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Shopping for Expats in Russia

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: April 2014

Over the past twenty years, Russia has gradually become a shopping heaven. There are many opportunities to purchase speciality goods and large international brands, especially in larger cities such as; Moscow and Saint Peterborough.

Many well-known signature products come to mind when you think of Russia. One of these has to be the Matryoshkas - nest dolls. These can be bought for almost any souvenir shop but the quality can vary dramatically. If you would like to purchase a cheaper generic doll these can be found in the open markets, if you would like something more collectable it would be best to visit an upscale souvenir shop.

Other famous specialities to buy are vodka, Russian porcelains, and caviar. Many people are also interested in antiques or souvenirs with characteristics from Soviet times such as military badges, military knives and watches. However, you should note that some antiques are prohibited to be brought out of Russia.

Unless necessary, it is not recommended to buy international brands of make ups, perfumes, brand name clothes, shoes and other similar items as often these items will be more expensive in Russia.

Russia does not lack places to shop; there are plenty of markets and local shops for immediate needs and shopping centres, super stores and department stores for everything else. If you are new to Russia and you chose to shop in a local market, it is recommended to take someone that has previous experience with you. This is because some traders may take advantage of your lack of knowledge and over charge you. Haggling is also common when shopping in markets, if you ask for a discount it is likely you will receive one.

As Russia has an exchange control policy you should bring Roubles, the official currency, to shop. You can purchase Roubles in foreign exchange shops; it is illegal to change money unofficially. International cards are sometimes accepted, especially in larger hotels or foreign currency shops and restaurants. You can check with your card company to confirm if your cards will be accepted in Russia. You may also use your card in ATMs but try to avoid using ATMs in the metro or on the street, these ATMS may be corrupted and you risk losing your card details. Always use ATMs in large hotels or banks as these places are normally guarded.

Online shopping

Online shopping has become popular in Russia. Many big brands have their own websites which provide payment facilities and delivery services. You can buy what you want online from all over the world from sites such as Amazon and ebay but be aware that this is a form of importation and may trigger custom duties and VAT. Also some items may not be allowed to enter Russia.

Shopping hours 

There is generally no restriction on business hours. Shops can open seven days a week. Typical opening hours in a day are 8am to 10pm. Small shops may close at 6pm.



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