Bad Moscow experiences
A couple of bloggers write about their negative experiences – mostly with scams – in Moscow:
Aaron, at 110 Lines of Longitude encountered the "wad of bills" scam first hand:
Then the really bad thing happened. After taking the subway into central Moscow and wandering around Red Square and the surrounding neighbourhood for a while, I was in one of the underground crosswalks and became the target of two thieves. They tried to pull the "wad of bills" scam on me, but I had read about it previously in the Bryn Thomas guidebook and instantly knew what was going on.
I’d heard of this scam many times, but never directly heard of it actually happening to someone – only "a friend of a friend…" type reports. Happily, Aaron managed to quite comfortably talk his way out of trouble.
And, as Lovimoment discovered first hand, some Moscow taxi drivers will try anything on a couple of innocent looking foreigners. After first quoting them a ludicrously low price for the taxi ride from the airport, he turned around with an entirely new price once they arrived at the hotel:
He said, "No, I said 3,150,"* which is over $100. It was all the money we had on us. But it’s impossible to argue once you’ve already arrived at your destination, so we got a receipt and called the company. They’ve never had situation like this. We’re faxing them the receipt, and then we’re going back to the airport to find the guy.
Most Muscovites (and most Russians!) are honest, not to mention friendly. It’s just a shame that there are a few a*holes like this around who spoil things for everyone, and make people afraid to come to Russia. But, the thing is, Russia really isn’t that scary a place for most people, and certainly not for most tourists.
I’ve spent plenty of time there, and nobody has ever tried to scam me – and, trust me, I’m as gullible looking as they come. In fact, the only two times policemen have ever come up to me in the street requesting documents (once in Moscow and once in Irkutsk), they’ve glanced over my passport, handed it back, then saluted smartly. [Update: Actually, that’s not true – a baggage handler at one of the Moscow train stations did once try to pull one over one me. See the comments section for details, if you really want to know…]