Market Values and Money

Last year, St. Petersburg was ranked the twelfth most expensive city in the world for expats, no where near as expensive as Moscow which still continues to top the list. Moscow has on average the most expensive hotels in the world and across Russia you will find you pay a high price for Western-standard accommodation.

Exclusive restaurants and elite bars also dominate the Russian leisure market. Restaurant meals can be as pricey as your top restaurant in London or New York, or as cheap as 150Rbl a head. So-called weekday 'Business lunches' are a good deal, and average at 250Rbl.

Club entrance ranges from 200Rbl to 500Rbl, but you can pay much more if there's a famous or foreign performer or DJ. A beer or vodka shot in a bar will set you back between 120 and 250Rbl, although you will pay more for wine and imported spirits. Generally speaking nightlife is more expensive in the capital.

Transport is cheap. One trip on the metro is 25 - 27Rbl per trip, the bus 19 - 24Rbl and fixed-route taxis (marshrutki) 24Rbl - 30Rbl. Taxis are also a cheap option. If you're travelling within the centre of the city, you can get away with 100 to 200Rbl by hailing down a regular car (this is what locals do) and slightly more in metered taxis. If you're heading out to the suburbs, you could pay between 200 and 400Rbl. Booking a taxi by phone is a good way to get an idea about the price before you head off. As distance are much larger in Moscow taxis and private cars are more expensive.

Money


The national currency is the rouble (Rbl). Banknotes come in denominations of 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 and the 5,000 note and there are 1, 2, 5 and 10Rbl coins. If you're lucky, you might come upon special 10Rbl coins with Yury Gagarin - the first man in space - on the back. There are 100 kopeks to every rouble, and kopeks come in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50. Officially, it’s illegal to pay in dollars or euros. But prices are sometimes written in Cyrillic, especially in places with a lot of foreign customers. This stands for 'uslovnaya yedinitsa', which means fixed unit. This refers to the exchange rate between the rouble and the US-dollar, the rouble and the euro, or the rouble and something in between the dollar and the euro. It's complicated! ATMs (bankomaty), can be found at most metro stations, banks and large hotels. Credit-card use is still in its infancy and not all establishments can  take them, even if they have signs that say they will. Always have cash as back up; it’s not uncommon for cash machines to be out of order, out of money, or, on occasion, frozen.

Foreigner prices

The ‘foreigner price’ is a hangover from the good old days of Intourist-organised Soviet travel. At some theatres and museums, foreigners are required to pay between six and 20 times more than what Russians pay. These institutions insist that Russian tickets are subsidised and that foreigners pay the ‘real price'. Whatever the justifications, most non-Russians find this dual-pricing system – which you can find operating at most museums, boat-trips and even in some hotels – discriminatory and exploitative. If you have a document (propusk), which says you work or study in Russia, you can usually get the local price.

However, if a local buys you a ticket for the theatre, you still risk being stopped by the watchful babushkas as you enter. To give the Hermitage some credit, entrance is free for all children and students with International Student Identification Cards (ISIC).

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