Train tickets online (almost) and a Moscow Mapping tool

There are a few very useful tools now available on the internet to make life easier in Russia.

The most exciting resource is that you can now order Russian train tickets on-line at RZD.RU and pay by credit card.  This is very reliable way to beat the lines at the stations.  All you need to do is set up an account on their website and have the resources to type in cyrillic in order to enter your departure and destination.  The website allows you to check availability for various trains as well as classes of travel, and to compare cost.  After you have selected your train you can also make seating requests (For platzkart, it helps to know that seat #1 is closest to the conductor, while the highest numbered seats will put you either near the bathroom or along the aisle seats – 5-30 is usually safe.)  After purchasing the ticket you can print our your “e-ticket” that includes a barcode or just write out the confirmation code of your ticket.  There’s one trick: you must pick up the ticket at a station, any station.  I have also picked up tickets for someone else and I have also picked up my own ticket without my passport, but I don’t think this is possible as a rule.  The larger stations have special booths where this can be done, where I have never seen a line.  If there is no booth, you apparently have the right to cut in the regular lines, but you must do this at your own peril.  I’ve done it, but wouldn’t think twice about trying again.  People who’ve been waiting in line for 30 minutes to an hour have little sympathy for your excuse that “the instructions say that people with “e-tickets” can cut.”  One man threatened to clobber me if I went ahead of him, in the next line a mother with a baby pleaded with me not to go ahead, at the third they cried out: the window is about to close, go to another line! and so on… Apparently there are two websites that offer this service, but I’ve only ever used this one.

There is also an excellent mapping/directions called Marshruty Moskvy website for looking up addresses as well as transportation schedules for Moscow for looking up bus schedules in Moscow.

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September 17, 2008. Living in Russia, Web tools. Leave a comment.

Internet in Moscow, 2007-2008

My wife and I arrived to Moscow in the fall of 2007, unsure about whether we would have high speed internet in Moscow.  We were very pleasantly surprised.  We signed up with a company called STRIM, one of the biggest players in Moscow’s very large market.  We found a local office near our metro station (Shchukinskaia) where we signed up and received the basic equipment.  For about $25 / month, we got unlimited high speed DSL and basic interactive cable TV, all through the phone jack in our small Khrushchevka.  We rented the equipment for a few dollars a month, though its also possible to purchase it.  We did not need to involve our landlord at all in setting up the contract with STRIM, and did not need to provide any proof of registration or any other formal documentation.  Customer service was fine, at least on par with what I’ve gotten from Bell Canada.  Otherwise I had no problems with the service.  So in sum, if you’re in Moscow for an extended period of time and can speak Russian, you should be able to get a high speed internet without a problem.

Another option is to sign up for an extensive wireless network, Golden Telecom (www.goldenwifi.ru).  This was not available in our neighborhood.  Many cafes offer wireless in town, but most are quite costly.  My favorite free email spot was an all-you-can-eat restaurant/cafe on the corner of Chistoprudnaia and Pokrovka, not far–by the way–from another favorite, Thai Thai.

And finally, a fairly detailed story only for really dedicated seekers of inexpensive internet access: One night back in March, 2008, I was forced to camp out at Domodedovo airport, and, recalling that Golden Telecom offered 24 hours of internet service for a meager $5, I was determined to take full advantage.  But unfortunately I didn’t have a Golden Telecom card and they’re no longer sold at the airport (I’m sure this is because another phone giant, MTS, has introduced its own wireless network at the airport.  It’s easy to register for and use, but very expensive).  The solution: I used MTS to register an account number with Golden Telecom and then very fortunately found one of those computerized payment devices where one can put money on cell phone accounts that also accepted money for Golden Telecom.  So with the account number I could make the payment, and presto! All night internet.

September 16, 2008. Living in Russia, Moscow. Leave a comment.