As Europe’s largest city - Moscow holds a great wealth of treasures for tourists to discover. At the same time Moscow’s size poses big challenges on foreigners trying to navigate from point A to point B. We have put together a comprehensive guide covering all you need to know on getting around in Moscow.
Moscow is famous for many things: The beautiful kremlin, singing babushkas, free-flowing Vodka - and traffic jams. In general you should avoid using over-ground public transport and taxis during rush hour (8-10 am, 5-7pm) and check the traffic situation on Yandex Maps (typically more accurate than Google Maps) when planning a journey. Should you need to travel during rush hour - plan in enough time and take something to read with you - it is not unusual to be stuck in traffic for several hours. Also - feel free to reach out to our operators for assistance in planning your trip in the most convenient manner.
Until the recent boom of taxi hailing apps - stopping a random private car on the street was a typical way for Muscovites to get around. Muscovites used to simply stick out their hand at a busy street and within seconds several cars would stop to negotiate the possible fare. While you might have heard that hailing a car is a typical thing to do/try while in Russia - we strongly advise you against doing so as it is quite dangerous, especially for foreigners. It is much better to call the WhizzMate hotline and we will organize you a taxi with our trusted partner MosTaxi
Being a large metropolitan city with fairly high real estate prices - few people can afford to live close to offices in the city center of Moscow, so a daily migration of over 10 million people from the outskirts to the city and back is taking place. During these rush hours the city - which was not build for such an amount of inhabitants - is running above capacity both on the roads and in public transportation. It is strongly advised to not make plans to be on the move between 8 and 11 am and 5 and 8pm unless you want to experience being stuck in traffic for several hours or squeezed in between millions of people on the metro.
Moscow is organized in a system of rings with new rings being added to alleviate the traffic situation as the city expands. The inner ring - also called Garden Ring (Sadovoye Kolzo) is the main boulevard in the city center and will bring you to most of Moscow’s sights. On the outside - and previously the border of Moscow - is the MKAD - a 109km ring road that allows you to go from one side of Moscow to another without having to pass through the city. The MKAD is connected to all major roads in Moscow and used by millions of Muscovites daily - but is also notorious for its traffic jams. To improve the traffic situation - the 3rd transport ring was built in between the Garden Ring and MKAD but even with it - traffic is still an issue. Recently a 4th ring has been added - time will show how far this will go in solving the situation.
Unless you have spent some days in St. Petersburg and are taking the Sapsan train to get to Moscow (more on this later) - chances are good that you begin your Russian adventure at one of Moscow’s three international airports: Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo or Vnukovo. In the late spring of 2016 - Ramenskoye Airport will be added to the list and cover the South-East area of Moscow. Due to Moscow’s size - a strategic selection of the airline/airport closest to your destination within Moscow can save you a significant amount of valuable time - especially if your trip is short. For example - if you are staying somewhere up north - flying in to Domodedovo can easily cost you a 1.5- 2 hour commute. As you are leaving any of the airports - you will most likely be approached by many drivers offering you their taxi services. Be aware that they often overcharge - especially foreigners - and avoid using these cabs if you can. For more details on better ways to leave the airport - please see more details below.
Domodedovo International Airport is located 42km to the South of Moscow’s city center and is Russia’s biggest airport in terms of passengers numbers (over 33 million in 2014). The airport first opened its gates in 1962 and received global media attention when a suicide bomber attack was carried out in its halls in 2011. When you arrive - you can pick up your WhizzMate package here and then get to Moscow by either renting a car, taking a taxi or the Aeroexpress train - which will take you to the Paveletskaya train station in 45 minutes.
Vnukovo airport is the 4th biggest airport in Russia and is located in the South-West of Moscow. It was opened in 1941, was used as a military airport for many years and has been expanded with a second terminal in 2004 to handle international flights. Vnukovo is also used for most of the VIP traffic in and out of Russia - for example the reception of foreign head of states or local Oligarchs private jet collections. At Vnukovo airport, you can pick up your WhizzMate package here and then make your way to the Aeroexpress, which will take you to the Kievsky rail station in just 35 minutes. Alternatively you can rent a car from our partner EuropeCar or ask us to arrange a transfer with our partner MosTaxi.
