Saturday, February 5, 2011

Moscow 2011: Moscow Overview

Moscow 2011: Moscow Overview


To do Moscow justice, we’re going to breakdown the Moscow portion of this trip report to multiple sections.  This first part will be a summary of our thoughts and impressions of Moscow in general.  

We spent 5 days & night in Moscow and this was about the right length of stay to do the main touristy stuff.  If one were more interested in the many art museums (something which we did not appreciate) or plan for a trip to the Golden Rings towns outside of Moscow you might want to stay an extra few days. 

One of the main worries before we went on the trip was the winter cold.  It NEVER gets below 25C in Penang.  This was technically not our first trip to Moscow.  We transited through Moscow twice before on the way to Houston on the Singapore Airlines SIN-DME-IAH flight.  There was once when we transited during the winter and Lydia really liked the view of snow everywhere at the airport.  This experience was one of the main factors that swayed the decision to visit in the winter.    We did our research and bought new thermals, snow boots and down jackets on our trip to Melbourne (another trip report in the planning).  This turned out to be one of the wisest investments.  The weather was somewhat bearable thanks to them – there were no cold and wet feet and we were relatively warm.  It was ~-10 to 0C the 5 days we were in Moscow.  The nice thing about visiting during the winter is the lack of lines and crowd.  There were virtually no lines to enter any of the churches or museums we visited. More importantly, the views and scenery during the winter with snow covered roots and building was simply stunning.  Some initial pictures to share:

Please make an effort to learn some basic Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet before visiting Russia.  There were virtually no signs in English and the only people who spoke English to us were when we checked into the Hotel and the tourist stalls.  Lydia learned some basic Russian through some websites and that helped a lot with getting around. The metro is a cheap and efficient way to get around but all the signs were in Russian.  It was a struggle the first day trying to find which line to take and where the exit of the metro even was.  Another tip on the metro is to remember the line number and color of the metro station you want to go to. There are multiple ways and places to change to get to where one needs to go.

There are different views on whether a local guide is needed to visit Moscow.  In general, we felt Moscow was easy enough to get around especially to the main tourist attractions like St Basil, Red Square, Arbat, etc (if you know some basic Russian) and with a good guide book like Lonely Planet, a guide was not really needed. The one part of the trip that we regretted not getting a guide was to Sergev Possad.  Sergev Possad is a monastery about a 2 hour train ride away from Moscow which per online guides compare with the Vatican.   We arrived at the train station and couldn’t figure out how to buy tickets with no one speaking English and gave up!

There was plenty of ways to change money in Moscow and change only what you need for the cab to the hotel at the airport.  I was worried that changing money in Moscow itself was going to be hard with the possible lack of money changers and lack of English.  I decided to change all the money we needed for our stay at SVO when we got to Moscow and I got ripped off!  The exchange rate was a horrible 24 Rubbles to 1 USD.  In town, I found multiple money changers with rates for 30 to 1.  There are also automated money changer machines (similar to ATMs).  

Eating out and finding food was pretty easy in Moscow.  There are a lot of restaurants in Moscow with prices similar to what one would pay in US or Europe.  Muscovites also seem to like sushi a lot – there were literally sushi restaurants at everyone.  We tried one in Req Square and it was just ok for the price we paid.  A better value and a favorite of ours where we ate several times was a self-serve Russian chain called Mu-Mu.  A meal for both of us including beer was about 25 USD.  The best part was we could pick the food from the line and didn’t have to deal with language problems.  The quality of the food was generally good but lacked the spice or kick but that’s Russian food in general. Some pictures of food and restaurants we tried in Moscow:

Mu Mu Restaurant & Food:

 McDonald's in Moscow:

Russian crepes (blinis):

In general, we really enjoyed the short holiday in Moscow.  This is a city that should be everyone’s bucket list.  Would we come back? Don’t think it would be a yes for now but who knows.....


  1. Hi Lydia and Calvin! It was interesting to read your report. I'm from Moscow, and its great that people found it attractive to have a trip there! So sorry about navigation signs on the streets and tube - its a really big problem, even for native people)

    How did you plan your trip to Moscow? Can you name some useful web-sites. You mentioned: 'Lydia learned some basic Russian through some websites and that helped a lot with getting around'. I am currently doing research on tourism in Moscow (at MA degree at the University of the Arts London). It will useful for me since I intend to make some project to improve situation that you wrote about. Thank you! Daria

  2. excellent report! thanks for taking the time to write it!