If you visit Russia on holiday you will need the Russian rouble – or ruble, as it is sometimes spelled – to get by. This decimal currency is subdivided into 100 kopecks, which can also be spelled kopeks or copecks.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
Coins are available in both kopecks and roubles. The kopecks are denominated in 10 and 50 kopeck amounts, although you may also see one and five kopeck coins. These are rarer however and aren’t used very much at all now. The roubles are available as 1, 2, 5, and 10 rouble coins.
As for the banknotes, some of these are also rarely used although it may not be the ones you think. Quite often it is the largest denominated banknotes that are rarely seen, and this is the case with one note in Russia – the 5,000 roubles note. However you may not see the 5 or the 10 rouble notes very much either. The ones you will see and use are the 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 roubles notes.
From past to present – the history of the Russian rouble
Russia has used the rouble for hundreds of years. Of course things have changed in this part of the world and this applies just as much to the currency as to anything else.
For example the original version of the rouble was made of silver. However the amount of silver used to make each coin eventually changed and eventually they changed to be made of platinum in 1828. At one point the currency was valued against silver alone but this then changed so it was valued against both silver and gold.
The early years of the 20th century were not kind to the rouble. World War I led to a drop in value, and when the war was over the rouble then suffered through hyper-inflation. This continued into the 1920s.
No fewer than three new incarnations of the rouble occurred between 1922 and 1924, although coins were only minted for the third of these as inflation meant it was foolhardy to do the same for the previous two incarnations. The third of the new versions of the rouble survived until 1947, when the next version of it came in. If you are keeping count this was the fifth version. But there is more to come!
The sixth version of the Russian currency managed to last through until 1961 and its replacement stayed in place for more than 30 years until 1997. During this time the world said goodbye to the Soviet Union and welcomed the Russian Federation instead, more commonly called Russia for simplicity.
The country has certainly been affected badly by inflation throughout the most recent decades. The country is now using the 7th version of the rouble, which was re-denominated in 1998. Rumours have abounded in the early years of the 21st century that we might see an 8th rouble but this has yet to occur.
How to get hold of Russian roubles
There are many times while staying in Russia that you will use cash to pay for smaller purchases of various kinds. Make sure you are always well prepared for this. To this end it is useful to buy a little foreign currency for Russia before you leave home. You can do this by comparing the rates offered by various bureaux de change. Be wary of ones that say they do not charge for purchases – they typically have less advantageous exchange rates and hide their charges in there. Always compare like for like to get the best deals.
You can easily get more roubles when you arrive in Russia as well. The best way to do this is by using one of the cash machines you will find in cities, towns and other locations. Always alert your bank and/or card provider before leaving home so they don’t suspect your transactions are fraudulent. This could leave you without the means to get cash or pay for anything while you are in Russia.
Some people are nervous of using credit cards to pay for anything in Russia. As always you should exercise caution and never lose sight of your card while paying for something. In addition Russia is a cash friendly society so you may be happier using cash anyway. One final point – if you are nervous of using your credit card, stick to using it in well-known places and venues that are well regarded, just to be on the safe side.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Russian rouble
Just use an online currency converter or an app providing this facility on your smart phone if you have one. The main thing to remember is that the figures will be the basic conversion rates. They will not be the same as the conversions offered by bureaux de change. However it does give you a basic idea of how many roubles you can get for one unit of your own currency.
For more important information regarding travelling to Russia you can visit the official website for the Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom of Great Britain (phew!). The website is available at http://www.rusemb.org.uk/.
Travelling safely with Russian roubles
As is the case with most countries, it is always best to check the latest travel advice and situation regarding Russia before you book anything and also before you leave home. In the case of Russia there can be areas which you are not recommended to go to.
For the most part tourists do not experience any problems when visiting well-known tourist areas and sites, but it is wise to be alert for any potential problems. In many cases the same advice would apply in much the same way as it would even at home. Protect and shield your bank card when you are withdrawing cash from a cash machine. Keep your belongings safely by your side at all times and don’t flaunt a lot of cash or expensive jewellery in public. Some pickpockets or thieves will find this just too hard to resist.
It is wise to keep your cash separated into different pockets and/or bags and wallets if you can. A money belt can also keep your cash – and other valuables – much safer than it might be otherwise. Sometimes you simply don’t know a pickpocket has stolen something from you until later on.
Beggars do tend to be prevalent in certain parts of Russia. It is best always to give them a wide berth even if they approach you directly. In addition to this you should politely decline anyone who wants to buy you a drink in a bar or restaurant. Sometimes people can spike the drinks and rob you.
This should not frighten you away from visiting Russia. However it is wise to know the risks and to take the appropriate steps to minimise them as much as possible.
Where to spend your roubles in Russia – and what to spend them on
Russia is an incredibly big country – in fact unless you take a closer look at it on a world map you may be surprised to discover just how big it is. It ranks as the biggest country in the entire world. As such it actually accounts for over 12% of the total land mass that is inhabited throughout the world. That’s quite something and it shows you how much you have to think about when it comes to paying a visit. You really need to explore the country in a virtual sense before you go there, as it is impossible to see even a fraction of it on a single trip.
The capital of Russia is Moscow, which is located in the far west of the country. This is the home of Saint Basil’s Cathedral. While the name may not be instantly familiar you would certainly recognise a picture of it as it is the cathedral with the hugely colourful spires. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also now a museum, located in the famous Red Square. This is also where you can see the Kremlin, which is the official home of the President of the country.
Of course the country has a lot more to offer aside from its capital city. St Petersburg also has some great sights for you to see, including Peter and Paul Fortress, the Winter Palace and much else besides. St Petersburg is located to the north of the capital itself and has many museums among its other attractions. One of the most unlikely is perhaps the Museum of Water! You will find many other attractions to help you wind down and take some time out of busily exploring the city too. These include the Summer Garden and the charming Grand Cascade at the majestic Peterhof Palace.
There are also many more rustic destinations to head for, such as Lake Baikal. Nothing much has changed here in thousands of years with regard to the scenery, and the best way to see it is to take a cruise on the lake so you can view it all from the water.
But if you want to see more and have a real experience at the same time that you will never forget, you should buy a ticket for the Trans-Siberian Railway. You have probably heard of this already. Well, it runs through much of Russia, stopping off at such areas as St Petersburg, Tumen and Omsk en route to the other side of Russia. You can see forests, mountains and much, much more when you travel on this railway, and it really is one of the major highlights of visiting Russia.
When you think about visiting such a large country you should consider all the options available to you long before you go. Where would you like to visit most and how long would you like to stay there for? You’ll need a fair few roubles to cater for all the souvenirs, street food and other purchases you will make while you are there. All in all you should have an exceptionally memorable time in Russia.