Cash exchange in Russia

Needless to say situations can be different.

For example, you’ve arrived to a small town where taxi drivers do not have the possibility to accept your bank card. The local airport has neither an exchange office nor wi-fi to confirm the official exchange rate but this scenario has a zero chance of happening.

Let’s see what exchanging currency peculiarities a traveler should bear in view in Russia.

1. Banknotes in perfect condition only are allowed to be exchanged. In case you offer the cashier the banknotes you have now in your wallet, it is highly likely only one out of ten-twenty banknotes will be accepted. One or two more will be accepted with retention of interest of the currency exchange rate (10-20%). The rest will be refused to exchange all together.
* The situation described above is quite rare in exchange services on the territory of big international airports but here you will have to deal with another peculiarity – the extortionate rate.
2. On holidays and at weekends the exchange rate increases, therefore the best time to exchange currency is on working days (from Monday to Friday) during business hours, moreover, the rate is normally lower in the morning and in the evening it tends to increase.
This is due to the internal work of banks which calculate the rate based on the currency market quotes. Trades on the currency market are held in the morning which is the basis for setting the official exchange rates by banks.
Which is why you may face a situation where in the same bank on Saturday you will get less rubles for 200 euros than you got for the same amount on Wednesday. It is not an intentional deception but an increased spread.
3. SBERBANK is the biggest bank in Russia.
This is THE bank which is not recommended for exchanging currency. It is the oldest bank of Russia where the service has remained at the level of the only bank of the USSR.
Aside from poor service and huge lines this bank has the least favorable exchange rate.
Logo of the SberBank, a large bank of Russia
4. What is the best bank to choose for exchanging currency?
Any other one.
Near subway stations or at the intersection of major avenues you can often see offices of several different banks. Some banks have outside panels displaying data on the current exchanging rate. A quite high percentage of Russia’s population regularly exchange currency that is why this service is provided in all banks.

You can see an example in the photo – 4 different banks have their branch offices in one block of flats.
5. Currency exchange services up to the amount of 40.000 rubles (little more than 600 euros) are permitted with no requirement to present a valid passport.

The photo shows a small bank branch office in one of the supermarket in St. Petersburg.

It goes without saying that the currency exchange process is fairly simple – we check the exchange rate, calculate the amount on the phone calculator, hold out the euros with a smile to the bank worker and get the rubles. However, the cashier sometimes may ask you for 20 rubles if the amount owed is 9980 rubles.
6. If you need to exchange rubles to euros, it is just as simple as it has been described above.
The only one nuance that has to be mentioned here is that if you buy 500 euros, you will be offered nothing else than a 500 euros bill. It is related to the rumors of the possible elimination of this banknote from use.
If you do not wish to buy a large denomination bill in a foreign country, buy the equivalent of 450 euros and then repeat the procedure in the same or in another bank. Cashiers recognize the situation even though they have their own work operating procedures. They are required to offer 500 euros bills above all others.
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