Russian Language Blog

First time in Russia? Добро пожаловать! (Part 2) Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in when in Russia

You finally get to your hotel and your adrenaline is the only thing keeping you awake because you’ve now been up for more than 24 hours. You check in and get your visa registered as required by law. Thankfully the Intercontinental Hotel staff are able to arrange this for you – sometimes this is free and other times it isn’t depending upon where you stay.

Once you both have had a chance to shower and change clothes you are off to explore Moscow! Being that you’ve been sitting for most of the last several hours and your experience with the cab, you decide to walk. When you checked in, the concierge suggested making copies of your passport and visa to keep in your wallet just in case you get stopped by police – you were half listening due to your fatigue mixed with excitement and didn’t take their advice. In Russia, you must always carry your passport on you – a copy will not save you from getting fined but it can serve as temporary proof that you have one. Should you lose your official passport and visa, good luck. Also, make sure you’ve already exchanged your currency for rubles – preferably small denominations.

Since it is evening you first need to eat dinner. As you are walking around you notice a McDonald’s store and a Kentucky Fried Chicken – it’s tempting to eat there but you want something else. Since the Cafe Pushkin is close by, you decide to go there to eat. Once inside the Cafe Pushkin, you’re immediately impressed with the 19th Century-style decor. The wait staff speak English and are happy to take your picture. You decide to order Borsch because you’ve always heard about it but never tried it. The waiter recommends it because you say your are going to be out late and it will help to hydrate you – it will also be a good food to consume the day after. Both you and your friend also decide to order a vodka to celebrate this monumental occasion. You are still so excited that you are actually here and the euphoria will not soon depart. Everything is new and exciting to you; even the bathrooms are somewhat memorable.

By the time you’ve eaten and had a few beverages you are feeling great. Your bill comes and you notice that the total seems quite high and since you’ve no idea how to convert rubles to dollars, you ask the waiter for help. He is happy to help you and you figure out that your bill comes to about $70 per person. The waiter goes on to explain that Moscow is one of the most expensive cities to live in and visit. Fortunately, you don’t need to leave a large tip since waiters make decent wages – you still leave about 300 Rubles. Between the cab and dinner, you’ve put a small dent in your funds so you decide to go back to the hotel – you’re going to be here for a week and can’t go broke on the first night.

The following day you and your friend want to go to the Kremlin. After all, not going to see it would be like visiting Paris and not going to the Eiffel Tower. Rather than going in the Kremlin right away, you decide to walk around the perimeter, see Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and Lenin’s Tomb. All of these attractions are worth every penny. As you gaze at Red Square you imagine the May Day parades that have passed by and how Stalin, Khrushchev, and more have been in this very place watching the awesome display of Soviet military might. As you are furiously snapping photos with your smart phone, you hear a voice that sounds as if its directed at you. Turning to look in the direction its coming from, you see a police officer looking directly at you while he approaches.

“Can I please see your passports?” You reach into your pocket and hand him your passport. Fortunately, the whole document checking procedure is over with in just a few minutes.  

By the end of the day, you’ve seen some beautiful historic sites, eaten some great authentic Russian cuisine, paid top dollar for a matryoshka because the seller figured out you weren’t Russian, and had a great time. Also, you’ve spent a good deal of money. Before you came to Russia, you didn’t really do your homework. You figured that because the ruble is weak compared to the dollar right now, it would go a long way. Proper planning and a little research could have saved you some of money during your first 24 hours in Moscow.

On that note, here are a few tips to make your first trip to Moscow better and possibly less expensive:

1. Keep your passport in a safe but easily accessible place. You might have to show your passport more than you anticipated. Any Russian policeman can ask you to show your documents.
It might not be a bad idea to make copies of your documents in case they get lost or stolen. Copies will not replace the originals but might make the situation easier to handle.
2. Always exchange money at authorized exchange points.
3. Never accept invitations from taxi drivers who seem to swarm in and around train stations and airport terminals. Always go to the authorized taxi stand present at all train stations and airports and place your order through them.
You can also take the Aeroexpress train to and from the airport but let’s face it, this option is not the best if you have luggage or small children, or both. If you want door to door service, you will have to take a cab.
4.  When planning your trip, check hotel reviews on trusted travel sites, then book your hotel through, or a similar site. Booking directly through the hotel’s website seems to be more expensive, at least in my experience.
5. Look for a hotel that includes breakfast.
6. When shopping for souvenirs, keep in mind that hotel/airport gift shops will have the highest prices. If you come across a sore off the beaten path, it might be a bit cheaper. Also consider visiting Staryi Arbat (Старый Арбат) – an old pedestrian area of Moscow filled with souvenir vendors, food vendors, street performers and artists. While it is not the cheapest place to buy souvenirs, you can always try to negotiate the price.
7. Beware of pickpockets. Always.
8. If you really want to stick to American food, there is McDonald’s, Starbucks, KFC, etc. I urge you, however, to venture out of your comfort zone and try Russian cuisine, you won’t regret it.
9. Figure out which places you would like to visit ahead of time and check admission prices and schedule.
10. Enjoy your stay!


Tags: , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    All excellent advice! When in the Kremlin area I always make sure my friends get to watch the changing of the guard at the Flame for the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin. Really fun to watch and it’s free. Every hour.

  2. Jenya:

    Муни, спасибо за совет! Да, те, кто был в Москве неоднократно, пожалуйста, делитесь советами!

  3. Alan Sargeant:

    I am surprised about your passport comment. I have spent close to 12 months in Russia over 12 visits and have never been asked to show my passport! I always register my Visa despite never having to show proof of registration on departure.

    Train station taxis also overcharge compared to calling on the phone for a taxi. Airport taxis from St Petersburg airport are reasonably priced.

    Free admission to the heritage on the first Thursday of the month is great even if you have to queue. There is a lot to see outside of Moscow – I much prefer St Petersburg.

  4. Jenya:

    Alan,спасибо! The thing with passport checks is that you just never know if you are going to be the “lucky” one, so it is better to have your docs handy just in case :-).