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For visitors to Moscow who don't speak or read Russian, the Metro can be very intimidating at first, but like many things, once you get past the initial intimidation, it proves to be quite simple. The first step in mastering the Metro system is to familiarize yourself with the basic layout of the stations, and where they are located. The following link New 2013 Metro map, Art-Lebedev has a printable version of a Metro map, with the station names in both English and Russian. This map is the latest, greatest design, and now shows a more anatomically correct view of the Metro, including how the stations actually line up with real "landmarks". A good idea would be to print this page out (be sure to print it in color - as you will see later, colors are important here) and keep it with you while traveling the Metro. Most hotels, restaurants and tourist sites in Moscow will identify the nearest Metro station, as a part of their typical visitor information. Even if you can't read Russian, having the Russian names on the map, will help you identify with greater certainty, which station you are in, at any point in time.
Better still, if you have an iPhone/iPad or an Android device, install free Yandex.Metro app - you will get a very convenient bilingual metro map which can even build connection routes for you and estimate travel times! As for Aug 6, 2013 the Android app seems to be in Russian only but they will hopefully fix that in the future.
Hours of operation: The Metro is closed for maintenance between 1 a.m. and 5.30 a.m.
People with disabilities: For people with disabilities, the stairs can be a formidable barrier to moving within the Metro system. With some exceptions, there are generally no escalators (but plenty of stairs) available to move between platforms on different levels and there are generally at least one or two flights of stairs just to get from the street level to the Metro entrance. There are no lifts anywhere in the system, and many stations still do not have wheelchair/stroller ramps on the stairways.
Entering the Station - Note that the advice and instructions in this page are generally correct for the majority of stations, but each station is unique, so some do not fit the descriptions precisely, but most of the variations from this general norm are slight and should not present a problem. From the street level, you will usually be able to identify a Metro station by the large, red "M" displayed prominently near the entrance. The display is more prominent in some locations than others, but it's almost always there somewhere. From the street entrance, you will typically walk down one or two flights of steps into an underground corridor. This is more true in the city center than in the outlying areas, where some of the platforms are actually above ground. In the underground corridor, along with a variety of shops and kiosks, you will typically find two sets of glass doors, one set of doors with red signs on them (saying, in Russian, "No Entry" or "Нет Входа") and the other with blue signs on them (saying, in Russian, "Entrance to Metro" or "Вход в Метро"). Note, if your computer is not set to display Cyrillic characters, the Russian words in this page may not properly display and will simply appear as nonsense. To enter the Metro, you will need to use the doors with the blue entry signs. Once inside, you should look for the ticket booth,which will have the word "KACCA" displayed on it. Another thing you may wish to do before entering, is to look for the large, city Metro map, which is always displayed somewhere in the hall where the KACCA is located, just to get your bearings. These maps are very good representations, which show you the Metro system in a more correct context than most Metro maps, and show the stations in relation to the actual geography of the city. On the other hand, however, these maps don't include street details, so are only useful for getting a general overview.
Buying your Ticket - At the KACCA, you can purchase a Metro ticket without speaking a single word of Russian. Simply hold up the number of fingers you need, representing the number of "rides" you want. There is always a price list posted in the window by the cashier. It is typically on a letter-size (A4, not American letter size) piece of white paper and the type is small, but you will be able to see that it has a list of prices for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 or 60 rides, and a bunch of other info (there are a number of different ticket combinations, most of which are irrelevant to the visiting tourist). As at 30 April 2013, the price for a single ride ticket was 30 rubles, for a 2 ride ticket 60 rubles. Each person in your party does not necessarily have to have a separate ticket. If there are two of you, you can each ride 5 times, on a 10 ride ticket. So, simply step up to the cashier and hold up ten (or five or one) fingers, and put your money down. The cashier will give you a card, which serves as your ticket. The cashier will also make change, if you don't have exact change.
Getting to the Platform - From the KACCA, you should be able to see the entry gates to the Metro. Most of these look like a series of turnstile entries, but there are no turnstiles. There will simply be a row of card readers, with little "gates" between them. Some, like the recently refurbished Mayakovskaya station have futuristic glass panels that will open up for you, once your card is read. Most, however, have no apparent barrier, until you try to step through without scanning your card, at which point the mechanical gates will slam shut. So hold your card near the round, yellow sensor on the card reader, and when the round red light changes to a green number, proceed quckly through the gate. The displayed number tells you how many more rides you have left on your card, minus the ride you just used up. So if you are using a brand new 10-ride card the turnstile will read "9". This is normal. If you have more than one person traveling on a single card, just hand the card back to the next person and let them come through, and so on. There is nothing wrong with this, and it is a perfectly acceptable practice, since each time the card is scanned, you are using up one of your rides. After passing through the gates, you will typically approach an escalator, which will (at least in the city center) take you deep down underground to a platform. The escalator will typically unload you directly onto, or within sight of the train platform. Upon stepping off the escalator, there will usually be a sign overhead which identifies the line for that platform and tells you which side of the platform to go to, for each of the stations on that line. Example of such a sign in the Prospect Mira station:
Note: the large "1" and "2" are "track numbers" having no practical importance, don't confuse them with line numbers!
