Be prepared to pay big bucks. Russia is very expensive and Moscow is one of the top five most expensive cities in the world according to some reports. Eating out, accommodation, and entertainment costs as much, and often more than, as in large cities in the United States. Generally travel around Russia is expensive and problematic, hence the reason why most Russians choose to go abroad for their holidays rather than travel somewhere in the country. Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, you will find cheaper restaurants and accommodations, although much of them are still surprisingly expensive and low quality. Because the country is so large and infrastructure is somewhat lacking, flights to Russian cities could cost as much, and sometimes more than, flights to Europe or the U.S.
ATMs are available all over Moscow and St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities. Local banks such as Sberbank are featured as well as international, including HSBC and Citibank. Credit cards are accepted at some restaurants and hotels, but not all. It is best to pay with cash. Also, sometimes credit cards from foreign banks are declined at restaurants or bars. It is best to exchange cash at Moscow or St. Petersburg banks. If you exchange in other far-flung regions of Russia, you might lose a large percentage of the money.
All payments should be made in Rubles, unless the venue accepts y.e., or so-called "units," which usually equal the rate of the dollar or the euro. In that case you can pay with dollars or Euros. However, in private, you can pay in dollars or euros for a service, and sometimes that payment is preferred because despite several years of stability, many Russians still prefer foreign currency.
It is possible to still use traveler's checks, but this option is slowly becoming obsolete, as more convenient options such as ATMs are available. If you do use them, keep in mind that you can only cash them at banks, most of which close at around 7 pm. Banks also charge commission, about 2 to 3 percent for the service.
Currency and Exchange
The currency throughout Russia is the Ruble. The Ruble is divided into bills of 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000. There are also coins for 10R, 5R, 2R, 1R 50 kopeks (100 kopeks makes 1R) and 10 Kopeks. There are 31R in $1, while 40R in 1 Euro, 30R in a Canadian dollar, 48R in a British pound, 32R in one Australian dollar, 26R in 1 New Zealand dollar. Russians and foreigners that live in Russia have become accustomed to automatically calculating prices in either dollars or Euros. It may be difficult at first, so it is useful to either carry a small calculator or make use of one on your mobile phone. The Ruble is the only currency accepted at most places.
There are plenty of currency exchange offices around Moscow and St. Petersburg. It might be more difficult to find them outside of the capitals. It is best to exchange currency in a major bank; airports and small offices located in stores and on streets might offer an unfavorable exchange rate and have high fees. Only exchange currency at authorized exchangers. Do not take currency from people on the street as it is probably fake, or they may not give you the whole amount.
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