Money in Russia

If you are traveling to Russia, here are some things I learned during my trip in October ’04.

Take lots of single dollar bills. You will need them for tips and small items in flea markets and at stalls. But take ONLY new or almost-new dollar bills. The Russians will not accept any money that is torn, crumpled or written on. Since all money is scanned, they prefer new bills. If the bill does not scan properly, it will be given back to you.

The unit of currency in a lot of places is the “unit,” equal to the euro. There is also, of course, the ruble, which on our trip was being exchanged at about 28 to the dollar.

Most people found a problem using travelers’ checks. They were difficult to use in markets, local shops and some restaurants. Cash was preferred. Travelers’ checks could be used to pay bills on board a river ship and in some hotels and major stores.

Changing money was time consuming. The banks were making people stand in line forever and fill out reams of paperwork, and then they inspected every bill given to them. As of winter 2004, they were not accepting any 50-dollar bills; they had not received updated memos about our new 50s.

However, bureaus de change were much easier to deal with. The lines were minimal, we got the same exchange rate and there was hardly any paperwork involved. And the exchange bureaus did accept 50-dollar bills.

Take plenty of ones, fives and 10s and you should have minimal difficulty.

I found it nearly impossible to get rubles in the States for exchange, so I’d say get them in Russia.

Margate, FL