A Traveler's Guide to Moscow

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"There are only two reasons to come here, "says one Western businessman, "to have a fun and get rich."

"Don't be shocked by the prices. In many places, the whole point is to spend as much money as possible to show what a big shot you are."

t may come as a surprise to many to learn that Moscow is one of the world's great cities. It certainly did to me. I think that, like many people, I envisioned a city that was a cross between Beirut and ... well, I don't

know what. Having never previously visited a post-communist city, particularly one that had the reputation for rampant crime and shoddy Stalinist architecture enjoyed by Moscow.

Night Life

Moscow's night life is of epic proportions, and people don't really start rocking until midnight and seldom stop before sunup.

One thing to bear in mind: Many nightclubs, casinos and bars cater mainly to the Russian mafia. So don't go unless you're with someone who's known there; then everything will be fine.

Casino Royale

The city's most elegant casino and a favorite among serious players

Hotels

The following hotels are mix of Moscow's best, from inexpensive to luxury. All provide Western-style accommodations and amenities.

Hotel Baltschug Kempinski

Few urban hotels anywhere can top the view. Five-star European comfort and service. Rooms: $384-420.

Making The Most Of Moscow

-Arriving: If possible, arrange to have someone meet you with a car when you land at Sheremetivo Airport. Upon arrival you will be handed a customs form. Do not lose this: you'll be expected to turn it in along with a new one when you depart.

-Visas: The Russians remain very strict about visas. Be sure that all your dates coincide with those on your visa.

-Getting Oriented: Moscow is one of the most confusion cities in the world to navigate.

-Taxis: Moscow's taxi system is a free-for-all, and out-of-towners will be taken shocking advantage of if they don't know the score. Fares are agreed upon before you get in. The best bet is to hire a car and driver for your stay.

-Money: Many places take rubles instead of hard currency, but the $ is quickly becoming Russia's unofficial currency. So it's good to carry some greenbacks.

Restaurants

Since the Soviet Union crumbled, Moscow has seen an explosion of restaurants purveying international cuisine. Most that cater to Western visitors, generally the more expensive ones, are relatively safe and clean, though quality varies.

Golden Ostap

A traditional Georgian restaurant that also offers a little blackjack and roulette.

McDonald's

All location of this American icon are unbelievably popular.

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