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   July 18
 Survival Guide
Moscow has a growing number of first-class international hotels and several smaller hostels that offer quality accommodation at more reasonable price. A hotel can be called a "gostinitsa" or an "otel" in Russian. If you intend to stay at a hotel with your pet, make sure that this is possible - not all hotels in Moscow allow pets.


The present Moscow hotel market in general can be divided into 5 groups:
luxury 4-5-star hotels;
tourist-class hotels;
small private 3-4-star hotels;
former ex-Soviet and present hotels of the state departments;
country hotels.

As for 4-5-star hotels, the majority of them are owned or managed by the western hospitality companies (such are "Marriott", "Sheraton", and "Kempinski"). But though some of them in fact belong to the city and are administered by purely Russian management, it doesn't mean a low quality of service.

Hotels of the second category in most cases still carry some features of Soviet time. It is reflected in general management, as well as in the level of service and equipment. Anyway central hotels of this category have no problems with visitors. This determines their price policy: $100-350 per day for a room.

The service standards in 4-5-star hotels have much in common with the western ones. The compulsory set of the facilities includes: parking, safe, room service, satellite TV, business centre (with internet access, copying, faxing, etc.), air conditioning, telephone, mini-bar, different stalls. Depending on the hotel you may be offered a fitness-centre, swimming pool, beauty salon, conference-halls, no-smoking rooms, concierge's services. Unfortunately most of the hotels, even expensive ones, have no conveniences for disabled people.

The prices in the majority of Moscow hotels are quoted in USD, but will be charged in roubles at the prevailing rate. Be careful: many hotels don't include 20% VAT into their prices. According to Russian laws all the payments are received in roubles. The rate of exchange in the hotel may be higher than one for which you've changed money.

Nearly all the hotels accept credit cards, but there are hotels and restaurants which for some reasons don't accept American Express cards. Travelling with children, you should check the amount of the additional payment, which may vary from 0 to 50% depending on the hotel and a child's age.

Movements of Personal Effects
An individual can temporarily bring goods weighing up to 50 kg and valued up to EUR 1500 duty-free into Russia. Individuals shall be charged 30% of the customs value of the imported goods exceeding EUR 1500, but not less than EUR 4.0 per kg in excess of the limit.

Travel Agencies
There are hundreds of travel agencies in Moscow: some specialize in ticket sales, others offer full tour and vacation packages, some specialize in tours to certain countries or continents, and yet others specialize in adventure and nature travel.

Car Rental
If you do not have your own car and feel like doing a bit of driving on your own after having settled in and having acquainted yourself with the Russian style of driving and traffic regulations, you may want to rent a car for a few days to explore Moscow and its surroundings on your own.

While you may come across a map with a bilingual street index, good English-language maps of Moscow are very difficult to find. In order to use maps you will have to know the Russian alphabet - otherwise you won't be able to look up streets in the index. You can purchase these maps at many bookstores, magazine and newspaper kiosks, and gas stations. The larger bookstores should also have maps for Moscow's suburbs and other cities in Russia.

Address in Moscow
While looking for a certain house in Moscow you should keep in mind the following things:
1. You need to know whether the house you are looking for is on the street (ulitsa), a lane (pereulok), an avenue (prospect), a boulevard (bulvar), an embankment (naberezhnaya).
2. Several streets in Moscow have numbers in front of them. For example, there is a 1st, a 2nd , 3rd and 5th Tverskaya-Yamskaya ulitsa.
3. You must also know whether a house is, for example, located on Bolshaya (big) Ordynka or Malaya (Small) Ordynka. There are many other examples of streets and lanes which exist twice - as a "big one" and a "small one".
4. A house (dom) can have several buildings (korpus or stroenie) to it. Usually the individual buildings are numbered (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), but sometimes they may have letters such as A, B, V, G, D.
5. Also make sure you ask for the entrance number. (There can be up to 20 of them in one house).
6. Google Maps cover Moscow very well, and the Russian search-engine Yandex has a similarly good street-finding map service.

If you were happy with the food and the service at a restaurant, a 5 to 10% tip is appropriate. Try to tip your waiter in cash; if you add the tip to your credit card bill, the waiter will most likely never see the money. (In practice the way that credit-card payments are processed in Russia doesn't permit you to add tips in the huge majority of restaurants anyhow). You may also want to give small tips to handymen and plumbers.

Taxi drivers are not usually tipped, but you may want to pay them some extra money if they help you to carry your bags. Hotel/restaurant coatroom attendants are not normally tipped, but as these are often elderly ladies or men, they may appreciate a small token of appreciation. You don't tip coatroom attendants in public buildings, theatres, etc. It's usual to tip guides and interpreters if you've been satisfied with their work - very often their agency will be taking a large part of the fee you've paid.

Russian is the basic language spoken in Moscow and in Russia in general, but you may hear many other languages spoken on the streets as Moscow welcomes lots of immigrants from the former CIS republics. A basic course in Russian comes highly recommended as in most cases, signs, road names and practically everything you see in Russia will be written in Cyrillic, so getting a good grip of the alphabet is key.

Even if you don't learn Russian, being able to read the alphabet will make a quantum improvement in your ability to move around independently, and will quickly repay the time spent in real savings. Practice by writing-out familiar words (your name, address, your friends, etc) using the Russian alphabet.
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