Trivia: Based on Forbes 2011, Moscow has the largest community of billionaires in the world.
Getting from DME to Mercure Arbat Moscow
A week before arriving in Moscow I started to research about airport transfers and found Welcome Taxi to be the cheapest for our traveling party of six (2600 RUB). Couldn’t find any bad reviews either so decided to place an reservation online.
Almost immediately I received an e-mail, confirming my booking. After realizing that I made a mistake with the date (booked 18th June instead of 15th June), I quickly e-mailed back to rectify the error. Within the hour I received the confirmation for the correct date and two days before arriving in Moscow a SMS with information about my driver’s name and mobile number was sent to my phone. So far so good.
As soon as we exited to the arrivals, I spotted a Mongolian-looking guy holding a placard with my name on it. He was Sergey, our taxi driver and I managed to communicate to him that I needed to find a Citibank ATM first. After checking with the information counter, we found out that there wasn’t any Citibank ATM at DME. With no other choice, I randomly picked one of the ATMs to withdraw some RUB (enough to pay for the taxi ride).
After exiting the airport, Sergey led us to where he parked the car.
Six of us and our bags fitted easily into the MPV and we were soon on our way to Moscow.
The traffic became worse after we entered the city proper and it took us close to 90 minutes to reach Mercure Arbat Moscow. We paid Sergey the agreed amount on arrival at our destination and I would recommend visitors to try out Welcome Taxi if they need taxi services in Moscow.
Mercure Arbat Moscow
In Moscow we would be staying at Mercure Arbat Moscow, which was opened earlier this year. Its location is excellent with Smolenskaya Metro station steps from its lobby and Arbat Street a few minutes’ walk away. The weekend rate was very reasonable at S$176 per night (even cheaper than our initial choice ibis Moscow Paveletskaya).
When we arrived at around 11am, the receptionist informed us that our rooms would only be ready from 2pm onwards and we could leave our bags at the hotel if we wished to. Disappointingly when we returned at 2pm, our rooms were still not ready.
The receptionist proactively gave us vouchers for drinks at the restaurant while we waited for the rooms. I wasn’t sure if this was a perk of being a Le Club Accor Platinum.
The restaurant seemed quite classy.
Our choice of drinks were limited to Russian champagne, beers and soft drinks. No prize for correctly guessing my order.
The wait wasn’t too bad though as we could connect to the free WiFi in the hotel. We discussed between ourselves where to go in the evening and got the receptionist to help us place a reservation for the tour at Bunker 42.
It was close to 3pm by the time we got the cards to our room and fortunately they were worth the wait.
It turned out that I was lucky enough to get a room with window.
The washroom was huge.
Meanwhile in the other rooms:-
Room 321 is irregularly shaped and I counted seven corners when I was inside.
Room 329 had an extra security feature and one needed to go through two doors to enter it.
Perfect for those who need to feel safe.
Despite the strange layout of some of the rooms, we were all very satisfied with them.
Arbat and environs
Dominating our hotel’s immediate vicinity is the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, famous for being one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters. Since it is a government building, we only dared to take photographs from across the road.
Right outside our hotel is an open-air market with seemingly fresh produce.
Arbat itself is a touristy street filled with cafes, street artists and souvenir shops. We walked through it several times; usually on our way to and from Red Square (~20+ minute walk).
We picked up a MTS SIM card (200 RUB) there; the purchase required a photocopy of one of our passports. In the end, we were not able to use up the value in the SIM card.
We also spent some time in Arbat’s numerous souvenir shops, hunting for things to bring back.
Considering Chinese tourists are the biggest spenders these days, it wasn’t surprising to find Russian salesperson able to converse in Mandarin.
We also popped by Moscow’s Hard Rock Cafe, located five minutes away from our hotel.
On our final day in Moscow, Lewis and I visited Arbat’s post office where he sent some postcards back to Singapore.
The postcards only arrived long after we reached Singapore.