Moscow tops the list of the world’s worst traffic and after seeing the streets in a continuous state of traffic jam all hours of the day, we believe it! Taxis in Moscow aren’t metered; you agree upon a price with the driver before you start your journey, but it is often faster to walk than to take a taxi. But we found the absolute best way to get around the city was to use the Moscow Metro.
The Moscow Metro is the 3rd busiest in the world and an average of 7 million people use it every day. There are 12 lines serving 180 stations that span nearly 300 kilometers. Sound a bit intimidating? You might be shocked to hear that it was the easiest metro we’ve ever used. Well… once we got the hang of things, that is. After all, you’re dealing with metro signs that are in Russian (which uses the Cyrillic alphabet) and not English. Now pros, we’ve put together our tips for using the Moscow Metro:
1. Get a bilingual colored map.
The Moscow Metro looks a bit like the sun with the main Circle Line (Кольцевая линия) forming a ring around the center of the city. The other 11 lines are like rays of the sun that meet in the center of the city and are all connected by the Circle Line. All of the lines are represented by a color and a bilingual map is the most useful. You’ll be able to match up your stop marked on your map in the Cyrillic alphabet with the signs instead the station.
2. Look for the red “M” to find the entrance to a station.
It’s easy to find metro stations when you’re out about in the city. Just look for a red letter “M”, which stands for метро. There are usually several entrances to the same station. The metro run from 6am – 1am.
3. Buy a ticket.
There’s no zones in the Moscow Metro like in Paris or London. Instead, you pay per ride and once inside the metro, you can transfer as many times as you like. One trip costs 30 rubles or there is the option for round trip for 60 rubles (less than $2 round trip). You’ll get one card with two trips on it, so be sure to hang on to your card. Also note that the ticket machines only accept cash, so be sure you always have smaller bills or coins.
4. Follow the colored signs to your train.
Use your magnetic ticket to enter the turnstile. Some stations serve multiple lines and signs are conveniently marked with a colored stripe that corresponds to the colored lines. Sometimes the signs pointing to the colored lines are stickers on the ground instead of hanging from overhead, so just be sure to look around. The signs also list the stops and this is where your bilingual colored map comes in handy. Verify you’re headed in the right direction by matching up the stop on your map with the signs above the escalator or on the wall at each track.
Now that you’ve found your correct colored line, be sure to again verify your stop to make sure you’re headed in the correction direction. On the wall at each track, there is another handy sign which both verifies the color of the line and which stops the train makes. The red letters indicate the current stop and remaining stops for that direction of the line are listed. Verify against your metro map. See how much that map is coming in handy? Ours was practically falling apart after 4 days running around Moscow!
Most trains didn’t announce the stops via an intercom like in London, and even in those that did, we didn’t understand anyway. So count your stops and pay attention. There is also a panel above the doors in each car and the red light blinks to indicate the next stop. It’s still a good idea to count your stops because we encountered one panel that was on the fritz and got nervous for a few minutes that we’d hopped on the right line, but in the wrong direction.
The Moscow Metro is known as the underground palaces of Moscow and definitely a sight not to miss in the city. Some of the stations are even put under state protection. Over twenty kinds of marble, labradorite, granite, porphyry, rhodonite, onyx and other types of building stone were used in Moscow Metro construction. The stations are decorated with statues, reliefs, paintings, mosaics, and stained glass with each station being unique. The metro stations are some of the most beautiful sights in the city and, if you’re superstitious, you can even find a bit of good luck in some of them!
8. Look for выход when you’re ready to exit.
выход means exit in Russian. Follow the signs and you’ll find your way out of the underground maze-like complexes.