When it first opened in 1935, the system had just one line. Today, the Moscow metro contains 12 lines, mostly underground with a total of more than 175 stations. The metro is one of the deepest subway systems in the world. It is a great, fast, efficient, and cheap way to get around town, with stations close to most major places of interest in the city center. Trains run every couple of minutes from early morning to late at night. They can get very crowded during morning and evening rush hours. Stations that are always crowded are those adjacent to railway stations and bus terminals (for example, Kievskaya, Belorusskaya). Read more
Many of Moscows metro stations were designed and embellished by prominent Russian architects, artists and sculptors and are incredibly beautiful, especially those in the city center and the ones on the brown circle line, which connects seven of Moscow's nine railway stations to each other. When you start exploring Moscow on the metro, take some time to get off at each station to have a closer look. The metro runs from 05:35 to 01:00. Intervals between trains during the day are usually no more than a few minutes but can be longer in the early morning or late evening.
Brief History of the Moscow Metro
The story started in the beginning of the 20th century. The first and very unusual project of the underground was offered by engineer Peter Balinsky in 1902. According to his plan trains were supposed to pass across the Red Square over the heads of the astonished people in horse-carriages, but this project was rejected as well as many others. Only in 1931 the dream of many architects and progress adherents came true and the construction began. On May 15th 1935 the first line covering the distance from Sokolniki to Gorky Park was opened for public use. The lucky owner of the ticket No. 1 presented this precious piece of paper to the Museum of Moscow Metro.
Finding a Metro Station
Metro entrances are easy to find - they are indicated by big red letters "M", which are illuminated at night.
Fare: 26 Rbs per ticket (as of June 2010). Children under the age of seven travel free of charge.
The fee for 1 trip is fixed, i.e. it does not depend on the length of your journey, you can make as many line-changes as you wish, and stay down in the metro as long as you like - it is valid until you exit the metro system. Tickets are available for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 60, 70 rides and there is also a common ticket for 70 rides in all kinds of transport. You can also buy season tickets of different kinds: season tickets with limited number of rides for 5 days (1, 2 rides), season tickets with limited number of rides for 45 days (5, 10, 20, 60 rides), season tickets with limited number of rides for one calendar month (70 rides) and season tickets with unlimited number of rides: for 30 days, for 90 days and for 365 days.
Metro tickets can be obtained from the "kassas" (ticket booths) that are located inside each metro station. The tickets come in the form of smart cards. To enter the metro system, touch the yellow circle on the turnstile with your ticket. After you touch the yellow circle, the other circle a bit lower will show in green light how many rides are left (or illuminate in green if you have the season ticket). The red light on the ticket-barrier will go out briefly, and you can now enter through the turnstile.
If your ticket is not valid, the turnstile will make a buzz sound and the red circle will be still on. If you are sure that your ticket is valid, but the turnstile won't let you in, do not be desperate; just touch the yellow circle of the same turnstile one more time. Normally, if the ticket is valid, the turnstile will work. You don't need your ticket to exit the metro.
Moscow Metro Peculiarities
In one way the Moscow metro is definitely different from all other underground railways in the world: it was planned not only as a comfortable and easily accessible transport but also as powerful means of propaganda. The idea was to immortalize the greatness of socialism; as a result Moscow underground became one of the most grandiose phenomena of the Stalin era. Its pompous architecture and sumptuous designs allow Moscow metro to remain one of the most popular tourist attractions.
Each central station has its own unique style. For example Teatralnaya station is decorated with majolica bas-reliefs picturing folk dances. In the niches of Ploshchad Revolutsii there are 76 bronze statues imaging the creators of the communism. Kievskaya and Belorusskaya are adorned with national ornaments of Ukraine and Belarus.
Among other sumptuous metro stations Mayakovskaya is a true pearl of underground architecture. It is included in the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Silvery steel columns match beautifully with red and pink shades of rhodonite. The ceiling has 36 mosaic panels made of coloured glass created by very famous Soviet-era artist Alexander Deineka.
