Most cities have good public transport systems combining bus, trolleybus and tram; the biggest cities also have metro systems. Public transport is very cheap and easy to use, but in most cases you’ll need to be able to decipher some Cyrillic. Taxis are plentiful.
In St Petersburg, Moscow and several other cities located on rivers, coasts, lakes or reservoirs, public ferries and water excursions give a different perspective.
Bus, Marshrutky, Trolleybus & Tram
Services are frequent in city centres but more erratic as you move out towards the edges. They can get jam-packed in the late afternoon or on poorly served routes.
A stop is usually marked by a roadside ‘А' sign for buses, ‘Т' for trolleybuses, and ТРАМВАЙ or a ‘Т' hanging over the road for trams. The fare (R15 to R40) is usually paid to the conductor; if there is no conductor, pass the money to the driver. You will be charged extra if you have a large bag that takes up space.
Within most cities, marshrutky double up on official bus routes but are more frequent. They will also stop between official bus stops, which can save quite a walk.
The metro systems of Moscow and St Petersburg are excellent. There are smaller ones in Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara and Yekaterinburg.
Normal yellow taxis, which could be hailed in the street and used meters, disappeared after the fall of communism. The taxi situation was a pain until a few years ago, when phone apps, such as Uber, Gett and Yandex Taxi, made cabs much more affordable and easy to use. Download the various apps to your phone before you arrive or while in Russia.
Elsewhere, taxis are ordered by phone. If you need one, watch out for a taxi that has its phone number written on it. English-speaking operators are rare.
It's less common these days, but it's still possible to flag down a taxi, or just a random driver whose owner needs some extra cash, in the street. Check with locals to determine the average taxi fare in that city at the time of your visit; taxi prices around the country vary widely. Practise saying your destination and the amount you want to pay so that it comes out properly. Generally, the better your Russian, the lower the fare. If possible, let a Russian friend negotiate for you: they’ll do better than you will.
To hail a taxi, stand at the side of the road, extend your arm and wait until something stops. When someone stops for you, state your destination and be prepared to negotiate the fare – fix this before getting in. If the driver’s game, they will ask you to get in (sadites). Consider your safety before doing this.
Risks & Precautions
- Avoid taxis lurking outside foreign-run establishments, luxury hotels, railway stations and airports – they often charge far too much.
- Know your route: be familiar with how to get there and how long it should take.
- Never get into a taxi that has more than one person already in it, especially after dark.
- Keep your fare money in a separate pocket to avoid flashing large wads of cash.
- If you’re staying at a private residence, have the taxi stop at the corner nearest your destination, not the exact address.
- Trust your instincts – if a driver looks creepy, take the next car.