Do’s and don’ts in Moscow for first-time travelers

After I spent a day in St. Petersburg, I traveled to Moscow by night train and I arrived in Moscow at 7 o’clock in the morning. The next day, I would be taking the Trans-Mongolian Railway towards Beijing in the evening, so I had almost 2 days to spend in Moscow. Travel in Russia can be a challenge, especially when you travel for the first time. Therefore, I share with you my do’s and don’ts in Moscow for first-time travelers so you’ll have a kick-ass time!

Update: Due to the war with Ukraine, travel to Russia is currently not advised. This post was written before 2023. Regardless of the war, Russia is an interesting country and I invite you to read my travel experiences below for entertainment.

I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.

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Do's and don'ts in Moscow for first time travellers

Do’s and don’ts in Moscow for first-time travelers

Are you thinking about traveling to Russia or Moscow for the first time?

Do you want to make your stay in the capital of Russia unforgettable?

Read my do’s and don’ts in Moscow for first-time travelers and learn from my mistakes.

More info about Russia in this helpful Russia guide from Jen (she is called the trusted traveler for a reason!).

Don’t choose a hotel based on price over location

I’d booked my train tickets and hotels with a company in the Netherlands and I didn’t really research anything about the hotels they were putting me up at. They had a list of hotels and I simply choose the cheapest one.

The list only included expensive hotels, so the 2 days in Moscow were more expensive than I’d liked them to be.

Find hotels in Moscow

This resulted in me staying in a hotel so far outside the center of Moscow; I had to take the subway for over half an hour to get near the Moscow center. I needed a taxi to get from the train station to my hotel because the nearest subway was too far out.

Because of this, I spent a little bit more on transportation in the city than when I would have stayed someplace more convenient and I would have saved time traveling back and forth.

Don’t let the crowds put you of

When I finally made it to the city, I learned that the famous Red Square was closed because of an event. This happens quite a lot, but the remainder of the walkway around the square was so small, I was feeling rushed by all the people passing by.

I wanted to visit the famous GUM shopping mall, but there were so many people inside, I was discouraged by the crowds. Looking back on this now, I wish I had gone in because the GUM must be so big, people will spread.

Don’t cross the main roads

Try to avoid crossing any road that is wider than 2 lanes. In order for me to get to the nearest metro station near my hotel, I had to cross a 5 lane road. And then I was only half way through and had to cross another 5 lanes.

It was madness, insane and very irresponsible. Also in the center of Moscow, the traffic is everywhere and you really need to be aware of all the cars, ambulances, taxis, buses and trucks rushing by.

Do's and don'ts in Moscow for first time travellers. Busy traffic along the Moskva river

Don’t leave home without a guidebook and a small list of Cyrillic words

As Moscow is a major city and has many tourist attractions, I figured, I could find information in English or maybe German to read.

When I walked around the Saint Basil’s Cathedral and inside the Kremlin, I had no idea what I looked at. All information was in Cyrillic and I found it very hard to see the beauty or importance of sights when you have no idea what makes them special or unique.

I usually research at home with the guides from Lonely Planet, but on the road, I think it’s better to have an insight full guide with specific do’s and don’ts in Moscow, like the Eyewitness travel series.

Do's and don'ts in Moscow for first time travellers. Visit the Kremlin and Ivan the Great Bell Tower, but take a guidebook or book a tour, so you know what you're looking at.
Ivan the Great Bell Tower

Don’t eat “Western food”, it’s very expensive

After Moscow, I would hop on a train to the other side of the continent, so I figured to get some decent food when in Moscow. I went to a buffet restaurant and I put together a big plate of salads, rice, and other healthy food.

When I got to the cash register, I was shocked at how much everything costs. I recommend trying to find a local place, where they serve local cuisine, which will not break the bank.

Things to do in Moscow

But being in Moscow was not all drama. I also saw some amazing sights and now that you know, what not to do in Moscow, here are some common tips for first-time travelers that I do recommend you to do in Moscow.

Do visit the Saint Basil’s Cathedral on the inside

Saint Basil’s Cathedral is one of Moscow’s main attractions and famous landmarks of the city. It’s unique and one of a kind. Although it’s pretty on the outside, with its vivid colors and unusual shape, I would also recommend checking it out on the inside.

Inside you’ll find many paintings and ornaments and wall-to-wall colorful mosaics. The entrance is only 250 RUB at the moment, for more information, you can visit the museum’s website.

Do's and don'ts in Moscow for first time travellers. Do check out the Saint Basil's Cathedral, the famous landmark of Moscow
Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Do visit the Kremlin

Although I didn’t do any research and I didn’t know what I was looking at, I did like the Kremlin. The Kremlin is actually the area inside the red fortified walls, which not only houses the Russian parliament but also different palaces and cathedrals.

The cathedrals are built in typical Russian Orthodox style and the huge Tsar Canon and Tsar bell were impressive. I also spent some time in the park and relaxed a bit.

If possible, visit the Kremlin without your day pack, as it’s mandatory to leave it at the clerk room. And they will charge you extra for it. You better spend that money on a guide or useful guidebook to understand the history and importance of the Kremlin.

For another story on Moscow, check with her Summer Day in Moscow.

Do's and don'ts in Moscow for first time travellers. Do visit the kremlin
entry to the Red Square

Do engage with the locals

Although the people of Moscow can seem to rush you by, in case of need or assistance, they will try their utmost to help you. Whether it’s for getting directions or crossing the street, they will try their best to help.

Don’t start rambling in English to them straight from the start, but check if they speak any foreign language and are open to help you.

It’s not uncommon for newly wed’s to have their picture taken in the streets and parks of Moscow. As I passed by, one newly wedded couple invited me to join in with some vodka shots to celebrate.

It’s moments like these that can create a wonderful memory that will last a lifetime.

Do use the Moscow metro

The Moscow metro system is not only convenient and quick but also safe. If you try to avoid crossing busy roads, you can easily hop underground and marvel at the beautiful Moscow metro stations. The stations of the Moscow metro are among the most famous in the world for their lavishness and beauty.

More things to do in Moscow

I only had a short time in Moscow, but the city has so much to see and do. If you’re looking for more things to do in Moscow, then here is some inspiration from travel by Pedro.

Looking back at my time in Moscow

My stay in the capital of Russia was a mix of emotions. I was tired and very much overwhelmed by how busy it was.

If I’d been a little bit more prepared with a guidebook or some basic knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet, I could have made more out of my stay in Moscow.

Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made, because, with a little preparation, you can have a wonderful time in Moscow. With these do’s and don’ts in Moscow for first-time travelers, your stay in the capital of Russia will be a success.

After St. Petersburg and Moscow, I traveled on the Trans Mongolian Railway to Mongolia and Beijing. Click the links to read more about my adventures in Russia.

Have you ever been to Moscow? Please share your experiences in Moscow below. I would love to hear from you. What are your do’s and don’ts in Moscow?

Thinking about traveling to Moscow? Do you want to make your stay in the capital of Russia a succes? Read my do's and don'ts in Moscow for first time travellers.
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  1. Natasha

    Such an accurate description! Moscow can steal your heart! I would add that visitors also shouldn’t buy souvenirs at tourist spots. They are more expensive there than at a regular shop.

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