As money becoming tighter during the 1960s and 1970s the opulent designs of new stations were sacrificed in favour of better geographic coverage and investment into rail technology - the stations of this era look far more prosaic by comparison. However, in the Medvedev era funds are being found to build new stations - some of which are built in a "fake-Empire" style glorifying Russia's 19th-century past (e.g. Trubnaya), while yet others illustrate contemporary minimalist design styles (e.g. Vorobyovy Gory). Money is now finally being found to restore the first-generation stations (such as Mayakovskaya) to their original glory - and to invest in new rolling-stock and track.
Finding your Way around the Metro
It is not very difficult to find your way around on the metro. For convenience, each metro line has its own distinct colour. Information boards on the station walls show the stations that are served by the particular line you are on. They also indicate all possible transfers to other lines. Signs inside metro stations are in Russian only. Each train car has a metro map close to one or more of the doors. These maps are bilingual (Russian, English).
When you are on the train, the driver will make the following announcement "Ostorozhno, dveri zakryvautsya, sleduyuschaya ostanovka (for example) Smolenskaya". This means "Careful, the doors are closing. The next stop is Smolenskaya". You should be able to understand the station names. In case a station has transfers to two or more other lines, stay calm and try to find the information board indicating the needed station. If it doesn't work, ask someone for assistance.
Many stations have two or more exits leading onto different streets. The exit signs list nearby streets, places of interest, department stores, etc. It helps to find in advance whether you have to get off at the first or last metro car to get to your destination. When meeting someone inside the metro, make sure you are very clear about where exactly you will meet. Some stations are very big and can be very crowded, which can make finding someone a difficult task.
Since 2004, Muscovites are able to enjoy new means of city transportation - the light metro (monorail). The first line is in Butovo and can be accessed from metro Bulvar Dmitriya Donskogo. The second line is in northern Moscow and runs between metros VDNKh and Timiryazevskaya. The tracks are an elevated structure with an average height of 7.5 m (25 ft). Each train can hold about 300 passengers. The average speed is 40 km (25 mi) per hour.
In view of the fact that metro stations outside the city centre are far apart in comparison to other cities - up to 4 km (2.5 mi) - an extensive bus network radiates from each station to the surrounding residential zones. Also, Moscow has a several bus terminals for long-range and intercity passenger buses, with a daily turnover of about 25000 passengers serving about 40% of long-range bus routes in Moscow.
Moscow has an extensive tram system, which first opened in 1899. Its daily usage by Muscovites is low (approximately 5%), although, it still remains vital in some districts, especially, in the centre for those who need to get to the nearby metro station. Increasingly tram-lines are the victims of road-widening schemes, and the tram-system's coverage is steadily decreasing. Buses and trolleybuses run from about 06:00 to 01:00, trams from about 05:30 to 01:00.
Public Transportation Ticket Options
One ticket covers one-way transportation on only one bus, trolleybus or tram (regardless the distance). If you transfer to another bus, trolleybus or tram, a new ticket will be required. Tickets for public transportation can be purchased from kiosks on the street. They are typically grey in colour and have a big sign saying "Proezdnyue Bilety" meaning "Public Transportation Tickets". These kiosks can be found outside many metro stations.
Bus, trolleybus, and tram tickets cost 24 Rbs for 1 ticket; 48 for 2 tickets, 90 for 5 tickets; 180 for 10 tickets, 369 Rbs for 20 tickets, 700 Rbs for 60 tickets (as of June 2010). The more tickets you buy, the cheaper the individual ticket gets. If you plan on frequently using public transportation, you may want to purchase a so-called "yediny" which costs 2140 Rbs. This pass is valid for one month and can be used for up to 70 rides on the metro and unlimited tram, bus, and trolleybus rides.
Another option is to purchase a so-called TAT or "proyezdnoi". The letters TAT stand for Tram, Autobus (bus), and Trolleybus. A TAT costs 830 Rbs (as of June 2010). As TAT tickets are not valid for the metro, you will have to purchase metro tickets separately.
You are strongly encouraged to obtain your bus/tram/trolley tickets before you travel. However, you can obtain a ticket on-board, in return for some practiced tutting and grumbling. If you buy a ticket directly from the tram, bus, or trolleybus driver, it will cost you 28 Rbs (as of June 2010). The drivers only sell the tickets during scheduled stops, and you should try to have the exact change on hand.
