Days 491 – 501 Moscow (Russia) / motorbike GS Dakar RTW overland adventure traveller

  • Left – 
  • 8th – 18th August 2015
  • Miles rode – 48 (77km)

Moscow in August is sunny, hot and empty as many Russians take a holiday, others have weekend homes outside of Moscow, which means it’s the perfect time to be here.

The first thing any visitor to Russia has to do is register their visa, if you’re staying at a hotel the hotel do this for you. If you are staying at a private apartment the person you are staying with has to do this by visiting a post office within 7 working days and completing a detailed form which is sent to the immigration office. The process takes about an hour and costs £3.

Having completed the registration I’m now free to enjoy Moscow.

I love central Moscow, it’s so easy and cheap to get around, the metro costs only 25 pence per journey, anywhere. Having seen the Kremlin and ‘Red Square’ on my first evening over the following couple of weeks we both explored Moscow and I experienced the ‘non tourist Moscow lifestyle’ too. The ‘Ministry of Defense’ building on the northern bank of the River Moskva is huge, pure soviet architecture, wonderful, on the opposite side of the river is Gorky Park where on a sunny Saturday afternoon it’s alive with so many people enjoying themselves in so many ways, from sun bathing, boating on the lake, dancing to london DJ’s at a small arena to eating lovely food.

The beautiful people of Moscow like the night life, there are so many bars, wow beautiful is an understatement for some Russian women! Stunning!

We visited Maria’s mum a few times in her central Moscow apartment which gave me a great insite into everyday life here, lovely traditional food and interesting conversation.

I met Max from Moscow in Nepal & Myanmar so to now meet up in his home city was great. Max helped me out with my bike storage once I got it out of the airport, and of course we shared a few beers.

Moscow is like no other city I’ve been to, parts of Moscow are beautiful but parts are not. I find the mass of soviet buildings so interesting at times and so dull at other times. There are wonderful examples of architecture from this period but also buildings that look uninspiring and depressing too. The mass bombing of Moscow in the 2nd World War left the city devastated and the construction after was in the main not inspiring. The suburbs are 95% 1950’s & 60’s apartment blocks whilst central Moscow has many imposing buildings from the Stalin and pre-Revolution era.

The Russian economy is currently depressed which means it’s a great time to visit and get a great exchange rate. Prices vary but generally it cheaper than England, you can buy a cheap beer or visit a modern bar in a designer district and pay £6 for a drink. Out on the streets there are more flash, expensive cars than I’ve seen in any other city, Moscow is currently having a ‘street makeover’ with new roads, paths, kerbs and street furniture, this is needed as many roads and paths are dangerous with pot holes. Moscow is so diverse, a Ferrari passes with a beautiful woman wearing the latest designer clothes straight off the Paris ‘cat walk’, she’s being taken to a designer restaurant whilst an old woman dressed in old traditional clothes slowly walks home with her plastic bags of cheap food (a loaf of bread is 30 pence).

Moscow is everything all at once, and it works well, everybody getting on with their life, everybody comfortable with everyone else. Moscow feels very safe, safer than many other cities I’ve been to and virtually no police.

My bike arrived after a week and it took me 6 1/2 hours and a £110 bribe to get it through customs. An interesting day. It was great riding into Moscow, so different to Australia with some cars speeding and generally not as orderly with cars swerving and changing lane aggressively. I’ll have to be more aware whilst riding here I thought. The cars and even a bus were so much more helpful and aware of bikes, they moved over as I passed in traffic, how refreshing.

The suburbs were a mass of apartment blocks, I’ve haven’t seen so many in any city before, however there was a lot of green space and it didn’t feel bleak & depressing as I thought it might.

Having negotiated Moscow traffic in the evening I headed into the suburbs again, this time to visit Max who’s friend owns a great car & motorbike workshop. They kindly let me keep my bike there whilst I stayed in the city. All over the world men have workshops where cars, motorbikes are repaired, serviced and customised, the only difference here is that one guy had brought an army ATV that was armour plated and weighed over 7 tons, it was road legal!

I spent nearly two weeks in Moscow and every day I liked it more and more, unlike other cities that are ‘in your face’ with beutful architecture around every corner, neon signs advertising everything and English spoken by everyone, Moscow is far more challenging, hardly anyone speaks English and at times with dull 1950’s architecture you can wonder what the attraction is. However (and I was so lucky that I had Maria to show me around) if you look beyond the sometimes ordinary exterior, inside so many places are beautiful & vibrant spaces where people are having a great time. Dive down into the beautiful 1930’s Metro, walk around and take in some beautiful architecture (huge dominating buildings are everywhere), whilst you’re getting to know Moscow you’ll discover there is hardly any advertising which is so refreshing.

