Travel Guide Europe Russia





© petralex

At the start of the 18th century, Napoleon made one of the biggest errors of his life when he invaded Russia in winter; Hitler attempted a strikingly similair move less than a century and a half later. The vast, cold expanses which make up Russia's landscape have long proved its greatest ally in warfare. Now, with its economy improving quite well, Russia's natural wonders are once again beginning to lend a helping hand. Travellers are recognizing Russia's awesome potential for mountaineering, hiking, skiing, cycling, and kayaking. But perhaps the best way to see Russia's vast wilderness is via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

In those areas which are inhabited, however, Russia's rich cultural and historical heritage is everywhere. Onion-domed churches, bleak Soviet style architecture and the elegant designs of pre-Stalin Russia can be found within blocks of each other, making for fascinating peeks into the complexity of Russian history.

Warning: Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The situation in the country remains unstable. International sanctions imposed on Russia affect banking, cross-border transportation, availability of medicines and other essentials. You may not be able to access funds due to the suspension of business by payment and debit card networks within Russia.
Many countries are advising against travel to any part of Russia, and especially to areas near Ukraine, where cross-border attacks and shelling have occurred. Air strikes against Russian cities and infrastructure behind the frontline (including Moscow) have also occurred. Contact your country's foreign affairs ministry or state department for updated information, and see war zone safety if you must visit affected destinations. There is also an increased risk of terrorist attacks.

Mobilizations may apply to citizens of other countries who also hold Russian citizenship. If you are in Russia and hold dual citizenship, the embassy of your other country of citizenship may only be able to offer very limited assistance.



Brief History

The history of Russia begins with that of the East Slavs. The first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus', adopted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire in 988, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated as a state, finally succumbing to Mongol invaders in the 1230s. After the 13th century, Moscow gradually came to dominate the former cultural center. By the 18th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow had become the huge Russian Empire, stretching from Poland eastward to the Pacific Ocean. Expansion in the western direction sharpened Russia's awareness of its separation from much of the rest of Europe and shattered the isolation in which the initial stages of expansion had occurred. Successive regimes of the 19th century responded to such pressures with a combination of halfhearted reform and repression. Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861, but its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants and served to increase revolutionary pressures. Between the abolition of serfdom and the beginning of World War I in 1914, the Stolypin reforms, the constitution of 1906 and State Duma introduced notable changes to the economy and politics of Russia, but the tsars were still not willing to relinquish autocratic rule, or share their power.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 was triggered by a combination of economic breakdown, war weariness, and discontent with the autocratic system of government, and it first brought a coalition of liberals and moderate socialists to power, but their failed policies led to seizure of power by the Communist Bolsheviks on October 25. Between 1922 and 1991, the history of Russia is essentially the history of the Soviet Union, effectively an ideologically based state which was roughly conterminous with the Russian Empire before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The approach to the building of socialism, however, varied over different periods in Soviet history, from the mixed economy and diverse society and culture of the 1920s to the command economy and repressions of the Stalin era to the "era of stagnation" in the 1980s. From its first years, government in the Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the Communists, as the Bolsheviks called themselves, beginning in March 1918. However, by the late 1980s, with the weaknesses of its economic and political structures becoming acute, the Communist leaders embarked on major reforms, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The history of the Russian Federation is brief, dating back only to the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Since gaining its independence, Russia was recognized as the legal successor to the Soviet Union on the international stage. However, Russia has lost its superpower status as it faced serious challenges in its efforts to forge a new post-Soviet political and economic system. Scrapping the socialist central planning and state ownership of property of the Soviet era, Russia attempted to build an economy with elements of market capitalism, with often painful results. Even today Russia shares many continuities of political culture and social structure with its tsarist and Soviet past.




Russia shares international borders in Europe with Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. To add, the exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast borders both Poland and Lithuania. Russia also shares international borders in Asia with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China and the nearest point of Hokkaido, Japan, is just 20 kilometres away. In the Far East of Russia, Big Diomede Island is seperated by a narrow straight (3 kilometres) from Little Diomede Island, which is US Territory (Alaska). It is the largest country in the world with over 17 million square kilometres and it lies between latitudes 41° and 82° N, and longitudes 19° E and 169° W. From west to east is around 8,000 kilometres apart, from the boundary with Poland in Kaliningrad to farthest point east of the Kuril Islands in the northern Pacific. The Russian Federation spans 9 time zones (coming back from 11 by the way!).

Most of Russia consists of plains that are predominantly steppe to the south and forested to the north./ Along the northern shores there is the tundra and mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus with Mount Elbrus, which at 5,642 metres is the highest mountain in Europe, and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes of Kamchatka Peninsula. The Ural Mountains divide Europe and Asia. Russia has a very long coastline covering more than 37,000 kilometres the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as along the Baltic Sea, Sea of Azov, Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Russia also has thousands of rivers, lakes and other bodies of water, including the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal. Famous rivers include the Volga, the Ob, the Yenisey, the Lena and the Amur all of which are amongst the very longest rivers in the world.




Russia is divided into seven federal districts. Each district is administered by an "envoy" who is in constant liason with the Russian Government.

  • Northwestern Russia - Home to the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg, also known as the "northern capital". It combines the beautiful landscape of the large lakes Ladoga and Onega, and medieval forts of Pskov Oblast, with the lacustrine region of Karelia, and is a gateway from Scandinavia.
  • Central Russia - The richest side in the entire country, dominated by spectacular architecture and historical buildings. It is the country's gate to Europe, and houses the capital city, Moscow.
  • Southern Russia - The warmest region in the entire country, with beautiful resort cities such as subtropical Sochi, and also brings a path to the mountainous North Caucasus.
  • Volga Region - The most industrialized region in the country, known for producing wide-scale military equipment in cities such as Izhevsk, with a rich culture and history.
  • Urals Region - One of the wealthiest regions, known for producing many of the resources Russia needs today and is named after vast Ural mountains.
  • Siberia - The largest area in the country diverse in landscape and yearly temperatures with stunning lakes, world longest rivers, but swampy in most part in the center and north. Provides a gate to enter into much of Asia.
  • Far Eastern Russia - One of the coldest regions in Russia, home to the coldest city in the world, Yakutsk. World famous for national parks, beautiful scenery and mountains, and the volcanoes of Kamchatka. Also a gate to enter into North Korea, China and Mongolia.


Each of the seven federal districts mentioned above is subdivided into the so-called oblasts, a kind of Russian equivalent of a state or province and generally named after the biggest city and capital. For the subdivision of the districts into oblasts and possibly other subdivisions, including links to the major cities not mentioned below, see the federal districts links above!