To enter the tram, bus or trolleybus you have to use a turnstile entrance within the vehicle, located past the driver's seat. All buses, trolleybuses and trams required you to enter through the front door and exit through the back door.
Hundreds of routes in Moscow are served by microbuses (small passenger vans). In Russian these are called "marshrutnoye taxi" or "marshrutka" for short. Their only similarity to a taxi is that they can - in theory - be hailed at the roadside without having to be at a stop, and they can drop you off anywhere along their (fixed) route that the driver considers safe. The routes normally start outside metro stations, and the drivers will stop anywhere along their route at passenger's requests. These small buses often go to places where there is no metro, such as many micro-neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Moscow. They often run long after the metro has closed - but with no guarantees, as the drivers are free agents, and can pack up and go home if it is a quiet evening with few clients.
While these small buses often are a quicker alternative to regular buses, their drivers are often overworked and/or drive recklessly. Accidents involving microbuses are frequent. Pricing on board is entirely up to the companies offering the route - usually they are posted on the buses' windows, along with information on the route and the micro bus number. A very large number of marshrutkas are offering a "private" alternative to specific public bus or tram route - and number themselves the same as the bus- or tram-number they are cloning. Since the public services are not-for-profit anyhow, they rarely complain about this competition - which relieves congestion on already-groaning main routes. Marshrutka offers travelers a slightly quicker journey, less crowding on board, and a guaranteed seat instead of having to stand (no standing is allowed in marshrutkas, for safety reasons). You have to tell (i.e. holler to) the driver in advance of where you'd like to stop.
Moscow has two passenger riverboat terminals (South River Terminal and North River Terminal or Rechnoi Vokzal), serving regular ship routes and cruises along Moskva and Oka Rivers. Due to winter ice, the rivers are navigable from early April to mid-October for passenger transport, and for cargo - a little longer. Cruise ships, connecting Moscow with St. Petersburg, Astrakhan, Rostov-on-Don and other cities of the Volga region depart from the North River Terminal (Severny Rechnoi Vokzal). From the South River Terminal ships depart to Ryazan & Konstantinovo, on the Oka River to Nizhny Novgorod; ships for the Volga River leave from Severny Rechnoi Vokzal. Additionally the suburban ships "Raketa", "Moskva" serve Severny Rechnoi Vokzal to the recreation area of the reservoirs of the Moskva Canal, and on one-hour excursions on the Khimki Reservoir.
Moscow has nine large train stations. All of them serve long-distance trains as well as short-distance commuter trains called "elektrichkas" that go to various suburbs of Moscow.
Commuter Trains ("Elektrichkas")
When visiting a location outside of Moscow, make sure you know which train station your elektrichka departs from. Not all elektrichkas travelling to the same destination will spot at all of the smaller stops in-between. Large boards on the main platform usually list the trains that are going to be leaving within the next couple of hours, and they normally mention whether the train will stop everywhere or not. If in doubt, ask! Suburban trains run relatively frequently and are usually on time.
If you plan on frequently travelling to the same destination by suburban train, you may want to purchase a timetable for that particular route; they are very cheap and available at the ticket counters. Generally there are more trains during morning and evening hours when people travel to and from work, and on summer weekends when entire families travel to and from their dachas. During summer the trains can get very crowded, and seating is limited. Note that most of these trains have no toilets; neither do the majority of the small station stops along the way.
Moscow's nine rail terminals (or vokzals) are:
They are located close to the city centre, each, dealing with trains from different parts of Europe and Asia. Tickets in general are relatively cheap.
If you contemplate a long-distance or overnight train journey make sure you buy a first or a least second class ticket. Some short- and medium-distance trains till have a third class, called "obshchy vagon". This is a carriage without any compartments, and you might end up sleeping next, above or under a noisy party of travelers - or military recruits on their way home on leave.
There are also different categories of train: "skory" ("fast", an outdated title in most cases, as it is rarely the fastest option), "express", and "firmenny" ("flagship service" - the highest category). Tickets cost more on better trains. You cannot buy a ticket merely specifying the route you want - you have to specify the train and time you intend to use, and you will be given an assigned wagon and seat (or berth, if the train is a sleeper). All long-distance routes longer than 24 hours are "compulsory sleeper" services - there is no "couchette" option. Firmenny trains are not only faster - they have greatly increased levels of comfort on board, nicer restaurant-wagons, and clean toilets, usually modern "airline-type" toilets. A useful "rule of thumb" when choosing trains - if you only know their numbers - is that the lowest-numbered trains are usually the best ones (firmenny). Faced with a choice of train 9 or train 371 on the same route, you'd be best to pick train 9. Some routes (e.g. Moscow - St. Petersburg) have competing commercial train operators, offering you a wider choice of services and prices.
