Moscow Basic Information
One must-do experience when you’re in Moscow is the banya or Russian bathhouse. This sweaty tradition involves a hot steam bath at around 60 to 70 degrees Celsius followed by a good whipping with birch branches (to open the pores) and then jumping into a cold pool. Repeat. Where to go for this Russian
torture institution? Head to the newish Krasnopresnenskie or the oldest, Sandunovskiye – Moscow’s most famous banya with marble, chandeliers and the possibility of seeing local oligarchs, politicians and pop princesses in the, err, flesh! Here’s some more essential Moscow info to know before you go.
Australian passport holders going to Russia on holiday are required to obtain visas prior to entering the country. Be aware that a tourist visa is applicable if you are staying in hotel-type accommodation, and a visitor visa is for those staying privately. All travellers are required to register with the Federal Migration Services within 7 days of arrival in Russia, although most hotels will undertake this visa registration on your behalf. Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Please be aware that this information is only a guide.
Russia uses the Russian Rouble as currency. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and the Russian Rouble changes constantly so keep an eye on the exchange rate and purchase Forints when the rate is at its best. For safe spending while overseas, consider using a credit or debit card.
From grim, grey Soviet-era eateries to myriad restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, cheap underground food courts (stolovayas) and high-end dining, Moscow has come a long way since the ‘90s. Traditional fare is comforting and hearty and veers from the recognisable - borscht (beetroot soup and ideally served with vodka), pirozhki (meat pies) and stuffed blinis (pancakes) to the authentically Russian pelmeni (mince dumplings), shashlyk (skewered meat), galuptsy (meat-filled cabbage) and vareniki (veg or fruit-filled dumplings) and the just downright unusual – salo (cured pork belly), kholodets (jellied meat) and kvass (a fermented bread drink). McDonald’s opened its first site in Moscow in 1990 and there are now 356 restaurants across Russia as well as other well-known fast food chains. Azerbaijani cuisine is popular in Moscow as is the spicier Georgian dishes. Japanese sushi is also a local fave as well as ice-cream, which Muscovites enjoy even in winter.
Like most European countries, Muscovites are a stylish lot and dress to impress, so ensure your clobber gets you past the city’s strict ‘face control’ (a.k.a. the bouncers) and into the clubs! Moscow is renowned for its hedonistic nightlife with bars and massive dance clubs that started proliferating in the 1990s. There’s no one area to go out as bars, clubs and venues are spread out all over the city, however one of the most popular destinations is the arts district in the middle of the city, Krasny Oktyabr. Moscow venues run the gamut from exclusive rooftop clubs with expensive rides parked outside and table service (Kyrsha Mira) to rock’n’roll beer bar chains (Darling I’ll Call You Later), massive underground techno raves (Arma 17) to live music venues with international artists (16 Tons) and an outlet of the hedonistic Pacha megaclub chain. Don’t worry if you’re not an oligarch, there’s plenty of spots in Moscow to drink vodka and dance without breaking the bank!