Russia is a huge country with many big cities, important transport hubs, tourist destinations and popular stopovers along the Trans-Siberian Railway. It's beyond the limits of the Russia article to name them all and for more information, also check the regional articles (see above). The largest, most important or most popular ones include:

  • Moscow - The nation's capital and largest city
  • St. Petersburg - Russia's cultural and former political capital is home to the Hermitage, one of the world's best museums, while the city center is a living open air museum in its own right, making this city one of the world's top travel destinations
  • Irkutsk - near Lake Baikal, popular stop along the Trans Siberian Railway
  • Vladivostok - in the far east, the end of the official Trans Siberian Railway, over a week from Moscow
  • Novosibirsk - in central Siberia
  • Khabarovsk - far east
  • Krasnoyarsk
  • Yekaterinburg - the center of the Urals region and one of Russia's principal cultural centers is a good stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway and an arrival point for visitors to the Urals, the second Russian financial centre
  • Murmansk - in the far north of European Russia
  • Omsk
  • Tomsk
  • Tobolsk
  • Perm
  • Kazan - the capital of Tatar culture is an attractive city in the heart of the Volga Region with an impressive kremlin
  • Krasnodar
  • Ufa
  • Saratov
  • Chelyabinsk
  • Samara
  • Arkhangelsk
  • Sochi - Russia's favourite Black Sea beach resort was largely unknown to foreigners until it hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games
  • Yakutsk - capital of the Yakutia Autonomous Region and really off the beaten track
  • Tyumen
  • Vladimir
  • Suzdal
  • Kaliningrad - exclave in between Poland and Lithuania
  • Nizhny Novgorod - often overlooked despite being one of the largest cities in Russia, Nizhny Novgorod is well worth a visit for its kremlin, Sakharov museum, and nearby Makaryev Monastery
  • Yaroslavl
  • Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky - on Kamchatka peninsula
  • Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk - on Sakhalin island
  • Volgograd - formerly called Stalingrad, this city was scene of perhaps the deciding battle of World War II, and now home to a massive war memorial
  • Komsomolsk-on-Amur - far east
  • Rostov-on-Don
  • Magadan - end of the Road of Bones



Sights and Activities

Trans-Siberian Railway

Trans-Mongolian Train

Trans-Mongolian Train

© worldwideG

The Trans-Siberian Railway, the dream of Czars and Bolsheviks alike, to unite a large and diverse country and secure Russia's place in the far east, nowadays is one of the most popular railways for travellers. The railway passes through the remote and beautiful Siberian countryside on it's way to the Pacific Ocean, a journey of seven days, eight time zones and over 9,250 kilometres. The Trans-Siberian, and her counterparts the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian, are one of the classic train and overland journeys, providing a slow and romantic view of the Russian landscape, people and culture. Running from Moscow to Vladivostok for 9,259 kilometres, the Trans-Siberian "Rossiya" leaves every second day for a seven-day journey. Train No.001 runs westbound while train No.002 runs eastbound. The marker at Vladivostok shows a distance of 9,288 kilometres from Moscow. This is because from 1956 to 2001 many trains went between Moscow and Kirov via Yaroslavl instead of Nizhny Novgorod.This would add some 29 kilometres to the distances from Moscow, making Vladivostok kilometre 9,288.

Red Square and the Kremlin

Red Square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel from the merchant quarter. The square holds Lenin's Tomb, everyday except Monday's and Friday's from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. St. Basil's Cathedral, the famous onion-domed church sits to the south end of the square. To the east is the GUM department store, previously known for it's long lines, it now features a number of high end stores. The Kremlin has long been the one of the most important seats of political power in Russia, and current houses the Russian president. The Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Moscow Kremlin’s grounds and museums are open every day except Thursdays from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is located in the Asian part of Russia, known as Siberia. Closeby is the city of Irkutsk where the Trans-Siberian Railway stops. Many traveller make a stopover here to visit this lake, which is the deepest lake anywhere in the world, at 1,700 metres. It also is the oldest lake (25 million years) in the world and to add, it contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserve. The age, islolation and the depth have created one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science. Therefore it is placed on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Ship with mountains Lake Baikal

Ship with mountains Lake Baikal

© adamandmeg


Kamchatka is located in the far east of the Russian Federation and is one of the natural highlights of the country. The volcanoes of Kamchatka are placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and a visit to this place is absolutely recommended, albeit not cheap. Kamchatka forms one of the most outstanding volcanic regions in the world, with a high density of active volcanoes. The combination of active volcanoes, glaciers, wildlife and beautifully located green mountains forms a landscape of great beauty. Wildlife includes huge variets of salmon and dense concentrations of sea otter, brown bear and sea eagle. Getting around Kamchatka involves some form of airtransport on top of 4wd travel. Usually, helicopters are used to get to some more remote parts, which definately is recommended but comes at a cost of course.

Mount Elbrus

Mount Elbrus is officially the highest mountain in Europe at 5,642 metres above sea level. It is located in the western Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia, just north of the border with Georgia. The first ascent was in 1874, but the lower summit's (just 21 metres lower) first ascent was much earlier, in 1829. It's relatively easy nowadays to climb this mountain and thanks to a cable car it is now possible to start walking to the top just after midnight and return the next day before 3pm when the cable car has its last ride.

Other sights and activities

Suzdal 2

Suzdal 2

© J.P.Photo

There are numerous other attractions in Russia, which is not suprising of course as it is the largest country in the world. Even the cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow can keep you busy for many days, if not weeks. But further east there are some beautiful landscapes and deserted parts in Siberia which are very hard to get to in the first place. Below are just a few examples of both the cultural and natural significance of this country.

  • Historic centre of Yaroslavl
  • Suzdal and Vladimir
  • Curonian Spit
  • Altai Mountains



Events and Festivals

Russian Orthodox Christmas

A different calendar is used in the Orthodox religion, with Christmas falling on January 7 and celebrated with joy in churches and homes across the huge country. Families gather to worship, midnight masses glow with hundreds of candles, and the snow glitters with the reflection of Christmas lights.

Maslenitsa Festival

February’s Maslenitsa Festival is the pre-Lenten carnival, lasting a week. Full of traditional fun and games; enjoy parades, live music, Russian dances, nighttime fireworks, and endless eating and drinking in preparation for the fast during Lent.

International Women’s Day

Moscow’s International Women’s Day in March is a major event on the festival calendar, with women’s groups from all over the city parading, campaigning, and rallying to make the world a better and more equal place for the female race.


As with Christmas, Orthodox Easter falls later than Easter on the regular Christian calendar, usually in early April. It’s a quieter celebration, but perhaps the loveliest religious festival of the year, taking place from Palm Sunday through the church services on Easter Sunday.

Stars of White Nights Festival

Held in St Petersburg’s Mariinski Theater, this festival kicks off in May and ends in July, highlighting the Russian love of opera, classical music, and ballet with top artists, orchestras, solo musicians, and conductors showing off their talent.

St Petersburg Beer Festival

The June Beer Festival is one of the all-time favorites in St Petersburg, featuring hundreds of brands laid out at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Thousands attend, and there’s live music and food to keep the party going.

St John the Baptist’s Day

This festival, held on the saint’s birthday in July, is in fact a pagan holiday when bonfires are lit in cities, towns, and villages across the country. Young couples gather to jump through the flames hand-in-hand as a demonstration of their undying love for each other.

International Moscow Film Festival

Held in June and running through early July, the International Film Festival is a truly international event. Celebrities and famous directors arrive for the screenings of Russian documentaries, short films, and the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

The International fireworks festival ROSTEC

Visitors are able to enjoy unforgettable pyroshow by the best teams from Europe, Asia and Latin America, as well as the great entertainment daytime programme including music concerts, high-tech shows, sport activities, quests, lectures, artisan market, historical food court etc.

The International Military Music Festival “SPASSKAYA TOWER”

The International Military Music Festival “Spasskaya Tower”, the parade of the honor guards units of the heads of states and of the best military music bands of Russia and other countries takes place every year in summer on Red Square in Moscow. More than 140 groups from 40 countries have taken part in the Festival since it was created. Every year about 1,500 musicians, military men and other artists perform at the “Spasskaya Tower”.

Moscow City Days

September sees Den’ Goroda (Moscow City Days), the celebration of the founding of Moscow. Free street concerts, festivities, and parties bring many thousands of Muscovites into the parks and boulevards, and the pubs and bars do a roaring trade.

Moscow international festival CIRCLE OF LIGHT

During the festival (in September) the beloved capital will once again take on the appearance of the amazing City of light! Prepare for unexpected transformations, pleasant surprises and amazing meetings that await you at all venues of the Festival.

Russian Winter Festival

Moscow’s Russian Winter festival kicks off mid-December with a plethora of cold weather events taking place at Izmailovo Park. Troika (sleigh) rides, folk music and dance, skating on the lake and frozen pathways, warming street food, and lots of vodka make this one of the year’s favorite celebrations.




