Russian historic currency is rubles (ruble) and kopeks (kopeiki); 100 kopecks make 1 ruble.
The money in circulation:
10 Roubles (very rare!)
5 Roubles (very rare!)
1000 Roubles (new)
The word "ruble" comes from the Middle Ages. When trading, customers used to pay with pieces of valuable material (e.g. silver) chopped off a larger piece. In Russian, "rubit'" means "to chop", and so these pieces were named ruble, or rubles. Later pieces of valuable material were replaced with coins, but the name remained. The need for copecks came a little later when traders wanted to ask fraction prices (for instance, less than 2 roubles, but more than 1). The first version of a smaller value coin had a picture of Russian soldiers, kopeischiki (footmen equipped with spears), printed on its back. Kopeischik, kopeika, and the name stuck to the coin.
How to Keep Your Money
Cash is much more often used than credits cards. It is better to have some cash ($150-200 US - just enough for initial expenses - transport, accommodation, food) when you come to Russia and the rest in traveler's cheques and cards.
Changing money is never a problem in Russia. Almost everywhere, even in smaller towns, has a bank or a currency exchange office. If a place has more than one thousand people, legal money exchange will be possible. The exchange rates do not vary much from place to place.
There is usually no commission for changing dollars into rubles. However, if you change rubles into dollars, you may be charged 1-2%. Always check how much you have got back while you are still at the cashier.
Never change money in the street - you might get defrauded. Exchange offices at the airports and railway stations offer slightly lower rates.
The Euro is accepted in the majority of big cities, but not as popular as the US Dollar.
If you have some other currency, it might be more difficult to find an exchange office, and the rate will not be in your favor. You had better change your money into US dollars in advance. The exchange rates of US dollars and euros to rubles are better in Moscow and St. Petersburg. If you change your money in Siberia, for example, you are likely to lose about 3%.
Credit cards can be used and are relatively widely accepted in Russia. Cash machines can be found in all bigger towns. If you do not know where to look for an ATM, go to any big hotel.
Usually banks take up to 1% commission if you withdraw money with the card of another (foreign) bank. Mostly you will receive rubles, some ATMs dispense dollars as well. Visa, MasterCard is accepted almost in any ATM, Visa Electron and Cirrus / Maestro - more rarely.
You can easily make your purchases in big department stores and supermarkets in bigger Russian towns, although not all shops accept credit cards.
Travelers' Cheques is the most secure way of keeping your money: you are the only one who can cash the cheques and, if lost, they can be reissued - just write down the numbers in advance and keep them separately from the cheques. In Russia, you can refund them only in banks where they charge commission for refunding(about 2-3%) and for buying (usually 1%) travelers cheques.
The most widely accepted cheques in Russia are American Express and - more rarely - Thomas Cook.
Please, note that you cannot pay with traveler's cheque in Russia, you can only withdraw money using them in banks.
Financial questions > Living expenses
Food and Toiletries:
Milk (one liter): 8-16 RUR
Bread (1/2 kilo loaf): 9 ~ 14 RUR
Meat (one kilo): 65 ~ 100 RUR
Oranges (one kilo): 30 RUR
Potatoes (one kilo): 11 RUR
Pack of spaghetti (1/2 kilo): 9 ~ 13 RUR
Bar of soap: 5 ~ 11 RUR
Bottle of nice shampoo: 30 ~ 65 RUR
One beer (1/2 liter): 10 ~ 22 RUR, depending on the brand
A pack of cigarettes: 7 ~ 40 RUR, depending on the brand or quality
A bottle of nice red Moldovan wine: 70 ~ 120 RUR
If bought in a market, these can be a real bargain. Shopping in a large store is not always a better option. Bargaining is not very customary in Russia, a 10~15 % discount is the most one can expect to get. It is always wise to shop around and get an overview of the prices before actually buying something. An independent source of price information can often be very helpful (like some friends there in Russia, or anybody else directly not interested in the profit).
Sport type running shoes, sneakers, trainers: 500 RUR
Pair of good leather shoes or boots: 1500-3000 RUR
Shirt: 300-700 RUR
Pair of jeans: 500-900 RUR
Pair of socks: 20-25 RUR
Sweater: 500-1,500 RUR
Warm winter jacket: 1,000-3,000 RUR
Photo film: 50-70 RUR
Multi-speed bike: 3,000-10,000 RUR
Rucksack (80 liter): 600-900 RUR (20-30 $USD)
Sleeping bag: 290-600 RUR (10-20 $USD)
Most of the time this is quite affordable. Bus, tram and trolley ride prices in Russia range between 4 and 14 RUR within city limits. Month tickets for various categories of passengers are available and may offer very attractive savings if one plans to use public transport often. Even when staying for a very short period, buying such a ticket may be worth it.
A taxi (in Moscow or St. Petersburg: Centrum - suburbs) $20, in other cities (European Russia) $3-10.
Car Rental, Petrol Prices:
Car rental is extremely rare in Russia (and expensive).
Considering the road quality in Russia, it is hardly a wise option.
Currently petrol is 10~20 RUR per liter.
Inherited mostly from the Soviet era, leisure facilities are quite diverse. However, after the decade of political changes and economic crises, many places lie in disrepair lacking financing for simple maintenance. Below are the most popular leisure activities available in Russia with approximate prices:
Aerobics: 2-3 times a week, 4-12$ a month
Swimming Pool: one visit 2-8$, for 1 hour
Yoga: 7-10$ a month, one time a week
Pop or rock concert ticket: 5-25$
Theatre ticket: 3-8$ (outside of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg)
Internet access : 1 hour 25-40 RUR
Unlike in other countries with similar living standard, this can be quite expensive in Russia. One should avoid favorable places which tend to overcharge for everything. One can easily expect to pay 35-80$ for quite a modest meal (two or three courses) at a nice restaurant. A school or university cafeteria meal (salad, tea, soup, noodles + hamburger, bread) costs approximately 0.8~2$
Renting a flat is not difficult. It would normally cost 50$~100$ per month an apartment with one room in a mid size city, or 2-3 times more if located in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
There are many stories around about how bad life in Russia is, with lots of newspapers and TV stations speculating on the matter. Honestly, things are quite different from how they are often portrayed, partly because bad news sells much better. Yes, luxury is not found everywhere and the majority of the people live on an income equal to 60$US a month, but there sure are quite a few with a salary of 100-200$ per month, or more. The fair thing to say would be that 50% of the population live on 60-80$ a month, 20% have 80-200$, 10% have 200$-500$. The rest have greater incomes. But again, there are enough people who have there own businesses and can enjoy 2000$ or more per month. The lowest paid part of the society are those who are employed in the state-owned sector of the economy and have to live only on state money, which is usually around 50-70$US.
Anybody engaged in the private sector of economy can count on a bit greater income.