Russian money

Changing money in Russia can be like walking through a a minefield.  The process is easy enough but the rate you get, if you do not plan it carefully, means you get a very poor deal.  The exchange rate in this country is not much better either and you will often find credit cards give you a far better deal than paying in local currency, provided you use a card that does not add on extras like commission or fees for the privilege of being ripped off abroad.  The normal places to effect the exchange in Russia include banks, of which there are many, or one of the ubiquitous smaller bureaux de change, recognisable with the message 'ОБМЕН ВАЛЮТЫ' by the front door and displaying the current exchange rates for USD, EUR and, occasionally, GBP.

This strategy is far from perfect and cannot be guaranteed to get you a deal worth having but simple maths will tell you if it's worth trying: instead of buying roubles with sterling, try buying US dollars (USD) and/or euros (EUR) in the UK and taking those with you.  When you get to Russia, you'll find the exchange rate for either currency much, much closer to the quoted rate of the Central Bank of Russia than that of sterling, which can vary widely in terms of percentage deviation well into double figures and changing money twice can still be a better deal.  It's also far easier to find a bank or bureau de change that will sell you roubles if you have USD or EUR in your hot, sticky little hands, as not everywhere wants to deal in sterling, regardless of the fact that the UK is one of Russia's largest investment partners and has oodles of UK visitors swelling the coffers of the outrageously expensive hotels and restaurants in the larger cities, not to mention airport shopping, which, to my mind, constitutes legalised theft.  Caveat emptor.

For those of you with an ambition to dabble in currency-trading, there are two options for the amateur: firstly, you could change USD with the dubious-looking gentlemen that hang around outside some of the banks.  You'll get a much better rate but it's illegal, so be warned.  A better, (and legal strategy), is to look out for the occasional instance I have seen where you can buy currency from one bureau de change, then sell it straight back to another only 50 yards down the road - and make an instant profit.  How that works, I still don't understand fully, but it does...


The table below shows what I believe are the current versions of all banknotes, being legal tender, in circulation today.  There is contradictory information available regarding the 5,000 rouble note, with some sources stating it was first issued in 2004 and others giving 2006.

5 roubles (front)5 roubles (back)
10 roubles (front)10 roubles (back)
50 roubles (front)50 roubles (back)
100 roubles (front)100 roubles (back)
500 roubles (front)500 roubles (back)
1,000 roubles (front)1,000 roubles (back)
5,000 roubles (front)5,000 roubles (back)


  1. The 5 rouble note has been out of print for many years and is found in circulation only rarely.  It is, however, still legal tender,
  2. As of January 2010, the 10 rouble note is being replaced by a bimetallic coin,
  3. The 1,000 rouble note, initially issued on 1st January 2001, has undergone minor design changes over the years, as have all notes of lower denomination down to 10 roubles.  Shown here is the latest incarnation, first issued on 10th August 2010,
  4. The most valuable (5,000 rouble) note is not often seen in common circulation and is the original design, first issued on 31st July 2006.