Train surfing and rooftopping in Moscow

Train surfing and rooftopping in Moscow

Rooftopping and train surfing are huge trends on Instagram, particularly in Russia. I had always wanted to try this so when I saw £65 direct return flights from Manchester to Moscow I knew I had to go.

The only downside was the cost of a visa but I didn’t let this stop me. Many Central and South American countries don’t need a Russian visa for up to 90 days in but UK passport holders do.

Getting the tourist visa

This was straightforward. I went to the Russian Visa Application Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s located in a small office and took less than 10 minutes to hand in the documents. The staff working there didn’t speak the best English and it’s closed on Russian holidays but open on UK bank holidays.

Visa information is here: http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/tourist.html

What you need:

– Completed application form
– Passport
– One passport size photo of yourself
– “Tourist Voucher” or “Visa Invitation” – this is the most important document. This is a document written in Russian and stamped by a sponsor.

I got my visa invitation from the hostel I stayed at – Godzillas Hostel. I filled out an online form on their website and they emailed me a stamped scan of the document which I printed out. The hostel charged $30 for this.

They take fingerprints at the application centre. The price for the visa was £70 with an additional £38.40 processing fee and £11 for secure postage to my address.

I received my passport in the post in under 2 weeks.

Arriving

I went in June. The weather was ok, there was light rain and I had to wear a hoody.

English isn’t widely spoken in Moscow and the signs were all in Russian but the ticket machines at the metro were in English and buying tickets was simple.

The metro is really clean and pretty, it even has chandeliers in some stations.

Moscow Metro Station
Moscow Metro Station

If you’re used to metro systems then even without knowing the cyrillic alphabet you can navigate it.

Moscow
Moscow

Where to stay

I took my sister along on this adventure. We stayed at Godzillas hostel. It was centrally located and we had a 2 bed room. The hostel was very quiet and the staff were helpful and spoke fluent English.

They only took cash but there were cash points (ATMs) everywhere in Moscow. While they weren’t in English, they were easy to follow.

Rooftopping

I’m a huge fan of rooftopping and urban exploring. I follow a few roofers on Instagram and made contact before going to Moscow. They offered to take us with them.

The laws and security are a lot more relaxed in Russia than in the UK. Many of the buildings we visited didn’t have alarms. In order to go rooftopping in Moscow you have to know people to show you.

The first building was a residential block. We took the lift up and then climbed through the roof to get out on top. Unfortunately we got kicked off it by some angry people who lived there.

Rooftopping in Moscow
First rooftop
First rooftop while rooftopping in Moscow
Picture from the first rooftop

The second building was the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building. It’s one of seven gothic Stalin style skyscrapers in Moscow.

We took a bottle of wine up with us and chatted with the Russians about life in Moscow.

Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building
Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building
View from the mid-section rooftopping in Moscow
View from the mid-section

Me rooftopping in Moscow

Starting to get dark rooftopping in Moscow
Starting to get dark

We weren’t able to climb all the way to the top as there was a huge bolt on the top window.

Rooftopping in Moscow

The third building was the Russian Academy of Science. We got here as the sun was starting to set.

Russian Academy of Science
Russian Academy of Science

Views of Moscow as the sun went down rooftopping

Views of Moscow as the sun went down
Views of Moscow as the sun went down

Train surfing

Because of the construction on some of the trains, it’s possible to place your feet on ledges and ride the outside of the train from one station to another.

Train surfing has become such a trend in Moscow that the Russian Interior Ministry launched a “safe selfie” campaign to urge people to take care when taking selfies.

"safe selfie" campaign posters from the Russian government
“Safe selfie” campaign poster from the Russian government

This poster was put up everywhere, along with leaflets and videos.

I was cautious about train surfing as it’s dangerous and I was in Russia. But I decided to give it a go as you only live once. There is less security on Moscow’s metro system compared to the London Underground. London has cameras everywhere so knew I wouldn’t have a chance back home.

Train surfing Moscow underground
Train surfing Moscow underground

We hurried on to the back of the carriage and clung on as the train went through the dark tunnels. It was really exciting.

Clubbing

When you think Moscow, you probably think glamorous clubs filled with models.

We would have gone clubbing but we only took backpacks and I hadn’t packed high heels. In Moscow you have to dress up for the clubs like Gypsy. High heels are a must for the ladies. Next time!

Red Square

Apart from rooftopping and train surfing, the Red Square can’t be missed. This is home to the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s mausoleum. The Red Square is massive and amazing to see in real life.

The Russian Kremlin
The Russian Kremlin
Moscow State Historical Museum
Moscow State Historical Museum in the Red Square
St Basil's Cathedral Moscow
St Basil’s Cathedral Moscow
St Basil's Cathedral Moscow
St Basil’s Cathedral Moscow

I learnt that I look Russian and people asking me in Russian to take their photos.

Me outside St Basil's Cathedral
Me outside St Basil’s Cathedral

Vodka

We also had plenty of stops for vodka on this trip. The waiting staff in some of the bars didn’t speak English so we did a lot of pointing. Luckily we were able to work out it was two for one on cocktails.

Fireworks

On Friday night there was an amazing firework display in the Red Square. The whole section was cornered off but we got close enough to see it.

Fireworks over Red Square
Fireworks over the Red Square
My sister - Fireworks over Red Square
My sister – Fireworks over the Red Square

Overall

I had a great time in Moscow. I met some really awesome people through Instagram.  It was great to talk with locals and learn more about the train surfing and rooftopping culture in Russia.

There’s been a lot of media attention on train surfing and rooftopping due to the deaths of young Russians doing such things.

Why do they do it?

The simple answer is – it’s something to do and it’s free.

The people I met in Moscow were all in their early 20s and in low paid jobs. Exploring buildings and looking for open doors is exciting. Buying a cheap bottle of wine and drinking it on a rooftop is a lot cheaper than in a bar. If you’re drinking in public places in Moscow the police move you on. On a rooftop no one sees you.

Train surfing – some do this to save money. Trains are expensive and if you can ride on the outside for free it seems a good idea to some. Plus, it was really fun. Stupid but fun.

Instagram and social media are also big factors. People use social media to meet up, like I did. It forms a community and gets people together with the same interests.

Next time I visit I will combine a trip to Moscow with St Petersburg in order to make the most of a Russian visa. But I’ll buy a train ticket for Moscow to St Petersburg, I won’t train surf that 😉

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