Moscow has a growing number of first-class international hotels and several smaller hostelsthat offer quality accommodation at more reasonable price. A hotel can be called a "gostinitsa" or an "otel" in Russian. If you intend to stay at a hotel with your pet, make sure that this is possible - not all hotels in Moscow allow pets.
The present Moscow hotel market in general can be divided into 5 groups:
(1) luxury 4-5-star hotels
(2) Tourist-class hotels
(3) Small private 3-4-star hotels
(4) Ex-Soviet and present hotels of the state departments
(5) Country hotels
As for 4-5-star hotels, the majority of them are owned or managed by the western hospitality companies (such are "Marriott", "Sheraton", and "Kempinski"). But though some of them in fact belong to the city and are administered by purely Russian management, it doesn't mean a low quality of service. Hotels of the second category in most cases still carry some features of Soviet time. It is reflected in general management, as well as in the level of service and equipment. Anyway central hotels of this category have no problems with visitors. This determines their price policy: $100-350 per day for a room.
The service standards in 4-5-star hotels have much in common with the western ones. The compulsory set of the facilities includes: parking, safe, room service, satellite TV, business centre (with internet access, copying, faxing, etc.), air conditioning, telephone, mini-bar, different stalls. Depending on the hotel you may be offered a fitness-centre, swimming pool, beauty salon, conference-halls, no-smoking rooms, concierge's services. Unfortunately most of the hotels, even expensive ones, have no conveniences for disabled people.
The prices in the majority of Moscow hotels are quoted in USD, but will be charged in roubles at the prevailing rate. Be careful: many hotels don't include 20% VAT into their prices. According to Russian laws all the payments are received in roubles. The rate of exchange in the hotel may be higher than one for which you've changed money.
Nearly all the hotels accept credit cards, but there are hotels and restaurants which for some reasons don't accept American Express cards. Travelling with children, you should check the amount of the additional payment, which may vary from 0 to 50% depending on the hotel and a child's age.
While you may come across a map with a bilingual street index, good English-language maps of Moscow are very difficult to find. In order to use maps you will have to know the Russian alphabet - otherwise you won't be able to look up streets in the index. You can purchase these maps at many bookstores, magazine and newspaper kiosks, and gas stations. The larger bookstores should also have maps for Moscow's suburbs and other cities in Russia.
Russian is the basic language spoken in Moscow and in Russia in general, but you may hear many other languages spoken on the streets as Moscow welcomes lots of immigrants from the former CIS republics. A basic course in Russian comes highly recommended as in most cases, signs, road names and practically everything you see in Russia will be written in Cyrillic, so getting a good grip of the alphabet is key.
Even if you don't learn Russian, being able to read the alphabet will make a quantum improvement in your ability to move around independently, and will quickly repay the time spent in real savings. Practice by writing-out familiar words (your name, address, your friends, etc) using the Russian alphabet.
Russians love to celebrate and take most of their national holidays very seriously. New Year is the most widely celebrated holiday, followed by Orthodox Easter (which is not an official holiday), and Orthodox Christmas. Remember, though, that over 100 ethnic groups live on the territory of the Russian Federation and that each of them has their own colourful holidays and celebrations. Western holiday and festivals, such as Valentine's Day and Halloween are also gaining popularity in Russia, although they are not marked by days off work. When National Holidays fall over weekend dates, one or more adjacent weekdays will usually be declared as Public Holiday(s) - but the decision on which days is often not announced until a month beforehand. Shops and supermarkets don't usually observe any National Holidays except New Year's Eve, however.
January 1-10: New Year holidays
January 7: Russian Orthodox Christmas
February 23: Defenders of the Fatherland Day
March 8: International Women's Day
May 1: Holiday of Spring and Labour
May 9: Victory Day
June 12: Day of Russia
November 4: National Unity Day
Non-Working Days in 2016
New Year and Christmas holidays: January 1-10.
Defenders of the Fatherland Day: February 22-23.
International Women's Day: March 7-8.
Holiday of Spring and Labour: May 1-3.
Victory Day: May 9.
Day of Russia: June 12-13.
National Unity Day: November 4.
