6 Reasons Why I Won’t Go Back to Moscow

The act of traveling can be challenging–you have to deal with a new language, geography, customs and currency, typically all at once.

I consider myself fairly well traveled and open-minded, but let’s face it, sometimes you visit a place and it just doesn’t resonate with you. Moscow was one of those places for me.

Here are 6 reasons why I won’t be going back to Moscow anytime soon.

1) The language is really tricky

Russia follows the Cyrillic Alphabet, which was invented during the Byzantine Empire back in the 10th century. That means, a long time ago.

When words are pronounced, your brain can process the auditory sounds and even picture the word, but when you walk around the city all the signs are in Cyrillic, leaving you lost in a sea of backward R’s (я). This makes finding anything frustrating, especially for the newcomer.

Trying to decipher Russian train schedules isn’t as easy as you think. Photo author’s own.

2) Pubic transportation is complicated

The metro stations are worth seeing as a tourist attraction in themselves, but good luck if you actually want to get anywhere. You can find signs at the main platforms in Cyrillic, which is all well and good, but once you get on a train, none of the station stops have signs.

There are little maps you can follow along with on the trains, but if they malfunction you’re on your own.

Russian train stations can be even trickier to navigate. Photo author’s own.

3) Smiling is frowned upon

The friend I was traveling with said it perfectly: “When you smile here, people look at you like you’re an idiot.” Surprisingly, turning up the corners of my mouth to greet people was not the norm here, so I ended up walking around with a frown on my face.

Later, my friend pointed out that smiling too soon before you know a Russian person is considered obscene. You know what’s obscene in my opinion? When you smile at someone and you receive a scowl in return!

Why the long face? A sullen-looking woman at a Trans-siberian stop. Photo author’s own.

4) Drunk in the day is normal

It had to be two in the afternoon when some friends of the hostel owner where I was staying decided to break out a bottle of whiskey and drink in the reception area. I understand culture is culture, but it doesn’t instill confidence when you’re a traveler arriving for the first time at a hostel and it reeks of booze.

Russian vodka—always on tap! Photo by Andreika

5) The forecast: somber with a chance of depressing

I arrived in mid-September, which in many places is still Indian summer. Not so in Moscow. I encountered endless gray days splattered among gray or brown buildings, and chilly winds that cut through any coat not made of goose down or heavy wool. It was so cold, I really thought my skin would fall off.

Any inspiring architecture was minimal, and coupled with the language challenges and the ‘no smiling’ policy, I found the overall culture to be somber and unwelcoming.

Winter in Moscow might look pretty but it gets old fast. Photo by SergeyRod

6) Getting lost is not fun

Many travel blogs recommend that you get lost on purpose because doing this can open the door to wonderful discoveries. At one point during the trip I had to rush and pick up train tickets before the travel company’s office closed by 6 p.m. It sounded easy until I ventured into an area that didn’t resemble anything close to where an office building might be located.

Endless apartment buildings spanned for blocks until out of nowhere, the office building finally revealed itself. I arrived heaving, sweating, grumpy and late. The layout of the city is nonsensical, which can cause a navigator to get lost without the fun factor and become very, very frustrated.

The streets are so confusing. I wonder if soldiers get lost too? Photo by tinau bao

Needless to say, I won’t be giving Moscow another try in the near future. Which foreign city did you try to like, but just couldn’t? Sound off in the comments below!

If you liked this, you might also like: 7 Paris Myths Debunked.

Note: Tripbase is respectful of all cultures and countries. We embrace the cultural differences that make traveling the world so fascinating. The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the Author based on her individual experiences and impressions.

Main image: Moscow Landscape by miss_ohara

10 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why I Won’t Go Back to Moscow”

  1. The only reason listed here approaching legitimate is the smiling issue. Complaints about not understanding the language or the transport system are a bit hardly critical, while griping about the weather is a joke! As to drinking culture, well that is Russia for you!

  2. Wow, what a negative experience you seem to have had. As I was reading I thought how often we have come across those kinds of situations while on our travels as a family, but yet how through the frustrations we usually manage to see them as an interesting, challenging and exciting part of the adventure. I know there are ‘easier’ and more fulfilling places to visit, but is there no value in experiences like these??

  3. Of course there’s value. The author just published an article which people are reading. She obviously got something out of the trip.

  4. I would like to go once to Moscow but for many of the reasons you stated in this article and I already knew, I am very reluctant to go. Crime is an other reason I could add.


  5. I don’t think the writer is beign unreasonable here. It’s just the way some places hit you, and the disclaimer at the start tells you she’s not a first time traveller.

    The beauty of being an individual is that not every place will make us want to put life on hold and stay forever. Personally I disliked Taiwan, (as a holiday destination), but know plenty who loved it.

  6. I have been to Moscow and my experience was okay. I liked the place, the city, the architecture but yes, language and the hostility of people really hit me.

    Also, Russians don’t oblige the travelers by taking pic. I was travelling all alone and at Red Square wanted to take some pictures so asked a few Russians to click my pics with my camera and they refused! Infact, many of them didnt even say a word. They just looked at me, frowned and moved on.

    Thats Russia for me. :)

  7. I personally don’t think the criticism of people not smiling is justified. In general terms, slavic people are less opened and cheerfull, I am like that myself, though not russian. But it is their character and I don’t think that this can be considered bad. When you do get to meet them better, they are kind and reliable people.
    For me the everlasting american smiling can be far more bothering, and it rarely looks genuine.


  8. The writer is just giving her truth and is expressing it in an organized, relatively articulate manner. I am heading to Moscow in a couple of months and found the post helpful.

    People who write in the tradition of Twain’s ‘Innocents Abroad’ need to be separated from the “ugly American” concept. This is meant to be partly humorous, and I’m sure the author would agree that much of the confusion came from her own ignorance of the culture (which all of us would have). Imagining someone from Moscow trying to navigate Pittsburgh is funny as well.

    One should also note that the words ‘I’ and ‘won’t go back’ in the title, rather than the words “Everyone” and “should not visit.”

  9. So interesting! BUT: All reasons is not true for Moscow and Saint-Petersburg first of all. Please visit our cities! You are welcome! ♥

  10. Being Russian living in Moscow, I find this description of the city rather biased and superficial. I’m not sure when this text was written but today’s Moscow doesn’t deserve such negative stereotypical description. It’s a big modern metropolis, very busy and full of life.
    1) the language? Lots of people who come here are excited to learn new ways to communicate. I agree there are not enough signs in English, though
    2) the public transport system here is less comlicated than in many other big capitals, London for example.
    3) Not smiling too much or being reserved with strangers is a cultural characteristic. However, most people are polite and considerate. They act much warner and more relaxed when they get to know you.
    4)The weather. We never have snow in September. The photes must have been taken in late February – early March. From May to October the weather is actually nice and mild. It’s warmer than in other Northern European countries.
    5) You never see drunk people during the day in Moscow, especially in the central part. There are homeless or misfortunate individualls in everywhere but it is not norm in a busy city like Moscow.
    6) Getting lost is not fun anywhere. Moscow is huge. It’s got wonderful historic districts. It’s clean too. There are ugly housing developments in the outskirts as well, but most big cities have them.

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