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!
• Immediate family members of Russian citizens. As of January 25, 2021, the Russian Consulate resumes issuing 3-year multiple entry private visas for immediate family members (spouses, children, biological and adoptive parents). These visas will be processed by a notarized written request from the inviting Russian citizen residing in the United States. Please contact us for details.
• Travelers for medical emergency
• Diplomatic workers and members of their families
• Transit passengers
• International ship, cargo, train, sea crew members performing their work duties
• Holders of special visas, issued to visit funeral of a person, permanently residing in Russia
• Russian citizens and permanent residents
• Russian work and student visa holders
Updated: January 27, 2021