An individual can temporarily bring goods weighing up to 50 kg and valued up to EUR 1500 duty-free into Russia. Individuals shall be charged 30% of the customs value of the imported goods exceeding EUR 1500, but not less than EUR 4.0 per kg in excess of the limit.
There are hundreds of travel agencies in Moscow: some specialize in ticket sales, others offer full tour and vacation packages, some specialize in tours to certain countries or continents, and yet others specialize in adventure and nature travel.
If you do not have your own car and feel like doing a bit of driving on your own after having settled in and having acquainted yourself with the Russian style of driving and traffic regulations, you may want to rent a car for a few days to explore Moscow and its surroundings on your own.
While looking for a certain house in Moscow you should keep in mind the following things:
(1) You need to know whether the house you are looking for is on the street (ulitsa), a lane (pereulok), an avenue (prospect), a boulevard (bulvar), an embankment (naberezhnaya).
(2) Several streets in Moscow have numbers in front of them. For example, there is a 1st, a 2nd , 3rd and 5th Tverskaya-Yamskaya ulitsa.
(3) You must also know whether a house is, for example, located on Bolshaya (big) Ordynka or Malaya (Small) Ordynka. There are many other examples of streets and lanes which exist twice - as a "big one" and a "small one".
(4) A house (dom) can have several buildings (korpus or stroenie) to it. Usually the individual buildings are numbered (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), but sometimes they may have letters such as A, B, V, G, D.
(5) Also make sure you ask for the entrance number. (There can be up to 20 of them in one house).
(6) Google Maps cover Moscow very well, and the Russian search-engine Yandex has a similarly good street-finding map service.
If you were happy with the food and the service at a restaurant, a 5 to 10% tip is appropriate. Try to tip your waiter in cash; if you add the tip to your credit card bill, the waiter will most likely never see the money. (In practice the way that credit-card payments are processed in Russia doesn't permit you to add tips in the huge majority of restaurants anyhow). You may also want to give small tips to handymen and plumbers.
Taxi drivers are not usually tipped, but you may want to pay them some extra money if they help you to carry your bags. Hotel/restaurant coatroom attendants are not normally tipped, but as these are often elderly ladies or men, they may appreciate a small token of appreciation. You don't tip coatroom attendants in public buildings, theatres, etc. It's usual to tip guides and interpreters if you've been satisfied with their work - very often their agency will be taking a large part of the fee you've paid.
It is fairly easy to make an international phone call from a standard Russian telephone line, and normally you will get through even to remote locations. To access an outside line, dial 8 and wait for the tone. Then dial 10, followed by the country code, the city code and the local phone number you want to reach. For example, to call a number in the US, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 10 followed by 1 (the country code for the US) followed by the area code and local number. If the city code starts with a 0 (e.g., in the UK and Germany), do not dial the 0 and start with the first non-zero number after it. For example, to call London, you would dial 8-10-44-208 followed by the local number (instead of 8-10-0208). When giving friends abroad your phone number in Moscow, remember to tell them the country code for Russia is 7 and the area codes for Moscow are 495 and 499. Your landlord will for sure tell you your area code. If you have a seven-digit home or office number or a direct Moscow mobile number, they need to dial +7 495 111 11 11.
You can buy international prepaid calling cards (in kiosks around Moscow, notably the orange "A La Carte" kiosks) which offer considerable savings on calls. Some cards have optimized tariffs for different countries, so buy one which suits your needs best. The quality of connection can sometimes be spotty with the cheapest of these cards.
Paying your Domestic Phone Bill
Once a month you'll find a small slip of paper in your mailbox with some printing on it. That's your phone bill for long distance and international calls - no envelope, and very easy to miss in the clutter of junk mail.
To pay the bill:
You can go down to the local Sberbank and get in line
You can use multi-kassas - special devices that are on every corner and that look a little bit like ATMs. Usually when you pay with multi-kassa, you have to pay extra commission about 2-5%
You can pay by your credit card directly via ATM
You can transmit money form your bank account via Internet-banking
Once you've paid your bill be sure to save it. And if you wait too long to pay the service is cut off