Why is Moscow So Expensive?
Moscow is not only the administrative, but also the trading capital of Russia. The city is awash with shops and shopping malls of all possible types. Nevertheless, the prices for electronics and clothing in euro equivalent are quite high: the larger share of these goods is produced abroad and therefore is subject to customs duties on import. So you shouldn’t think of a trip to Moscow as a chance to save some money on shopping. However it does not mean that you will come back empty-handed: there are so many unique souvenirs and things you can buy that will satisfy any taste and preference.
RUSSIAN SOUVENIRS FOR TOURISTS
The best-known souvenirs from Russia are matryoshka dolls, ‘ushanka’ fur hats with ear flaps, balalaika (a stringed musical instrument), samovar (a heated metal container with a faucet, traditionally used to boil water), vodka and caviar. A vast selection of gifts is available on the Arbat and at Izmailovo Vernissage market. The easiest way to buy vodka and caviar is in a duty free shop at the airport before your departure, so as not to complicate things for yourself at the customs control or worry about purchasing a counterfeit product. Another alternative is a decent well-known supermarket. We don’t recommend buying vodka and especially caviar in budget stores. And don’t forget about the customs limits!
Less well-known but very interesting souvenirs alsorelated to Russian folk arts and crafts:
- Painting on trays, boxes, miniatures, ceramics, chess: Gzhel, Zhostovo, Khokhloma, and Palekh styles.
- Fabric products: Vologda lace, Orenburg and Pavlovsky Posad shawls.
- Toys: Dymkovo, Bogorodskaya, Filimonovskaya.
We can also recommend souvenirs associated with the Soviet era. Not the cups and T-shirts made in China with prints like “USSR“, hammer and sickle, etc., but real Russian souvenirs: Russian wristwatches, illustrated books on Russian art, Soviet propaganda posters and socialist realism paintings.
Moscow’s flea market is located in the Izmailovo Vernissage at Partizanskaya metro station. Address: Izmailovskoe highway, 73 ZH (73Ж – in Russian). It is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9.00 to 17.00 and offers a huge choice of traditional Russian and Moscow souvenirs. http://www.moscow-vernisage.com/kontakty
Long rows of stalls laden with matryoshkas, painted wooden spoons, dolls, and Moscow-themed gifts represent the first half of the famous Izmailovo Vernissage. It would be no exaggeration to rank it as the best place for souvenir shopping in Moscow where you can find not only traditional giftsbut also memorabilia and collectibles – coins, military paraphernalia, old musical records, and plenty of other souvenirs. Further on there is a flea market where you can buy genuine antiquities such as bronze pieces, samovars (metal containers traditionally used to heat and boil water), tableware, and icons dating to different epochs. Prices are negotiable; more than that, bargaining is a must.
ARBAT STREET IN MOSCOW
Arbat is a pedestrian street in the inner city mentioned in every Moscow guide. It lies between Arbatskaya and Smolenskaya metro stations. Apart from featuring historic mansions that represent Moscow’s ceremonial architecture of 18th–19th centuries, this street is the main centre of souvenir trade and tourist services: dozens of souvenir shops, jewelry and antique shops, street art exhibitions, as well as numerous cafes, banks and pharmacies can be found here. If you’re looking for souvenirs — this would be the best place to go in downtown Moscow. If you consider buying works of art and antiquities and are prepared to deal with customs formalities, visit art galleries and salons instead of the Arbat. For example, go to the exhibition centre and the vernissage in Central House od Artists on Krymsky Val (Oktyabrskaya metro station).
Russians have been among the key buyers of luxury goods in the last decade, so all of the world’s luxury brands — clothes, accessories, watches, jewelry — have their official boutiques in Moscow. The vast majority of them are located within walking distance from each other in several prestigious neighborhoods in the heart of Moscow. Five-star hotels and Russian government buildings are also located there.
