Russia Travel Guide
Russia is a fascinating and endlessly surprising country. For most of the 20th century, it was almost entirely closed off to foreign visitors, thus allowing it to retain its unique cultural traditions.
From its imperial history to its vast, icy Siberian landscapes, everything about this enigmatic land is awe-inspiring and sometimes, a little baffling. To help you navigate this vast expanse and make the most of your time in the country, we have put together all the essential details from our experts in this Russia travel guide.
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Visa and Entry
Entry to Russia requires a visa no matter how long you wish to stay. For many countries, such as EU nations except the UK, and some countries in the Middle East and Asia, the process for applying for a visa is simple and quick. Russia’s new E-Visa scheme allows you to do this for free online, at the moment an E-Visa will only give you access to St Petersburg and the surrounding area, but these restrictions may be lifted soon.
Citizens of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, are required to apply for a visa in the traditional method. You are required to produce a letter of invitation from a resident of Russia, or a tourism organization. You will also be required to pay a fee, complete an application form, and may be required to visit the nearest Russian Consulate or Embassy.
A tourist visa allows you to travel and stay in Russia for up to 30 days. If you expect to leave Russia and re-enter during that time, you will have to apply for a double-entry visa.
Cash and Currency
The Ruble has been the official currency of Russia since 1991, when it replaced the Soviet Ruble. The easiest way to obtain rubles is at an ATM, which you will find all over the cities in Russia. It is also a good idea to either apply for a credit card which is valid in Russia or to check with your bank if the cards you own can be used in Russia.
Click here to see the current exchange rate between the US Dollar (USD) and the Ruble (RUB).
Russian is the official language of the country, and is widely spoken in neighboring countries like Ukraine and Belorussia. At the moment around 30% of the Russian population can speak English to some degree, but few of them are able to speak it fluently. If you only plan to visit Moscow and St Petersburg, which are popular with international travellers, you should be able to get by effectively speaking only English. However, if you plan to go further afield in Russia, then you will find it useful to learn some basic Russian to either converse or find your way around. It’s also important to note that Russia uses the Cyrillic alphabet which has completely different characters to what you may be used to and reading street or store signs may be challenging for this reason.
As Russia is an immense country, internal flights are crucial if you want to travel to different areas quickly. There are a number of different airlines to choose from such as Aeroflot, Rossiya, S7 Airlines, or Ural Airlines.
We recommend travelling across Russia by train. This is the traditional means of cross country travel in Russia, epitomized by the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway.
Traveling around Russia’s cities is simple. Taxis are everywhere, and some companies such as LingoTaxi and Welcome Taxis specialize in providing English language services.
Moscow and St Petersburg also have a quality underground metropolitan rail network. This was constructed during the Soviet era as a way to provide a measure of luxury to ordinary Russians. The stations are uniquely beautiful, with white marble columns and gleaming chandeliers.
In Russia, tipping is generally expected. As restaurants often don’t accept credit cards, it is important to carry enough currency to cover both the overall bill and the tip.
In restaurants and cafes, we recommend tipping an extra 10%-15% of the overall bill. For guides, a good rule of thumb is to pay the equivalent of USD $25 (1,770 Rubles) for eight hours of work, or $15 for four hours. If you hire a taxi directly tipping the driver is considered polite. Usually, tipping 5%-10% of the overall fare is considered appropriate.
Do you have more questions about travel in Russia? Our experts are happy to share more details and plan a tailor-made trip for you. Get in touch!
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