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ATM's--best way to get cash in Russia?

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I'm getting conflicting advice from various sources, and have decided to trust the Fodorites!

Some say credit cards are rarely accepted in Moscow and St. Pete.
Some say their ATM card didn't work in Russia.
Most say having local currency is essential.
Everyone says travelers checks aren't accepted anywhere.

So what do I do? Take a bunch of U.S. cash and change it when I get there? Since I'll be traveling in Europe for 3 weeks prior to getting to Russia, carrying a load of cash in my suitcase makes me very nervous.

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