Congratulations! If you're reading this, you've probably decided to try services of local scalpers. It's alright, it happens to more travelers than you might think these days. So let's make sure that at least you're overpaying for something real and not a piece of paper from a fake-ticket sweatshop in someone's basement.
There's a great page about it on the official site of the Bolshoi. And all the pictures in this article are taken directly from there. But for some incredible reason it is one of the few pages there that is missing in the English version of their website (as of April 2019). Let's fix it.
There are 5 ticket types overall, but only 2 that really matter for you as a tourist:
1) The official ticket of the Bolshoi Theater
Printed on a specially decorated glossy-ish piece of thick paper 20 cm by 8 cm. There are currently (2019) two variations of the backside in red and 'dark red':
The front side should look like this and have the following information:
1. Show's date and starting time
2. Stage (new or historic), seat's location and number
3. Name of the show and age restrictions
4. Ticket's individual series and number
5. Bar code
Some slight alterations to the front side are occasionally possible. Sometimes for very popular shows they add additional seats in the audience. Those are usually bar stools that provide you with the same level of comfort as reclining on a wall behind you, but can be a great option to visit a show that has absolutely no tickets left otherwise.
Those special tickets' front side will generally look the same but will have additional marks around corners in large font saying in Russian, 'Uncomfortable seat'.
2) Official Bolshoi Theater E-ticket
Yes, the theater is going along with progress and for many years now has been offering to buy tickets online with the possibility of printing them out yourself and skipping the visit to the official ticket office completely.
As mentioned in another article, if you plan to buy them on the website, you have to be ready to do it several months in advance, download a special PDF telling the exact date when tickets are released on sale for that specific show and be very deft with your computer mouse to be able to snatch one before the site runs out of them.
But if you're one of the lucky ones who managed to get their tickets like that, know that you don't need to go anywhere and collect anything else to get to the show. All you need is to print the PDF file that they've sent you and grab your passport with you on the day of the visit. The guards are supposed to have special scanners to scan the QR-code on that sheet of paper.
Note that the small font on the ticket itself doesn't specifically mention 'passport'. It just says 'identification document'. It also says that there is only a 'possibility' that you're actually going to need to show it.
But I'd say that to be 100% sure you're getting in that day, better take your passport of all other documents. If you have a chance that is. But if you don't have it with you, are away from the hotel, and the show is about to start - try to get inside just with the printed ticket before doing anything else. They check IDs, especially of foreigners, only about half the time.
It's unlikely that you'll ever get to see the other ticket types. But just FYI:
3) Official Bolshoi Theater subsidized tickets for special groups of people (veterans, pensioners and students)
Same front but a different back side:
If you ever hear about mythical 100-ruble standing tickets - that's them. Babushkas and students used to be essential parts of organized scalper syndicates here. Back in the days every now and then they'd be a mad run for those special tickets (Black Friday-style) at the official ticket office. Those would normally be standing places on the 4th tier of balconies with prices ranging literally from 100 to 500 RUB. Pushing each other as if their lives depended on it they would grab as many of those tickets as they could carry and resell them later for 1500-3000 RUB each. Or slightly cheaper to scalpers that, in their turn, would resell them to you for 1500-3000 RUB.
Those standing subsidized tickets still exist, and you'll likely see standing people on the 4th floor during your visit. The difference is that since a couple of years ago those tickets are personalized and are sold one per person requiring people to show their passports to buy them. So now if you see someone with one of those, there's about a 100% chance that he/she is an actual pensioner or a student.
4) Physical tickets from 'Ticketland' ticket retailer:
5) E-tickets from 'Ticketland' ticket retailer:
'Ticketland' is the biggest retailer of tickets for pretty much all types of shows anywhere in Russia at any given moment that has a nice website and thousands of ticket boxes across the country. There are 7 companies at the moment that officially allowed to re-sell Bolshoi tickets, but apparently, only one that's big enough to make the theater recognize their own ticket form.
It's unlikely that there'll be more tickets available than on the official Bolshoi website. But it can be very useful to visit anyway to see what else is going on in the city at the moment, and what you can immediately buy instead if the Bolshoi is already out of the question.
So, here there are. All types of official Bolshoi Theater tickets. I hope it'll help you to buy a real one or feel certain that yours is legit if you've already got it.
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