Russia is the largest country in the world and although much of the country has rather warm summers and cold winters, differences in the country can be huge as well. Russia has a continental climate, with warm to hot summers in some parts and cold to extremely cold winters in that same and other parts of the country. Spring and autumn are very short and not more than a short transition period between summer and winter. The European part of Russia in general is warmer, both during summer and winter. Also, southern regions here are warmer than central parts which in turn are warmer than areas more north and towards the Ural Mountains, the natural border between Europe and Asia.

Moscow for example has summer temperatures of over 20 °C during the day, while in winter average nightly minimum temperatures are around -15 °C in January. Precipitation is quite evenly spread out during the year, with somewhat more mm during summer. In winter, most of this falls in the form of snow of course. To the north, both winters and summers in for example Archangelsk are colder, while to the east (like Perm) temperatures are lower in winter and equally high in summer, although summers are shorter here already compared to Moscow.

Towards the European south, temperatures rise both during winter and summer. Astrakhan for example has averages round 30 °Cin summer, while in winter temperatures vary between 0 °C and -10 °C. It is also much drier with low precipitation in all months totalling aroun 200 mm a year, a semi-arid climate.

A totally different area is the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Sochi for example has much warmer weather and long and dry summers, with average maximum temperatures above 20 °C from May to October, topping 27 °C in August on average. Winters are well above freezing with even nights averaging around 3 °C. Most of the rain falls during the wintermonths.

Finally, the Asian part, Siberia, has very cold winters, averaging between -15 °C and -30 °C (day and night respectively) in cities like Jekaterinenburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Irkutsk. Summer here are warm but short, lasting from June to August. This is also when most of the precipitation falls. Further east and northeast where the Siberian lowlying areas become more mountainous, extreme temperatures occur. Verkhojansk and Ojmjakon are the coldest permanently inhabited places on earth and also have the largest differences between summer and winter, sometimes over 100 °C! Between November and March, temperatures are below -40 °C and both places have seen temperatures over around -70 °C!

In the very short summers, temperatures can rise up to 35 °C on the other hand. This is also when most of the precipitation falls. In winter, there isn't much because it is simply too cold. Most of the snow falls between the end of September and early November and only starts melting in May. Still, further southeast towards the Ocean, places like Vladivostok are milder, but still cold and comparable with temperatures in Moscow, both during summer and winter. Most of the rain falls in summer here.



Getting There

By Plane

Aeroflot is the national airline of Russia and is based at Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) near the capital Moscow. Destinations include Amsterdam, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Cairo, Delhi, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London Heathrow Airport, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington, D.C. and Zürich. KLM from Amsterdam and Air France from Paris have flights among a few dozens of airlines as well.

Domodedovo Airport (DME) is another airport in Moscow which has many airlines serving the airport with Transaero having the most international destinations. S7 Airlines has a growing number of flights as well.

The third smaller airport is Vnukovo Airport with some noteworthy connections to European cities, including a few budget options.

Pulkovo Airport (LED) serves St. Petersburg and Rossiya Airlines (former Pulkovo, merged with other airline) has numerous flights to destinations in Europe and several outside. Many other airlines from European, Asian and former USSR countries fly to and from here.

Other international airports with less flights are located in numerous other cities throughout the country. Services compared to the airports near Moscow and St. Petersburg are relatively limited, though sometimes there are convenient flights, for example from Helsinki to Murmansk, from Beijing or other Asian cities to Vladivostok and from several German cities to central Russian and Siberian cities like Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Omsk and Novosibirsk. There are more options from cities like Khabarovsk, Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk as well. Some other smaller airports like the ones in Samara and Kazan have some international flights, and there are sometimes seaonsal and charter flights from quite a few additional smaller cities.

By Train

See also: International Trains, Trans-Siberian Railway

Russia - Finland
The only direct train links to and from Finland are the ones to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia.
Between Helsinki and Moscow, there are direct daily overnight trains with 'The Tolstoi', taking roughly 13 hours to cover the routes. Trains are fast and comfortable.
There are two daily trains ('The Sibelius' and 'The Repin') between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, both travelling during the day and evening. One train is Russian, the other one is Finnish. Both trains take about 6 hours to cover the route.
Trains also stop in Lahti, Kouvola and Vainikkala in Finland and in Vyborg in Russia.

Russia - China
There are two routes between Moscow and Beijing: the Trans-Mongolian and the Trans-Machurian routes, both of which are southern branches of the better-known Trans-Siberian Railway. The first train goes via Ulan Bator, cutting across Mongolia and then into China. It leaves Moscow every Tuesday night, taking about 6 days to reach Beijing. The second cuts into northern China at Manzhouli and continues to via Harbin. Trains leave Moscow on Friday night and takes about 6 days as well to cover the distance to Beijing. For more information look at the article: Trans-Siberian Railway or check the Timetable directly for exact schedules.

Russia - Kazakhstan
There is train every second day between Moscow and Almaty in Kazakhstan, leaving Moscow at 10:30pm and arriving on day 5 early in the morning in Almaty. Going from Almaty, trains leave at around 7:30am, arriving on the 4th day at around 10:30am. Check this site for schedule details.

Russia - Kyrgyzstan
Two trains a week link the capitals of Russia and Kyrgyzstan. From Moscow, trains leave on Thursdays and Sundays at 11:15pm, arriving in Bishkek on Mondays and Thursdays respectively at 2:30am. Trains leave Bishkek around 10:00am on Mondays and Thursdays, arriving in Moscow on Thursdays and Sundays just after 3 in the afternoon.

Russia - Uzbekistan
There are three trains a week between Moscow and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Trains leave Moscow on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11:15pm, arriving 3 days later at 7:15pm in Tashkent. In the opposite direction, trains depart from Tashkent at around 7:00 pm on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving in Moscow 3 days later at just after 3 in the afternoon.

Russia - North Korea
There is one train a week between Moscow (Yaroslavski station) and Pyongyang, usually leaving on Friday from Moscow, and Saturday from Pyongyang. It takes a week to complete the entire journey.

By Car

You are allowed to bring your own car, but be sure to have every official document in order. These include passport and visa and car registration number and full details of your route, itinerary and hotels where you stay. You also need a form provided by customs upon arrival at the border which guarantee that the car will be taken out of the Russian Federation on departure. A road tax has to be payed when entering the country and insurance for travel within the Russian Federation has to be arranged before departure or when entering the country at one of the offices of Ingosstrakh, the Russian Federation foreign insurance agency.

By Bus

There are many road links and bus connections with neighbouring countries, but many people either fly into Russia or travel by train to the country. For bus links from many European countries to Russia, check the Eurolines website. There are also regular buses between Kirkenes in Norway and Murmansk in the northwest of the country.

Two daily buses provide services to Vyborg and St Petersburg from Helsinki in Finland, one of which originates in Turku. There's also one daily bus from Tampere and three weekly buses from Lappeenranta. Check Matkahuolto for more information about prices and schedules.
In the north, Goldlines has buses three times a week between Rovaniemi via Ivalo to Murmansk.

By Boat

  • Russia - Japan vv

From July to October a ferry runs twice a week from Vladivostok to Fushiki, near Toyama, but most people are business people importing and exporting cars. Still it's possible to book tickets with Bisintour.
The Heartland Ferry has sailing between Wakkanai in Hokkaido and Korsakov on Sachalin.

  • Russia - South Korea vv

Dong Chun Ferry runs two trips a week in winter and three in summer between Sokcho in South Korea and Zarubina (south of Vladivostok) in Russia.

  • Russia - Sweden vv

Lisco Baltic Service has ferries between Karlshamn in Sweden and Baltysk in Russia.

