SHOPPING IN RUSSIA
A wide range of goods such as watches, cameras, wines and spirits, furs, ceramics and glass, jewellery and toys may be bought in Moscow and St Petersburg. Shops take payment in rubles and, occasionally, by credit card. It is necessary to allow extra time for souvenir hunting: shopping can be a time-consuming activity, owing to the relatively chaotic state of the retail trade in the Russian Federation. It is also advisable to shop around, as prices vary significantly. A good strategy is to choose your souvenirs in a department store such as GUM (on Red Square), and then buy them in a smaller, less centrally located shop.
Historically, the main shopping districts of Moscow have been concentrated in the city centre, along Tverskaya ulitsa and Novy Arbat. Luxury designer stores like Cerutti, Versace, HermÃƒÂ¨s, Gucci, Armani, and Prada have settled along pedestrianised Stoleshnikov pereulok, Kuznetsky Most, and Tretyakovsky proyezd. On Kutuzovsky prospekt, off Novy Arbat, you'll find Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, and Fendi boutiques. Along with Stary Arbat, which has been particularly spruced up for the tourist trade, these streets are your best bets.
In St. Petersburg, the central shopping district is Nevsky prospekt and the streets running off it. Don't expect too many bargains beyond the pirated CDs and videos (which could be confiscated at customs in your home country!), however, because prices for items such as clothes and electronic goods are just as high as in the West, and in the chic stores in hotels they are even higher.
Outside the large department stores of Nevsky prospekt, you'll find some boutiques and lots of "variety shops" -- part souvenir-oriented, part practical -- which can be a bit bewildering. Check them out if you have time; you never know what you may find.
Kholui and Palekh lacquered boxes make attractive souvenirs. Traditional and satirical Matryoshka dolls (wooden dolls within dolls) are widely available. Khokhloma wooden cups, saucers and spoons are painted gold, red and black. Dymkovskaya Igrushka are pottery figurines based on popular folklore characters.
Engraved amber, Gzhel porcelain, Vologda lace and FabergÃƒÂ© eggs and jewellery are highly sought after. A samovar makes a good souvenir. Antiquities, valuables, works of art and manuscripts other than those offered for sale in souvenir shops may not be taken out of the Russian Federation without an export licence.
Mon-Sat 0900-1900. Most food shops are also open on Sunday. Department stores and supermarkets are open throughout lunch time. Stores which are open 24 hours a day are becoming more common.
Ruble (RUB) = 100 kopeks. Notes are in denominations of RUB1000, 500, 100, 50 and 10. Coins are in denominations of RUB10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 10, 5 and 1 kopeks.
Foreign currency should only be exchanged at official bureaux and authorised banks, and all transactions must be recorded on the currency declaration form which is issued on arrival. It is wise to retain all exchange receipts. Bureaux de change are numerous and easy to locate. Large shops and hotels offer their own exchange facilities. US Dollars in pristine condition are the easiest currency to exchange. It is illegal to settle accounts in hard currency and to change money unofficially.
Credit & debit cards
Major European and international credit and debit cards, including Visa and Mastercard, are accepted in the larger hotels and at foreign currency shops and restaurants, but cash (in Rubles) is preferred. American Express cards may be turned down. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services that might be available. ATM machines are widely available.
Cash is preferred. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.
The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import of foreign currency is US$10,000 but sums greater than US$3,000 (or equivalent) must be declared. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival.