Traveling by bus can be daunting in Russia if you don’t speak the language. When you can, you should travel by train or suburban train (elektrichka). But for some smaller towns and suburban destinations, this may be the only way to travel, and bus is an especially easy and convenient way to make day trips from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Ticket offices tend to have long hours of operation, and you can typically purchase your bus ticket ahead of time at the city avtovokzal, or bus station. Payment is accepted only in rubles.
If you have any contact who will help negotiate the purchase for you, avail yourself of him or her. Handwritten seating charts and tickets are the norm, but tickets are sold even when there are no seats left (even for longer rides). This leads to some very crowded conditions (and, on hot days, quite stuffy situations, as these buses, although reasonably comfortable, don’t have air-conditioning and only sometimes do their windows open). It's recommended that you buy advance tickets for peak long-distance travel days—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Long-distance international buses operate from Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Baltic States, several CIS countries, and some points in Europe including Helsinki, Berlin, and Warsaw. The trips are long and often require extensive waiting times at the border.