This article tries to answer a frequent question that confronts all those who have traveled to Russia: Where is it better to change dollars for rubles? In the airport? At your bank? In a bank in Russia? In an ATM in Russia? Making your purchases on your credit card? Is it better to change your money before you travel or is it better to do it in Russia? I will answer all of these questions.
Article updated August 17, 2019. Published June 24, 2016
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A very common question that arises before traveling to Russia is where to change dollars for rubles. Money exchange is a very lucrative business and all brokers charge a fee for making the change, although some more than others.
Basically, I say that there are two options for paying in rubles: use cash or use a bank card in Russia for all purchases.
Personally, I prefer to change a little cash to rubles before leaving to pay for the essential expenses upon my arrival at the airport (taxi, food, drink, etc.). Once in Russia, I prefer to use my card to make payments both in restaurants and in shops since both Visa and Mastercard often offer a good exchange rate.
- While it is true that in some shops or restaurants they may also accept payment dollars or euros, but usually you have to pay with rubles. That means that it is impossible to avoid the hassle of changing dollars to rubles. When traveling to Russia, you simply have to exchange dollars for rubles.
- Except for small purchases in little shops or kiosks, credit cards are generally accepted in most restaurants and shops in the big cities (it is possible that in more rural, remote areas than the large cities they may not be accepted).
1. Changing your money at an airport in Russia
You can change dollars to rubles in an exchange office at the airport. However, this option is usually the worst since the exchange rate applied by exchange offices in Russian airports are usually the worst by far for the customer.
This is an expensive and very unwise choice. Even changing small quantities. Do not be fooled by the “no commission” since instead of a commission they charge you a very unfavorable exchange rate.
2. Changing your money at your bank before you travel
This means going to your bank and requesting to exchange some dollars to rubles. Most likely you will have to wait a few days for them to get them back to you (assuming that your bank offers this service).
This method is usually quite unfavorable, but usually better than making the change at the airport. Banks also typically charge a fee for currency exchange.
3. Buying currency online
This option is better than the previous ones. It allows you to buy foreign currency online (also rubles) and receive the rubles at your address by postal mail. You also can collect money in a nearby office or at major airports in US.
I use Travelex to take some money (30.000 – 40.000 rubles) and to be able to cope with expenses when arriving in Russia (taxi, food, etc.). Travelex offers much better exchange rate than banks.
4. Changing money at an ATM in Russia
This option involves using your debit card, either Visa or Mastercard, (not credit, which is much more expensive) to get cash from an ATM. You can take out money at an ATM at the airport or in the city center.
While the exchange rate offered by Visa or Mastercard is much more favorable than the previous options, instead, the banks apply a fee for extraction and one for currency exchange. The exchange rate applied by Visa is available at this link and the rate applied by Mastercard is also available on its website.
Normally banks operating entirely online usually offer better conditions. In contrast, traditional banks usually apply a higher fee that can be as high as 5% or more.
It is best to always ask your bank in advance to know what the fee is that they will apply for transactions in Russia.
In any case, this is a good way to exchange your money provided your bank is not charging you high fees. It is also a convenient solution because in Russia you can find ATMs on every corner.
5. Changing your money with a Russian bank
This option entails taking your dollars with you from home and making the exchange in a bank in Russia. The exchange rate applied by Russian banks is much better than you can find in the airport or at your bank.
I always advise asking at your hotel’s reception desk to indicate where there is a nearby bank that offers a good exchange rate and no commission.
Changing your money in a bank in Russia is a more economical way to change dollars for rubles since the exchange rate they apply is a little more favorable than with the previous options but keep in mind that this has three drawbacks:
- You have to waste time going to a bank and perhaps waiting in line in order to perform the transaction (this has happened to me more than once).
- You have to bring your dollars in cash from home (risk of loss or theft).
- Some banks apply a fee (you must ask beforehand).
6. Changing your money through buying with a debit or credit card
For me, this is the best way to change dollars for rubles. Keep in mind that in Russia, bank cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants practically the same as in USA or Canada. It is true that for small purchases and payments in kiosks or in small shops you will need cash, but you can make all the important purchases with a card without a problem.
With a Mastercard or a Visa, you can make purchases with a good exchange rate and only pay a fee for currency exchange that is usually around 3%, although there are banks that do not apply this fee. To make purchases you can use either your debit card or your credit card.
The card I use in Russia is the Revolut card, since it applies the best exchange rate in Russia and without commissions. It is a prepaid card that you can recharge through your bank card, by bank transfer, through Apple Pay, PayPal, etc. It can be requested for free through this link.
As you have seen, currency exchange can be done in different ways. This is what I usually do when I travel to Russia:
- I take a small amount of rubles that I change at Travelex before I leave home to cover the initial expenses.
- Once in Russia, I use my Revolut card for all purchases except for those places that do not accept them (kiosks, small shops …). It is much easier to use a card than it is to waste time having to go to banks in Moscow to change for rubles. Moreover, the cost is similar.
- Finally, I also take money in dollars. If I need more cash in rubles then I can change them in any bank at a good price, but sometimes I also use my debit card to withdraw cash at ATMs.
What has been your experience changing dollars for rubles? You can leave your comments below.
Believe or not but I am an American living in USA and possibly would like to exchange USD for roubles. Is there some way to do that in the present situation?
Did you know that dollars and rubles are available also on Online games?
For example escape from tarkov offers dollars that you can get for real dollars 😀
Irina, your site is amazing! I found all the answers to my questions!! Thank you so Much
Thank you very much!!!
