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 Post subject: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: 08 Feb 2011 11:13 
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Tips for travelling in Russia

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The Cathedral of Christ the savor in Moscow

Traveling in Russia has it ups and downs. One of the biggest problem and downer is definitely the almighty Russian bureaucracy. Do not think for a moment or expect to be treated well or to get a good service by a Russian bureaucrat. Any how for the past few years, travelling to Russia and inside the old "Iron Curtain" has become a lot of easier, since the USSR times.

Some of the major ups are the people, the history, the architecture and the climate. The Russian people in general are very warm and generous without some false politeness - if a Russian welcomes you, then you really can be sure that you are welcome.

If you can overcome the initial problems with entering the country, the rest of the travel has all the possibilities in the world to be very interesting and enjoyable, since there are many hidden (to the outside world) treasures and you can find something in Russia for all type of tastes.

In this short post, I would like to give my personal best Russia travel tips, from my own experiences, to make your travel to this wondrous country, as enjoyable, safe and reasonable trouble-free as it ever possible. Other people, of course, are welcome and invited to add their own travel tips and experiences in Russia and I hope they have some photos to add too.

10 Tips When You Travel In Russia

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  1. Apply for visa well in advance
    Apply for your visa very well in advance, do not wait until is just a few weeks left to your travel. You can do it through an embassy located in your country of residence. To apply for your visa you need to have an invitation. Invitations are issued by the hotel at which you plan to stay, through your travel agent or a private Russian citizen, if you plan to have private accommodation. The last alternative takes longer time than the others.

    There are several companies on the internet which will provide you with a tourist or business invitation by email. Real Russia in the UK with offices in Moscow can provide you with this service and also organize your visa. There are many other companies like "Way to Russia" which will do the same, so make a search and find a reliable one and the extra that you have to pay for their services and experience will save you a lot of hassle.

    Read more: Visa (document)

  2. Do not forget to register your immigration Card, upon arrival to Russia
    When you are finally in Russia, you must register within three days of the arrival. You will receive an immigration form at the passport control that must follow your passport. To complete the registration process your hotel will enrich you with a stamp. Register at every new hotel you stay at if you move around in the country. If you stay in an apartment or with friends/relatives then the apartment owner together with you must go and register your stay at OVIR, or the post office.

    Read more: viewtopic.php?p=5035#p5035


  3. Keep your travel documents safe and in order
    The best way to deal with a strict Russian bureaucrat is to have all your documents in order and remain calm at all moments. Make photocopies of all you travel documents and always carry a photocopy of your passport with you. It could be a good idea if you leave a copy of your passport number and other information with a family member in your home country (in the sad case of misplaced or stolen passport).

    Don’t take the rudeness of a custom officer personally. Russian bureaucrats have a bit awkward behavior but they are like that to everybody - Russians and foreigners, they make no difference whatsoever. If you would meet them privately you would discover that they often are very nice and friendly people. Remember, remain calm and correct.


  4. Exchange currency at your home bank
    The Russian currency is Ruble. You need to have some Rubles with you when you arrive in case you need to shop or have a coffee or eat at a restaurant for example. Credit cards are not widely accepted in shops and having other currencies can be problematic. Euros and USD can be exchanged in many places in Russia - generally, it’s not any problem to find a place for exchange, but your bills must be of current issue, without tears, rips, markings or folds. Easiest is to do all exchange at your home bank before you travel to Russia.

  5. Forget about travelers’ cheques when traveling in Russia
    Cash is still the undisputed King. ATMs/bank machines are common in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and in all other major cities, but many times there are restrictions on foreign cards and not every place/shop will accept credit cards. Above all don't forget you have the language problem.

    Forget about travelers’ checks. Bring always enough cash to last you for at least a couple of days - do not do the mistake to trust that credit cards will solve all your temporary money problems.

    Make sure you have also a debit card with you and keep them separate from the other cards. Find out before going the cost of using credit or debit cards in Russia, from you bank, keep an eye on the charges as it can become very expensive using them for little things. Russia has a different tradition with cards and cheques.

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    I am going to SAVING BANK (most Russians have a saving bank card)

  6. Use public transportation in Russia
    Public transportation in Russia is usually very reliable, and more or less comfortable. Buses and other public transportations are often crowded, but cheap. The metros are at least in the big cities are a nightmare to navigated so make an effort to learn the Cyrillic alphabet so you can read the signs. Be prepared that you probably have to stand while you ride - that is not a problem, unless the Russian hospitality hasn’t enriched you with too much Vodka. Personally, I prefer using a taxi - it is easy, affordable and much more comfortable as long as you keep yourself to the major taxi companies. When I was visiting Russia, I have made a couple of good contacts and before flying out I make my arrangements in advance. While there.... my friendly taxi driver Ivan, is always at the end of the phone when I needed him!

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  7. Pay attention to social conventions
    Shaking hands is customary when you meet someone in person. Small gifts (a bottle of wine, flowers or chocolate) when you visit someone are well received. It is not possible to be overdressed in Russia - conservative wear is suitable for most places.