This is where having a pocket map that has the station names in both English and Russian is helpful, since the sign will be in Russian only, and you may know that you want to go to the Kitai Gorod station, for example, but without such a map, you may not know what the words "Kitai Gorod" look like in Russian ("Китай Город"). At any rate, once you have decided which side of the platform you need, simply proceed to that side and wait for your train. During the daytime hours, trains usually come along about once per minute in the center. On weekends, in the evenings, and in some of the outlying areas, wait times can be a bit longer, although typically no more than 3 minutes or so.
Entering the Train - When your train arrives and stops, people will begin crowding around the doors to make their entry, once the exiting passengers have cleared out. Actually, sometimes they start getting on before the exiting passengers have cleared out - but anyway, don't be shy. During heavy traffic periods, personal space is not a thing that's terribly important in this situation, so just bunch in close and nudge, shuffle and push your way onto the train. Do make sure you get out of the way once the doors begin to close. They slam shut with considerable force. Of course, if you are riding during a low-traffic period, the pushing is much less prevalent, and you can usually simply just walk on. If you are riding during rush hour, you may simply be able to plant yourself in the crowd and let it carry you onto the train. There will be people pushing you (and everyone else) from behind, sometimes quite aggressively, so be prepared for that. Once on the train, either take a seat or stand near a spot where you can hang onto a handrail. The train does a fair amount of "jostling" around as it travels, so you will need something to help keep your balance as you ride.
Traveling Station-to-Station - If you don't read or understand Russian, it is a good idea to check your Metro map, and count the number of stops you need to travel from your starting point. Inside each car, near each door, there will be a Metro map posted on the wall of the car. These maps normally have the station names written in Russian and in English. Also, each train has a schematic of the particular line on which that train runs, with all the stations for that line listed, in sequential order, in both English and Russian. Station announcements are made for each stop, but only in Russian, and each station has signs identifying it, but they are in Russian and can be difficult to see from inside the train. If you need to make a transfer from one line to another, you will typically exit the train, walk out onto the platform and then look for signs that indicate which direction to go for the particular line you need. Those signs are color-coded and pretty easy to spot and follow, as long as you know the color of the line you are on and the color of line to which you want to transfer. In other words, if you know that you are arriving at Prospect Mira on the Orange line, and you want to transfer to the Brown (Circle) line, you can step off the train, walk into the central platform area and look overhead for a sign which shows a brown bar, with "Walkway to the Circle Line" written on it (in Russian, of course, it's "ПЕРЕХОД НА КОЛЬЦЕВУЮ ЛИНИЮ") and has an arrow pointing the direction you need to go. Example:
Note that this particular sign also has a black arrow pointing in the opposite direction (left), indicating the nearest exit to the city, which will take you to the surface, in this particular instance, at Prospect Mira and the Olympic Sports Complex. In this case, however, in order to go to the Brown or "Circle" line, you need to go to the right, as indicated by the arrow on the brown-colored bar. Note that each line on the Metro has its own number as well. The Brown (Circle) line is number 5, as indicated on the sign above. Knowing these numbers, or having a map that indicates the numbers, can also be helpful.
One word of warning about the color-coding - Sometimes the colors on the signs in the platform area are not "spot on" with the colors on the maps, so it helps to know the name as well as the color, rather than trying to figure out whether the color bar on the sign, for example, is yellow vs. orange, or red vs. purple. In many stations, making a transfer will mean walking up or down one or more flights of stairs (sometimes an escalator) and through an underground walkway, or "Perehod" to the other station. And as noted before, as long as you don't "re-surface" you can change lines, trains and stations as many times as you want, without ever using another ride on your ticket. If you miss your stop, don't worry. Almost every station platform has access to trains going both directions on the line, so you can simply get off at the next stop and catch the next train going in the opposite direction, to take you to the correct stop - all without using another ride on your ticket. There are a few exceptions to this, however, so make sure that the car you switch to serves the same line you just got off.
Exiting the Station - Once you have arrived at your destination station, simply get off the train and look for the white sign, with black lettering, that says "Exit to City" (in Russian "Выход в Город"), and proceed to the escalator.
In some stations, there is only one way out, but in many there is an exit at each end of the platform. They will both bring you to the surface in the same general vicinity (although the surface exits may be separated by two or three city blocks), but it will be helpful if you know which street you need to come out to, as the exit signs usually list (in Russian) the major street or streets that are near each exit. For example, the sign above indicates that you will exit onto Prospect Mira, near the Olympic Sports Complex.