  • Russia - Germany vv

Trans Russia Express operates a ferry between St Petersburg and both Sassnitz and Lübeck in Germany.




Getting Around

By Plane

Most flights originate and terminate from any of Moscow's four airports. Domodedovo Airport (DME) is one of the biggest airports and handles hundreds of flights a day. Vnukovo (VKO) and Sheremetyevo (SVO) airports are options from the capital as well.

Russia has dozens of airlines flying to literally almost everywhere in the country. For example Aeroflot flies from Sheremetyevo International Airport (Moscow) to and from Adler/Sochi, Anapa, Astrakhan, Barnaul, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kemerovo, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Magadan, Mineralnye Vody, Nizhnevartovsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Perm, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Samara, St. Petersburg, Surgut, Tyumen, Ufa, Vladivostok, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Other major airlines in the country are Rossiya Airlines, Transaero and S7 Airlines. Check the list of airlines for the dozens of options choosing an airline in Russia.

By Train

See also: Trans-Siberian Railway

Russia has an extensive railroad network, but it is hard to get reliable online information. To get some idea of the sheer size and granularity of the network, have a look here.

For intercity travel, the train is generally the most convenient option for trips that can be covered overnight. Although accommodations may not be the best, Russian trains have efficient and courteous staff as well as timely departures and arrivals that would impress even a German. The train is an option for longer trips (many Russians continue to use it for trips of 2 days or more), but mainly if you appreciate the nuances and experience of train travel in Russia.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is one of those journeys that every traveller would like to make sometime during their life. Besides the 'original' that runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, there are connections to cities and towns around the country.

For buying (inter)national tickets you can go to the nearest station or book online.

By Car

Renting a car in Russia is getting more and more popular and routes are being upgraded all the time, especially in and around the bigger cities in European Russia. Still, getting around can be a little bit of a hassle with potholed rural roads (or even 'highways'), absence of street signs and petrol and some policemen wanting bribes. It's not unsafe though and you will be able to rent cars in most airports and bigger cities. You need an international driving permit and national driver's licence translated into Russia. Driving is on the right and be sure to have a detailed itinerary and route with you, as hotels must be booked in advance.

By Bus

The most interesting is to ride across Russia by bus, because you can see more sights inside and outside the cities. There's a search engine tracing routes of Russian intercity buses. Buses are not as comfortable as trains though and wherever possible it is best to use the train. It's a great addition when travelling to some smaller cities where trains are absent or go less frequently.

Apart from regular buses there are private minibuses called marshrutka (маршрутка). These emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union as an alternative to the moribund public transport system. Legally, they may be licensed as either taxis or buses. They have fixed routes, but usually no timetables and no regular stations. The official designation for them is Route Taxi, (Russian: marshrutnoye taxi, Ukrainian: marshrutne taxi), hence the colloquial marshrutka).

To board one of these, stop at the roadside and wave a hand, if you are lucky and the minibus isn't full, it will stop. In a city, it will stop anyway and offer you an option to stand in the aisle or even stand in some corner bending over sitting passengers. This is neither legal nor convenient, but very common and acceptable. You can arrange with the driver to stop at your destination. Normally, you just shout "Stop here, please", and marshrutka will stop pretty much anywhere, even in the middle of the traffic without moving to the side of the road. At main stops the driver may wait and collect more passengers. The waiting time is unpredictable and depends on the schedule, number of passengers, competing buses, etc. There are no tickets, you pay the driver directly. He may give you a receipt, but you have to ask for it explicitly.

Marshrutkas ride both in the countryside (in this case they are more likely to have timetables) and as city transport. Sometimes they look like regular buses, which makes them hardly distinguishable from official buses. Moreover, on long-distance routes you have an option of reserving a place by phone and even buying a ticket in advance. The system is very haphazard and organized in the most odd manner. It is highly advisable to check details about particular route with drivers or at least with locals who should know the current situation in their city. In cities, never rely on the route numbers. Sometimes they match those of the official public transport, but sometimes they don't.

By Boat

Travelling around Russia on one of it's many rivers and lakes is an adventurous way of getting around, especially more to the east which is much less popular. The summer season is of course the best season as many rivers are (partly) frozen from October to April. Apart from regular passenger services there are cruise options as well, but these are totally organised and expensive and your itinerary will be fixed. Better to go for the public boats and meet some Russians. The most important routes are between Moscow and St Petersburg, and between Moscow and various points on the Volga and Don, including Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Volgograd, Astrakhan and Rostov-on-Don. Further east travelling along the surface of the Ob and Jenisej rivers is great as well. From the end of June until the end of August, there are also regular hydrofoil crossings across the entire lenght of Lake Baikal, from Irkutsk to Severobaykalsk.



Red Tape

The citizens of the following countries do not need a visa:

  • Unlimited period - Belarus, South Ossetia
  • 90 days - Abkhazia, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Africa, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela. Also holders of an Estonian alien's passport and a Latvian non-citizen passport
  • 60 days - Mauritius, Samoa, South Korea
  • 30 days - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Laos, Macao, Mongolia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Seychelles, Thailand
  • 14 days - Brunei, Hong Kong, Nauru
  • Norwegians living within 30km from the border: These individuals are permitted to enter Russia for up to 15 days without a visa provided they have been resident in the border zone for at least 3 years, and do not travel more than 30km from the border.

A border certificate, which is valid for multiple entries, must be obtained from the Russian consulate in Kirkenes in advance, so one should see it as a special kind of visa valid for multiple entries during up to 5 years. A similar arrangement exists for Poles living near the Kaliningrad area.

There are a few cases which allow visa-free access:

  • Transit through Moscow Sheremetyevo, Moscow Domodedovo or Yekaterinburg Koltsovo airports does not require a transit visa, provided the traveller has a confirmed onward flight, remains in the airport for no more than 24 hours and is not in transit to or from Belarus and Kazakhstan (travel to and from these countries use domestic terminals). Passing through St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport requires a transit (or other) visa. Visas can, in very limited cases, be obtained from consular officers at the airports.
  • Cruise passengers, arriving in and leaving from Russia by boat, do not need a visa if they stay in Russia less than 72 hours. Examples include the Saimaa canal cruises from Lappeenranta (Finland) to Vyborg and St.Peter Line's cruises to St Petersburg from Helsinki, Tallinn or Stockholm. Check to what extent you must keep to your group. Do not overstay the visa waiver. If you do overstay, you need to apply for an exit visa, need to pay a fine of at least €500 and will not be able to enter Russia on a visa waiver for the next five years. The visa process in this case may take over a week, during which you need to pay for your stay and food.
  • Special events: the best known example was the "supporters visa" temporarily available for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. This was a less onerous visa process, but you had to have tickets for matches and booked accommodation, which meant paying top prices. That has come to an end but there are actually many other sporting and cultural events with a similar visa arrangement: upcoming events are listed on the Russian embassy website.

The Russian electronic visas are available to citizens of Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, China, India, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tunisia, Turkey, and the UAE. Residents of these 19 countries arriving at six Russian airports in the Far East region can use eVisas to enter. This scheme applies to following airports Vladivostok Knevichi airport, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (Yelizovo airport), Blagoveschensk (Ignatyevo airport), Khabarovsk (Novy airport), Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (Khomutovo airport) and Anadyr (Ugolny airport).

Everyone else requires a visa. And for those unfortunates the complexity of the process depends on the class of visa. Thirty day tourist visas are fairly straightforward to acquire; 90 day (and more) business visas, less so. On 9 Sep 2012, Russia and the United States entered into an agreement to simplify visa requirements. Pursuant to that agreement, US citizens are eligible for 3-year multiple-entry business, homestay/private, humanitarian and tourist visas without an invitation (but with proof of booking arrangements). It is best to start the application process well in advance. While expedited processing is available to those who need visas quickly, it can double the application cost.