    Smiling in Russia is traditionally reserved for friends. Smile at a stranger in the street and they will either think you’re making fun of them or that you must be, if not complete, an idiot anyway. Combine that smile with sloppy clothing and the Russians might think that you are an alcoholic. Dress proper and behave balanced and everything will be fine.

    Do not expect that English speaking people are widespread in Russia.
    It is a requirement in the business world and younger people often know enough to communicate. In major hotels some of the staff have a working knowledge of English.

    You surely need an English/Russian dictionary of some kind, and it doesn’t harm to learn some key phrases in Russian, or hire a local translator. A translator can be more affordable than you think.

  8. Do not take photos of military installations
    It is prohibited to take photographs of any military installation and/or establishments or sites of strategic importance. Failure to abide by this could result in police arrest or some really serious problems.

    And believe me (my friends told me), you don’t want problems with the Russian police.


  9. Have all of your vaccinations and insurances up to date
    Ensure that all of your vaccinations are up to date, and you have sufficient amounts of any prescription medicine you may be taking. Pharmacies APTEKA are common in all cities and carry a large supply of quality western medications, but all the labels are in Russian and most Russian store clerks do not speak English.

    Contact your insurance company before you travel to find out what your insurance plan offers in case of emergency. Many insurance providers offer specialized riders which can cover emergency evacuation. Travel insurance is important. If you don't have a good and reliable travel insurance when you travel in Russia it's just playing Russian Roulette.


  10. Bring toilet paper with you when you are out on sightseeing
    Do not expect every public bathroom or toilet will provide you with towels, soap, toilet paper or, most importantly, a chair. A hole is what you are offered. Sometimes stylish and fashionable, but still a hole in the floor. Don't forget to carry with you always, some packet of tissue's.

    In most private homes and descent hotels you find bathrooms with acceptable and even excellent standards, and with all the features you need to do some effective and serious personal bathroom business.

    If you keep the above tips in mind and behave respectfully and normal, you shouldn’t have any trouble during your Russian travel. Keep also in mind, Russians are just like everybody else. they are humorous and descent people, more often appear to be not friendly BUT always very hospitable.

Russia: where East meets West

Russia, a country of enormous social, political and geographic proportions, remains one of the great undiscovered destinations for travel in the 21st century. An incredible diversity of customs, culture and wildlife lies between the Gulf of Finland and the Pacific Coast’s Kamchatka peninsular.

Russia remains the biggest country in the world, covering an eighth of the Earth’s land area. Travelling 9,200 kilometres overland from west to east takes six days on the Moscow – Vladivostok train, a route that crosses a fascinating landscape across eight time zones.

Due to its geographical position, Russian culture is a melting pot of Oriental, European and Asian traditions. This diversity is evident not only in its architecture and art, but in the character and lifestyle of its people. Even the two main cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, are completely different in character. Moscow is an ancient capital of churches and monasteries. Its heart, the Kremlin, brings you immediately to the 15th century, the time of grand princes and tsars, yet it is one of the most rapidly developing cities in the world, increasingly influenced by the West. St. Petersburg is an elegant city of palaces and grand estates that was founded by Peter the Great to become Russia’s “Window to Europe”. Between these two remarkable cities lies vast countryside dotted with villages of small wooden dachas and, occasionally, country estates and historic monasteries. The Golden Ring towns of Vladimir, Suzdal, Yaroslavl, Kostroma and Rostov were founded during the 12th and 13th centuries following invasion from the south and flourished as trade towns, though they were overtaken by Moscow in importance by the 16th century.

Russia is a country of great composers, musicians, ballet dancers and artistic traditions. Concert halls such as the Tchaikovsky Conservatory are ever popular and the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres are among the most important ballet and opera stages in the world.

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The Monastery of St. Nil on Stolobnyi Island in Lake Seliger in Tver Province.

Early color photograph from Russia, created by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work to document the Russian Empire from 1909 to 1915.

View of the Nilova Monastery. The Monastery of St. Nil' on Stolobnyi Island in Lake Seliger in Tver' Province, northwest of Moscow, illustrates the fate of church institutions during the course of Russian history. St. Nil (d. 1554) established a small monastic settlement on the island around 1528. In the early 1600s his disciples built what was to become one of the largest, wealthiest, monasteries in the Russian Empire. The monastery was closed by the Soviet regime in 1927, and the structure was used for various secular purposes, including a concentration camp and orphanage. In 1990 the property was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and is now a functioning monastic community again.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#2  PostPosted: 08 Feb 2011 15:34 
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Some of the travel tips are pretty funny when you let yourt Russian wife read them...

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#3  PostPosted: 09 Feb 2011 16:20 
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Shadow wrote:
Some of the travel tips are pretty funny when you let yourt Russian wife read them...

