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Moscow is a city of around 12.5 million people and expats will likely find the metropolis to be plagued by constant traffic jams and congestion. Apart from the delays experienced while driving, rush hour within the public transport system can also be crowded and uncomfortable.
Still, the Moscow metro is one of the most beautiful in the world and expats in the city will have access to a range of additional options for getting around.
Public transport in Moscow
The Moscow Metro opened in 1935 with one 6.8-mile (11km) line and 13 stations. Since then, it has become the fastest and most efficient way of getting around in Moscow.
Travel is cheap and the trains are fast, clean and on time. Maps are available with the station names spelt out in the Latin alphabet that English speakers are used to. Before taking the metro, expats should make sure they understand the route necessary for the journey as stations can be enormous and are often interconnected by underground passages. This can involve long walks up and down many escalators to get to the correct platform and line colour.
Stations are open from 5.30am and the final train leaves at 1am. The final train does not allow passengers to make transitions from one line to another.
Buses, trolleys and trams
When the metro cannot connect with where one needs to go, buses, trams and trolleybuses provide a comfortable alternative for getting around Moscow. These modes of transit don't always run on the advertised timetable and the average waiting period is generally longer than that of the metro, ranging from five minutes during the day to 40 minutes in the evenings.
The bus stops are yellow plates marked with "A" signs; trolleys are designated by white plates with "T"; and trams with "Tp". There are night buses, trolleys and trams that operate when the metro stops working.
Buses, trams and trolleys usually all follow the same pricing. Ticket purchases can be made within metro stations, at bus kiosks or directly from the driver.
Minibus shuttles (marshrutka)
Minibus shuttles, or marshrutka, are smaller than buses and generally get around much faster than their larger counterparts. These shuttles bear the same numbers as the buses and trolleys and travel the same routes. To get on an approaching marshrutka, just wave it down like an ordinary taxi.
Taxis and ride-sharing services in Moscow
Getting around in Moscow using taxis is common. There are numerous taxi companies in Russia, some of which have English-speaking drivers. They can be hailed from the side of the road, by phone or over the internet. The fare is normally negotiated with the driver and so bargaining is commonplace. However, expats should ensure that the price is agreed upon before getting into the car. There are also specific pink taxis for women driven by women to help women feel safe.
Ride-sharing services and ride-hailing applications are also readily available in Moscow and other Russian cities.
Walking in Moscow
If the weather isn't too icy and the distance one needs to cover isn't too vast, getting around Moscow on foot is a viable option for expats. Downtown Moscow, with its compact design and beautiful, historical architecture, is especially pedestrian-friendly. Expats should, however, exercise caution when walking through the more run-down areas of the city, especially late at night.
Driving in Moscow
Expats considering driving in Moscow should carefully weigh up the pros and cons. As previously mentioned, traffic jams can be monstrous and navigating the city's ring roads can be difficult.
Russians have been known to make dangerous manoeuvres behind the wheel, and the Russian police are notorious for extracting fines for small driving offences. Furthermore, winter weather can make for slick streets and less-than-ideal driving conditions. This has prompted many expats to hire a local driver instead of attempting to drive themselves around Moscow.
Cycling in Moscow
Riding a bike in Moscow is not as common as in some European cities. Given the heavy car traffic on the roads and often cold weather, cycling is not always the safest nor most convenient of options. However, travelling by bicycle is becoming more popular. In recent years, Russia's capital city has experienced construction of bike lanes and supports cyclists by providing maps of cycle routes.
►For an overview of the country's healthcare system, see Healthcare in Russia.
►See Areas and Suburbs in Moscow to learn more about the different expat-friendly neighbourhoods in the city.
"The Metro is faultless − you rarely wait more than two minutes for a train. Buses and trams are okay but less frequent. Ideally, you should have a car if you have a family." Read more about getting around in Moscow in Stephen's interview.
"There are huge traffic jams all the time (even at 4am) where you can sit for hours without moving. So in Russia, even very important businessmen are taking the metro, Russians and foreigners." Read about Laurent's experiences with transport in Moscow.
Are you an expat living in Moscow?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Moscow. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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