RUSSIA

RUSSIA

My travel tips and recommendations for your travels in Russia!

GEOGRAPHY AND DEMOGRAPHICS

Russia is the World’s largest country, occupying over 17,098,242 sq km and with a population of nearly 145 million people. It spans across nine different timezones: GMT +3 in Moscow, and GMT + 12 in Kamchatka Krai.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

High season is between June and September, meaning prices will also be higher during these months. For good travel conditions and best fares, consider travelling in May or October.

AVERAGE COSTS

Russia is an excellent destination for the budget traveller! Public transport goes from 15₽ to 55₽; coffee and meals out range from 50₽ to 500₽ (per item); basic hotel rooms average 2000₽; museum and national park fees range from 100₽ to 400₽ per person.

TRANSPORTS

Public transports in Russia average 99.9% punctuality rate! Cities are usually very well served with either buses or metro. There is free wifi in most public transports (metro).

ENTRY AND EXIT

All nationalities must apply for a visa for both entering and exiting the country. Tourist visas are 30 days maximum, and to apply one must also have an invitation letter, as well as an application form, a passport-sized photo, bank statements (if you are self-employed) and valid travel insurance with medical coverage of > 30.000€ are also mandatory. Application fees vary, depending on the type of visa needed, and how fast you’ll need it done.

TRAVEL TIPS

Budget Travelling

On the trains, you can go for 3rd class (platskartny) or even a seat, instead of a kupe.

Eat in local food joints rather than international-looking food restaurants.

Get a SIM card to be always connected (wifi networks require a valid SIM number for logging in). I use MTS, it works in all Russia. All you need is your passport on the moment of purchase. I usually pay around 500₽ to 700₽ for 30 days, up to 20Gbs of data.

Get a Troika card to travel on the metro in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

Accommodation

If you are staying in hostels or Couchsurfing, don’t be put of by the looks of the buildings on the outside 🙂 everything looks much better inside the apartments!

Addresses in Russia usually have the street name, followed by the block / quarter number, and then followed by the apartment number. Each block / quarter may have several buildings, so just check above the door if your apartment number is on that building 😉

In lot’s of hostels in Russia you’ll find more Russians (actually living there) rather than other international travellers. If you’d like to stay more with international travellers (to share travel tips and experiences, find travel partners) look for english-speaking hostels targeting international travellers – sometimes these places can be a bit more expensive… I recommend staying at Rolling Stones in Irkutsk, or the Travelers House in Ulan Ude!

Food

The best Russian dishes come on a form of a soup! Most soups have meat or fish, but more and more you find vegetarion options of these.

Probably the best known russian food is Borscht (beetroot based). If you are around the Baikal area, you must try the delicious omul, a fish that only exists here (and yes, there is also a delicious soup with omul that you can try in Olkhon Island).

As for drinks, Russia is a tea country, and russians enjoy a nice “cuppa” anytime of the day, anywhere! Also vodka is widely popular (some soups also have vodka in them!), and samogon (the homemade vodka) is an old family tradition also.

Stay Healthy

Most travellers to Russia will need vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid fever, as well as medications for travellers‘ diarrhoea. All travellers should be up-to-date on tetanus-diphtheria vaccination. Other immunisations may be necessary depending upon the circumstances of the trip and the medical history of the traveler, as discussed below. All travellers should visit a physician 4-8 weeks before departure.

Vaccinations:

Tetanus-diphtheria For all travellers who have not received a tetanus-diphtheria immunization within the last 10 years.
Hepatitis A Recommended for all travellers
Polio One-time booster recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but never had polio vaccine as an adult
Typhoid For travellers who may eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels
Japanese encephalitis For long-term (>1 month) travellers to rural areas in the far eastern maritime areas south of Khabarovsk.
Hepatitis B Recommended for all travellers
Rabies For travellers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) Two doses recommended for all travellers born after 1956, if not previously given
Influenza Recommended for all travellers from November through April

Important Gear

Swimsuit for banyas and Baikal

Small backpack for daily strollings!

10ºC and below sleeping bag

Waterproof jacket

Comfortable shoes to walk in

Gore-Tex important in winter months (Jan – May)

Books and Films

  • The Great Railway BazaarPaul Theroux

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES IN RUSSIA

Why You Shoudn’t Miss It:

This is the epicentre of all Russia: the “km 0”, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Cathedral of Saint Basil’s, Kazan’s Cathedral, the GUM, the Kremlin, they are all located on or around Red Square. This small area comprises a lot of the russian history and culture, and that is exactly why you should not miss it!

General Info:

Get here by metro, get off at Teattralnaya (green line), Ploshod Revolyusti (blue line) or Okhotny Rad (red line).

Why You Shoudn’t Miss It:

They are a classic in the russian culture! There are different banya styles: during Winter time, you’ll find banyas where you can jump into an ice hole on a lake afterwards; naked “shamanic” banyas that heal the soul; and spa banyas for beauty and health purposes.

General Info:

Whichever banya you decide to go to, go with your swimwear, protect your hair with a banya hat, and don’t forget to use the veniks – leafy, fragrant bundle of leafy birch or oak tree twigs.

Why You Shoudn’t Miss It:

The most expensive part of the transiberian train line has been replaced by a different route, but this is still the most beautiful of all! There are two tourist trains running: an electrical and more affordable one, and a steam train to take you back in time on an epic train-journey.

However, my favourite activity is actually walking the line, crossing its many tunnels and enjoy the astonishing view the Baikal has to offer!

General Info:

Get a train from Irkutsk to either Pereyezd (15 kms) or to Tyomnaya Pad (4 kms) and walk across the beatiful cedar forest towards Baikal. Both can be a day trip, but the first option will be a total of 36kms, whereas the second is only around 10km total (more, if you want to walk longer).

Why You Shoudn’t Miss It:

Olkhon comprises all the magic in the Baikal. A small island that has a little bit of everything: desert, forest, beach, grass, cows, yaks, horses… Try the incredible omul soup, trek to Cape Khoboy, walk on ice in Winter time or dive in the huge baikal in the Summer… it is said that those who dive here get an extra 5 years of lifetime. Worth a try, right?

General Info:

Get to Baikal on the marshrutka (mini-buses) from Irkutsk. Each way should cost you no more than 900₽.

Why You Shoudn’t Miss It:

This still is the number one reason people travel to Russia! One of the greatest contemporary constructions in the transportation industry of all times, the transiberian railway was built between 1891 and 1916, but is still being updated and constructed nowadays – current plans include crossing over to Alaska through the Bering Strait, estimated to cost over 65 billion dollars.

General Info:

Of course, my recommendation is that you’d travel the Transiberian with me! But if you’d rather do it on your own, check carefully for train times (in Russia all trains run on Moscow time), border checks and train frequency carefully.

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TRAVEL INSURANCE

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