She did..... and made only one comment...... about the dress code.....homeless but when questioned further....... admitted that I was probably right! [tonque.gif]

Any comments from Mrs Shadow to the contrary?

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#4  PostPosted: 09 Feb 2011 22:54 
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Not by Mrs Shadow... but mine.

1. Rudeness of customs officials:
I have never experiences them to be rude. As for keeping a straight face, if you would have to sit 10 hours a day in a cramped space looking at foreigners who do not even have the politeness to learn a single word in your language, you might look pretty stern as well.
Remember that fake smiles are not customary in the FSU. However I did get some genuine ones.

2. Echanging money:
You will find that Rubles are still pretty hard to get outside Russia. Use the ATM in the airport, its pretty safe. In Moscow and Kiev there are large numbers of ATM's, and most hotels have one.

3. Navigating subway:
Never had a problem, perhaps because I am used to use public transport when on vacations. The metro system is even a lot easier to navigate as finding the correct bus line.
Regarding taxis, they are overpriced. Better get a Russian woman to stop a car on the street and negotiate the price.

4. Bring Toilet paper:
Might have been my limited experience, however I have never found a public toilet without paper. In fact you will find some public toilets in Moscow that would genuinely amaze foreigners with their luxurious contents.

5. Making a copy of your documents:
This is a really useful thing. Having once lost my wallet in Argentina, the Embassy was very happy with a photocopy of my passport as it cut the lead time on the emergency passport by several days. For the IT minded people, keep a copy in a safe internet place for quick access.
However always carry the original with you. A photocopy is not a valid proof of identity, meaning that you could be subject of a cash fine if caught with only a photocopy. There for keep the copy in your room and your original documents with you at all times.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#5  PostPosted: 11 Feb 2011 15:53 
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As for visas...when you arrange your visa arrange for extra days at the end of it so you don't run into trouble with flight delays or cancelations.

Quote:
Euros and USD can be exchanged in many places in Russia

Euros are probably preferrable since everytime I checked it seemed the exchange rate was always a little in the euro's favour. Also once in Penza they wanted to charge an extra % on USD because some of the bills were the older style and considered "less secure". I had euro's on me as well and they were much happier to take those without any extra fee.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#6  PostPosted: 12 Feb 2011 23:23 
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Shadow wrote:
4. Bring Toilet paper:
Might have been my limited experience, however I have never found a public toilet without paper. In fact you will find some public toilets in Moscow that would genuinely amaze foreigners with their luxurious contents.


You probably were lucky. Living in Russia I always had napkins in my purse because of lack of toilet paper in the public toilets (of course if it is not a paid public toilet).

Last time when I visited Russia and had to use the toilets at Sheremetyevo 1 and 2, I was glad that I haven't changed my habit to keep napkins in my purse.

I also have never been able to understand why some ladies need to sit in the eagle pose climbing on the toilet bowl with their feet, peeing and pooping all over. [sad.gif]

Regarding absence of toilet paper in public toilets: in our theater the toilet paper, the paper towels and the soap bars and even liquid soap suddenly was vanishing after intermission [surprised.gif] though our janitors always did a good job keeping order.

But I agree some toilets are very nice especially if you have to pay for using their toilet bowls.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#7  PostPosted: 13 Feb 2011 08:39 
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Regarding taking money to Russia see this thread How to take money to Russia the thread does give solid advise.

The only bit that has been omitted from the above tread is that if intending to pay with a credit card in a restaurant ask if they accept credit cards before you order, it saves the situation of having to leave someone as a "hostage" while you go on a ATM hunt so that you can pay the bill.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#8  PostPosted: 13 Feb 2011 08:58 
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I never took cash with me in Russia/Ukraine. I always used ATM machines, as european debit cards are accepted even more widely than the usual creditcards. (Look for the maestro logo!).

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#9  PostPosted: 13 Feb 2011 14:54 
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Rasboinik wrote:
Regarding taking money to Russia see this thread if intending to pay with a credit card in a restaurant ask if they accept credit cards before you order, it saves the situation of having to leave someone as a "hostage" while you go on a ATM hunt so that you can pay the bill.

Humm, this makes me think that it might be good to carry a credit card you know they won't accept. That way if you end up with a serial dater who just ran up a $ 500.00 dinner tab you can leave her for security while you go to the ATM. Humm, let's see, the ATM in JFK airport on the way home will work fine.

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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#10  PostPosted: 14 Feb 2011 12:26 
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Turboguy wrote:
Humm, this makes me think that it might be good to carry a credit card you know they won't accept. That way if you end up with a serial dater who just ran up a $ 500.00 dinner tab you can leave her for security while you go to the ATM. Humm, let's see, the ATM in JFK airport on the way home will work fine.


Good one TG, I must remember that. [thumbs.gif]

One of my stock 'jokes' is to ask in a restaurant if they take American Express. When they say 'yes' then I ask if they have any application forms.

I can report to the board in a very confident tone that this 'joke' doesn't work too well in Ukraine. [rolleyes.gif]

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