The Moscow Metro is the second most heavily used subway system in the world after Tokyo’s. The Metro stations – built during the Stalinist era – are famous for their grandeur and beauty, and make the Metro a must-see during your stay in Moscow.
The Metro is an extremely cheap, fast, and convenient way to go anywhere in Moscow, but its crowds, rules and fast tempo means visitors often find it confusing and overwhelming. Read below for a comprehensive guide to navigating the Moscow Metro like a local:
The Metro has one circular track which surrounds the city center and allows for easy connections between lines. The other lines traverse this circle from one side of the city to the other. The red line is the most commonly used by visitors and will take you through the very center of the city, including many popular tourist destinations, such as Red Square.
You can get a free copy of the Metro map in most stations – just ask for one when you’re buying your tickets. Stations are labeled in Russian and English. Make sure you know your connections before you start your trip.
The Metro stations are open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Trains come very frequently – on average every 2.5 minutes.
There are no displays showing the time until the next train arrives. The counters located above the train tunnels show the time elapsed since the last train left the station, and are mainly for the train conductors rather than the passengers.
Inside every station you will find a booth selling Metro tickets. Do not buy tickets outside of the stations – these booths may look like Metro ticket counters, but they are usually selling bus tickets. Tickets are not transferrable between the Metro and the buses.
You only need one ticket for your whole trip, regardless of the distance you are travelling or the amount of transfers you make. Oversize luggage requires an extra “luggage ticket” – just ask for it at the sales booth.
The Moscow Metro uses pre-loaded paper cards that can be purchased for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 or 60 trips. You can see a current price list and the length of validity of each type of ticket here. Metro cards cannot be reloaded.
To use a Moscow Metro ticket, simply hold the card to the turnstile and walk through. It will tell you the amount of rides you have left on your ticket. If you are out of credit, the turnstile will make a noise and you will not be able to walk through.
Tickets are checked only at the turnstiles at the entrance to Metro stations. You will not have to present your ticket while making transfers or leaving the Metro. However, random checks are always possible by the transit police on the trains or within the stations, so keep your ticket with you until you have left the Metro.
Police sometimes stand in front of Metro station doors and perform random passport checks. Make sure you always have your passport and your valid visa information with you.
Etiquette & Safety
- Do not run up or down the escalators. Transit police often stand at the bottom of the escalators and fine passengers they see running down the stairs.
- Always stand on the right side of the escalator, and pass on the left – this is a very strict rule in Moscow. If it is extremely busy or only one escalator is working, then passengers will alternate standing on the right and left steps, a person on every step. Simply observe what everyone else is doing and follow their lead.
- It’s allowed to take amateur photos inside the Metro stations, but avoid using flash if a train is approaching or leaving the station. This can be considered unsafe for the train conductors and you risk getting a fine.
- Russian passengers will almost always offer their seat to women -- especially pregnant women -- and the elderly.
You can see a more comprehensive list of Metro rules here.