Credit and debit cards accepted. ATMs plentiful. Euros or US dollars best currencies for exchange.
- If prices are listed in US dollars or euros, you will still be presented with a final bill in roubles.
- There are ATMs on every corner around the country these days; look out for signs that say bankomat (БАНКОМАТ).
- Credit cards are commonly accepted in big cities, but don’t expect to be able to use them in more off-the-beaten-track spots and rural areas.
- Inform your bank or credit card provider of the dates you’ll be travelling in Russia and using your card, to avoid a situation where the card is blocked.
Credit cards are commonly accepted, but don’t rely on them outside of major cities and towns. Visa and Mastercard are the most widespread card types, while American Express can be problematic in some hotels and shops. Most sizeable cities have banks or exchange bureaux that will give you a cash advance on your credit card, but be prepared for paperwork in Russian.
Note that Western credit cards are not accepted in Russian-occupied Crimea, which officially is the territory of Ukraine, due to economic sanctions.
The Russian currency is the rouble (рубль), abbreviated as ‘р' in Russian or R in English. There are 100 kopeks in a rouble and these come in coin denominations of one (rarely seen), five, 10 and 50. Also issued in coins, roubles come in amounts of one, two, five and 10, with banknotes in values of 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 roubles.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
You’ll usually get the best exchange rates for US dollars and Euros. British pounds are sometimes accepted in big cities, but the exchange rates are not so good; other currencies incur abysmal rates and are often virtually unchangeable.
Any currency you bring should be pristine: banks and exchange bureaux do not accept old, tatty bills with rips or tears. For US dollars, make certain they are the post-2006 designs printed with large offset portraits.
Carrying around wads of cash isn’t the security problem you might imagine – nowadays, there are a lot of Russians with plenty more money on them than you. For security, though, divide your money into three or four stashes hidden out of view about your person.
Every town of any size will have at least one bank (most often Sberbank) or exchange office – be prepared to show your passport. Rates can vary from one establishment to the next (and are linked to how much cash you want to change – larger amounts get better rates) so it’s always worth shopping around.
It is customary to tip in restaurants and cafes, but elsewhere it is optional. You are not expected to tip when you buy drinks from the bar.
- Hotels Only in the most luxurious need you tip bellboys etc, and only if service is good.
- Guides Around 10% of their daily rate; a small gift will also be appreciated.
- Restaurants Leave around 10% if the service warrants it.
- Taxis No need to tip as the fare is agreed either before you get in or it's metered.
Travellers cheques are no longer a preferred method of carrying funds and will prove difficult to exchange in Russia.