Transport and Driving in Russia
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With an extensive public transport network, getting around in Russia is relatively easy. It’s not necessary for expats living in the major cities to own a car, as public transport is reliable and relatively cheap. However, those living in more remote towns may find it easier to have their own vehicle.
Driving in Russia
Expats living in Russia should consider their need to drive carefully. Traffic congestion is common in Russian cities. Drivers can be ruthless and the police are notorious for issuing fines for very minor offences. Furthermore, winter weather can add to the hazards of driving in Russia. Some expats wanting to have a car in Russia hire a driver or have one provided by their company.
Cars drive on the right side of the road in Russia. Speed limits are generally 37 miles per hour (60 km/h) in urban built-up areas and 60 miles per hour (100 km/h) on highways. Road signs are almost all in Cyrillic so expats driving in Russia would do well to learn the local alphabet.
Foreigners wishing to drive in Russia require an international driver's licence as well as their national driver's licence. Expats should also carry their passport and visa with them at all times when driving a vehicle.
Public transport in Russia
A number of Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg, have metro systems. These offer the best means of getting around but overcrowding is common, particularly during peak hours. Entry to the metro is by token inserted into a ticket barrier. For expats who will be using the metro regularly, a monthly pass is the best option to consider.
Buses, trolleys and trams
When the metro can't connect with where one needs to go, buses, trams and trolleybuses provide an alternative way of getting around many Russian cities, albeit slightly less comfortably.
Buses offer the cheapest way of getting around Russia. For short trips between major cities, buses sometimes have more regular connections than trains. It’s often not possible to buy a bus ticket in advance and expats should be prepared to stand in long, slow-moving queues at bus stations to buy tickets.
Russia has an extensive rail network. Long-distance trains connect most Russian towns and cities. Moscow and St Petersburg are linked by a high-speed train which completes the journey in about four hours. It’s best to arrange train tickets online well ahead of time, even though this may be the more expensive option. The alternative is standing in interminable early morning queues at train stations.
Train travel is the most comfortable means of travelling around Russia. However, pickpockets are known to operate on long-distance trains and expats should keep a close eye on their valuables at all times.
The Trans-Siberian Express
Russia is home to the Trans-Siberian Express, a network of railways linking Russia to China, Mongolia and North Korea. There are three routes traversing Siberia from Moscow, accommodating the longest rail trip in the world. The main terminals for the Trans-Siberian Express are Moscow, Beijing and Vladivostok, and there is also a weekly connection from Moscow to Pyongyang.
The Trans-Siberian proper travels from Moscow to Vladivostok. It then links with the Trans-Mongolian Express from Moscow to Beijing via Ulaanbaatar and the Trans-Manchurian Express which travels through Siberia and Chinese Manchuria to Beijing. Tickets can be purchased through a travel agent, online or at the relevant train station.
Taxis and ride-sharing services
A number of different taxi companies operate across Russia. Private cabs can be hailed in the street, booked via the telephone or hailed at a taxi rank. It’s best to negotiate the fare with the driver before getting in the vehicle.
Minibus shuttle taxis known as marshrutka can normally carry about 16 passengers and travel set routes in towns and cities. They are usually numbered the same way as the buses they share routes with, and the route is normally displayed on the front or side window of the vehicle. To get on an approaching marshrutka, just wave it down like an ordinary taxi.
Ride-sharing services and apps are readily available in most Russian cities. These are a good option for expats who cannot speak the local language and want to avoid miscommunications with taxi drivers.
Air travel in Russia
Due to the vast distances between popular destinations, it’s often more convenient to fly between Russian cities. The main airports in the country include Moscow’s Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo airports and St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport. Regular flights in and out of Russia are operated by Aeroflot, which is Russia’s national airline, as well as Air China, Air France, Alitalia and British Airways, amongst others.