One of the more convenient ways to get around in Moscow: Taxi’s.
(unless you’re stuck in one of Moscow’s notorious traffic jams)
To save you money and a headache we have some tips for you:
Don’t follow any “taxi drivers” waiting with some bogus licences right after the customs exit. Don’t take any taxis’s from the airport, unless its ordered from the Yandex counter (not because we have some advertising deal with them, but because they are the most reliable and one of the cheaper options). If at the airport, you can also consider to take the “Aero Express” into the center and then continue your trip by metro or taxi from there. The train won’t save you a lot of money, if you’re final destination isn’t anywhere close to the city Aeroexpress station.
I recommend Wheely for airport transfers, since it is the only one working flawless, where a driver awaits you with a sign. Other companies offer this service as well, but it never worked out for me. Usually the Yandex drivers are on standby outside the airport to safe on the parking tickets and expect you to call them, when you are ready. And for sure no one tells you about that. That can be challenging, if you are with a foreign phone on high roaming charges and not speaking Russian. Yandex opened booths within the arrival terminals of all Moscow airports to fix that problem. But you need to order your taxi there, not via the App. Ru-Taxi is by far the cheapest solution, but the cars are usually lower class and the drivers only speak Russian. See my recommended taxi companies and their apps below at the end of this article.
2. CLUB’s & BARs and RESTAURANTS
Don’t take any of the drivers waiting for you right infront. They will at least rip you off with the fare, but some of them are also criminals. Its better to order a taxi with one of the APPS (I will explain further down) or at least stop one on the next main road and not directly infront of the club.
3. DON’T USE GIPSY TAXI’s
Moscow has an old history of private people, offering a ride for money. Some of these “gipsy” taxis even look like official taxis. It used to be our common way to get around 5 years ago, but since the introduction of the taxi APPs and the large taxi companies, there are less and less wild taxi divers around. The remaining ones, are often tryinging to rip you off with the fare or are even criminals. The official taxis are the better deal in most cases. If you want to use a gipsy taxi, you should negotiate a fixed price before the ride, which will be a problem, if you don’t speak Russian. You can always try to use your fingers, but make sure the driver understands, that you mean hundrets and not thousands (I am not joking!).
COMPANIES & APPS
Here are the commonly used taxi companies with links to their sites. All of them offer APPs for your mobile phone. Most in English language as well. It probably a good idea to install (and verify – by SMS) the APPs before you come to Moscow. Note, while most APPs are available in English, 99% of the drivers won’t speak English at all. But you can put all data in the APP when you order the taxi and the driver has it on his phone or tablet. That usually works well.
Apps for iPhone and Android + Website
This is certainly the largest service in Moscow. They are working with various licensed taxi companies, some of them with official yellow taxis and others with private cars. There are different options in the APP, from economy to comfort to business to van. You can also add special requirements, as kids seats, luggage, a pet transport and so on. After the verification by SMS, there is no need for a credit card. You can pay in cash.
Credit Card rides are usually 20-40% cheaper, though. Yandex offers fixed fees, which comes in handy, when you take a rush hour ride and expect to stay in the notorious Moscow traffic jams. BUT, Yandex adjusts the rate and charges more than double during peak times. This can also be at 3:00 am at night, when everybody wants to drive home from the clubs. Another taxi company may have a longer wait, but a much cheaper fare in that case.
Apps for iPhone and Android
UBER is run by Yandex Taxi in Russia, but they mainly use lower class cars and drivers for the UBER service. Nevertheless, the rates are typically a bit cheaper, than from Yandex Taxi. They use another maps application and their waiting and driving times are chronically inaccurate. You may get the message, that a car is on its way and it takes 3 min for it to arrive, but you will end up waiting 10 min or more, because the drivers navigation system is not working accurately. A credit card is needed for the registration process, after they usually also accept cash (can be set in the app). Since 2018, you can’t use your UBER app, but must download a special Russian UBER app, which is also available in ENG, though.
Apps for iPhone and Android
Another foreign taxi service provider that runs operations in Russia, with local licensed taxi companies. The service is usually good and accurate. Occasionally it takes longer to get a GETT taxi, than on Yandex or Uber. The company also offers fixed fees, which is a plus during rush hours. They also have a flexibale fare / rate system, which gets more expensive during peak times, but it is usually cheaper than Yandex’s during rush hour and peak times.
Apps for iPhone and Android + Website (in ENG as well)
This is certainly the cheapest taxi service of all. But the cars are not always the best and not the cleanest. The biggest downturn is, that the APP is only available in Russian. The website offers an ENG version and can be used to order a taxi. They usually offer fixed fares, which are well below the above mentioned companies. So if you speak a little Russian or have someone, who can help you, this is certainly an option. The waiting times are usually a bit longer. Typically I wait for 15-20 min until the car arrives for the pickup.
Apps for iPhone and Android
A normal taxi is not your style? You want business or executive class with driver? Than this is your best choice. And especially on shorter rides with lots of waiting times (in traffic jams), this may be a good option. Their APP works with the GPS location and you can order a taxi directly to your pinpoint (without an address), which may come in handy, if you are not familiar with Moscows streets (names). So far they offered outstanding service anytime we used them. The wait is also not too long. Typically 5 min and less. Wheely has similar prices to business class rates of Yandex Taxi and is by far the better app. Especially for airport and train station transfers this is my best choice and value. Excellent service.
HOW TAXI DRIVERS MAY CHEAT ON YOU
Official taxi companies usually have a 3-5 min free waiting period. Drivers may already push the “I’m at your pickup location” button a few minutes before they arrive, to make you pay for the waiting time. You will see the “activation” of the waiting period on your app and you can check on the map, if the driver is really at the pickup location or still far away.
Often drivers ask, shortly after you get in the taxi, if they can close the ride and you pay them the difference or all in cash (to cheat on the taxi company). There are two problems with that. If you or he closes the ride, you need to pay the time / arrival until the closure. Even if you didn’t move a meter yet, the taxi company will charge their basic fee anyway (usually 99 Rub or more). After the ride is closed you are in the hands of the driver. The taxi company is not responsible anymore and the driver can take you anywhere and charge more money, threaten you etc. And would you trust a driver that cheats on his company?
Especially when you pay with credit card, the most common trick is, to not close the ride and leave it on for another couple of minutes and kilometers. The drivers think, that you won’t check. Especially, when you are busy with friends, on the phone or drunk on your way home.
If you experience any cheat or a driver is rude or mis-behaves otherwise, you can write to the customer service of the company. You will find their form or email address in the app and they have English language support. It may take a day or two, until you hear from them. Maybe you must do a follow-up and push them, but at the end you usually get your money back and a promo code, which is valid for one or even a few free rides with that company, to make up for your troubles.