What to buy:
Russian linen is really something special, absolutely top quality that you would pay far more in the West. Tablecloths, runners, napkins, teatowels -all sorts of beautiful napery is available in large range of sizes, colours (or subtle, natural tones) and designs.
Textiles are wonderful souvenirs -unbreakable, easy to pack and useful rather than something else to dust when you get home! If you don't buy one for yourself, your mother would love it and it will last so well you can inherit it - and pass it on to the next generation.
What to pay: $20 for a medium-sized (2mx1.5m) tablecloth, $2 for a teatowel (I am still reeling from seeing an identical teatowel to one I bought on sale at $45!!! in a chi-chi homeware shop here at home last week)
Russia seems to be a very popular place for all kinds of pirate CDs, DVDs and CD-ROMs. You even get pirate products in many shops or at kiosks in metro stations and underpasses, so not only in hidden places.
There are rumours that the quality of the pirate products is not always satisfying. These music CDs are on offer for about 80 to 150 Rubles (2005).
Also new licensed products are still a bit cheaper than in Western Europe.
What to buy:
Matryoshkas are one of the most popular Russian national souvenirs. So if you have to bring presents for your family and friends, then you should take Matryoshkas into account.
Matryoshkas are colourful wooden nestling dolls of different sizes. Smaller ones fit inside the bigger ones.
You get Matryoshkas at almost all souvenir stands and souvenir shops. Popular places to buy Matryoshkas are the souvenir stands at the northern entrance to Red Square, at the Sparrow Hills plateau (Vorobyovy Gory), at the Izmaylovo Market as well as the souvenir shops on the street ul. Arbat.
You might even bump into people around the main sights who directly offer Matryoshkas from their bags.
What to buy:
Icons are integral to Russian religious belief and by the time you have left Moscow you may well have had your fill of their grave beauty. If, however, you want to take one home , you have two choices really - a cheaply produced photographic reproduction that will cost you just a few dollars, or one that has been painted according to the strictly observed protocols of icon painting that have been in existence for centuries. You will find selections of these at most of the shops within churches and museums. Their cost will depend on the refinement of the work, but they do not come particularly cheap. Buying an icon this way though, you can be sure that you are paying a fair market price, whatever the size or the execution of the work.
One thing you will not be able to do is buy an antique icon. There are very strict prohibitions on the export of anything that has any age to it and any one who tries to sell you such a work is not only breaking the law but also laying you open to a criminal charge. If antique icons are what you are after, you should go to somewhere like Estonia or one of the other ex-Soviet bloc countries where you will find they are readily and legally available - though whether or not they are genuine is another matter. The world of antique icons is awash with fakes.
What to pay: $5 or so for a cheap reproduction
$100+ for something authentic.
What to buy:
You see them everywhere, in every shape and size and colour, mostly depicting rather simperingly pretty girls but there are politicians, footballers, Santas, comic book characters and more -the invention of the people who paint them knows no bounds. They are matrioshkas -the nesting dolls that are so Russian they are almost a cliche. You wouldn't think there could be enough tourists to buy them all. Cute as they are, most look pretty mass-produced; however, it is possible to find individual ones if you want something a little different. It will cost you more but it will have a character and style that the others do not.
What to pay: The price range is huge -a few dollars for a small doll with maybe 5 or 6 others inside, more for a bigger one (some have as many as 12 or 15 "babies". I paid $20 for a really nice small one (6) painted in subtle colours with girls in peasant dress and baskets of different fruits.
What to buy: Ludmilla insisted I had to have some Russian chocolate - it was, she said, "the very best". I like dark chocolate and this was very good. It's smooth and fine, not sweet and with that "crack" as you snap it that tells you this is the real thing. My favourite is the one with roasted almonds. Choosing it was a matter of great seriousness and discussion with the assistant..
A gorgeous souvenir from Russia is a calendar with photos of a city, region or even local things.
All over Russia you get typical square size calendars with photos of e.g. St Petersburg at night, Moscow at night, the Golden Ring, Russian birches or the Holy Places of Russia.