Two major shopping malls are GUM (3 Red Square, www.gum.ru/en ) and TSUM (2 Petrovka Street, www.tsum.ru ). Another location is an area encompassing five streets: Stoleshnikov Lane, Petrovka street, Neglinnaya street, Kuznetsky Most and Bolshaya Dmitrovka street. Below these locations are marked on the map:
CASUAL MOSCOW Shopping
While visiting Moscow you might need to purchase some extra clothes items, replace a suitcase, buy some cosmetics products and so on. If you haven’t found an appropriate store close to your hotel or when walking around the city, make your everyday purchases in one of the major shopping malls. Below is a list of large shopping malls located close to the Moscow centre in the immediate vicinity of metro stations:
- Kievskaya metro station. http://www.europe-tc.ru/
- Voykovskaya metro station. http://metropolis.moscow/
- Afimall City. Vystavochnaya metro station. http://afimall.ru/en
- Leninsky Prospekt metro station. http://www.trcgagarinsky.ru/en/
- Tsvetnoy Bulvar metro station. http://www.tsvetnoy.com/en/
- Okhotny Ryad (has no grocery store). Okhotny Ryad metro station. http://ox-r.ru/
The variety of shops in these malls pretty much guarantees that you’ll find what you’re looking for.
The biggest selection of electronics, computer games, videos and music in Moscow can be found at Gorbushka electronics market, Bagrationovskaya metro station. http://www.gorbushka.ru/
Shopping in Moscow may be extremely interesting for visitors who enjoy this leisure activity.
RETAIL IN MOSCOW
Retail chains are the prevailing form of retail trade in Moscow. Below we have listed some of the largest retail networks to help you get familiar with their names.
- Hypermarkets: Auchan (Ашан), Karusel (Карусель), O’KEY (О’Кей).
- Grocery and convenience stores — medium and premium segment: Azbuka Vkusa (Азбука Вкуса), Bahetle (Бахетле), Magnolia (Магнолия), Perekrestok (Перекресток), Sedmoy Kontinent (Седьмой Континент).
- Grocery and convenience stores — budget segment: Billa (Билла), Dixy (Дикси), Magnit (Магнит), Pyaterochka (Пятерочка).
- Perfumery: Ile de Beaute (Иль де Боте), L’Etoile (Л’Этуаль), Rive Gauche (Рив Гош).
- Telecommunications: Beeline (БиЛайн), Euroset (Евросеть), Megafon (Мегафон), MTS (МТС), Svyaznoy (Связной).
- Electronics: Eldorado (Эльдорадо), M-Video (М–Видео), MediaMarkt (МедиаМаркт), Technosila (Техносила).
- Children’s goods: Detsky Mir (Детский Мир), Olant (Олант).
- Books: Dom Knigi (Дом Книги).
- All chain retail stores are equipped with credit card terminals.
- Shopping trolleys can be used freely without having to use a coin to unlock them. Customers usually leave any large or heavy bags in lockers at the supermarket entrance (handbags are fine to take with you).
- In most supermarkets you will have to pack your groceries yourself and pay extra for the plastic bags.
- In Moscow, retail stores stop selling alcohol at 23.00 and resume at 8.00. During these hours you can buy it only in bars and restaurants.
- Tobacco products in supermarkets are sold at the cashier only and cannot be advertised visibly. You have to ask a cashier for the brand of cigarettes you would like.
- Non-food products can be returned to the store within 2 weeks of making the purchase, as established by law, and as long as you have the receipt. Exceptions include personal hygiene products and medical supplies.
SEVERAL WAYS TO SAVE IN MOSCOW
- Internet and mobile communications. Call rates for mobile phone in Russia are very low. Therefore, if you plan to stay in Russia for a while, it will be cheaper to buy a SIM-card from a local operator: MTS, Beeline, or Megafon. Their products can be found in sales outlets (of a respective brand or in general telecom stores) located near every metro station, airport and railway station.
- Large chains of restaurants and cafés often provide free Wi-Fi Internet for customers. For example, Starbucks, Shokoladnitsa (Шоколадница), Coffe-House (Кофе-Хаус), Mu-Mu (Му–Му), etc. Free Wi-Fi is also available in metro cars and some parks (network registration via SMS is required).
- You can optimise your expenses on public transport by using travel cards: you can either get unlimited rides within a few days’ period or pay in advance for 5 or more rides. More information: http://troika.mos.ru/en/tariffs/
- Purchase Aeroexpress tickets online and save 15%: https://www.aeroexpress.ru/en
- Lots of downtown cafés and restaurants on weekdays offer breakfast (till 12.00) and so-called business lunches (from 12.00 till 16.00), even if they don’t advertise them. Normally, it’ll be a great bargain meal for just 300-400 rubles (or for 600-700 in an upscale restaurant) and will make you quite full.