Getting Around Moscow
The best way to get around Moscow is the metro. Faster and more efficient than the trolley buses and trams, this extensive system has stations that contain beautiful ornamentation, sculptures and mosaics. You could rent a car, but it's best to use public transportation to avoid the city's perpetually congested roads. Plus, street signs are all in Russian. In fact, English signs are nonexistent in the public transit system as well, so it's best to quickly get familiar with a map. Most travelers arrive through Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), but there are several other airports that serve the metro area. Several buses and a metro line shuttle airport travelers to and from downtown.
Moscow offers an extensive and well-organized metro system that extends throughout downtown. A one-trip ticket costs the equivalent of about $1 USD; the price goes down when you make a bundle purchase. While you wait, inspect the platforms, many of which are richly decorated. There are no English signs for the metro system, but you can obtain a dual language map on the Moscow Metro's website.
The city's trolleybus system -- the vehicles themselves are half gas-fueled bus and half electric-run trolley -- is slower and less reliable than the underground. The network, which includes both state- and privately-run vehicles, lacks a central organizing body that leads to poor coordination. Average waiting times can vary from five to 40 minutes at times. In addition, routes and schedules (if you can find them) are subject to change and traffic. You'll notice the "A" signs along certain avenues designating the bus stops, while trolley stops are marked with "T" signs. You can purchase tickets, for state-run buses and trolleys, at kiosks and metro stations around town, which cost about $1 USD.
The tram system is even less helpful and efficient than the confusing bus-trolley system. Much of the network was disassembled in favor of the more modern bus-trolley system. We recommend you pass on this option, since most of the lines are located in the outskirts anyway.
Moscow's road network is shaped like a large wheel with highways, or "ring roads," circling the city and smaller streets stretching outward from the city center like spokes. Unfortunately, the current system doesn't move vehicles as well as it should. Congestion lasts beyond typical rush hours, and parking downtown is pricey. Although we recommend not having a car, you can rent one from agencies in the city or at SVO Airport.
You can also hail a taxi on the street, but they are typically very expensive. There are "private" cabs (simply residents with cars) and "public" cabs (licensed drivers in marked cars). Be sure to grab a public cab as the driver will know the city much better. Also, before getting in, agree on a flat price with the driver. If you don't speak Russian, carry a map and point to the address or write it down. And keep in mind that taxi rides will take longer through the downtown area, where traffic is at its worst.
Entry & Exit Requirements
Acquiring a visa to travel in Russia is a bit more complicated and expensive than visiting other countries. In addition to a U.S. passport, you must also obtain a travel visa -- for up to 30 days -- from a Russian embassy or consulate. According to the U.S. State Department, the charge is around US$30 per visa, and it's only valid for the allocated time and cannot be extended.