JohnJeremiah C Mikealson
I work as musician electronics engineer hvac tech carpenter and biodynamics soil preparer nongmo and I am single having very little time to date anyone as yet….I love everything about Russia…..I moved here 3 tears ago….enjoying true democracy in a healthy honest way and in peace as i work day to day…..It is great to be treated as a worthy citizen like everybody else enriched by the multiculture and arts and agriculture technology and deep historical works and beautiful nature and stable economy despite the wrong attacks against the country. by sanctions…
I learn the language on my own building one the basics …when shopping and with the music texts to help also when singing the pop music by Grigory Leps and Valeri Meladze.
hello, wish to teach english in russia, have 2 year AAS energy technical specialist in ethanol/plant operation, how can I do this as cheap as possible but do ok income wise when there and how much should i look for as a wage
how much cash i should exchange in travelex ??
(my 2 tennagers & I)
Very little, if you have yandex.taxi app on your phone and have a bank card linked to it. That would get you to your destination, and then you can either withdraw money from an ATM, or exchange dollars at the local bank. Otherwise, you would need about 2000-5000 roubles for a taxi ride and to buy water and munchies at the airport.
I do have the app already…ok great!
I did link the card yet …not knowing if its gonna work over there.
Thank you so much
they do accept my Chase debit card?
please answer me…
They do. But Chase blocked my debit card after a few transactions. My wife’s US bank debit card worked fine all the way to the end. Thus, it’s nice to have a few cards from different banks.
Yeah when you travel to a different country, you need to let your bank know or this will happen.
thank you so much …all the info you offering here is amazing, im going to Moscow next month, and you are solved all my concerns
thank you very much
Hi from Crimea!) Зашел в Американский Google и не могу понять, почему у Вас 100$=5230₽, а у нас 100$=5400₽?
Vern and Lara Lehman
My Russian wife and I are relocating to Krasnodar and we will be selling our house in America, then buy a house in that area of Russia. What in your thoughts to do about transfer of this large sum? First we take US Dollars to Russia on the airplane, we can easily prove the source if needed to Russian Customs in Moscow. Then we carry large sum of Dollars on AeroExpress to Metro and then on to perhaps Sberbank (New Arbatskaya) in Moscow and hopefully exchange. This is perhaps 15 millions Ruble if we take all our money for an entire lifetime! Not a small amount. Not without high risk also I would say. Perhaps consider another option, perhaps safer. Why not send to myself Moneygram through Internet from our American bank for no more than $9000, several times in one month, or week? This is allowed, and because I get lifetime pension in America, we will always have US Bank account which can be used for Moneygram or Western Union exchanges over Internet. This same method is our plan for getting pension each month. We are worried that transfer of large sum to Russian bank account is a mistake when already this year over 30 banks have failed without warning…and all deposited money is gone. It is the reason to not trust the banks.
It is not a problem that we can take up to $10,000 US Dollars into Russia, and I do understand we do declaration on the “red line” at Sheremetyevo. We plan to buy a car in Moscow, mostly because in general cars are less expensive and there is more selection in big cities. We can buy a good car for about $7,000 US (with some “torg”).
My wife has US drivers license as do I and of course she is also citizen of Russia so transfer of automobile registration is not a problem. My temporary resident status will not allow registration change. According to Russian law we both have 60 days after arrival to change drivers license to Russian Drivers License but of course we have to have residency first! This means we must buy a house as efficiently as possible. I am going on Homestay Visa and immediately will apply for temporary residency leading to permanent residency. The Visa process is understood. The large purchase exchange is the difficult part now.
In Krasnodar we again go to Sberbank or similar large bank and withdraw Rubles as I plan at about $9000 US Dollars each time? The rates on Moneygram are less than Western Union, the fee for withdraw in Rubles is no different than exchanging cash Dollars to Rubles. What I worry about is a limit of exchange each day. Perhaps we can go to several banks, and over time, but this is a lot of traveling about.
When we were in Gelendzhik where my wife is from, the ATM’s all had limits and the fees were high, even the bank ATM’s fees were high. Not from Russia side of ATM, but from American bank!! If memory serves me it was about 8 dollars each transaction and the ATM limit of Ruble was 4,500 on each transaction. On our honeymoon I rent a car and the fees using ATM cost us probably $60 dollars just for that one task. “Kashmal!” Now we have this large purchase and move to do and I am seeking the least expensive and safest way to do this. Any ideas? I have also looked into buying 5000 Ruble banknotes from a currency broker here in America, then simply carry it on the airplane and through Customs after red line declaration. To buy this amount is expensive (about $2,000 for every $100,000), but it is possible all in one step so perhaps this is better considering all the “hoops to jump” in Russia. As you are aware the bank services in your birth nation are not the easiest in the world to work with. Often slow, long lines, no smiles, and sometimes outright negative speech that I remember.
I would not advise you to move to Russia!) There is one deception and it is very hard to do business. Too much corruption and monopoly. You took a risky choice! Good luck to you!)
I join Adnreii in advising against this move – or, at least if you are determined to move to Russia, reconsider the convoluted procedure you are considering. In light of the present situation, at least you need to wait until that is resolved. The ruble is in the toilet, so you can get a very favorable exchange rate when trading resumes. Once sanctions have been lifted and the SWIFT system is working again, you will be able to do money transfers easily.
Don’t rush into buying a house. Rent first to be sure you like the location. Apartments are cheap in Russia compared to the US.