Want to travel to Moscow but you don’t know where to start? Already have a trip planned but your concerned about getting around the city? Here’s our favorite tips in regards to visas, airports, and getting around Moscow with a baby or toddler. Looking for activities with kids instead? Click here.
Getting to Russia
Most visitors to Russia need a visa to enter the country. You can check here to see if your exempted from needing one, but please always check with your local Russian Embassy or Consulate, as visa requirements change regularly. Since most of our readers are from the United States, this section will provide some more detail about the process for Americans applying for visas to Russia.
As of 2018, Americans generally can get either a single entry, double entry, or three year multiple entry visa for Russia. You will usually need to fill out an application form, obtain a letter of invitation (from either a travel agency, hotel, tour company, or Russian citizen), and then submit your application, passport, and letter to the nearest Russian Embassy or Consulate. We always found it easier to obtain visas with the help of a visa agency, such as ILS or other related companies.
Airports and Getting Into Moscow
Moscow is a huge city and is served by four international airports. Most likely, you will arrive at either Sheremetyevo (SVO) or Domodedovo (DME). After arrival, we have discovered several options to get into the city:
Rail via AeroExpress (45 – 60 minutes): This is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to get the the city center from any of the Moscow airports. The service is a direct, comfortable train ride from the airport to one of the several Moscow rail stations. All of the rail stations are located on the brown “ring” line of the famous Moscow Metro, allowing for easy transfer to most places in the city. Book tickets online directly with AeroExpress prior to arrival for the easiest journey. For US customers, they even accept PayPal. All signs and announcements are in both Russian and English.
- Taxi or Private Car (90 minutes to 3 hours): Generally it will cost between $50 and $150 for a private car transfer into the city, cheaper options may be available, but quality can vary. If you use a Taxi, some options include Uber, Yandex Taxi, or Gett Taxi. They have excellent mobile apps and are generally of good quality in our experience. We prefer to use them for intercity trips instead of airport transfers due to cost. Private Car hire is also possible, and there are several companies that offer this option. If you are booking with a travel agency, they may be able to arrange something for you. When traveling with children, we often use this option if we have a lot of luggage. If you need child car seats in your taxis, you can also look at Lingo Taxi and Detskoe Taxi.
- Bus: There is bus service to the airports, but we do not recommend it for first time visitors to Russia, as it can be easy to get on the wrong bus. We generally use buses for inter-city transportation only.
Stroller vs Baby Carrier
While Moscow is a great city for babies and toddlers, strollers often pose a challenge. Many families find it easier to use a baby carrier as there are a large amount of stairs around the city. Moscow is adding more and more ramps and elevators around the city but it’s just not enough at the present moment. That being said we often take our stroller around the city, it just takes a little more work. The biggest challenge with a stroller in Moscow are cross walks. The cross walks often are “perehods” (переход) which are underground. The stairs to go underground have ramps but stroller wheels often aren’t wide enough. A double wide stroller will NOT fit on these ramps in most circumstances (Mountain Buggy Duo will fit typically).
Getting Around Moscow
Moscow is a very walkable for such a large city. The city center is full of historic sites that you will want to see and walking is the easiest way to get to them. There are some very wide roads in Moscow and you will notice that many crosswalks are actually underground. Many areas have tunnels that connect a large amount of streets and sites, particularly near the Kremlin. The only problem with walking in Moscow with a baby or toddler are the perehods if you have a stroller. If you are using a baby carrier, you will find the city is easy to walk between the major sites.
The Moscow Metro is iconic. Not only is it the easiest way to get around the city, most of the stations are sites themselves. Many metro stations are heavily adorned with many types of art and chandeliers. Moscow has been adding signs with Latin characters and English translations to help tourist navigate the city. You can get to most destinations with only one transfer. The hardest part about using the metro in Moscow with a baby or toddler is that most stations require using long escalators. This can make using a stroller challenging. There are usually stairs involved when transferring stations.
If you are riding during peak times, do not be surprised when a Muscovite steps up to help. It is expected that passengers will give up seats to the elderly, handicapped, or children. If a passenger stands up as you board and you have a baby or toddler, then that seat is for you and you will be expected to take it. Likewise if you are a healthy-looking male traveling with your family, you will be expected to give up your seat in a car without empty seats.
Buying a Ticket
You will need to get a ticket at either an automated machine or cashier. At the machines you may buy a single or double ride ticket (these tickets also cost more than higher multiple tickets). At the cashier, you can buy any number of rides or monthly, quarterly, or yearly metro passes. All tickets are usable on the metro and bus system.
A Troika card has been extremely useful. This is a hard plastic card that can be used for metro and bus rides, in addition to paying for several other locations in the city. The card is cheap (approximately $1) and is simply loaded with Russian rubles either in cash or via credit card. Discounted fares are automatically taken from your card when you enter the metro, bus, etc and touch it to the ticket terminal. You may purchase these at any Metro cashier. For more details on the metro and the current prices, visit their official website (Russian). A current map of the metro is here.
Moscow has a large bus and train system that serves the entire city and outlying regions. The buses can be very useful in Moscow with a baby or toddler because they are easy to ride with a stroller. Often, travel by bus can be quicker than travel by metro depending on the destinations involved. Many of the bus stops in the center of the city now have electronic signs indicating the next bus arriving and an estimated arrival time for the next several buses. Apps such as Yandex Maps or Google Maps are often able to provide you with the specific bus and stops that you need and have been very helpful to us.
Moscow has a very active taxi market. We have had great success with Uber, Yandex.Taxi, and Gett – but many other options also exist in the city. Be sure to have the apps downloaded prior to your arrival for the best experience.
Some helpful Russian navigational words, that you will see on signs throughout the city. Knowing them visually can be extremely helpful. Please note, all of these words assume you are walking or on-foot which is how most will travel in Moscow (words for being in a vehicle are slightly different in the endings):