Money in Russia
When you travel to Russia, you must know that ruble is the only legal tender on the entire territory of the Russian Federation. According to Russian laws, it is illegal to pay for goods and services in foreign currency, with the exception of authorized retail establishments. Old and tarnished foreign currency bills and coins will not be accepted at banks and exchange offices – money changers want to deal with pristine banknotes only. Although in major cities there appear more restaurants and shops welcoming credit cards, in some cases you will have to pay in cash. If you are going to travel to smaller Russian cities, make sure you have cash, as credit cards are not widely accepted in Russian provinces.
If you bring travelers’ checks, you can cash them either at American Express Travel Offices (of which there are only 2 in Russia, by the way) or at a local bank. Beware though that you will be charged a 1% to 3% commission for cashing your checks. Major hotels or American Express Office suggest locations for obtaining cash advances on credit cards. Unfortunately, it is impossible to use travel checks to pay for goods and services and you will need to cash them into rubles. Please do not countersign your checks at the bottom before you get to the exchange office, as your signature must be verified by a certified officer to disburse your money.
American Express Travel Offices in Russia
23, Malaya Morskaya St. St Petersburg, Russia 190000
Tel: +7 812 3264500
33, Usacheva St., Bld 1. Moscow, Russia 119048
Tel: +7 095 9338400
Automatic Teller Machines or Credit Card Advance machines accept PLUS or Cirrus ATM networks, Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, and American Express. Depending on the bank that maintains a cash machine, you may be charged up to 2% fee in overcharges. Some ATM machines charge as low as 0% commission (for example, Alfabank in St. Petersburg), so you will only pay your own bank’s ATM withdrawal fee.
You can also cash credit cards at most exchange offices without an ATM machine: all you need is your card and a valid passport. A fee of 2% to 3% for this service is standard. Additionally, there is a network of Western Union agents in St. Petersburg that disburse money wired from abroad.
Important: You need to present your passport for any currency operation at exchange offices and banks.
Tipping in Russia is just as in any other country – around 10-15% of the total bill. If you have a private tour guide and driver working for you, tipping is usually done at the end of your tour program. A tip around $10/person per day for the guide and $5/person per day for the driver is standard. For example, if you are travelling in a 2-people group and hired your tour guide and driver for 2 days, the amount of the tip will be $20/day for the guide and $10/day for the driver.