For travellers to Moscow the weather should be an important consideration. Moscow is not in Siberia and winters are rather bearable. So, it is not such a bad idea to plan your trip in the winter period.
Occasionally temperatures might drop down to around -20C (some time in late January or early February), but most of the winter is much warmer with the temperature hovers around -5C to -10C. Winter period is considered to last between mid November to mid March. We highly recommend you to have a hat, a pair of warm gloves, a scarf, a warm jacket and boots with high heels, thick socks and layers.
Remember, that all indoor areas in Moscow (like museums and galleries) have central heating and are rather warm. Sometimes warmer than one might expect, so unless you are planning to spend a whole day outdoors, make sure that you can easily take off and put back on some of your clothes (thermal underwear is unlikely the best choice).
In Summer the weather in Moscow is usually pretty nice: temperatures rise to +30C and even mid-thirties. The problem is that the city becomes pretty dusty in the heat and it would be useful to know where some major parks are. Late Spring is probably the best time for a trip to Moscow from a weather perspective. The first two-three weeks of September are also a good choice.
The Russian electricity system operates on 220 volts. Travellers from the UK and the US would need adaptors for European sockets.
Telephones and Internet
Most telephone booths have been removed from the streets due to the popularity of mobile phones. However, prepaid card Telephones can still be found inside the metro stations. Mobile phones are very popular among Muscovites. The main three mobile providers in Russia and Moscow are MTS, Beeline and Megafon. Local SIM cards can be purchased for unlocked tri-band phones. Make sure you have a passport with you. A call to local phone calls will cost you around 2-5 cents. It's not recommended to use local sim-cards for calls abroad – too expensive.
Internet is widely used in Moscow. Luxury Hotels are all equipped with Wi-Fi Internet but often charge very high rates. In mid-range hotels Wi-Fi is usually included into the room fare. There are also many hot spots acroos Moscow in cafes, restaurants and some public zones. Beeline also has its own large Wi-Fi network.
There are many clinics and hospitals with all kinds of medical staff in Moscow. But most of them do not have English speaking personnel. As an alternative there are English speaking clinics like American Medical Center and European Medical Centres and others that operate in Moscow. Some of these clinics operate 24/7 with emergency facilities and a pharmacy. They are equipped with modern medical equipment and have qualified personnel, but most of them are probably twice more expensive than any other of Moscow's good clinics. So before travelling be sure to have good insurance that covers health care in Moscow.
There are many pharmacies around Moscow, many of them are open 24/7. They are called Apteka in Russian (with a green cross on the label). For some drugs, a doctor's prescription might be needed.
10% percent of the bill is considered to be a reasonable tip in Moscow. A restaurant might include a service fee for groups of people that exceed 6-8 people. Tips are usually given in cash. You may tip your waiter in the restaurant, taxi driver, porter. Other types of tips are unusual.
Most of Moscow's offices open much later than in Europe around 10 a.m. You might find offices that open at 8am or 9am, but the majority open later. Most of the shops open at 10am or even 11am but remain open until 9pm-10pm without a lunch break. All stores in Moscow are open on weekends and sometimes close n hour later on Sundays. You will also be surprised to find a wide selection of 24-hour cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, electronic stores in Moscow.
These tips might be useful in any other large city in the world. Moscow is not that scary place that it was in the 90's. Crime rates are much lower and law enforcement is generally at a high level. But it is reasonable to stick to some precautionary measures:
- Watch out for pick pocketing in crowded places
- Cross the streets with extra caution. Even on the zebra crossings some drivers might not stop for you, although this rule has much changed lately and the general politness to pedestrians has become more abundant among Moscow drivers
- Carry the passport with you, as the police has a right to ask you for ID
- Try to change curerency in a bank or exchange office that has a separate cabin that locks