You have just arrived in Moscow, maybe even for the first time in Russia and want to get some cash first. It is known that the Russian ruble is used to pay in Russia, and even if card payments are becoming increasingly popular in the giant empire, one cannot do without a little cash in Russia. There are several ways to get rubles and we list the most important ones with all their advantages and disadvantages. In any case, you should first look at the current exchange rate online in order to be able to assess whether you are getting a good exchange rate.
Exchange dollars for rubles at home
If you want to be on the safe side and want to stock up on rubles before you travel to Russia, for example, so that you don’t have to look for an exchange office at the airport, you can do so here. However, this is associated with some effort and usually you get a worse exchange rate.
Larger bank branches in Asia and Australia in mostly have the most common foreign currencies and offer them to their customers for exchange. However, with the increasing acceptance of cards abroad, banks are slowly but surely trying to get rid of this less lucrative business, which is associated with a lot of effort. Exchange rates are becoming increasingly unattractive for customers, and currencies such as the ruble, which are often exchanged less frequently, have to be ordered days in advance.
Stocking yourself up at least with a smaller sum, for example to be able to pay for a taxi at the airport or the train, can make sense. However, you should definitely contact your own bank with sufficient advance notice. The travel bank can receive rubles at branches without any prior contact. These are available at many larger train stations and airports. However, you have to expect to lose about 10-15% of the value.
Exchange at the airport in Russia
The three major Moscow airports Scheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo have several exchange offices in all terminals, which are not difficult to find. Exchanging your dollars for rubles is not a problem here. However, you get the worst exchange rates at the airports on average. You lose up to 25% if you exchange dollars for rubles here, that’s why you should definitely avoid this method. Since you can get to the city without cash with card payments both via the Airport Express and a taxi app, you can avoid exchanging money at the airport.
Even with a normal International card (Maestro) you can withdraw money from any ATM in Russia. The fee is usually around 6 $ and you get the actual exchange rate – given the poor exchange rates at the airport, you would save money as of 30 $ that you withdraw.
Exchange at a bank
The large Russian banks such as VTB, Sberbank, Alfa Bank or Bank of Moscow offer currency exchange in almost all branches. The exchange rates are decent and you lose less money than if you exchange at the airport, for example. The advantage of this option is transparency. The banks are all serious and do not try to rip customers off with hidden fees. In addition, the branch network is very dense and you can find bank branches at almost every corner.
Exchange at smaller exchange offices
In Moscow itself there are countless smaller exchange offices in addition to the larger banks. In Russia, due to the often fluctuating ruble rate, it is completely normal for ordinary people to have part of the savings in dollars, that’s why there are a large number of exchange offices in the city. You just have to look for the sign “Обмен валют” (Obmen valyut).
The strong competition between these exchange offices means that you can find the very best rates here with a little search. You lose less than 1% of the official exchange rate. This makes the small exchange offices, which can often be found near large metro stations or shopping streets, the best option. So it is common for Russia not to pay a commission and receive exactly the exchange rate shown.
But you should always check the rate with your mobile phone calculator. If you follow these guidelines and compare them between the various exchange offices, the small exchange offices are actually the best option for exchanging dollars for rubles.