Whilst Moscow is so big you can find really intimate, cool, urban experiences, I went to a Jazz festival which could have been in a small park in central London.

Moscow is a free city, I saw no bears or signs of the mafia!

One of the other great things is there are virtually no foreign tourists! Great, I love it. What this means is you get an authentic feel of the city, visit London or any other major city centre and it has no resemblance to real life, it’s just tourists doing touristy things.

Visit Moscow and have a different experience, take time to look closely at what’s going on inside buildings, go inside and be the only tourist there.

Oh, did I mention I love caviar.

Moscow has without doubt the most beautiful women in the world (I must visit some more cities to complete my research).

My experience of shipping (airfreight) Sydney – Moscow;

I was recommended Christian Matzen by a friend and Christian, the owner was great from the first mail. We discussed options and if I made the crate as small as possible, purged the fuel system and disconected the battery (this means the bike is shipped as non-hazardous goods)  I would get the cheapest price. 

Matzen Cargo Pty Ltd, 54 Raymond Avenue, Matraville NSW 2036, Sydney – Direct Tel: +61-02-93167095 / Email:

Ray, the owner of Western Motorcycles in Penrith let me use his workshop for repairs and then gave me a crate and with the help of Dave we secured the Dakar inside having taken key parts off to reduce the size. The parts along with my riding gear were all secured inside the crate too.
Once crated Dave took the crate to Matzen’s warehouse in his flat bed truck, I paid the money and got the ‘waybill’ to take with my carnet to the Australian Customs at the airport. They stamped my carnet and I was free to get a flight to Moscow.

Prior to the bike arriving at Moscow Domodedovo Airport I contacted Alexander at ‘Standard Line’, a customs broker and the day after the bike arrived I met Andrey there. It took 6 1/2 hours before I was free to ride in Russia. It would have been very difficult to do everything myself as nobody spoke English, having said that it could be done but it may take a few days and incur warehousing cost? 

Standard Line, +7 (916) 206-30-71 / ‘’ 

If you want to try and do everything yourself; get a ‘passenger declaration form’ on-line from ‘’, available in English.

Andrey took me to the ‘Cargo Building’ at the airport (located just near the customs building), inside we went to windows 16 – 18 and handed over the waybill number (this will be on the paperwork your airfreight company mail you) & passport. After a few minutes I received the paperwork I require for the customs people.

Then we went to the customs building and at windows 18 / 19 I gave them the paperwork we just recieved from the cargo building / bike registration doc / copy passport / & the completed customs form (passenger declaration form if you do it yourself).

After 2 hours I accompanied a customs officer and we inspected the crate, everything was ok with bike but as I hadn’t itemised my luggage inside the crate (helmet, boots camping gear etc) there was a delay and I had to pay 3,500 rubles to the customs people and bribe an official with 11,000 rubles because of this error. I was told if I didn’t pay the bribe they could delay processing everything for days which would incur warehousing costs.

It took a few hours longer to get the final clearance from customs. Lastly go to the building next door and pay the ‘cargo handling fee’ of 6,500 rubles.

Andrey was so helpful and spent the whole 6 1/2 hours talking to people and getting everything sorted. Once everything was done he went off in a taxi to get me a couple of listers of petrol. I paid Andrey 22,000 rubles.

The costs are below;

  • Sydney – Matzen Cargo AUS$1,700 / Ratchet straps, tape & shrink rap AUS$50 = £875
  • Russia – Standard Line (customs broker) 22,000 rubles / customs 3,500 rubles / bribe 11,000 rubles / cargo handling 6,500 rubles = £430

TOTAL (August 2015 exchange rates);

  • £1,305
  • AUS$2,610
  • US$2,040
  • EURO 1,840                                           

6 Responses

  1. This reminds me of my days in Moscow in 2012. You describe it well, fantastic in the summer and the mix of wealth and poverty is an eye opener.
    You seem to take the culture of customs/border bribery in your stride – this is the best approach. It’s always tricky to assess when to refuse and when to just roll with it, and I guess you’ve had a lot of experience in getting that right with the minimum of stress. Getting my bike from South Africa into Zimbabwe at Beitbridge was my most first and most memorable customs experience, 5 hours and $150 bribes. I was pleased to escape that bureaucratic hell.
    Keep riding, I’m enjoying your adventure.

  2. Moscow is a free city Dan unless you want to protest about anything and then you’ll see the police arrive fairly quickly. It’s also free of tourists for good reason at the moment. I discovered today that a beer in central Kyiv costs about a £1 by the way.

  3. Hello Dan, we need a information (documents ) for custom services, where and when you leave Russia. Can you send me scan any one with custom s marks..

  4. I mean, where are you cross border ???? of Russian federation? And/or do you have any documents with stamp about it?

  5. Andry, i don’t have any documents to send you, all i have is the detail on my blog -