Toilet facilities on non-firmenny Russian trains are not great, and it is absolutely essential to bring your own toilet paper and small pre-packed moist towelettes (the kind you get on airplanes). You might also want to bring some food and drink, especially if you are going to on longer trip. Routes longer than 24 hours always have a dining car - these tend to be either "nice but prohibitively expensive" or "cheap but grim" - almost all of them are nowadays operated as franchised businesses. Russian standard cafe fare is usually the extent of the menu - vegetarians are likely to fare quite poorly, even on better trains.
When travelling overnight, make sure you lock your compartment door. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially your passport and your wallet - thefts on trains can and do occur.
Most expatriates prefer not to use trains for long-distance travel; it is much easier and faster to fly. Overnight train rides to St. Petersburg, however, are a great experience, especially if you travel on one of the luxury trains (there is a choice of 5-6 premium-end train operators).
Apart from using public transportation, official and private taxis are the safest way to get around town. There are two different kinds of taxis in Russia, all of which are commonly referred to as "taxi": official and private taxis, and gypsy cabs.
Official and Private Taxis
Taxis come in various shapes and colours. The main feature of an official taxi is the presence of a meter, together with an official taxi sign either on the roof and/or on the doors. Official taxi drivers are supposed to switch on their meter when they pick you up and should charge you according to a "per km" rate (with a certain minimum charge), but many prefer not to do so. You may, therefore, have to agree on the fare before getting in. The same applies to gypsy cab drivers.
Note that in contrast to many countries, you cannot just get into an official taxi in Moscow and expect the driver to take you where you want to go. He may not be interested in taking you, particularly if you are going somewhere far from the city center.
Official taxis can be difficult to catch on the street - there aren't that many. If you expect that you will need a taxi, order one ahead of time. Private taxis will normally only pick up passengers who have ordered a car by phone or over Internet. Many of these cars also have taxi sign, but they usually do not have a meter.
Private taxi companies usually have a fixed charge - usually per 20 minutes. The taxi company should inform you of the charge when you order a car. Unless your company has a contact with a particular taxi company, you must pay a driver in cash. Few companies accept credit cards. If you need an official receipt, ask whether one can be provided before placing you order - not all companies provide this.
In Russia, the difference between hailing a cab (taxi) and simply hitchhiking is vague. Generally,
wherever you are, at any time of day or night, you can get a "cab" in a matter of minutes or seconds by holding out your hand. Normally, you tell the driver where you are going and negotiate an amount, with you naming the first price. For many locations, giving the closest metro station is the best. Keep in mind though that very few drivers speak English. "Chastniki" (gypsy cab drivers) drive their own cars that do not have any taxi signs on them.
To flag down a taxi or a gypsy cab, stand on the curb of the street and hold out your hand.
When a car stops, make sure that there are no other passengers in it.
Tell the driver where you want to go (e.g. name the street and the closest metro station). You will then be asked how much you are willing to pay for the trip.
If the driver is happy with your offer, he will say "Sadites" or "Poyekhali" (meaning "Sit down" or "Let's go").
Gypsy cab drivers often don't need instructions on how to get to your destination.
Few taxi drivers speak English or other foreign languages, so if your Russian is limited, ask someone to write your destination down for you in Russian and mark on a map so that you an show it to the driver.
There are over 3 million cars in the city on a daily basis. Recent years have seen a significant growth in the number of cars, which has lead to traffic jams and unavailability of parking space. The MKAD (Moscow Circular Car Road), along with the Third Transport Ring and the future Fourth Transport Ring is one of only three freeways that run within Moscow city limits. However, as one can easily observe from a map of Moscow area, there are several other roadway systems that form concentric circles around the city. You might want to rent a car to explore Moscow as a driver. Try one of the following car rental companies.