Travel to Russia

It is good to have a desire to visit other countries; after all, there are many fascinating and interesting places to see and people to meet. And Russia sure has its own share of interesting places and people. But it could also be an unpleasant experience if you come underprepared, leading to disappointment.

To help you avoid that, I present you this short but comprehensible list of what should you do to prepare yourself before travel to russia:

 

01. Prepare your visa in advance.

In accordance of Russian laws American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and European Union citizens all need visas to travel to Russia. Given the complexity and sheer amount of time it takes to set up visa, I would recommend using services of travelling or visa agency. And after you got visa in your hands be sure to double check all information there including its beginning and ending dates.

 

02. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet.

If you’re coming for more than a couple of days, do yourself a favor and get acquainted with the Russian alphabet. It will make your travel to Russia so much easier. It’s really not that hard. Besides being practical, it’s fun to sound out the names of dishes on menus or nameplates, trust me some of them sound really strange.

 

03. Learn a few words

You will be surprised by how few people outside of hotels and the occasional restaurant could speak English, so even a handful of basic words would help ease the communication barrier. Google Translate can help too, even if it is not perfect; just make sure you download the language pack when you have Wi-Fi so you don’t have to pay for costly data.

 

04. Check the events calendar.

While during the huge holidays both Moscow and St. Petersburg empty out, due to the people’s desire to rest outside of city, overall atmosphere there is still quite festive and positive. At times such as New Year (Christmas is not very popular in Russia) and Victory Day there is a lot of fun to have there. Even if prices are a little higher during that time, it will make your travel to Russia much more memorable.

Read Top 10 tips for tours in Europe.

 

05. Exchange your currency.

Even if both St. Petersburg and Moscow are main attraction points of Russia, most of the places here do not accept foreign currency as a payment, which can seriously narrow your choices of places to visit. So, make sure your money are all in ruble (that’s the name of Russian currency) equivalent and if not, exchange it at nearest exchange office.

 

06. Always have some cash at hands.

Despite the fact that we all live in the age of rapid computerization, there is still some places where you can’t pay with your card. That especially applies to smaller towns, though even in Moscow you can stumble upon such a place. Also, if you use taxi, there are many agencies that do not use card readers in their cars, so it helps to have some cash on hand. Better safe than sorry, after all.

 

07. Plan your spending.

Your travel to Russia with very high probability will be pricey. Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world and St Petersburg is very close behind; as such, expect to spend a lot. As a foreigner you’ll also find yourself paying more than a Russian for some museums – sometimes it is as much as 10 times the price Russians pay.

If you’re a student, flashing your ID can save you money at museums and other institutions; for example, with your student ID you can go inside Kremlin for free. In cafes, go for business lunches, which are great cost to value wise and very filling. The latest fad in big cities are anti-cafes, where you pay by the minute and can enjoy coffee, snacks, Wi-Fi or even computer and console games. Taxi drivers and market sellers sometimes try to charge foreigners more, so you may want to learn a few phrases for bargaining in Russian.

If you’re a student, flashing your ID can save you money at museums and other institutions; for example, with your student ID you can go inside Kremlin for free. In cafes, go for business lunches, which are great cost to value wise and very filling. The latest fad in big cities are anti-cafes, where you pay by the minute and can enjoy coffee, snacks, Wi-Fi or even computer and console games. Taxi drivers and market sellers sometimes try to charge foreigners more, so you may want to learn a few phrases for bargaining in Russian.

 

08. Research opening days and times.

There are no standardized opening and closing times for museums, cathedrals and other attractions in Russia. Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square, for example, is only open from 10am until 1pm and is closed on Mondays and Fridays. Make sure you identify which attractions you really want to see, and work out when they are open so you can plan accordingly.

 

09. Plan out your route.

In most Russian cities there are areas where you will be hard pressed to find places to eat while you are out sightseeing. When I’m traveling, for example, I hate being hungry and not being able to find somewhere to eat more than anything, and therefore being forced to eat terrible food.

There are many restaurants and cafes which aren’t very well signed, so the best plan is to look up a few good places to eat in the areas you’ll be visiting and bookmark them ahead of time. That will help you to save some time and strength which you can use to go look for something interesting.

So, those are some things that I highly recommend you to do before traveling to Russia which would make your time there all the more enjoyable. I hope you find it helpful, good luck with your travels!

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