Moscow's third airport - Sheremetyevo - is battling with Domodedovo every year for the highest number of passengers and has defended the title many times already. Located in the town of Khimki - 29km to the north of Moscow - the airport was opened in 1957 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the October revolution. Today, the airport boasts with four passenger terminals and an additional one for private planes. If you are an avid movie watcher or video game player - landing in Sheremetyevo might feel like a deja-vu as you have already seen it in Air Force One, The Bourne Supremacy, Call of Duty Warfare 2 and more. Please pick up your WhizzMate package here and take the Aeroexpress train to Belorusskaya station from terminal F (shuttle busses from all terminals provided) or the taxi pick-up we will gladly organize for you.
There are different types of train wagons and services to fit every budget or need. The cheapest type of tickets are with regular seats and recommended for short trips only. Should your trip be over night - you have the option between a “platzcard” or several types of “kupe”: A platzcard ticket gives you a sleeping place in the common wagon with no door dividers, either on the bottom or top bunk - or on the side of the compartment. For a small fee you will be given a set of bedsheets and a towel - the earplugs to tune out Vladimir’s snoring you need to bring yourself. If you’re over 180cm/6 feet you might find your feet sticking out so don’t take a bed close to the toilets to avoid being woken up repeatedly. Also, keep your valuable items close to you - e.g. under your pillow - as there are no places to lock them. The kupe is a compartment for up to 4 people separated by a door from the others. It is typically more high end and spacious and also costly. From there - there is no limit in the comfort and luxury you can get on a Russian train as there is no end to the wealth of some people in this country. Whole wagon suite? You got it!
Moscow is served by a total of 16 train stations - 9 on which are located centrally and taking care of almost all directions and passengers. It you’re planning to only stay in Moscow - still be sure to see some of them as they are some of Moscow’s oldest and most beautiful structures.
Taking a train ride through Russia from one of the “Vokzal” is an unforgettable experience in itself as you can watch the endless Russian landscape passing by, enjoy some tea in the nickel “Podstakkanik” (lavishly decorated tea glass holders that are still commonly used in trains) or just listen in to some Russian chit-chatter - usually over a “picnic” that your fellow travellers are enjoying, or even some life music entertainment if someone brought a guitar.
Three of Moscow’s biggest train stations - Kazansky, Yaroslavsky and Leningradsky - come together in one place, often referred to as the “three stations square” at Komsomolskaya metro station. From the Leningradsky station you can catch a train to St Petersburg, e.g. the new speed train Sapsan. From Yaroslavsky Vozal you can catch a train to see some of the cities on the “golden ring” such as Vladimir as well as cities in North-East Russia like Kirov. Also, the famous Trans Siberian rail line - connecting you to such cities like Novosibirsk and Vladivostok - departs here. From the Kazanski Train station you can reach destinations such as Tatarstan, the Ural region - separating the European and the Asian part of Russia - and Kazan.
The three train stations Belorusskaya, Kievsky and Paveletsly are best known for serving the airports with the speed trains Aeroexpress. On top of that, trains to the Ukraine are leaving from the Kievsky train station and the Belorusskaya station serves destinations to the west of Russia such as Belarus and Germany.
The remaining three major train stations in Moscow are Kursky Train station - which serves the south of Russia with cities such as Vladimir; Rishky Vokzal - which serves the Baltic destinations of Latvia, Lithuania and others, and Savelovsky station.
Due to Moscow’s notorious traffic jams - many Muscovites prefer to just use their car to get to their datcha on the weekends and use public transportation for the rest of the week. Public transportation consists out of the famous Moscow metro, busses, trolleybuses, trams, minivans called marshrutka, suburban trains and even a monorail line. Compared to most metropoles - the fares are very low with one ride costing you ca. 32 rubles. For pensioners and other groups of Russian people it is even completely free. You can buy a ticket at a driver, kiosk, machine or “kassa” at the metro station for one or multiple rides (buying more rides gives you a cheaper price per ride) and use that ticket across the entire public transport network. In contrast to other countries - Russian metro trains, busses etc. don’t follow a schedule (even if there is an official one) and also you will find very little if any information in English. But don’t worry - we will help you find your way in the most efficient manner - just give us a call and use the ticket included in your package.
