It is no secret that Russia is a fascinating country to explore. Although it may occur to be intimidating for first-time visitors, do not believe any scaremongering and horror stories. In fact, traveling to Russia is far easier than one can expect. Below you will find a few things you should know about Russia, including some useful information on how to prepare for and plan such a trip.
Russia travel information & essential tips
1. Apply for your Russian visa in advance
Visa requirements depend on the nationality of the traveler, but in most cases, foreigners need a visa to visit Russia. This is one of the essential things you need to think about in advance. Russian consulate authorities usually require nearly 10 working days to get the job done. You will most likely need to go to the visa company’s office to submit your papers instead of going to a Russian embassy or consulate. Keep in mind that you have to make an appointment before going to the visa office, as many of them do not accept walk-ins. Moreover, they may accept appointments only two or three days a week, so start planning early in order not to wait for a long time.
2. Research opening days and times
Fortunately, there are scheduled opening and closing times for almost all cathedrals, museums, and other famous tourist attractions in Russia. For instance, Lenin’s Mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square opens at 10 am and closes at 1 pm every day, except Monday and Friday. To ensure you will see everything you want, make a list of attractions and find out if they will be open during your visit. You can find all the needed information on the Internet and then plan your trip accordingly.
3. Use the metro to get around
The Moscow Metro is known for its beautiful stations decorated with ornaments, which are treated by many as attractions on their own. So, once you are in Moscow, do not hesitate to take on this challenge and enjoy the surroundings in the fascinating underground stations.
Before observing this Soviet marvel, keep in mind a few useful tips to navigate the rapid transit system effectively. First of all, get a color map written in both Russian and English. Next, it is better to remember the number of stations you need to travel to the ultimate destination, as you may overlook signage when you are on the train. Last but not least, pay close attention to all of the signs. Take a few extra seconds to match up what is on the tiny, confusing signs at the platform with what you see on your map, as it is not always obvious what the train’s direction is. Also, be ready to work the problems out on your own because there may not be staff around on site to assist.
No matter how difficult it may seem at first, getting around the Moscow Metro is not impossible. You will probably feel more confident by the end of the day.
4. Discover the Russian culture
One of the most popular art forms coming out of Russia is ballet. The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Mariinsky Ballet in Saint Petersburg are the ballet companies known throughout the world. It is probably worth visiting at least one of them when traveling to Russia.
When it comes to Russian literature, writers such as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leon Tolstoy had a worldwide impact. Therefore, it is not surprising that many streets are named after them.
Another symbol of the country is Russian nesting dolls known as matryoshka dolls. These dolls are usually made of wood. If you pull them apart, another smaller version of the same image will appear inside. The painting of each doll symbolizes a Russian girl wearing a traditional costume. It is always a good idea to buy several dolls as a souvenir for your family and friends.
Colorfully painted domes that are predominant atop church structures are pretty common for Russian architecture. They usually appear in groups of three, representing the Holy Trinity. They also mean vaults to heaven or burning candles. Apart from getting acquainted with church architecture, take your time to enjoy another popular Russian art phenomenon – religious icons. Russian Orthodox icons are called windows into the sacred world and are highly venerated by all Christian believers throughout the country. Be sure to visit the online gallery Russian Icon Collection to learn more about Russian icons and the main features of these unique pieces of Christian art.
5. Learn a few words
Always remember that not all Russian people can speak English, so it is worth learning a handful of basic words. Making an effort to speak Russian will probably break the ice and ease the communication barrier. Russian people will be more willing to help you even if you butcher their language a bit. If you are not into mastering foreign languages, learn the Cyrillic alphabet at least. This may help you read train timetables and street signs and recognize famous Russian dishes (e.g., solyanka, pelmeni, and blini). As a lifesaver, you can use Google Translate, but be sure to download the right language packs in advance so that it works even offline.
6. Eat and drink like a local
Always eat traditional food where the local people are and be welcome to any recommendations. If someone says that you have to go to a certain restaurant, do not hesitate to follow the advice. Even if you do not normally prefer Russian cuisine, you definitely need to try it in Russia. Taste national dishes if you get such a chance and treat them like cultural research. This will become an exciting and educational experience you will remember for years to come.
7. Do not believe the weather forecast
The weather is very changeable in Russia, so do not believe the weather forecast. You should prepare for all kinds of weather. Even if you are traveling in summer, pack some warm clothes just in case.
Hopefully, you find these tips and travel information useful and educational. Have a nice trip to Russia!