Before planning your trip to Moscow make sure to check if you require a visa to enter Russia. Being a UK citizen, I needed to get one, which made a last-minute trip to Moscow a bit more challenging! Before you can apply for your visa you need to obtain travel insurance and a letter of invitation. Many hotels will provide you with a letter of invitation for an addition fee, but there are also sites, such as https://www.gotorussia.com/, where you can buy one. I used this site and found it very effective and efficient.
I found the online Visa application form quite simple to complete, but it was time consuming, so make sure you set aside plenty of time to fill it in. Once you’ve finished, check that you have all documents required and head to your closest Visa Application Centre. I arrived as soon as the Edinburgh branch opened and it didn’t take long for all of my documents to be looked over, make payment and to be told to come back in a few days to collect my passport. I paid for express delivery because I was booking my trip on short notice, but be sure to go to the Visa Application Centre well before you’re due to leave.
Be sure to keep your passport on you at all time when in Moscow. Before arriving in the city I had heard that the police could stop you at any point and request to see your passport and visa. Although this didn’t happen to us, it was handy to have our passports because we needed them for proof of ID when collecting our Kremlin tickets and for ID in one of the bars we visited.
I arrived in Moscow alone, hungry and tired. This meant that I just wanted to jump in a taxi and get to my hotel without having to figure out public transport – this is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made whilst travelling. Once I stepped outside I could see signs for taxis and people standing around, but I couldn’t spot a formal queue. I obviously looked confused and I was prime target for a tourist trap. After getting in a taxi, driving from the airport and arriving at my hotel, I was hit with a much bigger bill than expected or should have received. Make sure you go to the official taxi desk inside the airport who will direct you to the fixed price taxi services.
For me, the best way to get around Moscow is by metro; from beginning to end, I had a great experience using these. I purchased 1 ticket for 1 journey, which I found was relatively easy to get. If you buy 2 tickets for 2 journeys it comes on the 1 card, so you can either use it for another journey or you can pass it back to a friend to use on the same trip. All of the stations felt very safe and secure and they were all very beautiful. They are so well designed, that some of them actually feel like you’re in a museum.
Make sure to have a think about what you want to do whilst in Moscow and then check to see if it’s best to book in advance. If you want to visit the Kremlin (I recommend you do), you can only get in to The Armoury at certain times of the day. It’s definitely worthwhile booking a ticket for The Armoury in advance to make sure you get a spot that suits you best, or get one at all!