Moscow dos and don’ts

Wondering which hat to wear to the Kremlin? How best to introduce yourself to your Russian cousin? Here are some author tips for avoiding blushes in the Russian capital.

DO apply for your visa before you leave!
This is an absolute must for everybody. You can do it at the last moment, but it may cost you your unborn child.

DO check the events calendar.
During major holidays – the first week in January (between New Year’s Day and Orthodox Christmas) and the first week or two of May (around Labour Day, or May Day, and Victory Day) – Moscow empties out. Despite this the city is a festive place during these times, with parades, concerts and other events, but museums and other institutions may have shortened hours or be shut altogether.

DO make sure you bring a gift if invited to a Muscovite’s house.
Wine, cake and confectionary are all appropriate and unless you’re bringing something really special from home, Russian brands will be appreciated more.

DO dress up for a night on the town.
We can’t guarantee you’ll make it past Moscow’s ‘face control’, but you can better your chances of getting in to the top clubs by making a sartorial effort (Moscow style) – high heels and short skirts for women, all black for men.

DO expect to spend.
Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world and wallet-thinning shock is common at many Moscow restaurants and hotels. As a foreigner you’ll also find yourself paying more than a Russian for some museums – often as much as 10 times the price Russians pay.

DON’T ask for a mixer with your vodka.
Few traditions in Russia are as sacrosanct as the drinking of vodka and any foreign notions of drinking it with orange juice or tonic is anathema to your average Russian. If you need something to wash it down, you can chase it with a lemon, a pickle or, perhaps, a separate glass of water.

DON’T place your empty bottle of vodka on the table.
It’s bad luck. All empty bottles should be placed on the floor.

DON’T be surprised if you’re stopped by the police.
Carry a photocopy of your passport, visa and registration, and present them when an office demands to see your dokumenty.

DON’T forget your student id.
If you’re a student, flashing your id can save you money at museums and other institutions, the Bolshoi also puts a limited number of student tickets aside for each performance – but you’ll need to be quick!

DON’T sit a table’s corner if you’re single.
Tradition states you won’t get married for the next seven years!

Further information

The new Lonely Planet Moscow city guide will further help you negotiate the nuances of Muscovite culture.

Been to Moscow? Agree or disagree with the list we have here? Have we forgotten something essential? Add your own tips to the comments below.