You are traveling to Russia soon and wonder how on earth you will be able to bypass the sanctions and and actually get your hands on russian roubles ?
Here is a tourist guide to money in Russia with the right & the wrong you need to know about the russian rouble and how to exchange your money before/while travelling Russia in 2023.
Disclaimer : people telling you that it’s not possible to exchange euros or US dollars in Russia anymore are talking rubbish.
Russia’s currency : basic info
The currency in Russia is the russian rouble (or ruble – RUB). In russian it’s called рубль (rubl’) and its symbol is ₽.
The russian rouble has been in used since the 14th century and is the second oldest currency after the British pound still in circulation today. It was the currency of the Russian Empire and also the Soviet union.
There are both coins and banknotes in Russia. The biggest available banknote is the 5000₽ which is about 50€ at the time of writing.
Since the 2022 western sanctions on Russia, the rouble didn’t exactly crash (I mean, yes it did a bit at first) but it’s not stable either …
Since my first time traveling Russia the rate went something like :
2012 : about 40₽ for 1€
2017 : about 60₽ for 1€
Summer 2022 : about 70₽ for 1€
November 2023 : about 100₽ for 1€
Today’s rate is :
According to the Bank of Russia, there are little counterfeit money and I quote “there were only four fakes out of one million banknotes being in circulation in 2022”. I’ve never came across any in all my travels in Russia, so you shouldn’t worry about that.
Can you use foreign bank cards in Russia ?
Simply put, no you can’t. Visa and MasterCard cards do not work in Russia anymore.
You cannot use your foreign bank card for paying on russian websites (E.g. the RZD’s or russian airlines’), nor in shops, restaurants etc. nor withdrawing from any ATMs in Russia.
Only Visa and MasterCard cards issued in Russia before the sanctions (they go through other payment system of course) and MIR bank cards work in the country.
What is the MIR payment system ?
MIR is a Russian made payment system established between 2015 and 2017 by the state Central Bank following a bunch of western sanctions. It became the main card payment system in Russia in 2022 when Visa and Mastercard suspended their operations in the country.
How to get roubles outside of Russia
How to exchange money in Russia
To exchange money in Russia you obviously need cash. Considering you cannot withdraw from any ATMs around the country, make sure to bring enough for the duration of your trip. I recommend euros or US dollars.
You are allowed to bring 10 000€ (per person) or equivalet in another currency into the Russian Federation without declaring the sum to the customs.
I strongly recommend you not to exchange all your money at once. The rate may be going up and down daily, and if it goes down (I mean up, in our way), you can get more ₽ for your € or $
Exchange your money directly at the bank. I recommend Sberbank which is widely available all across the country. Passport are required and they should not care if the banknotes aren’t perfectly new.
Note that some banks (naming Alpha bank for one) apparently denies banknotes in a bad shape and limit the amount one can exchange per day.
I recommend you to get 50€ bank notes fresh out of the ATM, they are usually in perfect condition (at least out of a french ATM), and 50€ isn’t too small or too large a sum in my opinion.
Currency exchange office
Exchange your money at a currency exchange office, in russian they are called “обмен валют”, you can easily find them on Yandex maps. There are plenty of these offices in big cities such as Moscow or Saint Petersburg, but medium size towns might not have any.
You can also find exchange currency offices at the airport on arrival, however, just like anywhere else in the world, the exchange rates are extremely bad …
My personal experience : in small cities in southern russia, it happenned many times that they give me the black market rate for some reason and no receipt as they claimed that the “ticket machine was broken”. Don’t be surprised if it happens to you.
Of course I do not promote illegal activites nor encourage you to do so but let me say it anyway … exchange your money on the black market : Best rates garanteed, friendly people (in the Caucasus at least) and as I said at the beginning of the post, there are little chances to get counterfeit money in Russia.
Where to find these guys you wonder ? markets mostly, with either a sign (very discrete …), a hand full of cash (see picture below), or a crossbody bag (or all 3 combined). There are always men between 40 to 60 years old.
Check the current rate, if he doesn’t give you better (E.g. 75₽ instead of the ongoing 60₽ for a euro), then he’s trying to rip you off. But usually if they see you coming with a few brand new 50 banknotes, they won’t. Get your money ready in advance, no need to display your entire trip’s budget in the middle of the street.
What is the exchange rate (€/$) in Russia right now ?
At the time of writing (14th of Nov 2023) it is 1€ = 98₽. You should check on the official bank of Russia’s website for the daily rate.
Can you use euros or dollars in Russia?
No, you must pay in russian roubles, even at a hotel. Not everyone is interested in foreign currencies …
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