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Moscow (Москва) is the capital (both political and financial) of the Russian Federation and a major city of global importance.
The huge city is packed with majestic buildings that document this country’s historical past and present and is home to over 13 million people.
Visitor highlights include Red Square, The Kremlin, the Bolshoi Theatre, Christ the Saviour Cathedral and Gorky Park. Moscow is also home to countless museums and art galleries with world-class collections.
There are numerous attractions including world-class circuses, operas and excellent (straight) bathhouses where you can experience a traditional Russian hot steam and good birch branch whipping.
The UK Foreign Office reports that “Homosexuality is legal in Russia, but there is still intolerance among some sections of the population. Be careful about public displays of affection. In June 2013 a law banning the promotion of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ entered into force, but the definition and scope of prohibited activity is vague. Foreign nationals convicted under this law could face arrest and detention, fines and deportation. There have been reports that instances of harassment, threats and acts of violence towards the LGBT community have increased following the introduction of the law.” (read more here)
The US State Department reports that “Discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread in Russia. Harassment, threats, and acts of violence targeting LGBT individuals have occurred.” (read more here)
The best advice is for gay travellers to act and dress conservatively at all times. For safety, gay couples should not bring attention to their relationship in public, for example, by holding hands, even in tourist areas, hotels or restaurants.
Be aware that hooking up with guys via dating apps has risks. There have been cases of homophobic people using these apps to lure gay men to meetings at which they are attacked and robbed. Police are unlikely to offer any assistance.
Having said this, most tourist visits are trouble-free, and Moscow has a relatively low crime rate. Like all other big cities, it is best to avoid darker, off-the-beaten-track streets or alleys.
Understandably, Russia’s gay scene is low profile and rather discreet. Gay public displays of affection is not very common, but this cosmopolitan Russian capital city may be gayer than you might think.
Although Moscow doesn’t have a dedicated ‘Gay District’, the city’s gay nightlife has become more visible in recent years. Many bars and restaurants host gay nights. ‘Gay-popular’ bars and dance clubs can be found all around the Kremlin – Central Station MSK being the most notable one. There are several Saunas for men with themed parties, drag shows, etc.
In 2006, Moscow launched its first LGBT Pride. This annual event has been regularly banned since then, but the local LGBT community continue their flight for equal rights.
There are 4 primary commercial airports in Moscow: Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), Domodedovo International Airport (DME), Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) and Ostafyevo International Airport (OSF)
The Sheremetyevo airport is the most common entry point for foreign visitors. It is also the main hub for Aeroflot. The Aeroexpress takes you into the city centre for RUB420 every 20-30 minutes with a journey time of 30-40 minutes (this service runs at the same cost from Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports). Bus links to metro stations allow you to connect to the greater Moscow public transport network.
Other several smaller airports near Moscow, such as Myachkovo Airport, are used for private aircraft, helicopters and charters.
From Saint Petersburg – With the launch of high-speed Sapsan trains Saint Petersburg is now just four hours away. There are seven departures daily with some trains stopping at other cities. Fares vary but usually around RUB3,000. Overnight trains are also very popular. The most famous is the Red Arrow (Красная стрела), departing Saint Petersburg daily at 11:55pm.
From Europe – The newly-launched TransEuropeanExpress goes across Europe, making the run Paris-Moscow up to four times a week via Frankfurt, Berlin and Warsaw amongst other cities. The train has a luxury carriage, apart from the normal first and second class and national railways provide restaurant cars. Travel from Paris takes 38 hours. Several other European cities have direct carriages to Moscow including; Basel (38 hours), Bratislava (42 h), Budapest (37 hours), Nice (49 hours) Prague (34 hours) and Vienna (34 hours).
From Eastern Russia and Asia – The most common route is between Moscow and China. There are two weekly trains from Beijing: the Trans-Mongolian via Ulaanbaatar and Vostok via Manchuria. Both options take six nights, but the one via Mongolia is more scenic.
Central Moscow is best explored on foot, but because of the long distances, it’s easiest to use the famous Metro system which is comprehensive, has some great architecture and is relatively cheap. Singles start at RUB55 but it is advisable to get a prepaid smart card to save on costs (this applies on all public transport).
Every large street in the city is served by at least one bus route. Most Moscow buses and trolleybuses operate from 5:30am to 1am, although night routes have been introduced recently. Most buses are not on schedule, and the average waiting time can be from 5 minutes to 40 minutes in the evenings.
The taxi service in Moscow has changed dramatically. New technology and service platforms displaced many private drivers. Now you can get a taxi using your smartphone, tablet or computer in 5-15 minutes. It is cheaper and safer now than before. Commercial taxi services are also available.
Most visitors will require a visa to enter Russia. You can find a useful list of visa-exempted countries here.
Getting a visa is quite a complex process. It is best to plan your visit including hotel stays well in advance.
After booking your hotel (through any online system), you will need to contact the hotel to obtain an official invitation for your period of stay. You will need to repeat this for every hotel you book, so you have official invitations to cover your entire period of stay. Once you have received your invitations, then apply via a visa service company or do it online here.
Whilst in Russia, you must carry your passport at all times, not a copy. There is a good chance that any tourist might be stopped by a police officer. If you are unable to produce your passport when requested, then you will incur a fine. It is equally important to keep a copy of your documents in your hotel in case you lose your originals.
It is also a very good idea to keep the contact number for the Moscow Embassy of your country stored in your phone.
Some of the best and most popular hotels in Moscow are located within its central districts. Tverskoy is great for sightseeing, the theatres and gay nightlife.
The latest hotel deals in Moscow are listed on the Gay Moscow Hotels page.
Red Square (Krasnaya Ploshchad) – the heart of Moscow and the city’s most famous tourist spot.
The Kremlin (Moskovsky Kreml) – a huge site with The Diamond collection in the Armoury and several amazing churches.
Tverskaya Street – Moscow’s most fashionable street, with several prestigious boutiques, restaurants and cafés.
St. Basil’s Cathedral – located to the south of Red Square, this cathedral (1555-61) is beautiful inside and out.
Tretyakov Gallery – one of the world’s greatest museums.
Kolomenskoye Park – popular weekend destination for locals, containing a large collection of churches and buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries.
State Museum-Reserve Tsaritsyno – a beautiful reserve in the southern part of Moscow, with the largest palatial ensemble in Russia.
Bolshoi Theatre – world-famous theatre with regular shows.
Novodevichy Convent – built in the early 1500’s and has remained nearly intact for centuries, this is one of Moscow’s best-preserved historical complexes.
Don’t get involved with drugs in any way. Russia has some of the harshest penalties in the world.
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