“Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands.” - Richard Burton
Would you like to visit Russia?
We tend to think that Russia is expensive. However, the cost of living in Russia is much cheaper than in the UK. Of course, Moscow isn’t that much cheaper than the UK as it's more expensive than elsewhere in the country, like most capital cities.
Similarly, the ruble tends to fluctuate. You might want to check the exchange rate before you go. You can get decent accommodation and food for a good price.
Let’s look at the cost of visiting Moscow.
The Cost of Russian Visas
Everyone from the UK will have to get a Russian visa and, sadly, it isn't free.
You should request your visa at least 3 months before your trip. You’ll need:
- Passport with at least 2 blank pages
- Tourist visa support documents (hotel voucher and confirmation of tourist acceptance)
- A passport-type photograph
- Application form
- Application fee
Most of the time, your hotel in Moscow will provide you with the voucher (but this isn’t always the case). If you’re staying in an Airbnb or have decided to book with a private individual, you mightn't get one and you’ll need to go via an agency or a business that provides them for a cost.
There are plenty of sites that will offer the voucher for a fee and you can get your voucher for between £30 and £50 for over 15 days and £20 and £30 for less than 15 days.
For stays over 13 days, you may need to provide an itinerary. An agency can take care of this, too.
Insurance is also necessary.
To get your visa, you can get agencies to take care of everything for you. The Russian Embassy, VHS Centre, or VFS Centre can take care of visa request.
In short, you’ll be paying at least £30 for your visa or at least £70 by the time you get your voucher and invitation. These costs are unavoidable so you'll want to factor them into your budget before you travel anywhere.
The Cost of Getting to Moscow
There are plenty of ways to get to Moscow from the UK but flights are the simplest way to get there.
There are direct flights from London with the flight taking around 4 hours. Depending on when you go, you can pay around £300 for return flights and by booking early, you can save a lot of money.
There are cheaper options but you might end up having to go to with just hand luggage. The cheap flight options may also include layovers or transfers. Of course, these can add several hours or days to your trip so it can sometimes be a false economy in terms of time
If you want to go elsewhere in Russia other than Moscow, a layover in Saint Petersburg is always a good option as it's one of Russia's best cities.
There are indirect flights available from Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Glasgow. The cheapest flights are the direct ones from London.
In some cases, going to Saint Petersburg is cheaper than Moscow. You can visit both cities and take the Sapsan express train to Moscow for around £40 return.
This is a great option if you have more time to visit Russia.
How Much Does Accommodation in Moscow Cost?
There are quite a lot of accommodation options in Moscow: Hotels, youth hostels, holiday rents, and Airbnbs.
Since the 2000s, the amount of accommodation in Moscow has increased dramatically. Of course, accommodation near Red Square, the Kremlin, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, for example, are more expensive than those further from the city centre.
City centre hotels start at around £60 a night or £120 for luxurious hotels. If you head to Patriarch Ponds or Chistye Prudy, you can find hotels starting at £35 a night.
There aren’t tonnes of youth hostels in Moscow and they tend to be outside of the centre or only have dormitories for men. However, they're usually cheaper than hotels and they are near metro stations. You can find them offering a bed for between £5 and £15 per night.
The Arbat 25 Capsule Hotel isn’t far from the city centre if you’re happy to sleep in a capsule or you could try the Boxtel Hostel, which is also in the Arbat area.
You could opt for Airbnbs, too. There aren’t tonnes of them, but having your own flat in Moscow can be quite nice. You can end up paying between £45 and £100 for Airbnbs.
Holiday rents and Airbnbs are a good choice for families as the price can work out more favourable per person. This also will allow you to save on food as you'll be self-catering. Make sure you always check the reviews for Airbnbs and private accommodation and ask in forums if you're not sure about them.
To save money, you could try Couchsurfing. Your Russian host may even show you around the city. If there's one thing better than a guided tour from a local, it's a free guided tour from a local. However, if your Russian host is nice enough to do this for you, you might want to treat them to a meal or drinks.
The Cost of Dining Out in Moscow
Eating in Moscow is more expensive than Saint Petersburg, but you can still get good food without breaking the bank.
There’s a good canteen in the GUM department store as well as places offering local and international cuisine. For less than £15 per person, you won’t leave hungry.
Teremok, for example, offers soups, salads, pancakes, pelmenis, and drinks for those on a budget. Around £15 per person will do the trick.
Lunchtime in Russia is quite flexible so you won’t have to worry too much about kitchens being closed. You can comfortably eat between 11:00 and 16:00.
If you’re renting a holiday flat, you can get food from supermarkets and cook for yourself. A lot of greengrocers open 24 hours a day. That said, you can’t buy alcohol after 22:00 so if you'd like a drink with your meal, you'll want to take a trip to the shops before this time.
You can try typical Russian products like pelmenis as well as international products for breakfast. Prices tend to be lower than in the UK but if you want Russian vodka, you should try it in a bar. You can always eat on a budget in Russian canteens if you can’t be bothered to cook.
Tipping is recommended in Russia. Don’t forget to add between 5 and 10% to your bill. Western tourists are usually expected to tip more, too.
Transport and Activities
Transport in Moscow
You can take the Aeroexpress from the airport to the city with the journey taking around 40 minutes and tickets costing around £4.
Once you get you to Moscow, you should travel by metro. The Moscow metro is practical and you can visit the beautiful metro stations. These stations are arguably some of the most beautiful buildings in Moscow and given how cheap a metro ticket is, it'd be silly not to take a trip around the metro just to see them.
Tickets cost around 50p, but you can get day tickets if you plan on travelling by metro a lot. Make sure that you rub the dog's nose when you visit the Ploshchad Revolyutsii metro station for good luck!
Given how nice the metro stations are and how cheap a trip is, we wouldn’t recommend getting taxis in Moscow as trips cost around £4 or £5 and you'll miss out on some of the city's best buildings.
Activities in Moscow
After accommodation, most of your budget will probably be spent on activities. Of course, this depends on what you’ve got planned. Walking around and visiting Red Square or the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is free.
Visiting museums can cost between £3 and £5. The Kremlin will cost you between £7 and £10 whereas Bunker 42 costs over £20 to visit.
Students might want to take their student cards to see if they get any discounts and under-16s go free in museums.
Before you book anything, it's a good idea to work out the prices for everything, what you want to see, what things you can do for free, and what you'll do if the weather isn't in your favour. You might want to plan indoor and outdoor activities as well as some free activities you can do if you feel you're running low on rubles!