The national currency in Russia is called the Russian Ruble. One ruble is made up of 100 kopeikas. At the present time coins of 5, 10 and 50 kopeikas as well as 1, 2, 5 and 10 rubles are in circulation. However, kopeikas do not have much buying power and are mostly used for giving change in large supermarkets. Paper banknotes are 10, 50, 100, 500, 1 000 and 5 000 rubles.
In Russia, payments for all goods and services are to be made either in Russian rubles cash or by credit (debit) cards. It is possible to exchange money at any bank, at exchange booths and at the majority of hotels.
Here is example of the prices tourists may face:
- Public transport: from 12-20 rubles (public bus), 25 rubles Metro token in St. Petersburg, 28 rubles single time pass at Moscow metro
- Museum entrance tickets: 150-350 rubles
- Opera/Ballet (front seats) tickets: from 1500 rubles
- Mineral water/soda: 30-40 rubles,
- Beer: 50 rubles (0,5 liter bottle), from 250 rubles (0,5 liter in café or restaurant),
- Light snack in a café/bar/fast food: from 200 rubles,
- CD/DVD: 100-200 rubles,
- Dinner in a good restaurant (without drinks): from 1000 rubles.
For your trip you do not need to bring all of your credit/debit cards. Bring a bit of cash and a few of your cards.
You cannot exchange your currency to Russian rubles in your homeland due to the unpopularity of rubles abroad. But there is no problem finding an ATM in or near your hotel. When you use your credit card in a Russian ATM you will withdraw cash in Russian rubles. ATMs might use an exchange rate that is different from Russia’s Central Bank official rate but still can be better than exchanging cash US dollars in commercial banks.
You can exchange money at the airport but we advise against this as airport exchange rates are usually high. It is possible to exchange money at any bank outlet, at exchange booths on the streets and at the majority of hotels.
The rate of the Russian ruble today is 32 Rubles for 1 US dollar. We recommend that you carry anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 rubles (approximately $100-$300) with you at any time for emergencies, taking a taxi or shopping in some smaller stores that accept only cash.
In Russia VISA, Master Card and Maestro are widely accepted. JCB and Diners Club are much less common. Euro card and American Express are hardly accepted anywhere. If you carry any of those two we would advise to apply for VISA or Master Card to use it for this trip.
You may bring one or two of your credit cards if you prefer to make purchases this way. But it is always a good idea to have a bit of cash with you for emergencies as well. When you travel outside of big cities (e.g. Baikal, Altai, Russian villages, etc.) we advise you to have enough cash for your personal expenses since it may be a problem with credit cards there.
Most restaurants in cities accept credit cards but we recommend that you make sure this in advance.
Call your bank before you depart and let them know that you will be traveling so they do not block your cards when they see transactions from Russia. We also recommend that you bring more than one card should one of the cards get locked or lost.
Carry your money and cards in a pocket that is not easily reached from the outside to prevent any pick-pocketing. We also recommend that you keep your cards and cash in separate pockets.
If you bring travelers' checks, you can cash them
either at American Express Travel Offices (of which there
are only 2 in Russia, by the way) or at a local bank. Beware
though that you will be charged a 1% to 3% commission for
cashing your checks. Major hotels or American Express Office
suggest locations for obtaining cash advances on credit
cards. Unfortunately, it is impossible to use travel checks
to pay for goods and services and you will need to cash
them into rubles. Please do not countersign your checks
at the bottom before you get to the exchange office, as
your signature must be verified by a certified officer to
disburse your money.