Russia is one of the most fascinating countries out there. The abundant history, striking architectural, mystic landscapes, and plenty of interesting things to do in Russia all contribute perfectly well to make it a fantastic choice for travel.
As much beautiful as Russia is, it might not be on the top of many bucket lists. Whether it owes it to the political fabric of the country or not, it still might appear mysterious to many. But a significant part of the unawareness is also because of the lack of information online about Russia. So to remedy that, here we have everything you need to know before you plan your first trip to Russia.
You are most likely to require a visiting visa to plan a trip to Russia. There are a few countries whose citizens are not required to have a visa; however, it is best to check the official website to know which category you belong to.
You can also go to a travel agency to get your visa sorted out because the process might seem too stressful.
The weather even in cities could be a little hard to cope up with. The best months to plan a trip to Russia would be between March and October. St. Petersburg and Moscow weather is most pleasant at these times. Among these, June is the fabulous one not only because of optimal weather but also for the White Nights Festival. It is celebrated in St Petersburg on the 24 hour sunlight day. If you are looking to save a little, travel during the shoulder season.
The first thing you should do is to pick up a few words in Russian, at least the basic greetings and how to ask directions. You would be surprised how few people talk English outside restaurants and hotels. Even if it doesn't help you much, you can at least initiate a conversation with someone. Now there are many apps that you can find to help you with how to speak Russian, so it is not even difficult to get help.
If you are staying more than two days, it is best to get a local sim card. The international roaming charges could also be activated by getting a local sim would be much cheaper. The popular telecom companies in Russia are Beeline Telecom, MTS, and MegaFone, and you can find a stall and get one right at the airport itself.
Other than that, the Wifi is also available almost everywhere in the cities. You just have to ask for passwords in hotels and restaurants. If you are traveling to the rural area, the cell phone network would be the only option. Also, you might need a VPN to connect to a few particular websites.
It is not difficult to get accommodation in Russia, but the only way to figure out the standard is by reading the reviews. You can find hotels of all ranges, from old Russian block hotels to gorgeous, luxurious apartments. Major websites like booking.com can help you find Moscow and St Petersburg hotels. There is also the option for apartment rentals, which could be found from Airbnb or HomeAway.
The metro stations are all insanely beautiful and pleasing, but figuring out how to navigate them could be a challenge. As much as Google Maps could help you, it is difficult to figure out the signage in the stations itself.
Make sure you get color maps in both English and Russian, and double or triple check with the signage in stations. Also, it is not always possible to see the station names, so count the number of stations between the stops as a backup. After one or two journeys, you are sure to get the hang of it.
Drinking tap water is not recommended. It is fine for brushing but apart from that, either use bottled water or boiled water, In restaurants, the bottled water might seem a bit expensive, but it is always an excuse to switch over to the less expensive vodka.
Finding restaurants are easy, you will also find fast food centers like McDonald's, Burger King and KFC everywhere. If you are looking to eat authentic Russian food, it is best to read reviews and go to places rather than to go to a restaurant that you stumble upon.
It is not necessary that you exchange your currency before you go to Russia. Most ATMs have an English option, and you can withdraw money with a better exchange rate than in any other places. But make sure you use all the currency because you cannot exchange Russian Roubles outside Russia.
Most places in Russia also accept credit or debit cards. Always opt to pay in local currency which is the cheaper option in the longer run. Also, remember to notify your bank that you are traveling to avoid any disruptions.
Even though there are many tales on the internet about losing passports and valuable in Russia, it is fairly reasonable to say, it is always safe to visit Russia. Try to stick on to the major cities like St Petersburg Russia and Moscow, and you won't find it much difficult to figure out. It is also best to avoid wandering out alone at night if you have had a bit to drink. It is good to exercise caution, like hold on to your bag and other stuff but try not to be paranoid. But again, that applies to almost all places in the world.
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