Arranging a visa basically involves two steps:

1. Getting an invitation and
2. Applying for the visa.

You may arrive at any time on or after the start date of your visa's validity and may depart at any time on or before its expiry date. Normally, an exit visa is included in transit, private visit/homestay, tourist, and business visas so long as the visa is still valid. Other classes, such as student visas, still require a separate exit visa that can take up to three weeks to process.

Exit and re-entry during the validity period of your visa requires permits. Getting these permits is a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare that is best avoided entirely by getting a double- or multiple-entry visa in the first place.

If you're in Russia and have lost your passport, your sponsor, not your embassy, must apply to the Federal Migration Service to transfer your visa to your replacement passport. Having a copy of your old visa helps with this, but is not sufficient to let you depart. An exception is for U.S. citizens, who only need show proof that they had not exceeded their duration of permitted stay in order to depart (but a visa would be required for a return to Russia).

An unaccompanied minor with Russian nationality needs, apart from the regular requirements for adults, a notarized statements in Russian signed by both parents. This statement can be requested at the Russian embassy or consulate. The child is likely able to get into Russia without this statement, but will most likely be prevented by the Russian customs to get out of Russia at the airport!

1. Getting an Invitation

The invitation type determines the visa. A tourist invitation gets you a tourist visa, a private visit invitation gets you a private visit visa, etc. Except for tourist visas, invitations are official documents issued by Russian government agencies and must be applied for by the person or organization inviting you.

Any invitation will include the intended dates of travel and the number of entries required (1, 2 or multiple). The dates on the invitation determine the period of the ensuing visa's validity. If in doubt of dates, ensure that the invitation covers a period longer than the intended stay: a tourist visa valid for 7 days costs the same as one valid for 30 days.

In the likely situation you have to buy your invitation, shop around globally: all invitations come from Russia and the company that gets it for you will have a base in Russia. It doesn't make a difference whether its website is based in Germany, the UK, the US or Eswatini. Many embassies and consulates only require a copy of the invitation; however this is not always the case so check with the embassy or consulate beforehand. If the original invitation is required, it will have to be flown from Russia anyway. It is only applying for the visa itself that generally requires the application to be made in the applicant's homeland.

A tourist invitation (also called reservation confirmation) is a letter of confirmation of booking and pre-payment of accommodation and travel arrangements in Russia. It is accompanied by a tourist voucher. These two documents can be issued only by "government approved" tour operators, hotels, online hotel booking services or Russian travel agencies (several Russian travel agencies have offices outside Russia and are adept at facilitating visa applications). "Government approval" here is not an endorsement of quality; it means that the company is registered with the Russian government. An ordinary hotel booking is not sufficient to constitute an invitation. Some hotels charge a fee to issue the invitation. Booking one night in a hotel will get you an invitation valid for one day (maybe two) and hence the resulting visa will be valid for a very brief time.

For independent travellers planning to travel around Russia, it is best to get an invitation through an agency. For a fee, these agencies will issue the necessary invitations and vouchers to any passport holder in any country. They do this without actually collecting any accommodation prepayment (and without providing any accommodation, of course). Two big players in the online tourist visa support document business are Way to Russia, a company with a US base (invitation US$30), and Real Russia with a British base (invitation ₤15). While the strict legality of such is questionable, these companies are well established and do enough not to upset the authorities. Most importantly, their services do not lead to problems for the traveller. However, if your itinerary is confined to only one hotel, then it makes sense to obtain the invitation documents directly from the hotel as the service fee will be similar.

Consider getting a private/homestay visa if you have friends or relatives in Russia (they do not necessarily have to be Russian). They would need to seek an invitation through their local Passport and Visa Division of the Federal Migration Service (formerly OVIR). These invitations tend to take at least a month to process. The inviting individual also becomes solely responsible for all your activities while in Russia and can be penalized heavily if something were to go wrong. Because of this, personal invitations are usually not available for a fee through the net.

Business invitations are issued by the government. They are generally time-consuming and costly to acquire but they can be quickly arranged for exorbitant fees. Any registered company in Russia can apply for a business invitation. Travel agencies and visa specialists can also get them issued for you. Business visas have longer validity than tourist visas. Being a tourist on a business visa is permitted, so anyone wanting more than a 30-day stay should get one of these. As a rough guide, one UK company can arrange a business invitation for a single 90 day stay for various amounts between ₤38 (for 12 working day processing) and ₤121 (for 2 working day processing).

Invitations for student visas are issued by the educational institution where you plan to study. Most universities and language schools are familiar with the process.

Some Russian local governments have a right to invite foreigners for cultural exchanges by sending a message directly to the Embassy or Consulate of Russia overseas, requesting the visa be issued to a particular foreigner or group of foreigners. Such messages are used instead of an invitation. This is normally the way to go if you are invited by the government.

2. Applying for the Visa

Different embassies and consulates have different requirements for visa applications. They may issue visas by mail, they may require application in person, they may accept a copy of the invitation, they may require the original. They may accept payment by card, they may insist on a money order. Check with the embassy or consulate beforehand - in most cases it will be on their website. Holders of U.S., Canadian, and British passports typically have to complete a longer application. Getting a Russian visa issued away from your country of nationality or one you have a residence permit valid for at least three months can be tricky. This can ruin plans for east-to-west trans-Siberian trippers. In Asia, success (no means guaranteed) is most likely to be found in Hong Kong and Phnom Penh (if necessary, temporary Cambodian residence is simple to buy and only costs about US$100).

Visa service companies, for a fee, will double-check your application and invitation, go to the embassy for you, and return your passport to you. This service is nothing that you cannot do yourself (unlike arranging the invitation) but it can save time and frustration.

A single entry, 30-day tourist visa for citizens of EU-Schengen countries costs €35 and takes three working days for standard processing (€70 gets express service for next day collection). For UK citizens the price is ₤50 and processing takes 5 working days not 3 (express service is next day and costs £100). For citizens of the USA the price is, at the present, US$160 with standard processing being at least 4 working days (express service is US$250 and stated to be 3 working days).

In some countries which have a busy trade in Russian visas (eg, UK and USA), the visa processing has been outsourced to private companies. These companies levy a further unavoidable application fee on top of the visa fees stated above. For applications made in the UK (by a citizen of any country) the application fee is ₤26.40 for standard service and ₤33.60 for express service. For applications made in the USA, the application fee is US$30.

An additional complication for UK citizens is the requirement to personally attend one of the visa application centres in London, Edinburgh or Manchester to have biometric data, that is fingerprints, taken.

The total cost of getting a visa usually has three parts: invitation fee, visa fee and application fee. If you're lucky, one or more of these may be zero but be prepared to be hit by all three. Take as an example a UK citizen applying for a 30-day, single entry tourist visa with standard processing in the UK (not the cheapest example and not the most expensive): invitation bought through an agency: ₤15, visa fee: ₤50, application fee: ₤26.40-91.40 .

Usually, tourist, homestay, and transit visas can allow one or two entries. Tourist and homestay visas have a maximum validity of 30 days. Transit visas are typically for one to three days for air travel and up to ten days for overland journeys. Business and other visa categories can be issued for one, two or multiple entries.

Any business visa can permit a maximum stay in any one visit of up to 90 days. However, a business visa generally only permits a total stay of 90 days in Russia in a 180-day period, regardless of how long it is valid for (whether it be 3, 6, or 12 months). If you stay in Russia for 90 days, you have to leave and your visa will not permit you to return for another 90 days. This means (give or take - a year isn't 360 days) that a six month visa permits as long a total time in Russia as a three month visa!

Once you have your visa, check all the dates and information as it's much easier to correct mistakes before you travel than after you arrive!

