Smart people know what to do in Moscow but the really smart people also know what not to do in Moscow.
With a few easy tips & tricks you can make your stay in Moscow a lot more comfortable. You just have to know them.
Will this make or break your time in Moscow?
No. No matter whether you travel to or live in Moscow, you will have fun regardless. But knowing these will make your life a lot easier.
But will it make it better and less stressful?
Hell yes. A lot of people fall into these traps. You won’t because you’re smart and know what not to do in Moscow
Is it for free? Absolutely. It's even going to save you money in a lot of cases.
Don't get me wrong, this is not some genius insider knowledge I am sharing with you. But you will be smarter than all the other people who make the same mistakes over and over again. Plus you will be able to actually put this list to use. Unlike all the other “not to do” lists that will tell you a bunch of useless Russian superstitions.
Here are the Top 10 Things of What Not To Do in Moscow:
#1: Don't take a cab from the airport from one of the guys in the arrival hall
Unless you're bold enough to come by train or by car (the latter is also a “what not to do”), you'll fly into Moscow. Your first task will be to get your ass to the city center somehow.
Do not get a taxi from one of the "official taxi drivers" waiting at the gate. Just don't.
First, you'll overpay heavily. Even if you don't give a damn about that, you should be smart and use your money right. Get yourself a ballin' limo, if you can. But don’t reward the scammy behavior of those “official cab drivers”. That hurts other people that might not know as well. Just quickly walk by all the drivers with their "cheap" offers and "new" cars. If you want to know how a hot woman with a lot of offers feels, this probably comes close.
In case you don't know what to do, read my post on how to get to Moscow from the airport.
#2: Don't exchange money at the airport
I keep wondering that in the day & age of ATMs and wireless payments people still fall for this but apparently they do.
Do not exchange money at one of the booths at the airport.
It's just a way worse deal you're getting. The exchange rate is much lower than what you can get in the city center or at any ATM. This is true for any city you travel to. But apparently people think that in Moscow you cannot exchange your foreign currency, so they try to do it all once right away.
Be smart and use ATMs, which is by far the best deal, even if you have to pay a little fee every time. If for some reason still do not want to do that, exchange your money in one of the countless exchange booths in the center. You can also pay by card at lots of places, so cash is not as important as you think.
#3: Don't go out for nightlife if you're not dressed to the nines
Let's shift to the good part and what you're on the site for: the nightlife. In Moscow appearance is king. Even if you're close to being broke, you can hit the high-end clubs if you're dressed well and look like money. You get bonus points for being a foreigner or a sexy girl. That is what makes Moscow so much fun and better than a lot of other cities.
You have to always follow the cardinal rule of Moscow nightlife though:
Come as well-dressed as you can.
If you are not dressed to the nines then you can not only forget about the high-end clubs but also a lot of the regular ones.
To find out how you can get that style on point with a few simple steps, check out my guide on how to dress for Moscow nightlife.
#4: Don't hit the nightlife too early
Another big beginner’s mistake that you can make (I’m looking at you Americans) is to go out too early. And by too early I mean anything before…well midnight really.
If you want to start the night with a dinner, by all means do so at around 9pm. That way you have plenty of time to ease your way into the evening. And if you pick one of the many spots that start as a restaurant and turn into a club, you won’t even have to change locations.
But don’t go out before close to midnight really, unless you want some downtime and shoot the shit with your entourage. Between 10pm and 12am is really kind of the worst time because it’s too late for dinner and too early for party.
If you want to go to the clubs right away, don’t even bother turning up before 1am. Moscow works pretty much like Spain at the weekends, so the better the later. 2am is peak hour really, so all of you that are not used to that…get used to it
#5: Don't take unofficial cabs
This one is a big one for nightlife and in general. Don’t feed the pigeons by paying the overpriced fares that the cab drivers will ask you for. Whether you can afford to do so or not,, do yourself a favor and order a real cab for much less, or a better one for the same price. If it’s gotta be quick and that girl on your arm cannot wait, tell her that your Uber Black is on the way. She’ll very quickly put one and one together. Believe me on this one.
To find out how to get around Moscow by taxi, check out my post on taxis in Moscow.
#6: Don't drink water from the tap
This one’s not exactly a life-or-death decision that you have to make in Moscow. But if you find yourself living in an apartment or any other private accommodation, don’t drink water from the tap.
Nothing bad is going to happen if you do. You’ll just feel like had a glass of water from the local swimming pool because there is so much chlorine in it. You can actually go on drinking it for months and years but at some point all that chlorine is probably going to rack up in your body. Most Muscovites use either filters (not really effective) or just buy water from the stores.
So if you’re on a really bad hangover and don’t have water at home, by all means, drink it. It’s still better than to dehydrate. But otherwise stick with bottled water.
#7: Don't expect women to pay or carry anything heavy
If you come to Russia, do expect to do all the heavy lifting, financially and literally. Be a gentleman and carry your lady’s heavy stuff. Also little things like holding the door open or helping her into her coat will be appreciated. Flowers are overrated and I in fact strongly discourage you from buying flowers. I could probably write an entire post on that (and maybe I will).
But do absolutely expect to pick up any bill for anything that you do. Men pay in Russia, that’s simply the name of the game. Do absolutely not try to argue with this or you’ll look like a cheapskate. And few things will get her panties drier than this but I digress…
If you need further instructions on this then keep reading Moscownightguide because a lot more will follow.
#8: Don't come without knowing the Cyrillic alphabet
One major point that scares tourists, besides the prospect of having to pick up the tab for the girl and being arrested and deported to Siberia, is the Russian alphabet. It looks all similar but yet you can’t understand a damn thing and you get flashbacks from Soviet times.
I can tell you that learning the alphabet is much easier than it looks and will give you a fantastic return on your time invested. You can do it as quickly as in one day. Moscow is trying to be all tourist-friendly by introducing more English everywhere. The truth though is that you will still be pretty f***ed without being at least able to decipher the metro station you need to get off. Of course you can wing it without but it will simply be a major pain if you want to do so.
This is a great course that can get you started on this:
#9: Don't be too annoyingly drunk or foreign
Moscow is safer than a lot of the captials in Western Europe or North America. Never have I been threatened or felt unsafe here during all my time in Moscow. But you are still in Russia and in Russia things do not quite work the same like in other countries:
Never attract the wrong kind of attention by being too annoyingly drunk or speaking obnoxiously loud English.
Speaking English is no problem at all. But use common sense and identify the people that might not react all that well to foreigners.
Also remember that you do not have quite the same rights here like you might in a Western country. Don't count on the police to have your back if you do something stupid. But if you're smart, you will feel much safer than in most other cities.
#10: Don't question authorities
I saved the best for last because this tip is probably the most important and applicable to tourists and people living in Moscow alike.
Do not, ever, question someone of authority.
What do I mean by that?
Anyone with a title really.
That can go from the president (probably won’t meet him) to the immigration officer at the border to the security guy at the club entrance to the damn cashier in the supermarket.
Anyone with a uniform and with a title will exercise whatever little authority they have.
If they tell you A but you know B is correct, don’t argue. It is futile. That starts at being rejected entrance to having to fill out some goddamn useless paper work and a thousand things in between.
The literal grey eminence of authorities are babushkas. Old Russian grandmothers that you’ll see everywhere. Whatever they say, just nod and agree because you can't win this one.