Map Confusion -- Beware of maps and guidebooks printed before the mid-1990s, which may include the Soviet-era names of many streets and metro stations instead of the new ones.
Address Advice -- Finding addresses in Russia can be challenging, especially for buildings tucked in a courtyard or down a footpath. Russians usually list the house number after the street name. The number may include dashes or slashes or have an addendum like "building 2" or "wing 3." Big apartment buildings rarely have one central entrance; instead, apartments are reached by separate entrances called podyezdy, making it crucial to know which entrance you need.
Don't be alarmed if you see a slash in your address, such as 5/2. Pay attention to the number before the slash, which corresponds to the street number. The number after the slash usually refers to an annex, or wing. So for example, 5/2 Tverskaya Ulitsa will be on the odd-numbered side of the street, somewhere between No. 3 and No. 7. It may be adjacent to No. 5, or tucked into a courtyard behind No. 5. (Successive waves of reconstruction may mean that there's no 5/1 -- but don't let that worry you!)
For example, to find Kutuzovsky Prospekt 21/4, building 3, entrance 1, apartment 16: Locate no. 21/4 between nos. 19 and 23 (ignore the "/4"), walk through the parking lot, and search for building no. 3. Then find entrance no. 1 and check the list in the elevator to locate apartment no. 16's floor.
The most pleasant, romantic, and historic way to travel around Russia is by train. The Moscow-St. Petersburg route is the most frequented and best maintained. Travelers choose between a leisurely 8-hour night trip in a comfortable sleeping compartment (about 1,125 rubles per person in a four-bed cabin; 2,125 rubles per person in a two-bed cabin), and a 5-hour day trip (same price). A snack and beverages are included in the price, though you sometimes have to pay the conductor for the bed linens (about 50 rubles).
Trains from Moscow to St. Petersburg leave from Moscow's Leningradsky Station and arrive at St. Petersburg's Moskovsky Station. Both are in the center of town and easily accessible. Arranging train tickets before you arrive, for example through your travel agent at home, is the safest way to go, but is often more expensive. Most hotels can arrange train tickets to major cities. It's cheaper to buy from the train stations themselves, though the lines are chaotic and interminable.
Commuter trains (called elektrichkas) with hard benches and rock-bottom prices serve many of the country estates and other sights just outside the big cities.
Given Russia's size, plane travel is crucial for reaching more distant destinations such as Lake Baikal or Vladivostok. The Russian airlines Aeroflot and Pulkovo dominate the Moscow-St. Petersburg route, and prices for a one-way ticket run 1,750 to 3,000 rubles. Flights on this route are nearly all on large, sturdy Soviet-era jets (not the flimsy twin-propeller Soviet planes that crash with alarming frequency), and although the upholstery is badly outdated, the service is steadily improving. See www.aeroflot.ru, www.pulkovo.ru, or www.eastline-tour.ru.
If you're not on a tour bus, renting a car can be a reasonable way to get around Moscow or St. Petersburg. However, a strongly recommended alternative is to rent a car with a driver. It can cost no more than a standard rental, and you don't have to worry about the challenges presented by Russian driving. Roads are riddled with holes, signage is often poor, and gas stations and services are sparse. Russian drivers are ruthless, especially with the indecisive. Moscow's traffic is overwhelming much of the day, and traffic police are hostile to anyone behind the wheel and rely heavily on on-the-spot "fines" for their incomes. Most sidewalks or walkways are fair game for parking, and there are very few parking garages. Knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet is strongly recommended for anyone driving in Russia, in order to decipher street signs.
For rental without a driver, see Avis (www.avis.com), Hertz (www.hertz.com), or Europcar (www.europcar.com). For cars with drivers, try www.moscow-taxi.com.
Russian-run tourist buses offer day trips to cities on the Golden Ring outside Moscow and several sights around St. Petersburg, and are generally comfortable. Vendors often hawk tours on loudspeakers at central spots such as St. Petersburg's Nevsky Prospekt metro station and Moscow's Red Square. Otherwise, hotels can often arrange bus tours.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.