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 Post subject: Re: Tips for travelling in Russia
Post Number:#11  PostPosted: 16 Feb 2011 01:38 
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wiz wrote:
Tips for travelling in Russia

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.

I'll add that if you know you're going to visit more than once, then you should look into a one year business visa as the extra cost will be paid for by the second visit. When I apply for mine, I just use a travel visa company here in the USA and have never had any problems with a pretty quick turn around.

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.

Even when you get it registered, it's not guarantee of not being hassled. I had the experience in Rostov-on-Don of visiting over New Years, I had the stamp from the local hotel, but no paperwork as all the offices were closed, then went down to Sochi and stayed at a tourist hotel which had no clue (thinking did not want to bother was the truth) when I asked about it. Anyways, on the way out of the fancy Rostov airport [lol.gif] , I was stopped and it did cost me a little money. [angry.gif]

[*]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.

Maybe this is true in Europe, but it's pretty difficult to exchange money at a lot of local banks in the USA. If you need money and are flying to SVO, I have found the little bank in the international arrivals (Old terminal) had a good exchange rate. Also, in Moscow I have never ate somewhere (outside of street vendors) where I could not use my Visa so I usually carry very little cash.

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.

Related to ATM's, I have not had problems in Russia, but twice in the Ukraine I had my transaction cancel (no money came out of the machine), but money did come out of my bank account. [confused.gif]

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!

Related to the metro, if you have a good metro map with both English and Cyrillic, then it's not too difficult to navigate (lots of experience riding in Moscow and a little in Pieter & Kyiv). Now if you are really uncertain, then just count your stops and if transferring, pay more attention to the line number than the color (just pay attention as sometimes a station might be closed) as they do announce the stop ahead of time, but it does take some time before you understand what they are saying.

Also, despite what Donhollio says, the minivan (machutka sp???) is not a bad option. But, the best option is go see someone who has a car as it's the best transportation around. [thumbs.gif]

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.

I would say learn a handful of the basic sayings ahead of time as it's usually all you need to get around, especially if you are visiting an English speaking lady.

[*]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.

This is especially true when driving between cities in Russia. You will have primitive toilets along the side of the road, but I have usually found them so foul [bad.gif] that I do as the Russians do, that is drive down the road a little and use the forest .

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