warms up. Moscovites go through a pair of shoes every winter due to the salt and crud they pour of the city streets here to thaw the ice. I keep a clean, dry pair of shoes at the office and trudge back and forth in heavier boots. That way I only ruin one pair of shoes this winter and not all of them. Hard on suit trousers too, which end up getting splashed or rubbed up against filthy cars, so off they go to the dry cleaners. Not a place for lights, which is probably why most Moscovites wear drab colors. Urban camoflage, a sea of dark green, grey, black and browns, against a background of grit and grime.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Still, the city does have an electric atmosphere that not even the winter blues can subdue. Mostly, people go about their business in a determined fashion. They take winter in stride and get on with living. A hardy lot. And, one can always retire to the confines of a cozy little restaurant or bar and eat, toast and drink the winter away with friends and family.
Photo Equipment: So, dress for the cold weather and get out and enjoy Moscow!
Always a good idea to pack a waterproof coat and umbrella.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: If you are fussy about your toilet paper, the stuff in the hotels was on the rough side.
Toiletries at the tourist class hotels were pretty sparse so bring your own or buy them at the local grocery stores.
Photo Equipment: If you are bringing a digital camera, make sure you bring everything necessary including a spare battery if it doesn't take regular ones, enough compact flash cards to make it through and a converter/adaptor/transformer if you want to recharge. There are camera stores in Moscow but the price for my battery was high, we couldn't find a proper conversion tool anywhere and another member of our group couldn't find a complact flash card that fit his camera.
Miscellaneous: Passport, Visa
Unlike our first trip in 1989, grocery stores are well stocked and restaurants easy to find. No need to bring your own food :-)
ATMs were easy to find, credit cards accepted at many places and US currency (in good shape and not too old) was accepted at many of the markets.
Luggage and bags:
Use a bag that has a combination lock. They take longer to break into and chances are you'll get all your stuff there and back! Take the expanding suitcase, you know, the ones with the extra zipper. You will always buy more than you expected to!
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Summer: comfortable walking shoes. Only Americans wear white running shoes. If you don't want to stand out, find some black shoes. Wear layers.
Winter: omigosh get battery heated socks and gloves, I am not kidding! Always wear a hat (married women should always cover their heads when in any church) or you will noticethe heat loss from your head right away. Again, wear layers, but include silk or thermal longjohns, cotton wick socks and glove liners.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: I carry a small first aid kit, as well as odd things like superglue, rubber bands, tapes, scissors, pins, mosquito spray, allergy stuff, etc. Use your imagination. Also carry toilet paper. Public toilets, such as they are, are often ill-equipped. McDonald's has the best bathrooms in town!
Photo Equipment: USe anything you like in warm weather, but I lost my favorite 35 mm camera in the winter when the zoom extension mechanism froze and then broke. Keep your equipment warm.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: I wouldn't camp in Russia but then I hate camping.
Luggage and bags:
As I came to Russia on the Trans Siberian Railway I used a backpack to carry all my stuff. I am glad I did because suitcases would have been very difficult to carry around the different train stations in Moscow.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: For Autumn and Winter warm clothes are necessary. I guess I am stating the obvious but good quality winter clothing isn't readily found unless you are paying a high price for it. Boots with fur lining them can be bought in Moscow. I wouldn't recommend getting them at the markets though as they may not be real leather. You will also need a warm hat and scarf and leather gloves.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Toiletries can be bought in any store or market for a reasonable price.
Photo Equipment: I didn't need to purchase any in Moscow but I developed film in Samara. Although the quality was ok I think I would wait and get your photos developed at home.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: I didn't need any of this so I wouldn't know where to get it.
Miscellaneous: This picture is of me in Zelenograd, near Moscow. It was my supposed to be my last day in Russia but because of the first snow of winter my plane was re-scheduled and I had to wait another three days.
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