These calendars are available at bookshops, kiosks and sometimes even in souvenir shops. In 2009 these calendars cost something between 150 and 200 Rubles (less than 5 Euro).
Russia has a long tradition in producing tasty chocolate. So if you plan to bring gifts for family and friends from your trip to Russia, you should take chocolate into account.
Among the best brands are "Krasnyi Oktyabr" (Red October) and "Babaevskiy". The latter was established in 1804 and is even said to be the oldest confectionary in Russia.
The most famous product of company "Krasnyi Oktyabr" is a chocolate known as "Alenka". It can easily be recognised by its packaging with a smiling Soviet girl.
Russian Chocolate can be bought in one of the countless small grocery stores, which are called "Produkty" and of course also in the big supermarkets (Hyper Market).
A 100 gram chocolate bar of good quality chocolate sets you back something between 50 and 70 Rubles (2009).
Alenka chocolate - Website:
Babaevskiy chocolate - Website:
In Moscow you can find lots of Local Craft shops, one of them is shop Almaz-Holding with Krasnoselsk Jewellery Works Icons
Shops look like usual Jewellery but have some interesting samples of russian Local Crafts.
What to buy: Hours of Operation: Mon.-Sat.: 10.00-19.00, Sun.: 10.00-18.00
What to pay: depend...
It is difficult to think of a better present from Russia to give to your relatives and friends abroad than a jar of delicious black or red caviar.
But there are certain limits on how much caviar you are allowed to take out of the country, and it is best to be prepared so there are no nasty surprises at the airport or on the border.
When shopping for caviar in stores around town, keep in mind that a customs officer will allow only a factory-packaged caviar container -- either glass or tin -- to leave Russia with you. Market-bought containers with some plastic over the top just won't do.
And unfortunately, customs laws of the Russian Federation allow an individual to take no more than 250 grams of black sturgeon caviar and no more than 500 grams of red salmon caviar out of the country.
If you're looking for ways around these restrictions, it is also good to keep in mind that international courier services will not help you send some caviar to your grandma or auntie.
Courier services don't deliver caviar of sturgeon, as it is considered to be a special product subject to excise duty and requires special registration at excise customs.
What to buy: However, please keep in mind that there is a lot of illegal poaching of caviar going on in Russia and other former CIS states. Literally, rivers blocked-off, thousands of fish trapped, cut open, their caviar extracted, and the fish carcasses left to rot in the sun. Some of this is done with official protection or by the police which turn a blind eye. The film I saw on this illegal trade was very disturbing to say the least. I will not buy caviar anymore from non-official sources. That is no guarantee of its origin, but pirated caviar can come from anywhere, and now I know where it might be from.
What to pay: On a recent visit to a duty free shop in Domodedovo Airport, we spotted a blue-lidded 56.8-gram jar of Beluga caviar for $50, while a similar yellow-lidded jar of Osetrova caviar was slightly cheaper at $36 and the red-lidded Sevruga caviar was the most modest in price, retailing at $34 for a jar of the same size.
The cheaper red salmon caviar was sold at $39 for a large 380-gram jar, and a smaller, 70-gram jar cost just $8.
«Red October» has 5 production departments. On the main territory there are: a hardboiled sweets department, a sweet department, a chocolate department and retail department, and in near Moscow Yegorievsk there is a department producing jam and candied carrot, citrus and other fruits, berries and vegetables widely used in the production of hardboiled sweets and candies.
What to buy: Red October" uses for production only natural products doing without synthetic preservatives and substitutes. Total range of raw materials used amounts to about 100 types.
So, the bulk of cacao-beans used for production is mainly of African origin - Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, and high-grade beans necessary for making flavor of the best dessert grades of chocolate are purchased in Ecuador, Java, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada.
you should buy some sweets-producing !! it's really good, especially CHOCOLATE
I think "Moskovsky Dom Knigy" is the biggest book shop not only in Moscow, but also in Russia (and before in Soviet Union). It's located on Novy Arbat street, so it wont be difficult to find it. Here you could find all kind of books of course, postcards, maps, travel guides, cd's, dvd's and even some rare old book, second-hands...and just in case if you dont find yourself in Novy Arbat dont be upset, because for sure you would be somewhere close to Tverskaya and here there is a great book shop as well-"Moskva".
