Q: How much money can I bring to Russia and take home after my trip?
You can bring any amount with you to Russia, but you must declare any sum over US $3000. This is important because the Russian Law allows you to take home only US $3000 (or equivalent in other currencies) without any paperwork. If you want to take more money back with you, you must present a special certificate (Permission to Export Currency) which can be obtained at any bank in Russia and comes at a price (usually, you have to pay the difference between their buy and sell rate). Please note that these regulations only apply to cash. Travelers' checks can be taken home in unlimited quantity without any extra permissions.
Q: Are there Currency Exchange offices in Russia?
Yes, there are. You can legally exchange foreign currency in Russian banks.
Q: Are there any restrictions on the travel checks (Thomas Cook, American Express, Visa etc.) or credit cards in Russia?
No, there are no restrictions. Credit cards and travel checks are not to be declared and can be used freely. Russian banks can cash your travel checks. You can also buy travel checks in Russian banks. You can find ATM Machines in the hotels, airports and banks. VISA. MC. AMEX. DC, Eurocard) are most widely accepted in major cities (such as Moscow and St. Petersburg). There are even many places to get cash advances on credit cards these days. Still, travelers checks are a good security against theft. It is therefore a good idea to take along some larger denomination checks which you can cash if your money runs out. In this event, the better known checks like Amex. Citicorp and Visa are most recommended.
Q: I plan to go back to Russia shortly. Can I keep all the rubles with me for my next trip?
No. Russian customs regulations forbid exporting rubles. Please get all your rubles exchanged back into your
home currency before departure.
Q: Are there currency exchanges in Russia? Should I try to get rubles before my trip?
Yes, you can exchange foreign currency into rubles at many official exchange bureaus. You will need to present your passport, as it is forbidden to exchange money without it. If your hotel keeps your passport and you are not satisfied with the exchange rate offered at the hotel's exchange booth - just ask them for your passport! It must be noted that most hotels no longer keep their guests' passports for the entire duration of stay - only for an hour after you check in to register your visa.
Q: I heard that one can find a better exchange rate offered in the street by private money changers. If I can get more rubles per dollar, why should I go to a bank and get less for my money?
First of all, it is illegal to exchange money this way. Second, you risk losing your money not getting a kopeck back. In many cases street money changers will offer attractive rate just to lure you away from the official exchange place - and will disappear the moment they put their hands on your money. Quite often they stage up a little surprise show to persuade you that, for some reason, they do not want your money anymore, and then they leave you hastily giving you a counterfeit bill. The trouble is when you realize it is counterfeit, it will be too late - the tricksters will disappear.
Q: Are there ATM machines in Russia?
Yes, there are plenty of ATM machines in Russia nowadays. They differ in the amount of commission a local bank (which owns the machine) charges you per withdrawal. ATMs which bear Alfabank logo on them charge 0% commission - you will only pay your home bank's flat ATM withdrawal fee.
Q: Are there any restrictions on travelers' checks or credit cards in Russia?
No, there are no restrictions. You can easily pay with credit cards in most shops and restaurants. Unlike in your home country, travelers' checks cannot be used for payment for goods and services - you must cash them first.
Q: Can I cash personal checks in Russia?
Yes, you can. But it can take up to several weeks, as your check will need to travel back to the issuing bank abroad for verification. So, if you need to get money fast, either use international travelers' checks (American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, etc.) or ATM machines.
Q. What are Russian custom regulations?
Russian customs regulations are complicated and highly discretionary. 30% duty is required to export personal item(s) worth over US $10,000. Moreover, additional export duties apply to any items determined by customs officials to be of commercial use. All items which may appear to have historical or cultural value - icons, antiques, paintings, coins, etc. - may be taken out of Russia only with prior written approval of the Ministry of Culture and payment of 100% duty. Certain items, such as caviar, medications, jewelry, precious or semi-precious stones, or metals and fuel may be exported duty-free in limited amounts. As computers' hard-drives may be scanned by customs officials, it is recommended to present your laptops to customs at least 1,5 hours prior to you departure. New regulations governing the amount of money foreigners can take out of Russia came into effect last year. While you can bring as much money as you want to Russia, you can take home only US $3,000 (or equivalent in other currencies) without any permission. For any amount over US $3,000 a special export permission is required. It can be obtained at any official currency exchange office unless you had the amount declared when entering Russia and can present your original declaration to the customs officer. A convenient way for taking money home is purchasing travelers' cheques (like America Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, etc.). Any amount of money in travelers' cheques does not need to be declared at the Russian customs.
Important! Fill out a customs declaration upon arrival in Russia with the amount of currency brought into the country declared and all valuable items listed (including your cell phone). Make sure that the declaration is officially stamped by customs officers on entry to prevent difficulties in taking currency and valuables out.
Remember that a signature by a customs official is not sufficient - you need to get a stamp on your declaration for it to be valid. Otherwise you will not be able to prove that you possessed that diamond ring or a cellular phone prior to your visit. Keep your stamped customs declaration for the entire duration of your stay in Russia - you will need it to prove how much money and what valuables you had with you when arriving in Russia.
Remember, when changing money you should be on the alert for trickery and fraud. Do not ever exchange money with individuals. As a rule, they offer a better exchange rate, but you risk loosing all your money. If somebody asks you to hold their money for a while do not agree to do so. Nor do we advise you to pick up a purse if you see one on the ground. Otherwise swindlers may accuse you of substitution of the money and demand compensation of the missing sum.
If you fall victim to fraud, we recommend that you contact the police by dialing 02. Credit card fraud is common in restaurants and night clubs. Lost or stolen credit cards may be used to purchase some goods or to obtain cash from cash-machines, provided the swindlers know your private identification number (code). In some cases credit cards are quietly returned to their holders after they have been used to make expensive purchases. For this reason you better not leave your credit cards (and receipt slips that may be copied by the swindlers for illegal operations) even for a short period of time.