A reminder for those entering the Russian Federation
Ruble/dollar exchange rate
Source: https://ru.currencyrate.today/exchangerates-widget
What payment methods are available?
Bank cards
Before the sanctions, everything was simpler: you could pay with any bank card in Russia and services such as PayPal, Revolut or Wise also worked.
Despite this, there are still alternatives for foreigners to pay by card in Russia.
There are three options for paying in Russia by foreigners: carrying cash, buying a Chinese UnionPay card before going on a trip, or buying a bank card from a Russian bank when you arrive in Moscow, St. Petersburg or any other Russian city.
In any case, I recommend paying the main expenses before leaving on a trip and not in Russia: accommodation, train tickets, guided tours, etc.
Let’s look at each of these possibilities.

The first option is to purchase a UnionPay bank card, a Chinese card that is not subject to sanctions in Russia and that currently allows payments to be made at Russian merchants that accept this card and to withdraw money at some ATMs in Russia (such as those of Gazprombank, for example).
UnionPay cards aren’t as widely deployed in Russia as Visa or MasterCard, but they can get you out of a hurry.

The problem is that UnionPay cards are harder to get hold of. You have two ways to acquire them:
Go to a bank that issues UnionPay cards
Some European, American and Australian banks issue UnionPay cards. To find out which entities offer this card, you can check the UnionPay website, select your country and then select the “Local Card Application” icon. If this icon doesn’t appear, it’s because UnionPay cards are not sold in your country.

Buy the UnionPay card online
If there are no banks in your country that offer UnionPay cards, there may be a company that sells the card online. I know three, I’m sure there are more:
  • YianPay (only for Spain). It is possible to get a UnionPay euro card through the company Yianpay, by downloading a mobile application. In this link you can find the fees that apply. It costs about 10 euros to issue the card and 3 euros per month for maintenance fees.
  • Ecard (for USA only). Until recently, they issued UnionPay cards, but their issuance is currently suspended. I don’t know when they will be reissued.
  • Advcash (Global). In many other countries it is possible to get a UnionPay dollar card with Advcash, although you should keep in mind that it costs 95 dollars and a maintenance fee of 2.5 dollars per month applies.
If you know of any other options besides the above, let me know in the comment area and I’ll include it in this article.
Keep in mind that you must purchase a physical card, not a virtual one. Always carry the card with you, because in Russia, Apple Pay and Google Pay have suspended their operations and are not working.
Advantages of the UnionPay card: you don’t have to carry all your cash with you.
Drawbacks of the UnionPay card: in addition to the commission for exchanging rubles, transaction fees may also apply.
Option 3. Get a card from a Russian bank when you arrive at your destination
For longer trips or if you travel to Russia frequently, the best option is to purchase a bank card in Russia attached to the MIR system (in Russian: МИР).
MIR is a Russian payment system created in 2015 by the Central Bank of Russia following Western sanctions for the annexation of Crimea. After the suspension of operations by Visa and MasterCard in Russia in 2022 due to the conflict in Ukraine, MIR has become the main card payment system in Russia.
There are currently several card options focused on foreigners in Russia. In any of the three options that I explain below, you must provide 3 documents: passport, visa (if you need it) and immigration card.
Tinkoff Card
Tinkoff is a neobank founded by Oleg Tinkov in 2006 and that operates mainly online in Russia, although it has some offices in Moscow.
The Tinkoff card can be ordered from their website and they take it to your place of residence in Russia, either a hotel or a private apartment (it takes 1-2 days from the date of the application). This card is associated with a mobile application (like Revolut) and can be recharged for free with your personal cards.
Raiffeisen Bank Card
Raiffeisen Bank is one of the main banks in Russia, although it was founded in Austria.
The Raiffeisen Bank card can be ordered from their website, although the process is in Russian and a Russian mobile number is required. You can get this card in Russia by presenting the required documentation (passport, visa and immigration card).
However, you can also request it directly at one of their offices. This bank has a multitude of offices in major Russian cities.

