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Moscow is the home of Russia's new optimistic outlook, with designer shops, fashionable clubs and an alarming number of billionaires per square foot. Prices may be rising but Moscow hotels are still good value and taking cheap flights to Moscow offers a breath of fresh air for most outsiders.
Moscow has no fewer than four international airports, and there are plenty of airports across the UK that offer flights to Moscow. Sheremetyevo Airport is the closest to the centre, but Domodedovo Airport is becoming increasingly popular with more UK carriers flying into this airport. Vnukovo is further out still, and Ostafyevo predominantly accepts business travel.
Domodedovo Airport has the easiest transport links to the centre, with a direct train running a regular service. Sheremetyevo, Vnukovo and Ostafyevo Airports are all served by buses, and you can hire a taxi or rent a car from any of them. Whilst Sheremetyevo is the closest to the centre, the road that leads to it often has particularly severe traffic problems, which can severely increase transit times.
Travelling on foot is a great way to see all that the city has to offer, but Moscow is a large city, built on a grand scale - the distances between attractions can be huge! Happily the Moscow metro covers most of the city ? plus it is one of the tourist attractions in itself, with ornate décor and grand station designs. Deciphering the stations can take a while unless you read Cyrillic but you can tell the direction you're travelling in by the gender of the announcer, a major navigational help. Buses run routes from all the major roads around the centre, with some trolleybuses and tram services supplementing these routes. For more personalised journeys, taxis are plentiful, with most Moscovites happy to drive anyone around for a fee, or you can use the Marshrutkas which are shared mini-buses if you're brave enough to shout loud and hail one!
Moscow has excellent rail links, with the Trans-Siberian Railway offering the chance to get the train all the way to Vladivostok, Beijing, or Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. Europe is easily accessible by train too, with Minsk, Brest, Belgrade, Warsaw and Berlin among the direct destinations. Intercity bus travel is also available, with a whole host of cities served across Russia and throughout Europe. If you're driving then you have to be cautious of routes since some countries require visas to pass through. Finally you can even jump on a river cruise to cruise to St Petersburg if you want to explore Russia's cultural capital.
Moscow can be pretty extreme weather-wise, with warm summers and long cold winters. Average summer temperatures are around 23°C, but heatwaves are common and can push this much higher, with temperatures upwards of 35°C possible at the height of summer. It tends to rain more in the summer too, making Moscow feel very humid, so take something light but waterproof. The winters bring snow and daytime temperatures around 8°C, although wind chill can make this seem much colder so be sure to wrap up nice and warm!
July and August are peak season, with prices for flights and hotels at a premium. May, June, September and October are cheaper yet still mild, although you may find yourself in weather neither hot and sunny nor cold and crisp. Winters are the low season, but can be a great time for a stay in Moscow, provided you have good boots and warm layers to pile on when you head outside.
The Russian Orthodox Christmas, New Year and Easter festivals are movable events that don't necessarily coincide with the European calendar, so watch out for these attractions may be closed. February brings the Maslenitsa Festival with fireworks, dancing, music and food whilst the Golden Mask Theatre Festival in March means special performances at theatres across the city. May sees Troitsa, a festival celebrating the good weather, and Moscow stars, a live music and dance festival. In October, fans of drinking will like the Days of Absinthe festival whilst December sees a myriad of festivals to brighten the days; the Russian Winter Festival and Jazz Voices feature among them. There's also lots of ice-skating at locations across Moscow throughout the winter.
Red Square, the Kremlin, Lenin's tomb and St Basil's Cathedral are just some of the many monuments and must-see locations within Moscow. In addition the Bolshoi Theatre hosts ballet and the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum adds to the cultural worth of the city. If you are willing to head off the beaten track then mainstream nightclubs, underground hangouts and top class restaurants are all on offer, with opulence there for those who can afford to seek it. Moscow is unlike most other international cities and all the better for it.
The currency in Moscow is Roubles. There are plenty of exchange bureau and banks throughout the centre, with varying rates, but it can be tricky to understand what's going on, so stick to ATMs if you're worried. Beware of large notes because many places won't have change for such amounts.
The Russian script is Cyrillic, which does complicate getting about unless you can read it. Getting your hands on a copy of a metro map or street map with both Cyrillic and English writing on is a great help. English isn't particularly prevalent in Moscow, although workers in the main tourist places do tend to speak some English. Learning a few words of Russian is very helpful.
+7 for Russia then 495 and 499 for the Moscow and its surrounding region.
A visa is required for travel to Moscow so be sure to get yours in plenty of time. You can apply at the Russian Federation Embassy or online. Once you arrive, if you're staying for three days or more you must register with the Federal Migration Service. Most hotels will do this for you.