As Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow sees an enormous amount of visitors each year. Many come as tourists, but a little over a third travel for business or investment - with Chinese and German visitors in the majority.
For work or pleasure, Moscow is a bustling and vibrant place. Museums, theatres and parks complement frequent major events like conferences, exhibitions and sporting competitions.
Whatever your reason for visiting, you’ll need cash to enjoy this great city. Getting your hands on Rubles is not always easy outside of Russia - order ahead at a local exchange bureau, or take hard currency to change if you need to do so upon arrival.
Follow this guide to avoiding the rip-offs and find the best places to exchange your cash in Moscow.
Credit cards are not always accepted by taxis and smaller businesses in Moscow - so make sure you have cash in your pocket as soon as possible.
But before you start exchanging your home currency for rubles, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Educate yourself on the mid-market rate. Know how much your home currency is really worth.
- Compare the exchange rate you’re offered with the real rate online using a currency converter.
- Try not to exchange your money in and around airport and hotels.
- ATMs are great options. Find out if your home bank has a partnership with a bank in Moscow, then use their ATMs for lower fees.
- Avoid letting foreign ATMs do any conversions for you. Choose to be charged in the local currency (RUB).
The mid-market rate is important because it is the only real exchange rate (used when banks trade between themselves) and it’s the rate you’ll see on Google. To know whether or not a tourist exchange rate is fair, you can use this mid-market number as a benchmark - just remember to add in any charges or fees which might apply to your transaction.
Market fluctuations can mean that exchange rates move around hour by hour, making it hard to know if you're getting a good deal on your exchange. An easy way to overcome this, is to access a currency converter on your smartphone. Simply enter the 3-letter abbreviation of your home currency on the left and RUB on the right, and the live mid-market rate will be shown to you.
If you're pressed for time, it can be tempting to change your currency in the airport or hotel when you arrive in Moscow. The exchange rates won’t be great, so only change a minimal amount to get you into the city.
It can be just as convenient, instead, to withdraw cash from an ATM. Before you travel, see if your home bank works with any local Russian banks. If they do, then you might find that excess fees are waived when you use partner banks’ ATMs. While you’re there, make sure to advise your bank that you’ll be using your card overseas so they can make a note on your account.
Because you're using a foreign card, the ATM might ask if you would like to have your withdrawal charged in your home currency. This option means the ATM will charge you to convert at their own rate, which is not the best deal. Choose to be charged in the local currency, instead. The same logic applies when the ATM asks whether you’d like them or your home bank to perform the conversion. Opt for your home bank’s rate, to avoid a poorer rate being applied by the ATM.
Finally, whatever you change, spend. Switching your excess currency back at the end of your trip means that you're hit twice for conversion charges. Better to buy yourself a treat instead.
All of the exchange services below will charge fees - whether these are made known to you upfront or wrapped up in their exchange rates. Know what the live rate is beforehand, even if that means checking a currency converter whilst you have wifi access, and choose the fairest deal accordingly.
If you’re changing cash in Russia it is easiest to have Euro or USD hard currency at hand. These are the most widely accepted currencies for exchange. It’s even possible to pay directly for some services - especially in Moscow - using foreign currency. However, this is technically illegal, and you’re likely to be ripped off if you do.
You’ll find several banks such as Sberbank, in addition to a cash counter called ‘Exchange Express’.
+8 (800) 555 55 50 (Sberbank)
Opening hours vary. Sberbank is open 7 days a week with slightly more limited hours on the weekend.
Offering 6 locations in Moscow. Check out Globex’s Moscow branch locator to find the office nearest to you.
+7 (495) 785-22-22 (main phone), firstname.lastname@example.org
Only two of the offices are closed on weekends. Check their website for full branch opening hours.
Sberbank is Russia’s largest bank and has branches in all major cities.
In Moscow call +7 495 500-5550 for Sberbank’s customer services
This depends on the individual branch, call ahead to be sure.
Alternatively - for an even better deal with low, transparent fees - use TransferWise. If you or a friend have a Russian bank account, you can transfer money between accounts using the real mid-market exchange rate. Avoid the potential pitfalls and scams, and switch currency the fair way.