Foreign buyers in Moscow's art and antiques salons need to think ahead or risk unpleasant surprises at the airport. The cash value of your purchase is unlikely to be a problem, since recently introduced rules allow the duty-free export of valuables worth up to $10,000 per traveler, provided that you have a receipt to prove the value.
The headaches start in the less quantifiable realm of culture. Items that are more than 50 years old will be confiscated by customs unless the owner has a certificate from the Culture Ministry permitting their export. Cultural artifacts over 100 years old are practically forbidden for a private traveler to take out of the country.But any paintings, books or other artifacts -- even those made yesterday -- could land you in trouble if a customs officer suspects that he is looking at "particularly valuable objects of the cultural heritage of the peoples of the Russian Federation," as stated in the 1993 law that governs cultural exports.
It is also important to realize that non-Russian art objects will have problems leaving Russia, if customs suspects that you obtained them here. The rule can lead to trauma if you bring in some personal item of value and get challenged at customs on the way out. The golden rule is to put any such item into a declaration when you arrive, get it stamped at incoming customs, and show the declaration when you leave.
What to buy: Russian dolls, ceramics and other souvenirs available at Arbat Kollektsiya and similar stores and stalls are familiar sights to customs officers, and should cause no problems. But paintings, even those bought in souvenir shops and from street artists, are a trickier proposition.
The customs officer might take it on faith that you bought the work from an Arbat artist and it was painted yesterday, but he might say that he knows nothing about art and that you could have written on yesterday's date yourself, and that it must go for additional expert assessment.
To avoid such pleasant circumstances, a traveler needs prior documents from the Culture Ministry. That will take one day or several days, depending on whether or not officials at the ministry decide that your item has "cultural value." Record of purchase, or a legally witnessed deed of gift, is one of the Culture Ministry's requirements for export permission. Other requirements are two photographs of the object, as well as copies of your passport and visa.
In some cases, the ministry may call in the object itself for a visual assessment by experts, who will approve or decline a special export certificate.
What to pay: Objects more than 50 years old need such a certificate regardless of their cultural value.If your object is less than 50 years old and Culture Ministry officials decide that it is merely "an object with cultural application," then a simple one-page form can be stamped at once, attesting that the object does not come under the 1993 law, and can be freely exported.The stamped form is the usual documentation for contemporary art items, including paintings, bought directly from artists at street markets or in galleries.
Galleries dealing in contemporary art will sometimes do the job of getting ministry approval on behalf of the customer. "We will do it ourselves at no extra charge for someone who buys pictures in our gallery." Some legal firms and international removal agencies, oriented to expatriates working in Russia, also offer services helping with obtaining the relevant export documentation from the Culture Ministry.
Russian nesting dolls, or matryoshka, are quite possibly the most popular Russian souvenir. The first doll was created at one of the Abramtsevo workshops in 1890. You'll see them with themes of sports, politics, legends and historical scenes. . .and then the simpler female designs.
What to buy: I had held some thought, before the trip, of selecting a Matryoshka set with scenes of Russian fairy-tales or history on them. . .but the ones I liked cost more than I was willing to pay (some sets are $200 - $1000). . .so I adjusted my image to a more modest budget and found two beautiful sets, one of which is pictured here.
What to pay: This set was about $10-12.
We bought our vodka (using up both import allowances) at a store on the first level of GUM. The prices may have been a bit higher there, but we didn't bother comparison shopping. We had to carry the bottles back safely, so distance was the deciding factor (the prices were still *very* good).
What to buy: One of my favourite purchases ~ this small wooden bear, perfectedly fitted around a taster-size bottle of vodka. He's almost too cute to bother emptying the bottle. . .but my friends disagreed.
What to pay: The bear and vodka cost about $5.