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Russia - Traveling

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Entry requirements

Organizing your trip

Means of transport recommended in town

The big cities, in particular Moscow and St Petersburg, have an extensive, fast metro network. For travels between Moskow and St Petersburg, it is advisable to take the high-speed SAPSAN train (4 hour of travel).
The most convenient means of transport remains the taxi. It is best to use official taxis (they have a yellow sign on the roof) for security reasons. If you book the taxi in advance and agree on the fare, you can avoid unpleasant surprises. Take into account that the travel time between the city centre and airports could take long time.
A basic knowledge of Russian is useful for getting around.
Maps of urban networks: Map of the Moscow metro

Means of transport recommended in the rest of the country

The rail network is relatively extensive and good quality. Trains keep to the timetable but they are slow. For security reasons it is better not to travel alone.
Domestic flights have greatly increased over the last few years; but the planes are old and comfort is Spartan for most companies. Accidents still happen quite frequently. Some airlines don't have advanced reservation systems and sell tickets for cash in the airport. Flights are often cancelled.
Airlines
Name Type Domestic flights International flights
Aeroflot Major Yes Yes
Sibir Airlines (S7) Major Yes Yes
Transaero Major Yes Yes
KrasAir Major Yes Yes
Rossiya (Pulkovo) Major Yes Yes
DalAvia Major Yes Yes
KD Avia low cost Yes Yes
Sky Express Low cost Yes No

Traveling by yourself

Recommendation: Because of climatic conditions and the road network's lack of maintenance, driving is often difficult and dangerous. The sometimes unpredictable behavior of local drivers, an often disconcerting traffic system, the presence of unexpected objects or vehicles on the public highway, all require very careful attention.
The highway police (GAI) frequently make checks; fines for speeding or crossing solid lines have to be paid on the spot. Emergency road services, medical or mechanical, are slow in coming.
There are often traffic jams near large built-up areas, especially Moscow.
On the main roads, the signs are also written in the Roman alphabet.
Find an itinerary: ViaMichelin

Visiting

Different forms of tourism

Historical: Old cities in the European part, and especially the cities of the Golden Ring.
Cultural: Museums and art galleries in the big cities. Theatre, ballet and opera.
Nature: Russia is crammed with natural resources: the Volga, Caucasus and the Urals, the forests of Carelia and Siberia, lake Baïkal, the Kamchatka peninsula.
Religious: There are numerous active monasteries across the country.
You should make a note of the monasteries of Suzdal and Sergueiev Possad near Moscow.
Thermal: Thermal tourism is concentrated mainly in the North Caucasus, around cities such as Mineralny Vody, Kislovodsk, Zheleznovodsk or Essentuki.
Most establishments are Soviet sanatoriums with Spartan comfort.
Beach: In summer, people bathe in many lakes and rivers, especially on the island of Serebrianny Bor in Moscow.
There are several resorts on the Black Sea starting with Anapa (sand beach) and Sotchi (pebble beach).
Winter sports: Cross-country skiing and skating are practiced practically everywhere in the country.
Downhill skiing is booming. There are bigger resorts in the Caucasus, and also in the Urals and the Kouzbass.
Outdoor activities: Fishing, rambling and white-water sports.
Shopping: Luxury shopping is generally concentrated in the GOUM or TSOUM in Moscow and in the Gostiny Dvor (in Russian) in St Petersburg.
The market in Izmailovsky park is renowned for souvenirs, furs, crafts and other Soviet antiques.
Tourism organizations: Russian Tourism Board

Living conditions

Health and safety

Health precautions: No vaccinations required.
Visitors staying more than 3 months must produce a certificate of HIV-negative status (see this with the Embassy).
Because counterfeiting of medicines has increased so much in Russia, travelers are advised to take with them the medicines they need for their state of health or for treatment.
For further information on sanitary conditions: The pages of the WHO website devoted to Russia (in English)

Time difference and climate

Map of the time zone: Moscow, Kazan, Saint Petersburg (GMT+3 in winter, GMT+4 in summer), Iekaterinbourg, Perm, Chelyabinsk (GMT+5 in winter, GMT+6 in summer), Novosibirsk, Omsk (GMT+6 in winter, GMT+7 in summer), Vladivostok, Khabarovsk (GMT+10 in winter, GMT+11 in summer)
Summer time period: Summer time from March to October
Climate: Winter is long and very harsh (except around the Black Sea) while summer is hot and short.
The best time to visit the country is without doubt during the months of May and June; July and August can be stifling especially in the big cities.

Eating

Food specialties: Caviar has always been considered to be the luxury food par excellence.
The Russians eat a great variety of salads (the most famous of which is called 'the olive') and soups (borch, salinaka, yra,...). The ravioli ("pelmeni") from Siberia and the kebabs ("chachlik") from the Caucasus are also among the specialties.
Drinks: Also called "khlebnoe pivo" (bread beer), le Kvas (or kvass) is a drink much enjoyed in Russia. Mildly alcoholic and sparkling, it is made by fermenting bread in water.
Vodka or "little water" (diminutive of voda, water) is the traditional Russian drink. It is often drunk with canapés called "zakouski".
Russians also drink large quantities of beer ("pivo") and tea ("tchai") which often replaces water.

Speaking

Getting some knowledge: Consult the travlang website.
Free translation tools:
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