By car

If you managed to have driven in Rome or Athens before, then it's not that hard to get accustomed to Moscow traffic

High Traffic. Garden Ring. Moscow
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If you do use a car to arrive in Moscow, it can be very time consuming and stressful to get around. The street system was never designed to accommodate even a fraction of the exploding population of vehicles; the traffic jams on the Sadovoye Ring often do not clear between the morning and the evening rush hours. Most roadways are in a constant state of disastrous disrepair.

You will have to compete for every inch of space on the road (quite literally; the proper distance between the vehicles for a Muscovite is close to zero) with seasoned drivers in dented «Ladas» who know the tangle of the streets inside out and will not think twice before cutting you off at the first opportunity.

The drivers of the ubiquitous yellow «marshrutka» route taxis can seem to be nearly suicidal, and account for a significant percentage of all accidents, while buses stop, go and barge in and out of traffic at will, blissfully unaware of the surroundings. One bright spot is the relative dearth of the large 18-wheeler trucks on Moscow roads; they do ply the Ring Road, however.

High Traffic. Garden Ring. Moscow
pinterest button High Traffic. Garden Ring. Moscow   Strober, CC BY-SA 3.0

From time to time all traffic on major thoroughfares may be blocked by police to allow government officials to blow through unimpeded, sirens blaring.

Parking

Another problem is parking. There is very little of it. Even if there are cars parked, it doesn't mean its always legal; this would mean finding upon return a hefty fine (3000 rubles) or your car being towed («evacuated»). Park as soon as you can at a safe place (your hotel, for example) and use public transit.

Since December 2013, the parking is not free any longer everywhere within the Garden Ring. Expect to pay 80 rubles per hour for the parking within the Boulevard Ring and the district, 60 rubles/hour — between Boulevard Ring and Garden Ring. Payment is avaialble through SMS, mobile app or at rare parking columns (payment by credit card cannot be recommended so far, as numerous concerns on security of transactions recently arised). You have to pay for the full hour upfront, unused money will be sent back to your account in the app. The introduction of paid parking had immediate positive effect on traffic conditions: it got much easier to park in the city center without driving across the block again and again in search of a free parking lot.

Some useful hints

Don't try to cross the city during rush hours or you can be stuck for as long as 8 h in traffic jams. In the middle of the day it may take as long as 2-3 h to cross the city (and only 1 h by metro).

The safest and easiest time to drive, when the roads are relatively empty and you can reach your destination quite easily, are the following:

  • on weekends;
  • in July and August;
  • during first ten days of January (i.e. from January 1 to January 10, which is holiday time almost every year).

Traffic jam information Anyway, before planning the car trip in Moscow, it's always recommended to check one of the many traffic jam information websites. This way you can immediately see if it worth going by car or if it's better to use a metro. The most popular one is Yandex Probki.

Gas stations: BP, Lukoil, Gazpromneft, Rosneft gas stations all have good quality gasoline.