Arrival and Customs

On arriving in Russia, you'll have to fill out a landing card (usually filled out automatically by an immigration officer). As in most places, one half is surrendered on entry and the other portion should remain with your passport until you leave Russia. It is usually printed in both Russian and English though other languages may be available. If you lose it, then upon leaving Russia, you will be charged a nominal fine, and your departure may be delayed by an hour or two for the formalities.

Usually, you will be permitted to enter and remain in Russia for the term of your visa but it's up to the immigration officer to decide and they may decide otherwise, though this is unlikely.

Those who enter Russia with valuable electronic items or musical instruments (especially violins that look antique and expensive), antiques, large amounts of currency, or other such items are required to declare them on the customs entry card and must insist on having the card stamped by a customs officer upon arrival. Even if the customs officer claims that it is not necessary to declare such items, insist on a stamp on your declaration. Having this stamp may prevent considerable hassle (fines, confiscation) upon departure from Russia should the customs agent at departure decide that an item should have been declared upon entry.


Upon arrival to Russia and then subsequently upon arriving in any new city, you must be registered within 7 business days of arriving. This law is a relic from the Soviet days of controlled internal migration. Today, even Russians are supposed to register if they move cities. The official line is that these expensive pieces of paper with blue stamps, help control illegal immigration from the poorer countries on Russia's southern borders in Central Asia, the Caucasus, China and even North Korea. Your host in that city (not necessarily the one who issued the invitation) is responsible for registering you. The proof of registration is a separate piece of paper with a big blue stamp on it. Registration can nowadays be done in any post office. You will also have visit a bank to pay the registration fee (about RUB300).
All legal hotels will not let you check in without seeing your registration (at least if you've been in Russia for more than 7 business days) and police who insist that a lack of registration is your fault are more annoying and more expensive than paying the registration fee. However, if you do not intend to stay at the hotels, you may, at your own risk, forego the registration procedure. Proofs of registration are never demanded by immigration offices at borders.

Overstaying a Visa

If you overstay, even by a few minutes, you will likely be prohibited from leaving until you obtain a valid exit visa. You may be able to obtain a visa extension from the consular officer at an airport against the payment of a fine if you overstayed for fewer than three days, but this is not guaranteed. Generally, though, obtaining an extension requires an intervention by your sponsor, a payment of a fine, and a wait of up to three weeks. Be careful if your flight leaves after midnight and be aware of the time at which the train crosses the border. Border guards will not let you depart if you're leaving even 10min after your visa expires! If your overstay was due to reasons such as medical problems, the Federal Migration Service may instead issue a Home Return Certificate rather than an exit visa which is valid to depart Russia within ten days of issue.




See also: Money Matters

The ruble (RUB) is the official currency of Russia. The ruble is subdivided into 100 kopeks.

Banknotes are in denominations of 5 (rarely used),10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000 rubles.
Coins come in 1, 5, 10 (rarely used), 50 kopeks, 1, 2, 5 rubles.




You will need a work visa which is not an easy process. The visa needs to be arranged well in advance of travelling. It is possible to work in Moscow, you just need to find a good company to support you.




Russia has a long-standing tradition in high-quality education for all citizens. It also has one of the best mass-education systems in the world, with excellent results at international educational competitions.

One of the great attractions of education in Russia is the cost, especially when compared to the quality. Degree study tuition can range from $2,000 to $8,000 per year, with other costs (room & board, books, etc.) ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 per year, depending on location and spending habits.

The academic year lasts from September 1st to mid June everywhere, with long summer vacations from July 1st to August 31st. The year is divided at "autumn semester"(from 1st September to 25th January) and "spring semester" (from February to June)

Several universities and private schools offer Russian language courses with either individual or group tuition.




Russian is the main language of Russia. The language is a member of the East Slavic language family, and closely related to Ukrainian and Belarusian. Other Slavic languages such as Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech are not mutually intelligible, but still share a slight similarity. Russian is considered one of the most difficult European languages for an English speaker to learn, mostly because of a very complicated grammar. You will not learn the language in a short time; concentrate on learning some key "courtesy" phrases, and the Cyrillic alphabet (e.g. "ресторан" spells "restoran" in the Roman alphabet, which means "restaurant") so you have a chance to recognize street names, labels and public signs. Familiarizing yourself with Cyrillic is immensely helpful, not only for Russia but for a number of other countries as well, and not very difficult.

Learning Russian is quite hard going. The script, Cyrillic, uses many letters of the Latin alphabet but assigns many of them different sounds. The language employs three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), six grammatical cases, and free-fall stress, all of which conspire to make it a difficult prospect for the native English speaker.

"Rossiya" is the way the country's name is pronounced in Russian. "Rossiya" is also written on all Russian stamps, if you noticed. Russians believe the English word "Russia" has long ceased to convey the exact pronunciation and the nature of the name and even sounds somewhat insulting to all Russians for it rhymes with a bad Russian word denoting a jail restroom. Therefore, if you come to Russia and speaking with the locals always remember to mention you have come to Rossiya and you enjoy your stay in Rossiya, they will be awfully glad to hear that and will remember that for years.

English is becoming a requirement in the business world, and many Russians in the cities (particularly Moscow or St. Petersburg but also elsewhere) know enough English to communicate. Elsewhere English is generally nonexistent, so take a phrase book and be prepared for slow communication with a lot of interpretive gestures.

Russia has hundreds of languages and claims to support most of them. Soviet linguists documented them in the first few decades of the USSR and made sure they were given Cyrillic writing systems (except Karelian, Veps, Ingrian, Votic and Ter Sami). Some were made local co-official languages. Southern Russia is lined with Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic language; the northern with Finnic and Samoyed tongues. The southwest corner has a variety of Caucasian languages; the northeast has a few Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages. However, a smattering of Russian is will greatly aid travellers no matter where they are.

The Russian Orthodox religion is one of the oldest branches of Christianity in the world and continues to have a very large following, despite having been repressed during the communist period. The language spoken in Russian Orthodox church services is Old Church Slavonic, which differs considerably from modern Russian.




The foundations of the Russian cuisine was laid by the peasant food in an often harsh climate, with a combination of fish, poultry, game, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Crops of rye, wheat, buckwheat, barley, and millet provided the ingredients for a plethora of breads, pancakes, cereals, kvass, beer, and vodka. Flavourful soups and stews centred on seasonal or storable produce, fish, and meats. Russia's renowned caviar is easily obtained, however prices can exceed the expenses of your entire trip. Dishes such as beef Stroganov and chicken kiev, from the pre-revolutionary era are available but mainly aimed at tourists as they lost their status and visibility during Soviet times.

Russia has for many decades suffered a negative reputation for its food, and Russian cuisine was known for being bland and overly stodgy. However, the food scene has improved in the past years and Russia has also been known and famous for delicacies like caviar.

Russian specialities include:

  • Ikra - sturgeon or salmon caviar
  • Pelmeni - meat-filled dumplings, similar to pot-stickers, especially popular in Ural and Siberian regions
  • Blini - thin white flour or buckwheat pancakes, similar to French crepes
  • Black bread - rye bread, somewhat similar to one used by North American delis and not as dense as German variety
  • Piroshki (aka Belyashi - small pies or buns with sweet or savoury filling
  • Golubtsy - Cabbage rolls
  • Ikra Baklazhanaya - aubergine spread
  • Okroshka - Cold soups based on kvass or sour milk
  • Schi (cabbage soup) and Green schi (sorrel soup, may be served cold
  • Borsch - Ukrainian beet and cabbage soup
  • Vinegret - salad of boiled beets, eggs, potato, carrots, pickles and other vegetables with vinegar, mustard, vegetable oil and/or mayonnaise
  • Olivier - Russian version of potato salad with peas, meat, eggs, carrots, and pickles
  • Shashlyk - various kebabs from the Caucasus republics of the former Soviet Union
  • Seledka pod shuboy - fresh salted herring with "vinegret"
  • Kholodets - aka Studen' - meat, garlic and carrots in meat aspic
  • Kvass (a fermented thirst-quenching beverage made from rye bread, sugar and yeast, similar to young low-alcohol beer

Restaurants and cafes promising "European and Caucasus cuisine" generally cater to tourists and are usually bad; seek a restaurant that specializes in a single region instead (in Moscow: Georgian ("Hachapuri" -, Russian ("Varenichnaya №1"), Italian ("Il Forno"), French (Pushkin), etc.).

Many small restaurants offer lunch specials costing RUB300-600. These deals are valid from 12:00 to 16:00 mostly and include a cup of soup or an starter, a small portion of the main dish of the day, bread and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Authentic ethnic food from countries of the nearby Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia) is common. Japanese food, including sushi, rolls, tempura, and steakhouses are very popular in Moscow, but not all of them are safe and tasty. At least try Yakitoriya, you can find a -50% discount on Biglion for this nice sushi-bar. Other Asian cuisines including Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese are becoming increasing more common in such places like Danilovsky market in Moscow, where you can find anything you ever want.




Vodka is ubiquitous and cheap. Local soft drinks include Tarhun, Buratino and Baikal. Kvas is a sour-sweet non-alcoholic naturally carbonized drink made from fermented dark bread and mors is traditional wild berry drink.

Beer (пиво) is cheap in Russia and the varieties are endless of both Russian and international brands. It is found for sale at any street vendor (warm) or stall (varies) in the centre of any city and costs (costs double and triple the closer you are to the centre) from about RUB17 to RUB130 for a 0.5 L bottle or can. "Small" bottles and cans (0.33 L and abount) are also widely sold, and there are also plastic bottles of 1, 1.5, 2 litres or even more, similar to those in which soft carbonated drinks are usually sold — many cheaper beers are sold that way and, being even cheaper due to large volume, are quite popular, despite some people say it can have a "plastic" taste. Corner stores/cafés, selling draft beer (highly recommended) also exist, but you have to seek them out. The highest prices (especially in the bars and restaurants) are traditionally in Moscow; Saint-Petersburg, on the other hand, is known for the cheaper and often better beers. Smaller cities and towns generally have similar prices if bought in the shop, but significantly lower ones in the bars and street cafes. Popular local brands of beer are Baltika, Stary Mel'nik, Bochkareff, Zolotaya Bochka, Tin'koff and many others. Locally made (mainly except some Czech and possibly some other European beers — you won't miss these, the price of a "local" Czech beer from the same shelf will be quite different) international trademarks like Holsten, Carlsberg, etc. are also widely available, but their quality doesn't differ so much from local beers. Soft drinks usually start from RUB20-30 (yes, same or even more expensive than an average local beer in a same shop) and can cost up to RUB60 or more in the Moscow center for a 0.5 L plastic bottle or 0.33 L can.

Wines (вино) from Georgia, Crimea and Moldova are quite popular (although all products from Georgia are illegal 2005). In Moscow and Saint Petersburg, most restaurants have a selection of European wines—generally at a high price. Please note that Russians prefer sweet wine as opposed to dry. French Chablis is widely available at restaurants and is of good quality. The Chablis runs about 240 rubles per glass. All white wines are served room temperature unless you are at an international hotel that caters to Westerners.

Soviet champagne (Советское Шампанское, Sovetskoye Shampanskoye) or, more politically correctly, just sparkling wine (Игристые вина, Igristie vina) is also served everywhere in the former Soviet Union at a reasonable price. The quality can be quite good but syrupy-sweet to Western tastes, as by far the most common variety is polusladkoye (semi-sweet), similar to Asti Spumanti, but the better brands also come in polusukhoe (semi-dry) and sukhoe (dry) varieties. Brut also exists but is rare. The original producer was Abrau-Dyurso, but Ukrainian brands like Odessa and Krymskoe, are also very popular. Among quality Russian brands, the best brands originate from the southern regions where grapes are widely grown. One of a quality Russian brands is the historic Abrau-Dyurso (RUB200-700 for a bottle in the supermarket depending on variety); Tsimlyanskoe (RUB150-250) is also popular. The quality of the cheapest ones (from RUB85-120, depending on where you buy) varies, with some local Moscow and St. Petersburg brands (produced out of Crimean and southern Russian grapes) being quite good. You can buy if you do want to have a try while not paying much, but it's wiser to stick to something better.

Good genuine kvass (квас) is hard to find in the cities, there are only some chances in rural areas—but even there, only by a recommendation. Whatever is sold in supermarkets as kvass is merely an imitation, and is pretty far from a real product. What makes genuine kvass different includes: limited lifetime (normally 1 week), contains some alcohol (0.7% to 2.6% vol) and should be stored in a fridge. Genuine kvass can be bought in 0.2 L cups, which may be a good idea to sample it before buying in quantity.

In warm periods, genuine kvass can be bought from huge metal barrels on trailers (bochkas). Originally a symbol of soviet summertime, bochkas became rare after 1991. Soviet nostalgia and these trailers' no-nonsense good functionality have given them a revival in recent years. There are also modern, plastic, stationary, upright barrel-like dispensers but these may not sell the genuine article. Towards the end of an especially hot day, avoid genuine kvass from bochkas as it may have soured.

Medovukha (медовуха) aka mead, the ancient drink brewed from many a century ago by most Europeans was widespread among ancient Russians. It has semi-sweet taste based on fermented honey and contains 10-16% alcohol. You may see it sold in bottles or poured in cups in fast-food outlets and shops.

Tea (чай) is drunk widely in Russia. Most Russians drink black tea with either sugar, lemon, honey or jam.

Russia has several café chains with great coffee including Coffeemania and Starbucks, if you are looking for something better, then Double - B should be visited. Moscow also has a good selection of tea saloons. High-quality infusion teas such as Newby, are widely available in cafes, both in packets and loose.

Asking to add boiling water to the tea you ordered earlier is a practice that some cafes don't welcome, but normally it's acceptable.




In most cities, quality hotels are really scarce: most were built in Soviet times decades ago and are recently renovated in decor, but rarely in service and attitude.

Hotels in Russia may be quite expensive in metropolises and touristy areas. If you do speak a bit of Russian and are not entirely culture shocked, it is much smarter to seek out and rent a room in a private residence. Most Russians are looking to make extra money and, having space to spare, will rent it out to a tourist gladly.

Another useful option is short-term apartment rental offered by small companies or individuals. This means that certain flats in regular living buildings are permanently rented out on a daily basis. The flats may differ in their location and quality (from old-fashioned to recently renovated), but in any case you get a one- or two-room apartment with own kitchen, toilet, and bath.

A new phenomenon has been the development of "mini-hotels" in large Russian cities. Such hotels usually (but not necessarily!) provide clean modern rooms with private baths at far lower costs than conventional large hotels, approximately US$60 instead of well over US$150. These small hotels are located within existing apartment buildings and include one, two, or more floors located a story or two above street level. They also often serve breakfast. Saint Petersburg has quite a few with more opening all of the time and some are appearing in Moscow.

Couchsurfing is very popular in Russian cities.




See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Russia. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Russia) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Russia. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis, typhoid as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. It is also recommended to have a vaccination against tick borne encephalitis when you go hiking and/or camping for several days or more in the period of March to November. Only in rare cases is vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis recommended, as it only occurs in an area north of Vladivostok.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also: Travel Safety

Many governments recommend against travel to the North Caucasus due to ongoing conflict within the region. It is not safe to travel within 10 km of the eastern border of Ukraine. Most countries do not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and do not provide consular services there.
The Russian government has cracked down on any perceived opposition, and has imposed harsh laws to criminalize opinions that deviate from the official point of view. It is illegal to discredit the Russian military and the ongoing war in Ukraine, advocate sanctions and anti-war messages. Offenders may face a maximum imprisonment of 15 years. Even private discussion is dangerous, as there have been reported instances of supporters of the war secretly recording conversations with those opposed to the war and reporting them to the police.

