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

Old Jun 7th, 2006, 06:38 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 53
ATM's--best way to get cash in Russia?

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.
PDersch is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2006, 07:15 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,254
Hello PDersch,

The last time I was in Russia was 2 summers ago, so I'm not sure if this is old information or not.

We were explicitly told not to change any of our US$ into Russian money before arriving in St. Petersburg. So upon arrival at the airport, there is a change booth. Oh good! Let's go change some money.

Oh, they were out to lunch. So we waited (it was the only place to change). After a very long time, no one came. So we asked at one of the tour desks. They said they won't be back today.

Okay, we need a taxi to get to our hotel, we need rubles to pay the taxi, and we can't get money until tomorrow.

So up to us comes this guy with a pocketful of American $$ (and I mean a pocketful). He will change our money. Yeah, right.

So after pacing and running out of options, we actually traded our US$ for some rubles. Got charged a hefty sum for the cab, but made it to the hotel. Phew!

Rest of the trip, including Moscow, we changed money only at our hotel.

We did find that at some of the tourist places, they had prices listed in amounts that seemed to equal the US$; for instance, for those coming off cruises at the museums and the like. And they would accept dollars there.

But we always paid in the local currency. I wasn't comfortable giving them dollars (except that one time at the airport).

Enjoy your time in Russia. It's a beautiful country, lots of history.

Happy travels!
kopp is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2006, 08:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,421
You can exchange US dollars for rubles at the airport. If that's not possible, for some reason, you can use US dollars to pay for almost everything, including your taxi.

Once in a city, you should have no problem finding/acquiring cash at ATM's. Nearly every larger hotel has an ATM near the front desk or in the lobby somewhere.

Before leaving home, find out when your bank is offline for overnight processing, then calculate the time difference. Typically, when an ATM card "didn't work" in Russia, either their bank was offline at that moment, or the ATM just did not have the proper bills to handle the transaction. Try a different amount. Also, the phone lines (which are required for successful cash withdrawal) tend to be unreliable, so just keep trying throughout the day.

I would say that it's rare that credit cards are NOT accepted in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Depends upon where you're trying to use them. Street vendors and most shops selling souvenirs accepted US dollars. The occasional vendor selling water, soda or small shop, did not accept US dollars (or credit cards).

Once you've acquired rubles, do your best to change large bills as quickly as possible. Places where you can pay with rubles only are often unable to make change for larger bills.

djkbooks is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2006, 08:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,421
PS Over a 12 day stay starting in Moscow and ending in St. Petersburg, we only used an ATM once (in a major hotel), and it worked just fine.

We only needed rubles occasionally for a rest room, bottle of water, convenience store, and the odd small shop.

The bigger challenge was acquiring smaller bills/change.

We had sufficient rubles "left over" to send to a friend for the duration of his trip.
djkbooks is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2006, 06:32 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 704
I have used ATMs in Russia many times and never have had any problems. In the airport in Moscow you will find ATMs near the baggage pickup area, you might as well use it while you wait. It will let you withdraw a large amount of cash. Some of the hotel ATMs will limit the size of withdraw. Most ATMs will offer you a choice of language and some will offer you a choice of Euro, US$ or Rbls. Changing cash ot travellers cheques are not the way to go. Also the only legal currency in Russia is the Rbl although other currency can be used but the exchange rate will not be good. Most cities will have ATMs but may be difficult to find in small towns. Large 1,000 Rbl bills, which most ATMs give out may be difficult to use, when using ATM, if you want 6,000 rbl ask for 5,900 so you will get some smaller bills.
Garfield is offline  
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