Getting around in Moscow can be daunting, especially if you have come from a smaller city. Although by area Moscow is not much bigger than Melbourne or San Diego, it’s population is much higher than either and this population density does present some unique challenges when it comes to getting around. Below we will go over the main transport options at your disposal and the in’s and out’s of using them effectively.
Driving is certainly a popular method for getting around in Moscow. It is estimated that there are more than 5.5 million cars in Moscow with the number rising at a rate of 8-10% a year. Just looking around when you are here, it is clear that Russians really love their cars. What this creates is an epic traffic jam on a daily basis, which is only exacerbated every time there is rain or snow. As you can imagine, this also causes significant parking problems, as large parts of the city were not designed with so many cars in mind.
Many foreigners decide to forgo a car in favour of public transport, which is very often quicker than driving and arguably safer. However, cars in Moscow are very cheap to purchase by Western European standards and the allure of a new BMW or Mercedes can sometimes be too much!
The Moscow metro really does act as the cities arteries, moving masses of people around efficiently every day. Unless you want to drive or rely on buses and taxis, you will want to live near a metro station. Using the metro, you can get pretty much anywhere within Moscow’s two ring roads within an hour. For visitors or residents, the metro is the best option for getting around in Moscow. In fact, most directions given will include reference to the nearest metro!
One ticket entitles you to transfer as many times as necessary to reach your destination, provided you stay ‘underground’ the whole time. You can purchase single tickets for 50RUB from the automatic machines (easy to use for non Russians), or line up at a ticket window to buy a multi trip ticket, which lowers the per trip cost the more you buy.
Announcements on the metro are predominantly in Russian, although English language announcements are being trialed on some lines. If you will be using the metro often, you should download the Yandex Metro application to help you plan your trips.
Busses and Trolley Buses
Every metro station is ‘fed’ by a rather extensive bus and trolley bus network. Multiple bus routes run along every major road in the city and the vast majority start or end at a metro station, bridging the gaps in coverage. Tickets for the bus can be purchased directly from the driver, or you can also use a multi trip pass if you have purchased one in advance. There are both pros and cons of using the bus.
The buses have a button to alert the driver that you would like to stop and the more modern buses have a display showing where along the route you currently are. This makes it more attractive for non Russian speakers than marshutkas (explained below), where you have to verbally ask the driver to stop. However buses are slower than marshutkas and you are going to get a lot of babushkas on board because they get discount tickets!
Marshutkas are small private minivans/buses that run a fixed route for a fixed price. The route will be displayed on a card at the side of the van and the price will be somewhere next to the driver. There is no card payment system for marshutkas – cash only. Also, there is no fixed schedule but they tend to arrive more frequently than full size buses. When you reach your destination, you will need to ask the driver to stop. You can try to use English for this, but the chances of them understanding you are close to zero.
Using a marshutka is much faster than taking the bus, but is a little more expensive. It is also possibly a bit difficult for a non Russian speaker.
As you read above, the traffic can be quite bad, but despite this, taxis can still be a good option for getting around in Moscow. Official taxis are unmistakable, being yellow in colour and well marked, however you may also encounter unofficial taxis with a simple taxi sign on the roof. The unofficial taxis are best avoided unless booked through one of the taxi applications listed below.
although you can hail a taxi or approach one on the street, the best way to book a taxi in Moscow is via the Gett Taxi or Yandex Taxi applications. Uber, which is popular in other cities, is not widely used in Moscow. Taxis are best used early in the morning or after 7-8pm when the traffic has calmed down.
Velobike has been a recent addition to Moscow’s transport options. Following the lead of other major cities, cycling is really being promoted in Moscow and the Velobike scheme is a big part of that. Once you have registered, you can take a bicycle from any of the stations that are in an increasing number of locations across the city – view the map here, or on their application.
Rides under 30mins are free and then there is a climbing scale charged for every subsequent hour (see the rates here). The rates are designed to only make a few hours at a time economical, so you should plan longer journeys to go past new stations in order to change bikes and get reset your free 30mins.