Travel to Moscow, Some Misconceptions Clarified

While Moscow might not match some other cities in cuisine, shopping, or magnificent sight-seeing, it does offer plenty of beautiful parks, history, culture, architecture, world-class art and museums, cathedrals, and enough sights to keep a traveler easily occupied for many days.

I expected a bit more of a “police state” atmosphere, and at least expected some gnarly looking scar-faced, bandoleer draped, machine gun toting, pressed uniform wearing guards prominently stationed at the airport and on every street corner. But, no luck and no photo ops (presuming that I would not be sent to the gulag for attempting to use my trusty Leica to expose the goings-on behind the Iron Curtain). Well… maybe too many old cold-war movies stored in my DVD collection, and too many John le Carre books gathering dust on the shelves.

The reality is that there is definitely a lot more overt police presence in any large American city than in Moscow. Actually saw or heard very few police sirens. But, since there are not any donut shops, I guess there is not any reason to turn on the blue lights and go fast.

Airport: Expected old and dirty. The reality is that Moscow’s Domodedovo International airport is modern, clean, and full of luxury shops as well as food stands that offer the same fare as most any large airport, and at prices that will not make you gasp.

Currency and Value: Without really doing my homework, I expected that Russia used the Euro. In reality, their currency is the Ruple and you will see prices listed by the price followed by “py6”. Vat is included, so the price you see is the price you pay. Current exchange rate is about 32 Ruples per US Dollar. Value is in the purchaser’s eye, but prices of non-luxury day-to-day goods seemed a bit less than other large cities. ATM machines are plentiful with many dispensing your choice of Ruples or Dollars.