What every visitor needs to know about Russia

Russia is the world’s largest country. It is filled with amazing art, landscapes, and a colorful society. Here are a few tips to help you make your experience in Russia enjoyable and memorable.

St Petersburg Day parade -Image by Lou Jones-Getty Images

1. Apply for a visa early and register on arrival

This will help you save a lot of money that last minute sprints may cost you. You should start visa application at least a month before traveling and ensure that you register your visa within 7 days after getting into the country.

2. Check the events calendar

During major holidays, that is the first week of January and the first two weeks of May, Moscow and St Petersburg empty out. The rest of the times both cities are vibrant with music festivals, parades, and thriving nightlife. The best time to visit is in May to September especially mid-June when the white nights are revealed at its peak.

Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre-Image by Yevgen Timashov-Getty Images

3. Dress up for a night on the town

Make sure you dress up to the nines if you want to be allowed to enter the lucrative nightclubs in Moscow. Russians always dress up when they are out in town so you have to do the same if you want to fit in.

4. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet

This will go a long way in helping you identify the different street names, metro signs, maps, timetables, and menus. Knowing a little of the local alphabet will help prevent you from getting lost.

Interior of Moscow’s GUM shopping center-Image by Huw Jones-Getty Images

5. Expect to spend

Moscow and St Petersburg are some of the most expensive cities in the world. You will often find yourself paying for things up to 10 times more than the locals. If you are a student you can save money by flushing your student ID. You can opt for business lunches in restaurants which are cheaper and very filling.

6. Don’t ask for a mixer with your vodka

Drinking vodka is a sacrosanct tradition in Russia. It is drunk in swift shots and not sipped like juice. If you need to wash down the taste you can chase it with a lemon or a glass of water.

7. Don’t be disrespectful in church

You should make sure not to disturb any devotions. Women should always cover their heads and bare shoulders when entering a church. In some churches it is mandatory, if you are a woman, to wear a skirt. Men should remove their hats when entering the church and wear trousers.

Interior of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg-Image by Sylvain Sonnet-Getty Images

8. Don’t take photos of government buildings

Take caution not to take any photographs of official looking buildings or military security structures. You can get arrested and fined if caught doing so.

A station entrance along the Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia-Image by Annapurna Mellor-Getty Images

9. Don’t be surprised if you are stopped by the police

Always carry a copy of your travel documents as you walk around town. The police can randomly stop you and ask to see your documents and you must always have them at hand. These include passport, visa, and registration.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. Happy travels 🙂