The Truth About Russia: 10 Things to Know Before You Go

Most cities in Russia, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, are huge and crowded, so even with a map it can get a little tricky to reach certain destinations.

Take Some of the Planning Trouble Out of Your Trip to Russia

By Viktorija Oksaitė

Traveling to Russia for the first time can be a real challenge. Sure, going to this great country has every chance of becoming the trip of a lifetime, but first and foremost, it requires careful planning. Do not panic though, we got you! Check out these 10 things you need to know before stepping onto the rich soil of Russia.

The most famous street in Moscow is Old Arbat, once the hangout of nobility, poets and artists. It was turned into a pedestrian street in the 1980s, and today is a popular tourist attraction.
The most famous street in Moscow is Old Arbat, once the hangout of nobility, poets and artists. It was turned into a pedestrian street in the 1980s, and today is a popular tourist attraction.

Check If You Need a Visa

The most important thing you should get taken care of before planning your grand holiday is the necessary paperwork. Residents of most of the countries outside of the former Soviet Union are required to apply for a visa. This process might take a while, so make sure it is the very first thing you do.

If you are a US citizen traveling to Russia, the rules apply as follows:

  • Tourist Visas are issued to the citizens of the US for the purpose of cultural events, excursions, sightseeing, and general tourism.
  • Regular Tourist Visas are either Single or Double-entry, for a period of no more than 30 days. However, in accordance with the newest agreements, there is also a possibility to apply for a 3-year Multi-entry Tourist Visa upon request.
  • Double-entry Tourist Visas are only issued when the second country is the “near-abroad” (CIS countries and Baltics) or those that require return transit directly through Russia, such as Mongolia or China.
  • In order to obtain a Double-entry Visa, visiting the second country must appear in the travel itinerary and must be confirmed by the tour operator (travel agencies).
  • Visa fees for US citizens are 160$ plus the additional Russia Visa Application Center Service Charge of 38$ including VAT for each visa application.

US citizens are not required to have health insurance to apply for a visa!

Be Mindful of The COVID-19 Protocols 

Yes, we know, more paperwork. But it is better to be safe at times like these. Here is what you need to do before traveling to Russia, regarding COVID-19 restrictions:

  • You must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test that you will need to provide at all customs.
  • The test must be taken no earlier than 72 hours before arrival.
  • The certificate must be in Russian or English (official translations are allowed).
  • If you are fully vaccinated you must carry proof of it in Russian or English (official translations are allowed).
  • Be sure to wear gloves and a medical mask in all public places.
  • Maintain at least 1.5 m of the distance between you and the people around.
  • It is highly suggested taking a taxi instead of using public transport.
  • You cannot cross the Russian border by car, by boat, or by train.

List of countries whose citizens are currently allowed to enter Russia: Abkhazia, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, China, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland,   France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan,  Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Maldives,  Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Northern Macedonia, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia,  Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, The Republic of Korea, The Republic of South Ossetia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam.

Get Yourself a Russian Phrasebook

Generally, the Russians are not great at English. They do study it at school from a young age, but for some reason, they are quite shy of speaking it. Restaurant staff and people working closely with tourists will surely be able to communicate, but if you ask for directions or simply want to have a chat with the locals, it might be more comfortable to prepare yourself with some short and useful phrases.

milling about the platform in Russia.
People milling about the train platform in Russia

Research Public Transport

Most Russian cities, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, are huge and crowded, so even with a map, it can get a little tricky to reach certain destinations. The most comfortable way of traveling through the cities is by using the subway; the timetables are usually translated to English, but, if possible, plan your trips ahead and make sure you know where to buy the tickets, how much it costs, and so on.

Another, more unusual but more fascinating way of transportation is Russian river cruises. It can be a whole separate journey getting on one of those, as it gives you the possibility of guided tours.

Dress Appropriately

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Summers in Russia are hot and humid, so make sure to bring appropriate clothing.

For some reason, people seem to think that Russia is always freezing and they pack a lot of warm clothing no matter the season.

However, even though in the wintertime it can get quite chilly, the summers in Russia are hot and humid. The weather in spring and autumn is usually mild, so keep that in mind before packing your suitcase!

Know The Cuisine

Let go of the stereotype that all Russian meals consist of borscht and a shot of vodka. It has so much more to offer!

Just in case, be prepared and research some of the popular meals that you might see on the menus. Most likely there will be quite unfamiliar names, and if it so happens that the restaurant will not have a detailed English menu, it is better to be ready.

Be Respectful of Russian Traditions

Russia is becoming more and more relaxed over time, but there are still some old traditions they try to uphold. Now, keep in mind, you will not get in trouble if you do not follow something the Russians find conventional, but it will show great character if you at least try.

Russian Church Saint Nicola
Russian Church Saint Nicola

For example, there are certain ways to act if you are invited to come over as a guest and there is definite etiquette when you wish to enter a church. These details are important to the locals, so do some research to show respect!

Exchange Money in Advance

In most places, you will be able to pay by card, but carrying some cash is always a good idea. For example, if you wish to stop by at a local market it is better to have roubles in case paying by card is not available, and do not forget tipping at restaurants! Take care of that before your trip, so that you do not have to worry about it later.

Moscow, Russia

Know Your Budget

Russia is definitely not the most expensive country in Europe, but there are some places where the prices might be a bit steeper. For example, museum tickets for tourists are more expensive, so you should be prepared for that. Overall, the prices in Russia are quite average, but still do some research so that you feel secure financially.

Plan an Itinerary 

Russia is a huge country with very many places of sightseeing and entertainment, so take your time in planning and choosing what interests you the most, otherwise, you will get overwhelmed when you get there. In your itinerary, we suggest including the destinations, prices, and means of transportation.

Planning a successful journey takes time and patience, so take it slow, consider all these steps, and before you know it – you are on a plane to Russia! Pay close attention to the details and requirements and after all of that, all there is left for you to do is relax and enjoy the best holiday ever.

Viktorija OksaiteViktorija Oksaitė is currently working as a copywriter and tenders writing services online in Lithuania. More often than not, she is creating engaging articles about traveling and planning trips. The aim of her work is to help people pick the perfect destinations and arrange a fulfilling holiday. 

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