I'm going to St.Petersburg in december and maybe for a couple of days to Moscow. I've heard that most of russians don't speak any english and I was wondering how to communicate with them. Don't have any friends there and don't know russian language. I was just wondering what the deal is with security situation there - corrupt police, robbery..
Any help/advice would be appreciated.
Just spent 2 weeks in st peters and moscow--if you dont speak russian, youre in trouble--outside those cities, it is even worse. there is absolutlely no tourist infrastructure in moscow (a little better in st. peters--but still pretty bad). no one speaks englih in moscow (a few in st peters). just point and hope for the best. russians are lousy capitalists (probably to be expected) and havent figured out that tourists are walking dollar signs. buying rail tickets was super difficult--though others i met had relatively easy time. without a doubt, the most difficult backpacking ive ever done---every other backpacker i met agreed 100% (albeit, if you have lots of money, youll be fine bc you can pay everyone to do everything for you).
stay away from the police bc theyll want to make sure youre registered--dont be paranoid about them, just dont be overtly tourist.
WOAH! so agree with Urban "without a doubt, the most difficult backpacking ive ever done---every other backpacker i met agreed 100% "
I agree with that 110% - infact i wouldnt go back to Russia without knowing basic russian. Goodluck - atleast bring a dictionary and be ready for the police too.
Everybody has different experiences I suppose. As nobody else is going to be optimistic for you, i will! I`ve been to Russia several times, and never had any great problem in Moscow and St.Petes with the language despite not speaking any Russian. Learning the alphabet helps, but you get by without easily enough. The note about nobody speaking English is, to me, utter Rubbish. Yes, everybody isn`t fluent by any means, and not everybody speaks it, but everybody at least vaguely connected to the tourist industry and in a high percentage of bars and restaurants etc, there is an english menu and several english speakers. That plus a bit of pointing and charades and you`ll be fine.
l agree that outside of Moscow and St. Petes (And Irkutsk/Baikal, to a point) it can be a lot harder, but its still easy enough, and i`ve just spent 2months between Moscow and Vladivostok in some really obscure places (plus a week each in Mosc and St. P) without any real problems, bar one when i was with a Russian whop was translating. As for the hardest place to visit as a backpacker, whilst i admit its not the easiest, it sure as heck hasn`t been the hardest for me, and at a rough guess i`ve been to 75 odd countries as a backpacker. Make sure your visa is registered, you always carry your passport, you are polite if stopped, be prepared (train tickets, for example, are easy in a official Russian railways service centre than in the bedlam of the station, and if you write down what you want theres no problem) and you dont do anything really silly and you`ll be fine.
Customer service can be lousy, and dont expect the same politness as you may get elsewhere, but thats the way it is for everybody and not just you. You will get shouted at by babooshkas who think your a moron, but thats just part of the russian experience!
I've been to Russia twice now. Didn't find it too bad either to be honest. Sure, it's not as well looked after as most of the western European countries and English is not widely spoken, but that's almost half the fun! Learning the alphabet is definitely worthwhile - so many words are exactly the same as english when you know the alphabet (ie, stop=стоп).
To deal with police, be sure to register when you arrive in a new town (your hotel should do this for you) and carry a photocopy of your passport (with registration) with you. I was told to never give the police your actual passport.
Also, it's supposedly very worthwhile having the phone number (+ a phone to ring with) of your embassy in Moscow / St P with you. If a cop starts harassing you, ring them to ask them to send someone down. I have heard many stories of cops just backing off at that point. The only run in with police we had was when our taxi driver ran a red light and had to bribe the police. Wasn't really our problem though.
Don't cross the road at pedestrian crossings without being very careful - cars pay no attention to them and would rather run you over than stop.
Robbery can happen anywhere - Moscow, London, Paris, Rome, you name it.. any big city. It's never stopped me visiting anywhere.
And really, don't let the bad reviews stop you. Visiting Russia is an amazing experience and well worth the communication difficulties involved!
In all, crime is not so bad in Russia, you just need to be attentive in some situations. Like to have your documents with you at all times, watch your valuables and don’t drink too much with local people..
As for communication, it’s much more difficult. I’ve been to Moscow and St. Petersburg this spring. Moscow is a crazy place in all aspects and I also found out that just a few people there could speak English and even a good phrasebook could help me just a little. But in St. Peters it became much better. There in my hotel they gave me a special device, something like a virtual interpreter and guide, that helped me a lot. I don’t remember how was it called (“voyager convoy” or something) but, probably, you’ll find it in yahoo or google.
I’m sure others will have other advices, but I hope this one helps. I’ll try to find some info about this device myself and post the results.
Good luck in your travels,
Its Mat again. Have you found some more info about this voyager convoy I told you about? Anyway, I'm sure it would be interesting for you to read something from my own experience. In general this device looks like a cell phone connected to another speakerbox via bluetooth. so wherever you are you can call the operator who's a professional interpreter and guide. Consequently, you can talk to local people with the help of this virtual interpreter in different situations - from business meetings to restaurants and night clubs. It helped me greately (to put it mildly)!!! Besides, they give you all possible info and instruction like different timetables, directions and up to on-line guiding inside the city.
that's about all I know about it. If you find something more and post it - that'll be great!!
Seriously? That's ingenious. It's like On*Star for a traveller. Man, I wish I'd thought of that. I bet the guy who came up with it is sitting on a beach somewhere not worrying about how to translate "Uno mas Mojito, por favor."