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The Moscow metro, which opened in 1935, ranks among the world's finest public transportation systems. With more than 300 km (186 miles) of track, the Moscow metro carries an estimated 8 million passengers daily. Even though it scrapes by with inadequate state subsidies, the system continues to run efficiently, with trains every 50 seconds during rush hour. It leaves New Yorkers green with envy.

If you're not traveling with a tour group or if you haven't hired your own driver, taking the metro is the best way to get around the Russian capital. You'll be doing yourself a big favor and saving yourself a lot of frustration if you learn the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet well enough to be able to transliterate the names of the stations. This will come in especially handy at transfer points, where signs with long lists of the names of metro stations lead you from one major metro line to another. You should also be able to recognize the entrance and exit signs.

Pocket maps of the system are available at newspaper kiosks and sometimes from individual vendors at metro stations. Be sure that you obtain a map with English transliterations in addition to Cyrillic. If you can't find one, try any of the major hotels. Plan your route beforehand and have your destination written in Russian and its English transliteration to help you spot the station. As the train approaches each station, the station name will be announced over the train's public-address system; the name of the next station is given before the train starts off. Reminders of interchanges and transfers are also given. All trains have the transliterated names of stations on line maps, and newer trains have electronic displays next to the doors that show the names of all the stations on the line and the train's progress.

Stations are built deep underground (they were built to double as bomb shelters); the escalators are steep and run fast, so watch your step. If you use the metro during rush hour (8:30–10 am, 5–7 pm), be prepared for some pushing and shoving. In a crowded train, just before a station, you're likely to be asked, "Vy vykhódíte?" or whether you're getting off at the next station. If not, you're expected to move out of the way. Riders are expected to give up seats for senior citizens and small children.

Fares and Schedules

The metro is easy to use and amazingly inexpensive. Stations are marked with a large illuminated "M" sign and are open daily 5:30 am to 1 am. The fare is the same regardless of distance traveled, and there are many stations where lines connect and you may transfer for free. You purchase a magnetic smart card (available at all stations) for 1, 5, 10, 20, or more journeys and hold it near the yellow circle on the right side of the entry gate. Wait until you see the red light replaced by a green one, signaling that your card has registered, then walk through. A single ride costs 30R and discounts are available for multiple-journey cards—for instance, unlimited travel on the metro as well as on buses, trams, and trolleys within 24 hours for 200R, or 11 trips for 300R. You can purchase smart cards at any metro station.