By Public Transportation
The Moscow Metro is an attraction unto itself, and well worth a visit just to view a few stations even if you have other transport. It's generally clean and efficient, with trains running every 90 seconds or so during the day. Station entrances are marked with a letter M. The Circle Line runs around the center, with nearly a dozen radial lines crossing it. Color-coded maps are posted at every station entrance and in every train car, and most are now printed in English as well as Russian. The signs in the stations directing you to platforms are in Russian, however, so it helps to know what the name of your station looks like printed in the Cyrillic alphabet. The system is slowly expanding but has not kept up with population growth. Trains are nearly always crowded, and stops are too few and far between. Opening and closing times vary from station to station but are roughly 5:30am to 1am.
Paper tickets with a magnetic strip are sold in each station, for one trip (22 rubles), two trips (44 rubles), five trips (105 rubles), or 10 trips (200 rubles). No senior or student discounts are available for foreigners. You scan the ticket across the sensor on the machine's front and walk after the light changes from red to green.
Trams are second-best to the metro if there's a tram route near your hotel or destination. The stops are on the sidewalk, even where the tram tracks are in the middle of the street. Three of the best lines (A, 3, and 39) run along the picturesque Boulevard Ring before crossing the Moscow River, offering a stunning view of the Kremlin and winding toward Moscow State University and Danilovsky Monastery, among other sights. Trolley buses, attached to electrical lines overhead, are a good option for travel around the Garden Ring Road or along Novy Arbat Street. Rush hour is crowded and the timing between trolley buses is unpredictable. Buses are the least convenient and most overcrowded form of public transport.
Tickets for trams, trolley buses, and buses cost 20 rubles if bought from street ticket booths and 25 rubles if purchased from the driver. You validate your ticket while entering the bus at the machine and walk through a turnstile when you see the green light. Maps are posted inside the vehicles, and routes are often listed at the stops, but in Russian only. Bus stops are marked by signs with the letter A, trolley stops with the letter T, and tram stops with the letters TP. Some stops serve all three. Waiting time can be from 5 to 40 minutes, depending on the hour and the traffic. The three forms of transportation run from 6am to midnight.
A new monorail system serves northern Moscow, between metro station Timiryazevskaya and Sergei Eisenstein Street. It serves the All-Russian Exhibition Center and the Ostankino Estate. It's well beyond the center of town but worth a cruise along the full route (allow 40 min.) if you are in the neighborhood, for a view of a corner of Moscow few visitors reach. Prices are the same as on the metro.
Route taxis, or marshrutky, are minivans that take up to 10 people along several routes that bigger buses don't serve. Fares vary but are generally not more than a couple of dollars (£1). The destinations are marked on the front of the van in Russian only. To get off, yell "Stop!" to the driver. The minivans are more convenient than buses, trams, or trolleys, but the drivers are often reckless and there are no seat belts.
The World Underground
The perekhod, or underground walkway, is one of those things that leaves you thinking: "Only in Russia. . . ." Soviet city planners built the walkways to allow passage across the extrawide boulevards they so favored, without disrupting aboveground traffic. Post-communism, the perekhods turned into thriving commercial centers lined with kiosks, shops, buskers, pharmacies, and cafes. They also provide shelter on blustery days or during rainstorms, and are often used as wintertime meeting places ("Meet me under Pushkin Square at 8pm"). They're invariably crowded but are often useful: for getting rubles at a currency exchange booth, for buying a cool drink or quick snack, or for finding an emergency umbrella (or shampoo, or batteries, or aspirin, or a DVD, or a bunch of wildflowers, or a fur hat . . . ). As a pedestrian, you're bound to encounter plenty of them in Moscow and St. Petersburg. When trying to cross major avenues, you may have to walk some distance to find the next perekhod, but making the extra journey is much wiser than trying to jaywalk across an eight-lane road clogged with fearless Russian drivers. The busiest perekhods are at central intersections or along major thoroughfares such as Moscow's Tverskaya Street and St. Petersburg's Nevsky Prospekt. Many also serve as auxiliary entrances to metro stations, though the thicket of kiosks sometimes makes it hard to find the metro doors. There's nothing sinister about this underground world during the day, but after the shops shut down at night, some perekhods attract drug dealers and drunken brawls. Avoid them after dark if you're alone.
At Moscow's heart and nearly its geographical center lies the Kremlin, from which the rest of the city has expanded in roughly concentric circles: the Boulevard Ring, the Garden Ring, and the Third Ring. The last circle, the Moscow Ring Road, is the bypass around the city limits. The expansion continues apace and Moscow is now an unwieldy megalopolis of 12 million people encompassing 1,000 sq. km (386 sq. miles) -- nearly 10 times bigger than Paris or Manhattan.
The Moscow and Yauza rivers curve through the city, delineating neighborhoods. Visitors are often struck by Moscow's broad boulevards and vast squares, as well as the city's large swaths of green space (which turn to white space during the winter). Yet housing remains largely concentrated in cramped apartment blocks.
All major airports are well out of town . Train stations are scattered around a circle that generally corresponds to the Garden Ring Road and the metro system's Ring Line. Trains from the west arrive at Kievsky Station or Belorussky Station on the northwest side of town, and trains from the north arrive at Leningradsky Station or Rizhky Station on the northeast side.
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.
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.
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.