RUSSIA TRAVEL TIPS
GMT + 2/4 hours depending on your destination within this area.
Cyrillic is the alphabet of the Russian language. Cyrillic is used in signs and so finding your directions on your own can be difficult if you do not recognise this script.
English is not as widely spoken as in other European countries though those who come into contact with tourists regularly, such as in hotels and restaurants, will usually have some English and/or another European language. Information is available in English on the subway networks of Moscow and St Petersburg.
Knowledge of one or two key Russian phrases will show courtesy and be appreciated as a sign of respect.
The official currency is the Russian Rouble.
The official currency in Georgia is the Georgian Lari (GEL)
The official currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistani Som (UZS)
The official currency in the Ukraine is Ukrainian Hryvna (UAH)
The official currency in Armenia is the Armenian Dram (AMD)
The official currency in Azerbaijan is the Azerbaijani Manat (AZN)
Prices are generally displayed in Roubles, and cash is only accepted in this currency.
Currency can be easily converted at banks, hotels or kiosks specifically for tourists.
Credit cards are generally accepted in hotels, restaurants and shops.
An amount equivalent to approximately RUB 3,300 / 50 USD per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with RUB 2,000 / 30 USD suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of RUB 2,000 / 30 USD and RUB 1,300/ 20 USD are appropriate for guide and driver. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about RUB 650 / 10 USD per service and transfer reps at your own discretion. These suggestions are per service.
Hotel porters will expect the equivalent of about RUB 65 / 1 USD per bag. Tips to hotel maids and other hotel staff are at your discretion.
It is recommended to round up the fare for taxi drivers.
A charge for service is sometimes added to restaurant bills but, if it's not, a typical gratuity would be equal to 10-15% of the total to be paid in cash.
If a representative performs a special service for you, it would be appropriate to tip him or her at your discretion.
Best time to go to Russia
There is a very popular, but somewhat unfair, joke that there is no summer in Russia, just nine months of expectations and three months of disappointment.
The best time to come to Russia is during the summer when days are generally warm, sunny and ideal for sightseeing. The end of May and beginning of June is a very special time in St. Petersburg, with "white nights" when it practically never gets dark.
Winter time has its charm too. Cold Russian winters are known all around the world, but in recent years the temperature has rarely gone below -5°C in Moscow and St. Petersburg. A famous Russian fur hat will keep the head warm and shot of vodka will warm you from the inside whilst you admire the palaces and onion-domed churches glittering with snow and icicles.
Conservative "smart casual" clothing will be most useful for daytime touring. Russian women tend to dress rather formally compared to some of their international counterparts.
Cotton and other light fabrics are comfortable choices for summertime. A light outer jacket is recommended during late spring and summer. Spring and autumn temperatures dictate medium-weight clothing selections. Thick, warm clothing is required in winter when temperatures drop below freezing. Thermal clothing is recommended at this time.
When dining at better restaurants and for any special occasion during your journey, dress is more formal. For gentlemen, a "jacket and tie" standard is appropriate and expected, with an equivalent standard of evening wear for ladies.
Cathedrals, churches and other religious sites require conservative dress. Both sexes should cover their arms, legs and shoulders.
Tap water is considered safe to drink in Russia, except in St Petersburg where bottled water should be consumed instead.
Avoid drinking unlabelled vodkas - for safety reasons you should ensure you only try when the vodka is appropriately labelled.
For up to date information on latest health and vaccination recommendations, please contact your doctor.
Electricity throughout Russia is 220 volt/50 hz. The plug is the two-pin thin European standard. Be sure to bring your own converter as most places in Russia do not have a supply of them.
Arrival and Departure Formalities
A signed, valid passport that will remain valid for at least 6 months beyond the completion of your trip is a requirement. Your passport must have enough blank pages (excluding amendment pages) available for entry and exit stamps issued when entering and exiting immigration points.
Visas are required for most nationalities and you are strongly advised to check your status with your nearest Russian embassy allowing plenty of time for visa application.
You are expected to carry identification in Russia at all times and visitors can be stopped by police and asked to show their ID. We recommend carrying several separate photocopies of your passport with you at all times outside of the hotel, while securely locking your passport in your room safe. You are also advised to carry your hotel guest card with you.
Pedestrians have the right-of-way in Russia. However, in many Russian cities traffic is very intense, so never cross the roads without using special pedestrian passages and be sure that all cars have stopped before you start to move.
Exercise caution and keep all valuables close to you, ideally inside your outer garments inside a money belt.
In Russia, taxi fees are usually negotiated with the driver ahead of time. Alternatively, Uber rides are also widely available in all large cities. Do not accept rides in cabs that already have a rider.
Telephoning in Russia can be expensive when making an international call. We recommend using the phone at your hotel or one of the AT&T, Sprint or MCI USA direct services. We also recommend buying a local SIM card for making any domestic calls within Russia.