1. GettTaxi and Uber
Download on the AppStore
This might seem very obvious. And that the years spent in our post-iPhone, all-connected world should've taught people that there's no cheaper, more convenient and frugal way to move about anywhere in the world without your own car than through mobile taxi apps. But yet I constantly hear questions like: "That Georgian guy at the airport said be would give us a special rate. We paid 4000 RUB. Is it a good price for a ride from Domodedovo?"
No it is not. The average price among dozens of Moscow taxi companies as of June 2016 is around 1000-1400 RUB sometimes depending of the airport you're going to.
The absolute leader in that competition is the GettTaxi service. Last time I checked it was only 800 RUB for the most simple type of a car. Uber follows right after it with the 900-1000 RUB tag. Both services have very easy to use mobile apps with understandable English-native user interfaces, which makes them the perfect choice for the English-speaking audience.
Both are American companies. So you don't only get a decent service for an amusingly low price, but also a slightly better sense of security during the ride. If any unpleasant moment were to happen with you while using a Russian taxi service, you would Never be able to prove anything afterwards. But with those two you'll almost certainly have a driver with a heightened sense of responsibility, especially before foreign guests. And a deep understanding that your potential grievances might actually be heard by someone.
The only caveat here is that local drivers sometimes tend to drop your order as soon as they see a foreign contact phone number. Since you're paying almost nothing, sometimes one call back to you might cost them even more than you're paying for the ride. So be patient. You might need to get through few of them before you finally find that brave one who'll take his chances. It doesn't mean that he'll call you though. He will just get to the address and hope that you'll find him. Eventually, it always works out.
2. Yandex Metro
Download on the AppStore
The second most common way of transportation for you will definitely be the Moscow metro. An amazing place to visit on its own even without a particular destination, it is also the most used type of public transport for locals. 5-7 million people use it every day, and you can immediately understand why the moment you get in. It's fast, it's clean and visually spectacular, trains come every 90 seconds on average, and there's free Wi-Fi now on almost every one of them.
But what's missing though, is its ability to properly cater to foreign tourists. There are still a lot of places inside the system where you can find yourself surrounded solely by Cyrillic symbols and Russian words.
And here's a great app to fix it. Even though, personally, I'm really not a fan of Yandex search engine. Evil Russian Google's doppelganger. But this is the situation where personal opinions don't matter much. As this is possibly the best app to navigate through the Moscow metro ever made so far.
A very detailed, fully translated map that will show you which station you're currently on (location services on your phone should be turned on for that), the shortest route between any two stations and a very close to real approximate time that trip is going to take. And will even aptly ask to update the map in case they added new stations while you were riding inside.
Note: Sometimes needs to be manually switched to the English interface in the settings.
Download on the AppStore
This is the app that will convince you that our gadgets can finally do something truly amazing besides rendering Bejeweled Blitz for us. And will make you feel like the age of Star Treck is already upon us.
The Word Lens app uses the camera on your phone to search for any text in the real world and replace it live on your screen with the same words but in the language of your choice. You don't even have to take any pictures. Like in a weird Sci-Fi movie, you just point you camera at some sign or inscription with with a distinguishably written font, and the words change right there in your viewfinder. You can even move around a little and change your viewing angle, the translation will still remain in place.
Apparently the company was bought by Google at some point, and the same function should now be available through your standard Goggle Translate app as well. But no matter how much I've tried, it's never worked there properly. So better download this app separately for better experience.
It also used to solicit some money for every pair of languages you were trying to use. But apparently, since that acquisition they've given them all for free.
A brief example of how it works. Two screen shots of my phone's screen through the regular camera app and through Word Lens:
See? Now I know that those are bananas. The day is saved!)
Note: Possible side effect of too active use of this app is looking to everyone around somewhere from slightly to utterly silly.
Download on the AppStore
It might never happen to you, and you should use it as a tool of the last resort. But if somehow it happened that the place you need to go to is too far from the metro, you've got stranded in the middle of wide Russian nowhere or just feel the urge to test all other types of local public transport aside from the metro, this is the best app to assist you in it.
Feel the superiority and power of European public transport over that in the western hemisphere. Turn your location services on, point at any, even the most desolate, spot on the map and find all the possible ways of getting there from where you are using every available means of transport and all their potential combinations.
In 95% of the cases you'll find at least something going there. Almost every single road and corner is covered here by at least one scruffy little minivan. You might not even always remember how did you get there, but thanks to this app, now you always know how to get out.
5. Afisha Restaurants
The last app here is very useful in theory. But it's on the bottom of this list because it's also very Russian. It might look befuddling at the first glance. Almost like not a single word has ever been even intended to be translated. And yet, let's try to squeeze at least 5% of its usefulness for ourselves. So stay with me.
The app is made by the publishers of one of the most read magazines in Russia about all things entertainment. All things including food. And there's an enourmous variety of it available here in Moscow. Different styles, different cuisines and price tags. There are so many diners and restaurants that at times it might feel a bit overwhelming. And even bigger issue is not being able to find the kind of food you really want in all that jumble. I could tell you about at least a hundred Japanese, ten Italian and five French places around you right off the top of my head if you asked me. But it is sometimes tricky to find a Russian place in Russia. Or even rarer - a vegeterian one, for example.
This app is the ultimate guide to the endless sea of food establishments in Moscow that has almost every single one of them in its database with all of the nesessary information about them, location on the map and the propper classification by categories.
The last one is what you mostly need it for. It looks like just a bunch of hieroglyphs when you fist open it. But if you tap the seach icon (little zooming glass in the top right corner), it all boils down to the list of 13 different categories.
Here's the translation of that list:
1) Most Recommended
2) Italian Cuisine
3) Russian Cuisine
4) Japanese Cuisine
5) American Cuisine
6) Georgian Cuisine
7) Vegetarian Menu
9) Fast Food
12) Children's Menu
13) Wine Bars
If you tap on any of those categories, the list will appear of all the outlets that fall into it. After that tap the icon of the map in the right top corner to see where all of them are located. Click on the one you like and see the detailed description. It's all in Russian, but at least you'll see the opening hours (very often it just says "Работает до полуночи". That means "Open until midnight". A green dot before the first line of the details means that it is open right now), the average price tag (says the amount in rubles. "До" means "Under"), some very colorful pictures and you'll definitely know that it has the kind of food you want.
Might work perfectly for you if you're in the mood for experiments and wild exploration. Or in case you're really determined to find that one elusive vegetarian place in Russia.