Are you visiting Russia for the first time and don’t know where to start? Planning a trip can always be quite overwhelming. Yet, ‘overwhelming’ can become an understatement when that trip involves visiting the largest country in the world! To say the least, Russia is fascinating, extreme, epic, diverse, whimsical, and crazy. To help you fit in as an ‘invisible tourist’, here’s 6 important tips you need to know before visiting Russia.
1. You will most likely need a visa
Most foreigners will require a Russian tourist visa to enter the country, allowing one to stay for up to 30 days. It’s a simple process. Apart from paying the fee, you’ll need your passport details, the online application form, and an invitation letter from a licensed tour operator or a Russian citizen. Make sure to apply early – a last-minute application can result in a hefty fee!
2. Learn the Cyrillic Alphabet and key Russian phrases
Despite hearing some English around major tourist attractions, keep in mind that English isn’t spoken too often in Russia. Many signs, maps, menus, and timetables are also written using the Cyrillic alphabet. Therefore, getting familiar with some Russian will only help. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet on your flight, as well as a few basic Russian phrases and you’re good to go. Needless to say, you don’t want to end up guessing what to have for dinner!
3. Pack wisely
Russian weather can be extreme, so carefully check the weather before travelling. If you’re visiting during the winter, it’s a no brainer that you’ll need to keep yourself warm. And, you’ll also need to keep yourself dry! A waterproof coat and a pair of winter boots will definitely be your friends. For travelling in the summer, pack light and breathable clothes. But don’t forget a jacket and a jumper for chilly evenings.
If you’re thinking of going out in Russia, be it club hopping, an evening at the Russian Ballet, or dinner at a nice restaurant, it’s worth noting that it’s frowned upon if you don’t dress up. Ladies, pack a pair of heels and an elegant dress or skirt. Men, a nice shirt, smart trousers, and shoes will go a long way.
4. Mixing Vodka is a sin
In Russia, it’s only right that you drink Vodka the Russian way. Meaning, drinking it pure, toasting in between shots, and no sipping! You’ll be thankful to know that food is a crucial part of any Russian vodka-drinking activity, so order some snacks with your drinks.
5. Explore Russia’s Metro
Quick, useful, and gorgeous, Russia’s metro system is the best way to get around. It may take a moment to find your bearings, but once you understand how it works, it’ll be easy to navigate around cities. That Russian you learned on the plane will come in handy here since names, maps, and timetables will only be in Russian.
6. Eat like a local
That familiar sight of McDonald’s and KFC may be tempting, but Russian food will not disappoint! From pancakes (blini) to dumplings (pelmeni), caviar (ikra), and stroganoff, Russian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world! Head to a stolovaya, self-service style canteens for delicious and affordable traditional Russian food with remarkable flavours. Don’t miss out on sampling the local cuisine!
If you’re looking for an incredible, stress-free Russian experience, check out our Russia tours which encompasses some of the top highlights in the country.