How to change money:
Take cash (euros or dollars) and once in Russia, exchange it for rubles at a bank in Moscow, St. Petersburg or any other Russian city. This is a good choice for short sightseeing trips.
Of course, you can also exchange rubles before leaving for a trip, but keep in mind that the exchange rate will be worse and that many exchange offices no longer exchange for rubles due to international sanctions. If you exchange rubles before leaving for a trip, I recommend doing it for a small amount to cover the initial expenses when you arrive in Russia (taxi, restaurants, airport shops, etc.).
When exchanging rubles in Russia, consider the following aspects:
  • You can carry a maximum of 10,000 euros or dollars without having to declare them. Of course, you can carry more money, but in this case, you will have to declare them by filling out a form at customs. The maximum amount of 10,000 euros or undeclared dollars is per person. In any case, enough money for a tourist trip to Russia.
  • Bring banknotes without scratches or defects, since they may not be accepted by Russian banks when exchanging currency.
  • Choose a financial institution that offers a good exchange rate. Smaller banks usually offer a better exchange rate. Also, in shopping centers you can find exchange offices that offer a good exchange rate. Some websites publish official exchange rates, allowing you to choose the banks that apply the best exchange rate.
  • Avoid making the change at the airport. If you buy rubles at the airport, change only the approximate amount you need.
Advantages of carrying cash: you only pay for the commission to exchange rubles.
Drawbacks of carrying cash: risk of theft and risk of running out of money.

SIM card and the Internet in Russia
SIM card
If you are going to travel to Russia, you have probably considered buying a SIM card with coverage in Russia to have an Internet connection anywhere.
If you use your mobile phone line in Russia to surf the Internet, your bill will be very expensive.
Perhaps, if you are going to make a very short trip to Russia, it is very likely that you will not need a SIM card since hotels usually have Wi-Fi and many cafes, restaurants or public areas also have free Wi-Fi.

  • The first option is to buy a physical SIM card when you arrive in Russia with a Russian operator. For about 1000 rubles, it is possible to purchase a Russian SIM with unlimited calls and 30 Gb of Internet connection for 30 days. In addition, they are easy to acquire and you will only need your passport.
  • The second option will be to buy online an eSIM card with coverage in Russia before going on a trip. This option is more convenient but more expensive and your mobile phone must be compatible with eSIM cards.

How to buy a Russian mobile phone SIM card?
It’s easy. Mobile phone companies have an extensive network of offices that are easily recognizable on the street. You can find them at the airport, near metro stations, on shopping streets or in large shopping centers. Choose the first one you see. You can also find them integrated in other stores or even on the street in summer.
Of course, for a short stay buy a prepaid card, since you don’t need to take out any monthly fees
All you need is your passport or registration certificate in Russia. With your passport you should have no problem getting a SIM card.
Finally, you have to consider the size of the SIM you will need (standard, micro or nano for iPhone). I recommend that you ask the seller to be the one to place the SIM in your device and activate it.
If your mobile phone only supports one SIM card, then you’ll need to remove your SIM and put in the Russian SIM. This has a problem: you won’t have your WhatsApp or Telegram contacts on the Russian SIM. With an eSIM this is not a problem because you can continue to use your SIM for calls, WhatsApp or Telegram.

How to apply for a Russian e-Visa in 2024

Obtaining the unified e-visa (or electronic visa) to Russia is very simple and quick: you will only need your passport, travel medical insurance and a digital photo. However, the e-visa can only be requested by some nationalities. From August 1, 2023, the unified e-visa is valid throughout Russia. I explain step by step how to obtain an electronic visa to Russia easily and cheaply (54 dollars).

The e-visa (or electronic visa) is an official document issued electronically by the consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, which allows entry to Russia. It is the alternative to a paper visa.
It is a visa that must be requested before arriving in Russia, that is, it is not a visa that is requested upon arrival at the airport in Russia.
The e-visa has two major advantages over paper visas:
  • You can obtain it electronically, in an easy manner from your home through the website enabled by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/. Therefore, it is not necessary to travel to any Consulate or Russian visa center to carry out the procedure.
  • The required documentation is very small, only a digital photo, travel medical insurance and passport. Therefore, it is not necessary to provide an invitation, hotel reservations, plane tickets or other documents that justify the purpose of your trip.
Useful contacts:

Georgy Quartz, Head of Expo-Kontrakt Group of Companies +7 926 089 39 00
Anastasia Topor, Project Coordinator   +7 977 834-61-35 (WhatsApp, Telegram messengers)

The office of Expo-Kontrakt LLC in Moscow:

Address: 129515, Russia, Moscow, Akademika Koroleva str., 13 building 1, 5th floor, office 501 Phone: +7 (495) 792 08 94; +7 (495) 792 08 96: