Russia Travel Guide: Russia Visas, City Guides, Travel Tips & More

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Russia, the world’s largest nation has it all- from fascinating historic cities and heavenly countryside to artistic creative treasures, classic train journeys and vodka stimulated nightlife. Russia travel is so unique and captivating, can you expect anything less than crazy? Well, get set to know everything about this enigmatic country.

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Soak yourself in the golden aura of Russia.

Best Time To Visit Russia

Best Time To Visit Russia

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The summers are beautiful in Russia

Summer is one of the best times to visit Russia. Here, summers start in June and end in August. The months of July and August being the peak tourist season. In summers, the days are longer and almost all the tourist attractions have extensive schedules. At some places in the extreme north, such as St.Petersburg, the sun does not set at the time of the ‘white nights’, from late May to mid July making it an idyllic time to visit Russia. But, summers in Russia have a downside too. The temperatures can go really high, July being the hottest month.
The autumns are short in Russia with an impulsive weather. Even though, it starts getting cold in September, sometimes it can be hot too. In the months of October and November, the temperature gets cold and it may even start snowing. But, the hue of autumn is stunning with yellow, red and orange trees all over.
Winters begin in December and last till February. It is freezing cold and most of the country is covered with crisp white snow. In winters, the days are very short in cities like St.Petersburg and most of the tourist attractions are either closed or have shorter schedules. But, the scenery is delightful with snow covered landscapes and frozen lakes. Tourists are less in winters and hence you will find discounted hotels, inexpensive airline and train tickets. Please make a note that from January 1st till January 8th, there are holidays in Russia to celebrate New Year and Orthodox Christmas. These days are marked with a number of special events and in Moscow some museums are absolutely free of charge during this period.
Spring season hits the country in the months of March and May. You will not find too many tourists in this season as the streets are messed up with melting snow.
So, to cut the long story short, May and June are indisputably the best months to explore Russia as the days are longer and it starts getting warm. May 1st and May 9th are celebrated as Labour Day and Victory Day respectively with loads of celebration and fireworks on the streets.

Travel tip:

  • From May until September is a good time with July and august being the busiest months.
  • If you are looking for serenity, less tourists and still good weather, end of spring and beginning of autumn is also a preferred time.
  • If you wish to see snow and do not want to spend much on your tickets and hotels, explore Russia in winters.

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Travel Documents For Russia

Travel Documents For Russia

Travellers require the following documents to visit Russia.

  • Passport – Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months after the expiry date of your visa with at least two blank pages.
  • Visa – You must have a valid visa for your specific purpose of travel. Russian tourist visas have a validity of 30 days. You must list all the areas in Russia you wish to visit on your visa application. You can be arrested if you enter a restricted area.
  • Travel Insurance – It is advisable to carry travel insurance for safe travel.
  • Migration Card – A migration card is a white paper document given by the border police on first entry to Russia. You must carry it with you all the time while you are in Russia.
  • Transit visa – All passengers transiting through Russia must obtain a transit visa.

Where To Stay In Russia

Where To Stay In Russia

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Russia has all kinds of housing and lodging options depending on your mood, taste and budget.

Hotels

Russia is a high-priced destination including hotel accommodations. Hotels range from plush luxurious 5 star accommodations to basic rough and tough rooms in cheaper hotels. Self-sufficient boutique hotels are not very common though large resorts and corporate hotel chains are making their way really quick.

Travel tip: The distances within most cities are immense, so it is sensible to choose a hotel with a good location.

Tourist Apartments

Tourist apartments have multiplied in Russia off late. If you are with family or holidaying in a large group, this kind of an accommodation is the best option. Most of these tourist apartments are well equipped and offer a pleasant stay.

Bed and Breakfast

There is bed and breakfast kind of accommodation available with English speaking families in cities like Moscow and St.Petersburg. It is a different experience and a great way to learn more about the Russian culture and traditions.

Hostels

Hostels prove to be a good option if you are a student or travelling alone. There are many hostels located in cities such as Moscow and St.Petersburg. Most of them come with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. . Hostels are excellent for comfortable lodging at affordable rates.

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Travelling Within Russia

Travelling Within Russia

russia travel-russia trip-tour-The Moscow metro stations

The Moscow metro stations never fail to enchant their visitors

Russia is a huge country with innumerable transportation options from airplanes and trains to ferries and rental cars. So, select according to your budget and convenience.

Airplane

Travelling by airplanes is quick and convenient but it sure makes a big hole in the pocket. Many Russian airlines, including Aeroflot, S7 Airlines, UTAir and Rossiya offer discounts in advance purchases.

Train

Train travel is affordable, comfortable and offers stunning, breath-taking view to reach limitless destinations. The train is the most used means of transport with high-speed trains, night trains and short journey trains. Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok is a beautiful romantic journey where you can see a large part of the country, various cultures, and different climatic zones while sitting in a relaxed comfy wagon. Another interesting train journey is through Sapsan, Russia’s high speed train between Moscow and St.Perterburg. It travels up to 250 miles an hour and is already a hit amongst tourists as it is more convenient than flying. Tourists can buy tickets at the station or online.

Travel tip: You can buy tickets from: RussianTrains.com. It is easy as you can choose your seats at the best price.

Metro

Travelling by Metro is hassle free, cost-effective and certainly the best way to explore the country. The metro system is excellent in cities like Moscow and St.Petersburg though there are smaller ones in Kazan, Nizhny, Novosibirsk, Novgorod, Samara and Yekaterinburg. The metro station in Moscow is almost a tourist attraction in itself- giving you a feel of beautiful, hidden underground palaces. The stations are awe-inspiring with marble walls and floors, chandeliers and stained glass windows. The most impressive stations are Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya, Kievskaya and Ploshchad’ Revolyutsii. In Moscow and St.Petersburg, the metro offers a variety of ticket options- from a single ride to a 90 minute public transportation to a daily pass.

Travel tip: Make sure you get a print out of the station map as you will not be able to get one in English at the station.

Ferry

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Enjoy the ferry rides that offers enchanting view

One of the pleasant ways to see Russia is by a ferry. If you want to see Moscow, St.Petersburg and the Golden Ring cities in a completely different angle, be sure to take a ferry tour or a river cruise. If you are travelling to Russia in an international cruise ship, you are allowed to stay in the country for 72 hours without a visa only if you have booked tours through companies officially licensed by the Russian government.

Bus

If you have a lot of time to spare then travelling by bus is also an efficient way to travel around the country. In addition to the long –distance buses, there are also Marshrutka, a kind of shared mini bus or taxi that makes short trips along a fixed route and are much faster and cheaper than standard buses. Bus tickets can be purchased the same day of the trip at the ticket office of the station or in advance through the Internet. Buses are a great way to travel to small towns that have no railway stations.

Taxi

Yellow taxis can be seen everywhere in the country. But most of them are not metered and might charge too much. Getting taxis with phone applications such as Yandex Taxi and Gett are much reasonably priced and easy to use.

Car

Driving through Russia can be difficult, especially if you don’t know Cyrillic alphabets. Road conditions can be poor in some places and roadside checkpoints are very common. In case you are looking at this option, make sure you learn Cyrillic alphabets. You can hire a car from an international car rental agency and please invest in a map in English as you might end up in areas without internet or English speakers.

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Things To Do In Russia

Things To Do In Russia

Russia, a country with matchless and mystifying history, has a wealth of museums, parks, churches, monuments that attract visitors from all over the world. The number of things that can be done and the experiences one can have in Russia are uncountable. While listing all the things that can be done in Russia tours is impossible, we have listed the top three that are a must visit to get the real feel of the country.

#1 Visit The St.Basil’s Cathedral

russia travel-russia trip-tour-St. Basil's Cathedral

Inspiring masterpieces of Orthodox art create a magical Russia (seen here: St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow)

One of the most famous tourist attractions, St.Basil’s Cathedral will transport you to a different world with its colourful domes and a mysterious charisma. Built in the 16th century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, it has an eccentric and vibrant contrast with traditional churches found all over the country. It is said that the architects of the cathedral were blind folded just to make sure anything similar is never created.

#2 Marvel At The Beauty Of Moscow Kremlin

russia travel-russia trip-tour-The Kremlin

The Kremlin is a fortified complex in the heart of the city

Kremlin, the most exemplary and world famous building in Russia lies on the banks of Moscow River. The complex is huge with a lot of enlivening things to see- from its palace buildings to places of worship which are open to the public. Around the centrally located Cathedral Square are the three outstanding cathedrals, the living examples of the great Russian architecture. The Armoury Museum, The Grand Kremlin Palace, Diamond Fund, Ivan the Great Bell Tower and the Patriarch Palace are some of the best places to see.

#3 Sit By Lake Baikal

russia travel-russia trip-tour-The dreamy Lake Baikal

The dreamy Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake

Are you a nature lover? Well, if your answer is yes, then this place is for you. Lake Baikal, located in the southern part of the eastern Siberia is the oldest and the deepest fresh water lake in the world. This place is mesmerising as it lies in a deep structural hollow enclosed by mountains. It is one of the most favourite Russian tourist places and is called the ‘Pearl of Siberia’. In winters, the lake freezes forming a crystal clear ice sheet, giving an opportunity to sneak a look at the underwater world. The lake has 27 islands, the most famous being the Olkhon Island. After spending the day at the lake, the tourists can relish fresh food from local hawkers.

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Places To Visit In Russia – Russian Cities

Places To Visit In Russia – Russian Cities

Moscow

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Photographs don’t do justice to the Red Square, Moscow

Moscow, the expansive capital of Russia is home to the grand Kremlin, the most celebrated Red Square and the iconic St.Basil’s Cathedral. The city is a good mix of political and cultural sites. The Red Square is one of the most renowned Moscow tourist attractions and boasts to have some of the city’s most remarkable landmarks. It is entrancing to see all that is old, blending so well with the new. Within Red Square, the tourists can observe the St.Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, Lenin’s Mousoleum and the Gum Shopping Mall. The Gorkiy Park is one of the trendiest places in the city with cafes, open air cinema theatres, places to stroll and free Wifi. Do take out time to see Nikulin Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard, the oldest circus in Moscow. Take a walk at the Old Arbat Street and enjoy the feel of the old Moscow spirit. The street is full of souvenir vendors, cool cafes and restaurants. If you want to dine with the Moscow’s rich and the famous, head to the New Arbat Street, as it is has some of the most expensive restaurants and nightclubs. The street is brightly lit up at night and is always sparkling and energetic. Your Moscow tour is incomplete without visiting the Tverskaya Street. It is the most up-to-the-minute street in Moscow, with many chic boutiques, coffee houses, theatres and a number of hotels. Moscow tourism has something for every taste- go shopping, engage in cultural activities or simply be obsessed with the city’s beautiful surroundings.

Travel tip: If you want to buy souvenirs at an affordable price, go to Ismailovsky market.

Saint Petersburg

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Has to be the prettiest fountain ever- Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg

St.Petersburg is a charming city with an interesting history and is rightly called the Jewel in Russia’s Imperial Crown. The city is full of canals, elegant bridges and marvellous palaces. Visit the magnificent Winter Palace which was once home to the Tsars and now has an excellent Hermitage collection. Explore the Peter and Paul Fortress, the oldest building in the city with notable architecture. Take a look at the St.Isaac’s Cathedral, a traditional Russian church that is built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. Check out the fantastic Summer Gardens at Peterhof. St.Petersburg tours are imperfect without watching an Opera or a Ballet performance at the Mariinsky. If you are at the city during the ‘White Nights’, do not miss the White Night Festival. It is a public celebration of cultural events organised by the Saint Petersburg City Administration. The festival showcases ballet, opera, classical music and art with world class performances. The festival has huge firework displays, open air performances and amazing water and light shows.

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Places To Eat In Russia

Places To Eat In Russia

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A gastronomic treat in Russia – Pelmeni

Foodies will have a gala time in Russia as the country cooks up some amazing food. You will be absolutely thrilled with the array of dining options the country offers- from old fashioned restaurants and urban cafes to restaurants serving exotic creative cuisines. Russian cuisine is known for its bizarre soups, rustic dishes like Pelmeni, which is a meat dumpling and pancakes with different fillings. But, there is much more. If you want to have Pizzas and Burgers with a twist go to Delicatessen, an experimental cafe in Moscow that will make you say, wow!

If you are a vegetarian and vegan, go straight to Fresh and enjoy the ‘raw’ world. If you are keen to have Lebanese food Shawarma Republic is the place for you. Check out Lavka-Lavka if you are an organic food lover. St.Petersburg is no less when it comes to food. Stroganoff Steak House claims to be the only steakhouse in the country that offers hand butchering of imported cuts from Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. The Literary cafe at the city serves some excellent mix of European and Russian dishes. And if you are craving for Indian food, St.Petersburg will just not disappoint you. Tandoor, an Indian restaurant serves delicious chicken and vegetable curries along with some mouth watering Indian desserts. Cafe Idiot is another remarkable restaurant known to serve vegetarian versions of Russian food. So, get ready to binge!

Nightlife In Russia

Nightlife In Russia

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Russian cities dazzle with colourful lights and fountains at night

Russians love to party and Moscow and St.Petersburg are the most electrifying cities when it comes to partying. Both the Russian cities take on a different vibe altogether at night. In fact, all the public buildings and monuments, which look so royal and classic during the day suddenly seem to be rocking at night. The cities dazzle with colourful lights and fountains. The nightlife options are unbelievable and have something for each and everyone- whether you are a diehard fan of the Russian rock band or keen to get lost in the smoky world of jazz club, just want to go clubbing till early morning or lounge around tasting the local array of vodkas. The City Space Bar in Moscow is worth going for its breath taking view and a great atmosphere. Rodnya and Strelka Bar are good for partying till the wee hours. For those of you who are looking for lavish menus, exotic cocktails and glamorous dancers, places like Premier Lounge, Pacha, Solyanka and Icon Club are the best. St.Petersburg is no less and has an inviting and superb nightlife. The Dumskaya street in the city is a delight for all those who like small bars and live music. Other places include Underground, Morrison, Groboedov, Dom Beat and Chroniki. So, don’t think, just party hard!

Communications And Connectivity In Russia

Communications And Connectivity In Russia

Russian holidays are always exciting. But, at the same time we want to be in touch with our family and friends. So, if you are keen to carry your own mobile phone, you will have to check with your service provider and ensure that you have an international roaming. The best and the most economical way is to use local SIM cards. They are easily available and are easy to use. You will just have to make sure that you are carrying an unlocked GSM phone.

Travel tip:

Electricity throughout Russia is 220 volt/50hz. The plug is two-pin thin European standard. Be sure to carry your own converter.

Money In Russia

Money In Russia

Rouble is the currency of Russia. Notes are in the denomination of 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000. All major international credit and debit cards including Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in hotels, shopping hubs, restaurants and cafes. If you are planning to bring cash to be exchanged to Roubles, US dollars and Euros are preffered. ATMs are available throughout the country and offer English as well as Cryllic translations. Banks are also available to exchange currency at a reasonable exchange rate.

Tips For Your Russia Tour

Tips For Your Russia Tour

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Russia is as alluringly beautiful as its European counterparts

  • Make sure you carry your passport and the migration card with you at all times. Russian police have the right to stop people and ask for identity and travel documents at any time.
  • All foreigners entering Russia will be fingerprinted, so don’t worry, it is a custom.
  • Do not try to enter Russia, before the date shown on your visa. If you are staying in Russia for more than a week, you must register your visa and migration card with the General Administration for Migration Issues of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
  • Download Google Translator as it is excellent with Russian-English translations.
  • If you are carrying prescription medication, make sure you bring enough to last your entire Russia trip. To get the same medication in Russia, you will need a recommendation from a Russian doctor.
  • Be alert, as pick pocketing is quite common in big cities.
  • Be careful about photographing. Do not click pictures of official buildings.
  • Tap water in Russia is not considered safe for drinking. Make use of bottled mineral water which is available almost everywhere.
  • While visiting churches and monasteries, women need to cover their heads and bare shoulders with scarves often provided at entry. At some places women are required to wear long wrap-around skirts which are also provided at entry. Men cannot enter the churches wearing shorts and hats.
  • Dial 112 or 101 in case of any emergency.

From artistic countryside to historic cities, Russia offers it all. Hope this Russia travel guide helps you explore this country conveniently.

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