The Moscow Metro is fascinating. For sightseeing and transport. It’s a must see, while you are in Moscow.
There are many ways to get around Moscow, but with notorious traffic jams, the Moscow Metro is always a good and reliable alternative. Especially during the day. Only in rush hour times, the metro gets a bit busy and packed. 9.7 Million people ride the metro on a daily basis. Unfortunately not everyone is clean and good smelling, but we’ll get to that later.
Let’s start with some facts, followed by practical tips, on how to use the Moscow Metro.
The Metro was opened on May 15th 1935. Today it exists of 206 stations and its rapidly expanding. It has a total length of 319 kilometers and its deepest station lays 84 meters underground. The older the stations, usually the deeper they are, since the Soviets also built them as being shelters, in case of a (atomic) war. That being said, be aware of the long and steep escalators. I’ve seen people being frightened, using them and its always a good idea to be aware of what’s going on above you. You never know, when some drunken guy may come tumbling down.
The Moscow Metro is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Lenin and Stalin (as their followers) have built the stations to be the “glamorous living rooms of the working class”. Everybody has his own favorite station(s). Mine is certainly the “Mayakovskaya“, “Ploshchad Revolyutsii” and “Kropotkinskaya“.
There is plenty of more information on Wikipedia. In fact, each line and each station have its own pages, filled with lots of information.
Our tour guide offers a special 3 hour metro tour during weekends, where she takes you on a ride to the most interesting stations and tells you all about them and the Moscow metro.
Ticket price: 55 Rub (2019) per ride. That allows you to ride the metro as long as you want and in all directions.
Tickets can be bought at vending machines (in English) at the entrance. There are also windows with sales clerks, but most of them don’t speak English and there are usually long lines. And of course they expect you to pay in cash, although you can pay with credit card and EC card at the windows.
Most gates in the center also can read NFC and use PAYPASS. You can use the most right lane, where the guard sits and just walk through. It will deduct the 55 rub from your card automatically.
We wrote about this card already. You can get it at any metro station for a 50 Rub deposit and load money on it (either by cash payment or credit card / EC card). You can also upload money to your card through the cities website. The “Troika”, as we call it, can be used to pay for many things, like the metro, rental bikes, busses & trams, but even for the museum entrance. The best, using the Troika gets you essential discounts.
A metro ride with the Troika costs you 35 Rub (instead of 55 Rub). Within 90 minutes you can transfer to a bus, trolley buy or tram and only pay 55 Rub in total (instead of 110 Rub for both rides).
Bus, Trolley Bus or Tram rides also cost 35 Rub with the troika (instead of 55 Rub).
You can also use the troika to pay for your Aeroexpress ride to or from one of the airports.
The troika can be reused and topped up with money at any vending machine, sales window, by SMS or even online (in Russian). When you return your troika, you will get your 50 Rub deposit back.
In the Moscow Metro. How to navigate.
Most central stations have English language signs now. The further you go away from the center, the less English signs you’ll find. Some trains also have English announcements now. The following will help you, to find your way…
The Metro Map
Male / Female voice by announcer.
You can always determine the direction of the train by the gender of the announcer. Its a male announcer, when you are going towards the center. But as soon as you cross the city center you’ll hear a female voice announcing stations, going outbound.
The Muscovites say: “Your boss calls you to work. Your wife calls you home.”
On the ring line the clock-wise direction has a male voice, while the counterclockwise direction is female.
First 2-3 letters and colors.
Transitions from one line to another are often a bit confusing. Especially since the overhead signs are usually only in cyrillic. While in the train have a look at the latin writing of the station, where you want to go. On the map its written under the cyrillic name. Remember the first 2-3 letters of the cyrillic name, plus the color of the line. When in the station, compare this with the overhead signs. I found that very helpful to find my way, while I didn’t read Russian / cyrillic.
The metro runs from 5:30 in the morning until 1:00 at night. During the night, you are only left with busses, trams or typically we take taxis.
In my opinion the Moscow Metro is very secure. Even in the suburbs. I felt much more insecure at some New York Subway stations or even in Berlin at times, especially at night. Still, Moscow is a very large city and criminals come from everywhere to find their victims. Be aware of the people around you. Keep your wallet in a closed or front pockets. Keep your bag or backpack in the front. I heard of many occasions, where thieves opened backpacks and stole notebooks, phones and other valuables out of them. Especially at night, be aware of drugged up and drunken people.
Avoid the metro during early mornings and after 21:00, if you’re Indian, African-American or colored. My African friends told me of many unpleasant situations and even attacks from skinheads and Nazi’s. Even “normal” looking guys, become aggressive, especially when they are drunk. It’s a sad thing about the Russian society, but I witnessed this racism first hand on a SAPSAN high-speed tain to St.Petersburg, when I travelled there with a colored DJ.
Avoid the metro during rush-hours from 09:00 until 11:00 and 18:00 until 20:00. The trains will be overfilled and people will push you around. There is no such thing, than personal space or respect and you may end up, having your nose under the stinky sweaty shoulder of a construction worker or tasting the garlic-alco breath of the guy next to you. If you have to take the metro during this time and a train is full, just wait for the next one. Usually the it comes every 45 seconds, during rush hour and every 3 minutes.
This is the most dangerous species in the Moscow Metro. You think, I am kidding?
For some reason, these grandmothers (called: Babushkas) rule the Moscow underground and they will make sure you will understand that, in case you don’t know that already. That means, they kick their elbows in your sides at any time, when you are in their way, besides heavy verbal aggression. And don’t even think about, what will happen, when you are sitting inside the metro, not jumping up in an instant to offer your seat, when they come in.
The updated map of the Moscow Metro system, including both ring lines:
The Metro APPs for your phone (iOS and Android):
The interactive Yandex Metro Map (calculating your travel time, transfers and much more):
The Troika Card:
The official website:
http://mosmetro.ru/ (in Russian only)