Please try to obtain some roubles before departure. Russian roubles are generally available at many banks, exchange offices and post offices. Please note that you will need to order them. You should also be able to get them at an exchange office at Heathrow. Otherwise you might be able to change money on arrival but there is unlikely to be enough time for you to do so. To find out the current exchange rate, go to www.xe.com or download the xe app on your tablet.
Take your credit and debit cards with you. If you can, take at least two cards and only carry one around with you. Leave the other locked in your bag. If it is stolen, you will still have a means of getting cash. Nationwide have cards that have no fee on foreign exchange. For the best rates look through the internet at companies such as Wise.
Cash is readily available from cash machines. You can also exchange currency in banks, but you will need your passport. Note that credit card companies charge much more for cash advances than banks do for obtaining cash from your debit card. Please check charges with your bank or card issuer before departure. All cash machines give roubles. Many will also give you US dollars and Euros. There is more detailed information in the notes for the centre where you will be studying. You will not be able to use your UK cheque books.
You are advised to let your bank and credit card company know that you are travelling to Russia and plan to use your card there. Otherwise, for security reasons, some banks may put a stop on your card.
If disaster strikes you and you lose your cards, money can be transferred to you by Moneygram at UK post offices and by Western Union, who have agencies on the high street in the UK. These can be expensive so do compare this to Wise.com.
You are also strongly advised to set up internet banking before you leave. This will allow you to transfer money and pay bills. It is advisable to leave details of how to cancel your cards (phone numbers etc) with your family or friends, to make life easier if they are stolen or lost in Russia.
You should take some cash with you. US dollars or Euros (clean notes only) can be changed everywhere. In Moscow and St Petersburg you will have little trouble changing pounds. In other centres you will be able to change pounds in some banks, though you may get a poor exchange rate. Please note that Scottish pound notes cannot be changed. Do not take too much cash, as in the event of it being stolen, you are not normally covered by insurance.
The cost of living in Russia is rising and inflation is high. It is not as cheap as it once was and this is reflected in accommodation prices. However, you should still be able to eat and drink more cheaply than in the UK, provided you avoid the expensive bars, restaurants, etc. in Moscow and St Petersburg serving the foreign business community. Moscow is the most expensive city, St Petersburg is close behind, The other centres are much cheaper again. If you wish to travel during the reading weeks, you will need to bring extra money with you for this.