The Moscow metro - operating since 1935 - is world famous for its architectural beauty - reminding it more of a palace or museum than a transportation hub. The most beautiful stations you should include on your journey are Kievskaya, Mayakovskaya, Arbatskaya and Chkalovskaya - and don’t forget to rub the dog’s nose (don’t worry- just on a bronze statue) for good luck on your trip at the Ploshad Revolutsii station. The Moscow metro opens at 5.20 am and closes at roughly 1am, depending on the station. To enter - simply locate a large M and follow the crowds to glass doors with green signs saying “Vhod” (be careful - the doors are very heavy and swing back strongly so be prepared and don’t run through head first). There are 12 lines - all with a different color and name and connected through the brown circle line - that connect Moscow’s currently 196 metro stations. Despite the lacking schedule - the Moscow metro operates very efficiently - with sometimes trains coming every two minutes - and is used by 9 million passengers every day, which is more than London’s and New York’s subway systems combined.
As most metro stations in Moscow are quite far apart - especially on the outskirts of the city - there are dozens of bus and trolleybus lines to fill the gaps. Despite there being an official schedule - arrival times are absolutely unpredictable and your waiting time can be anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes. Similarly to the metro, busses and trolley buses operate from 5:30 am until 1am. You can only enter busses and trolleybuses at the front door and it\'s possible to buy a ticket from the driver (which is usually more expensive than at a kiosk or machine so try to buy it beforehand). Simply hold the ticket against the turnstile and enjoy your ride. The most interesting and scenic lines are bus 119 to the Vorobyovy Gory observation and the trolleybus number 7 which passes the victory park, Moscow State University and Moscow’s beautiful river bank.
Marshrutkas are smaller - typically privately owned - busses and minivans that take the same routes as busses but often more frequent or faster as they don’t stop at all stations. To take a Marshrutka - simply wave for it to stop when you see it approaching and pay the fare to the driver. When you are close to your destination - just tell the driver to stop, even if there is no bus station around.
The tram first started operating in Moscow in 1899 but today makes up less than 5% of the journeys taken. The still existing lines act as important links of Moscow’s metro lines but are slowly being disassembled.
A monorail line was opened in Moscow in 2004 and connects several busy streets in the north east. The line runs for 4.7km and has been criticised because of relatively little use despite very high building costs. There has been a lot of speculation and also statements from politicians about closing the monorail so catch a ride before it's too late!
If you are planning to go further out of Moscow - for example to visit one of your new friends at their Dacha - the suburban train (“elektrichka” in Russian) is your best choice when compared to being stuck in a traffic jam.The trains depart from most of Moscow’s railways stations and connect all the villages and cities in the Moscow region to the capital. The intervals between trains can be quite long so check the schedule in advance and also buy your return ticket ahead of time as some stations do not have ticket booths.
Taking a taxi in Moscow can be one of the more convenient modes of transportation - but seldomly will be the fastest one due to traffic. In front of train stations, airports and other transportation hubs you will find dozens of taxis waiting for passengers, many of the drivers even approaching you directly. Be careful - especially as a foreigner - as these drivers tend to overcharge. It has also been a long- established tradition for Muscovites to hail private cars by just stretching out an arm at busy streets and then negotiating a price with the driver. We recommend you a convenient way to get a taxi in Moscow is through the Mostaxi App which is pre-installed on your phone or you can simply give us a call and we will arrange your journey.
There are two major passenger terminals in Moscow - the South River Terminal and the North River Terminal (Rechnoy Vokzal). Boat rides mainly serve an entertainment purpose and you can chose from a variety of travel companies for a leisurely boat ride alongside Moscow’s most beautiful sights.
In recent years there has been a real hype around making Moscow a bicycle friendly city but unfortunately this ambition is still far from reality. In 2000 the first bicycle lane was unveiled in Moscow - becoming an internet phenomenon of an “obstacle course on two wheels” and proving unsuitable for its purpose. More recent - various parks such as Gorky park have been turned into destinations for biking, inline skating and more and in 2013 a bike sharing system was installed in the city center with over 50,000 users in the first year. Still, it is considered very dangerous and not a common mean of transport to use a bike to get around in Moscow.
With many pedestrian streets as well as all key sights being located in the relatively small city center - walking is a real alternative in Moscow if your destination is located within the garden ring. Be careful when crossing streets as drivers can be unpredictable and use Perehody - underground crossings - whenever possible. If you are a single traveller or woman - avoid walking at night, especially in the outskirts of the city. You can find many pre-planned walking tours through Moscow online or join in on a walking tour our operators can arrange for you.
As in most major cities in the world a variety of international car rental services are represented in Moscow. You can reserve your car online in advance and pick it up - for example at the airport - by showing your license and international driving permit. We recommend you to reserve a car with our help from our partner EuropeCar. We have also pre-installed a parking app on your WhizzMate phone, making it much simpler to find and pay for parking in Moscow.