11 tips you should know before traveling to Russia

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Traveling to Russia for the first time might seem like a crazy adventure, and although the “closed door” policy has been in place for nearly a century, Russia is not scary at all. While tourist towns are well equipped for visitors, there are some details to consider beforehand. Read carefully and start packing!

11 things you should know before traveling to Russia

Check if you need a visa

Citizens of most countries outside the former Soviet Union will be required to apply for a visa before arrival. The process is fairly simple, but an invitation is required from a licensed tourism operator or a Russian citizen.

Coordination with a necessary travel broker before traveling to Russia

Visitors arriving by sea are granted 72 hours of visa-free entry to Russia if they arrange with a travel agent. There is not much freedom to go around, but at least it will save a little effort on the visa front.

Do not speak English with Russians during your trip

Although this may vary from one destination to another, Russians generally do not speak well in English. They study it from a young age and have a good understanding, but they are generally ashamed to talk about it.

Restaurants tend to have menus in English, and people working in tourism certainly speak a second language and/or a third language, but your stranger may not be able to explain themselves properly.

Speak in Russian

So prepare for some guidebooks and maps that you can use as props. Some useful words and phrases may also be a good idea to learn, not only to help with emergencies but also to occasionally impress local people with the cute spasibo (thank you).

Find public transport during your tours

Public transport is the best way to move in most cities, especially large ones with a subway system. The subway tends to be more user-friendly as maps are translated into English, but staff will usually not be able to help buy tickets or answer any questions about directions.

Use English-speaking maps during your tourist tours

So make sure you know how the system works, where to buy tickets, and how to use the subway map. Also, when traveling by bus or subway, pay close attention to the names of the declared stations. They are usually only in Russian, but English maps give audio versions, so listen closely.

Choose the right dress for cold protection

Whoever comes to Russia thinking they freeze all year round will be a very unpleasant surprise when they arrive. Russia tends to have a cold winter, but summer can also be incredibly hot and wet, especially in cities like St. Petersburg. Of course, weather is difficult to predict, but a general understanding of the climate can be incredibly useful when planning activities.

Wander everywhere during your tour trip

Layers are welcome and required, as are warm coats for outdoor activities, but do not overwear fur hats; your identity as a tourist will be easily discovered.

Learn about Russian cuisine

Russian cuisine has a lot to offer, but it throws a few unfamiliar names at you. If you’re looking to make the most of your tasting time, do some research beforehand on various food items available every season so you’re not stuck eating Bursh Russian green soup (beetroot soup) every day.

Restaurants with a central location will certainly have English-speaking staff to help you, but if you’re looking for a local experience, it’s wise to be prepared, especially to avoid ordering something like meat gelatin by accident.

Don’t drink tap water

Unlike most Western countries, where ordering tap water in a restaurant is common, Russians certainly don’t drink their tap water. It is not uncommon until the tap is opened to see some brown water come out for a short time.

Bottled water is the only safe drinking water, although there is no concern about using tap water to clean your teeth.

Respect the local customs and traditions

There are some things to avoid when arriving in any country, but there are some rules and expectations that people follow. For example, if invited to a Russian home, guests are expected to follow etiquette, such as bringing a small gift upon arrival.

The dress code is very important in theaters and some restaurants. No one will stop you from entering, of course, but it’s better to be prepared than to wear jeans in a crowd of people in formal clothes.

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