If you plan on visiting Russia soon, you may be intrigued to discover more about Russian currency, how to exchange your money, and methods of payment that are acceptable whilst traveling in Russia.
What Currency Do Russia Use?
The Russian ruble (or rouble) was the previous currency of Russia during the Soviet Union and the historical period of the Russian Empire. Today, the ruble is the official currency of the Russian Federation, Belarus, and Transnistria.
Interestingly, the ruble was actually the first decimal currency to be used in the world. In 1704, it was decimalized and the ruble was made dividable into 100 kopeks (also written copecks or kopecks).
Before 1992, the Soviet ruble’s code was SUR. This was soon replaced with the new code for the Russian ruble, as RUR. However, the financial crisis in 1998 led to a redenomination and since then, the ruble’s official code has been RUB.
Russian Currency Exchange Rate
When traveling to Russia, it is important to take into account the exchange rate offered in your native country and in Russia, as well as the changing exchange rate that can dip or rise due to the varying economy.
Currencies are constantly affected by differing exchange rates all around the world as economic dips, financial crisis, and recessions all affect a national currency. Russia’s economic history is similar to others worldwide in that it was also affected by the 2008 global credit crunch. Fortunately, the damage was not as harmful as it was to other countries and no long-term damage was done.
That said, there has been a steadier economic growth since with just a small dip in the economy with the possibility of a going into recession in early 2014.
How to Change Money in Russia
Travelers can choose to change their rubles in their native country at a bank before arriving in Russia, or they may exchange their currency upon arrival in Russia.
Cash is used more so in Russia and it is much easier to change money than it is to cash cards or cheques. If you plan on changing your money whilst in Russia, it is recommended that you exchange euros or US dollars, as you will most likely receive a better exchange rate and they will be widely accepted. It may be difficult to find exchange bureaus that accept a wider range of currencies.
Those traveling outside of big cities are advised to take enough cash as it will be less likely you are able to pay by card.
Travelers are also advised to change money in Moscow or in St Petersburg, as the exchange rates are likely to be better.
Payment Methods in Russia
Travelers should note that it is imperative that they exchange money and possess Russian cash in rubles, as it is illegal to use other currencies for transactions in Russia, such as euros or US dollars.
While Russian nationals may be more skeptical as to the Russian economy and ruble stability, the economy is not such a worry for tourists visiting. As a traveler in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and other tourist locations, you will not have to worry too much about the currency in St Petersburg, Moscow currency or Kaliningrad currency providing that you have rubles in cash or a credit card that you are able to use internationally. See below for more tips on using a credit card in Russia and other payments methods
Russian rubles are the most reliable form of payment in Russia, although there are other accepted methods of payments as well.
Credit Card Use in Russia
You are able to pay with a credit card in most public establishments such as restaurants and hotels. However, you may find it different to pay by card in Russia in some places, such as museums or train stations. To play it safe, always carry some Russian rubles with you while traveling, due to the aforementioned warning that paying with another currency in Russia is illegal.
Common credit cards that are accepted in Russia include Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, and American Express.
ATMs are widespread in cities and can be found inside banks, as well. They may be more difficult to come across in rural areas of Russia.
It is possible to use traveler’s cheques while in Russia. They are a secure way of keeping money, as only the owner of the cheque is able to cash it in and if they are lost or stolen, they can reissued. However, it may be tricky to cash in cheques depending on where you visit in Russia. Traveler’s cheques can only be cashed in at bank which are mainly open from 9.00-17.00 and it is worth noting that commision is likely to be charged.
Widely accepted cheques are American Express, although rarer cheques such as Thomas Cook are also accepted.
Note that it is not possible to pay with a traveler’s cheque directly in Russia and that all cheques should be declared upon arrival in Russia.
Although less common now with the expansion of international credit cards, it may be possible to use a traveler’s card whilst in Russia.
Traveler’s cards are a safer option and can be used between a group which is also useful for group budgets.
Make sure that when planning other travel documents for traveling to Russia, you are able to check whether you need to apply for a Russian visa and which one is the most suitable for your travel purposes.