Russia — The Basics
The largest country in the world. Home to dozens of languages, peoples, and ethnic groups, Russia is a rather cosmopolitan place for an unforgettable European tour. While you can have enough fun when you travel to Moscow Russia, you have 6.6 million square miles of area to explore! This can be pretty intimidating, but once you have your bearings, it’s fun and simple to have a blast as you travel in Russia.
Sights and Attractions
Unlike a European tour to smaller countries, what you see as you travel in Russia will be a drop in the bucket when compared to the country as a whole. It’s simply too big, and there are very many different cultures to experience within Russia. That being said, here are some of the most popular tourist destinations.
St. Basil’s Cathedral is one of the most iconic sites in Russia. In the middle of Red Square in Moscow, this one-of-a-kind cathedral sports picturesque onion domes of various bright, vivid colors. It has been well preserved since its construction in1561.
Another must-see Moscow destination, the Kremlin is a behemoth compared to the residences of other heads of state. Much of the Kremlin serves as a museum, so it’s a great place to have a grand look at Russian history. It’s as impressive inside as it is on the outside. It’s truly a wonder to behold.
Constructed in the 1740s, the Peter and Paul Fortress is a monstrous star fortress complex in Saint Petersburg. Tsar burial places, the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Saint Petersburg Mint, and much more can be found within its bounds.
Constructed under the rule of Catherine the Great, the
State Hermitage Museum
is a must-see for any lover of art and history. Encompassing the Winter Palace of the Tsars, the Museum of Porcelain, the Menshikov Palace, Hermitage Theater, and more, the State Hermitage Museum has a wide variety of attractions and exhibits. Any tourist is passing through Saint Petersburg would be wrong not to visit this incredible collection of historically significant structures.
Russia Travel Tips
Russia Currency Considerations
The currency in Russia is the Russian Ruble. With sanctions from the west, the Russian ruble has dramatically depreciated in value. For someone from a country with a more stable currency, this means that your dollar or pound can go a lot further in Russia than it could ten years ago. You generally shouldn’t wait to exchange your currency in Russia. While it may be tempting to hang onto those dollars until you travel to Moscow Russia, chances are, you’ll get a pretty bad rate. Look around for the best rate, and you’ll get the most out of your European tour.
While your money will take you very far, don’t waste it on silly things. Spend your money on exciting attractions and experiences. A trinket from an overpriced street vendor is not only a waste of money, but it also takes up luggage space. Always keep an eye on your wallet or purse. Anyone who usually carries their wallet in their back pocket is at risk of being pickpocketed. Carry it in the front pocket, instead. Russia’s generally safe, but there are thieves in every corner of the world.
Russian hotels, hostels, and homestays are as cheap as they are plentiful. If you plan to stay in Russia for over seven days, you need to register with your hotel and the local authorities. Your hotel can walk you through it, though you should have printed copies of your travel documents ready.
Flights and Transportation
Moscow and the surrounding area has three major international airports. Other international airports are dotted throughout the extremely massive country. Russia has an extremely extensive railway system, especially in the west. Any place that can’t be accessed by rail can usually be accessed via bus. Most cities have modern metro systems. You will have no problem finding a way to travel in Russia. When taking buses and minor railways, note that there may be very few English speaking staff. Basic Russian travel terms can be very useful when you aren’t just going to travel to Moscow Russia.
The primary language of Russia is Russian; however, over 35 minority languages exist throughout the federation. Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. While accompanying Latin-alphabet signs are commonplace in places like Moscow and St. Petersburg, you are less likely to find Latin-alphabet signs in most places.
If you plan to stay from the biggest tourist hotspots, then make sure you can at least read some Cyrillic. It doesn’t take any more than an hour to learn, and there are numerous free online resources available. Furthermore, try to have a Cyrillic alphabet guide on your phone or somewhere handy just to be safe.
About 11 percent of the population can speak English. In major cities, on guided tours, and at global attractions, English is sufficient. Anywhere out of the wealthy districts of the major cities will require a basic knowledge of Russian to navigate. If you plan to see the countryside or the less-major cities, but you haven’t the time or motivation to learn basic Russian, consider hiring a guide or translator to accompany you. In many areas, you will be hard-pressed to find an English speaker.
Russia Etiquette and Cultural Considerations
The global geopolitical situation surrounding Russia is…tense, to put it plainly. Given this, there are a number of extremely sensitive topics that, for the sake of your safety and harmony with the Russian people, you should probably avoid, or at least navigate very carefully.
Let’s start with the big red elephant in the room — the USSR. Russia was the power behind the USSR. As it has only been around a few decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, its legacy is still very fresh. Many Russians were alive for the Soviet Union.
Many see its fall as a shame. Many don’t. If the subject of the Soviet Union arises in conversation, don’t make any bold statements on the matter. Don’t take any sides. You have no idea what any individual Russian may think about the old USSR, as opinions vary widely. As a foreigner somewhat removed from the realities of post-USSR life, the Russian people probably won’t appreciate your opinion.
Anything to do with Putin, Ukraine, Crimea, or Chechnya should be avoided. Don’t talk trash on Putin, especially when in mixed company. Many Russians like Putin, and still, many don’t. Chechnya and Ukraine are pretty straightforward, given the issues regarding annexation and occupation. Many westerners may not be too familiar with the Chechnya issue. Chechnya is a state within the Russian federation.
They have tried to break away, and have been reabsorbed within the last few decades. Still, fighting continues. It’s a very sensitive subject, and opinions on the matter are not mild. Try not to talk about it. If you’re visiting Chechnya, don’t mention the conflict either, even if you wish to speak in solidarity with the people of Chechnya. For a foreigner, bringing up such things, especially among strangers, results in nothing but trouble.
Russia is incredibly diverse. As you travel in Russia, you may come upon a variety of different peoples and cultures, many of whom have been at odds with the government or other ethnic groups. Do your research on whatever region or Russian republic you’re visiting beforehand. Make sure to get the lowdown of the people, too. Understand the basics of their religion and cultural norms. Something could be considered normal when you travel to Moscow Russia, but the same thing may be a faux-pas in Tuva.
As with many countries, take off your shoes when entering someone’s home.
Russia has many sets of visa rules for many different countries, so get a visa in order before you visit.
Don’t wait to stock up on Russian currency in Russia. Be sensitive to the locals and their history. Get ready to have an unforgettable, luxurious vacation! Russia has all the excitement of Europe, at a much lower cost, so you can have a proper European tour without breaking the bank! So what’s the holdup?
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