Largely because of the transition from state socialism to market capitalism, Russia did experience a rise in criminal activity during the 1990s. As those who controlled capital through the state had to reconfigure their business operations towards a free enterprise rationality, profiteering and scams increased. Crime was greatly exaggerated in the media, and for the average tourist Moscow, Saint Petersburg and the rest of Russia are mostly just as safe as other major European cities.

The crime rate has fallen dramatically since hitting an all-time high in the 1990s, and is today moderate. Assault, robbery, or pickpocketing are the most common crimes. They often happen in underground walkways, the subway, overnight trains, train stations, airports, markets, tourist attractions, and restaurants.

Foreigners who have been drinking alcohol are especially vulnerable to assault and robbery in or around nightclubs or bars, or on their way home. Spiking is a threat to travelers at bars, so you should keep an eye on your drink all the time and don't leave your drink behind when going to the toilet.

The use of unmarked taxis is also a problem, as passengers have been victims of robbery, kidnapping, extortion, and theft. Although there are few registered taxi services in Russia, you should always use authorized services when arriving at a major airport, and it is best to ask which is registered before moving along. Bogus trolley inspectors, whose aim is to extort a bribe from individuals while checking for trolley tickets, are also a threat, if an increasingly rare one in the 2020s.

Russia's law enforcement are generally well-trained and professional in their jobs. Although they were very inadequate after the Soviet Union's breakup, the government has fought police corruption fiercely with success. Policemen should not dare to take bribes anyone, as they themselves would end up being fined huge amounts. While there is an ongoing effort to shape up the police force initiated by the government, some policemen still remain underpaid, and therefore corrupt.

If you intend to take a stroll during the night, have someone to accompany you — going alone can only make you a target for corrupt policemen and criminals.

Russia is not a safe destination for LGBT travellers. Many Russian people view homosexuality with hostility and actions seen as promoting homosexuality to minors have been illegal since 2013. If you have to turn to police seeking help against hate crimes, they may not help you.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in the early 1990s, homosexuality remains a huge taboo in Russian society. In the 2000s, negative attitudes towards homosexuality have been further buttressed by the government and homophobic activity has increased significantly. Those who think that homosexuality should not be accepted by society rose from 60% in 2003 to 75% in 2013. Less than 7% think that same-sex marriages are acceptable.

General wisdom about keeping your orientation and gender identification secret will keep you safe in most situations.

Driving by the majority of Russians is routinely reckless (hence the viral dashcam videos), and claimed almost 26,000 lives in 2016. Reckless driving habits, the lack of proper training, and a mixture of very old to old model cars all what contributes to a high death rate on roads. Guidelines are lax and not always followed. As a pedestrian, take great care when crossing the roads, as pedestrian crossings are sometimes ignored. Most drivers are not very well trained and some have forged their licenses to avoid problems with the police. More importantly, the rapidly expanding economy has led to an increase in traffic density. Driving in the tunnels is perhaps even more dangerous than driving on the roads — the tunnels are improperly built as a result of underinvestment, and they claim even more casualties than on the roads.

When driving you must not be under the influence of alcohol. Russians have a zero tolerance to this, and the penalty is about two years imprisonment. If you are pulled over by the GIBDD (Russian Traffic Police), don't worry — they will simply check your papers. If they try to solicit a bribe, you are entitled to report it to the nearest police station. Under no circumstances try to run away from them — if you do, they will shoot your vehicle, even when you're not armed.

Russia is a multicultural nation, due to historical conquests and immigration from parts of the former USSR and other parts of the world. Racially-motivated violent crimes, once a major issue, have dropped steadily since 2009, and the common traveller is unlikely to face any major problems.

People from Central Asia, and the North and South Caucasus are often viewed with distrust and contempt, and are often discriminated against by landlords. Similarly, individuals who aren't Russian and/or not from a Slavic-language speaking country can also be barred from renting homes in certain areas.

Interracial couples, particularly those in a relationship with a Russian local, may often attract unwanted stares and/or curiosity.



Keep Connected


Russia is a huge country, and excess to the internet varies a lot. The main cities and tourist places have (free) wifi excess at lots of places, like restaurants and cafes (McDonald's is always a safe bet). Internet cafes are present in larger places as well. Rural areas and especially if you venture into remote and/or mountainous areas have little excess at all. Most travellers will find connections though when using their phone or tablet.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The emergency number is 112. The country code for Russia is 7. Russian phone numbers have an area code with three, four or five digits (according to their province), followed by an individual number with, respectively, 7, 6 or 5 digits, always yielding 10 digits in total. The three digit code 800 is used for toll-free calls. Mobile phones always have three-digit "area" codes and seven-digit numbers. Calls within any one area code may omit the area code (except in Moscow). Inter-area code calls within Russia: 8 (wait for tone) full Russian number including area code. The international access code for dialling outwith Russia is the sequence of 8 (wait for secondary tone and then) 10. International calls to Russia, as always, replace the plus sign (+) in the international phone format with the local international access code for the country you're calling from, followed by Russia's country code of 7 followed by the individual Russian phone number including area code.

You will require a SIM-unlocked GSM 900 / 1800 compatible international cell phone when buying a Russian SIM card. If you do not have your own international cell phone, it's best to buy a cheap cell phone with some value on the card. Foreigners can purchase a local SIM card by showing your passport. BeeLine is considered to be the best in terms of reliability and connections quality. However Megafon's services can be a bit cheaper.


Russian Post is the national postal service of Russia. It's English version is currently under construction, but mainly involves the track&trace system. The domestic post is reasonably reliable, and sending international mail is fairly reliable but slow, taking at least a few weeks to European countries, longer to the USA or Australia for example. The delivery of mail sent from abroad to Russia is highly unreliable, and people or companies tend to use foreign adresses, from where a private carrier sends it to Russia. Alternatives like poste restante are non-existent with Russian Post. Most cities and large towns in Russia have a Central Post Office (Glavpochtamt), which also sells stamps and envelopes, and usually has fax services and Internet availability, though the latter mostly not in smaller places. Also, many hotels have postal services, including mail boxes. Post offices tend to keep long hours, usually from 8:00am or 9:00am until 8:00pm or 9:00pm Monday to Friday, and closing earlier during weekends. The main central post offices in the biggest cities keep even longer hours. For sending parcels, you can also try services by DHL Russia and FedEx Russia. For all mail you can use the regular alphabet, though maybe include the country's name in Cyrillic. For sending post to Russia (or trying to receive it) note that addresses should be in reverse order: Russia, postal code, city, street address, name.


Quick Facts

Russia flag

Map of Russia


Local name
Christianity (Russian Orthodoxy), Islam
Russian Rouble (RUB)
Calling Code
Time Zone
UTC+3 to UTC+12
Daylight Saving
UTC+4 to UTC+13


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Russia Travel Helpers

  • o.les

    I'm Russian. Living now in UK I could help people who want to travel to Russia by advise and maybe company

    Ask o.les a question about Russia
  • Brendan

    I travelled across Russia for 3 months, and could come up with some good tricks and tips.

    If you are looking for some adventure, I know some people in the Government that can get you into a National Park in Tunguska, Siberia! It's worth it!!

    Ask Brendan a question about Russia
  • olegru100

    Amazing adventures in Russia in the company of beautiful Russian girls.
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  • ElenaKKKK

    I live here

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  • wendables

    I can help with information regarding Moscow and St Petersburg. I travelled to this region in September 2006.

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