Russia is the largest country on earth and one of the most diverse travel destinations in the world. We have already given you an overview of the most beautiful sights in Russia. To make sure that nothing stands in the way of a successful trip to Russia, we give you a few Russia travel tips today, so that nothing stands in the way of your relaxed vacation.
Russia – Climate
The huge country has numerous climate zones, so of course no statements can be made about the Russian climate as a whole. Most of the country is characterized by a continental climate, with relatively short, hot summers followed by cold periods lasting several months. You can expect “Siberian” temperatures not only there, but also in other parts of the country in winter. On the periphery, however, the climate can be quite different. On the Black Sea coast, the “Russian Riviera”, there are wonderful conditions and ideal temperatures for a summer vacation. And the areas on the Baltic Sea also promise mild temperatures in summer.
Russia – Best Time to Travel
You see, Russia is big and diverse. Of course, this also has an impact on the ideal time to travel to Russia. If we take the average annual temperatures for Russia, then city trips between April and October are ideal. You want to go hiking? You can do that at this time of the year as well. You should plan your summer vacation on the Russian Black Sea coast between June and August.
But winter also has its charm. What could be more beautiful than to start the journey with the Transsib and explore the snow-white Siberia under a thick blanket of snow? Trips to the north of the country in search of the Aurora Borealis are also ideal at this time of year. Meanwhile, Russia also has a modern winter sports infrastructure. Especially the northern Caucasus around Sochi is ideal for skiers. As you can see, it is possible to spend vacations in Russia all year round. When you should go on vacation where, we have summarized in a separate article for you.
The most beautiful Russia sights
Such a huge country like Russia has of course a whole range of sights, which is why we have summarized them for you in a separate article. Here is a small selection of the most beautiful places:
- Moscow: The Russian capital fascinates with a mix of historical sights and modern skyscrapers and is a city full of contrasts.
- Saint Petersburg: The splendor of the old tsarist empire can be felt everywhere in the center, and some of the best museums in the world are located here. In the surrounding area, there are several magnificent palaces.
- Lake Baikal: The huge lake is one of the oldest bodies of water on earth and a unique natural environment.
- Veliky Novgorod: You will get to know ancient Russia on a trip to this multifaceted city, which, just like Moscow, can call a Kremlin its own.
- Northern Caucasus: Hiking, skiing, beach vacations – the Northern Caucasus is a diverse region with much to discover.
- Kamchatka: The remote peninsula fascinates with its geysers and active volcanoes.
- Kazan: The Muslim city offers an exciting mix of mosques, churches and many other magnificent buildings.
- The Golden Horseshoe: North of Moscow are some of the oldest cities in the country, which can be combined into one tour.
There are a lot of things to consider when entering Russia, which is why we need to explain many things to you in more detail here.
Visa for Russia
Germans generally need a visa to enter Russia, which must be applied for at a Russian mission abroad. There are numerous providers in Germany who can help you with the visa process. However, there are also exceptions, because if you are an EU citizen and want to visit Kaliningrad or St. Petersburg and the surrounding area for eight days or less, you can apply for an electronic visa and save yourself a lot of time and work. For more information on how to get a visa, please visit the website of your embassy.
Migration card and registration
When entering the country you will receive a migration card, which you should not lose! If you stay longer than one week in Russia, you must register. Conveniently, many hotels or tour operators will take care of this service for you, otherwise you will have to go to the migration office and register yourself. If you violate the registration obligation, you could face severe penalties, deportation and an entry ban of up to five years!
Russia Arrival – How to get to Russia
Many roads lead to Russia, we recommend traveling to Russia by plane or train. Entering the country by car is not only a lengthy process, but also involves numerous hurdles, including the completion of a customs import declaration.
Travel to Russia by plane
There are countless airports in Russia. The most important of them are located in Moscow (Sheremetyevo, Vnokovo and Domodedovo), St. Petersburg (Pulkovo), Yekaterinburg, Sochi, Novosibirsk and Krasnodar. At least to Moscow and St. Petersburg you can fly daily from Western Europa with any major airline. If you want to fly to other parts of the country, you often have to change planes in Moscow, St. Petersburg or in another big city. We have summarized tips on how to get cheap flights for you here.
Travel to Russia by train
There is hardly anything more beautiful than exploring Russia by train. And the journey to Russia is also possible by rail. By train you can get directly from Germany to St. Petersburg or Moscow. However, you have to keep in mind that the trains also pass through Belarus and that you need your own transit visa for this country. The Berlin-Moscow express train is called Strizh and takes just over 20 hours. There is also an overnight train that runs from Paris to Moscow, stopping in Frankfurt, Berlin and many other German cities along the way. From Vienna you can also take the train to Petersburg or Moscow. The best way to book your trip is directly here*.
Traveling in Russia
Traveling through Russia needs to be well planned. In our Russia travel tips you will learn everything you need to know about traveling in Russia.
Who doesn’t know the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway? A trip from Moscow to Vladivostok or Beijing is a childhood dream for many. But of course there are many other beautiful train routes. The state-owned Rossiyskiye Zhelesnyje dorogi operates a relatively dense network via a total of 16 regional companies, especially in the western part of the country, which is less well developed beyond the Urals. The network is constantly being expanded and the trains modernized, and high-speed trains such as the legendary Zapzan (Petersburg-Moscow and Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod) are already in operation. We have summarized everything you need to know about train travel in our Russia trains article.
In addition to trains, you can also take buses between the cities. Since there is a large number of providers that often serve even the most remote village, you can get around much easier in many parts of the country. The best thing to do is to inform yourself about the respective providers on site.
Normally, we advise against domestic flights for climate protection reasons. In Russia, with its eleven (!) time zones, it is of course something else. There are countless smaller and larger airlines and a total of over 100 airports. In order not to lose the overview, we recommend this page, where you can find a list of all airports. On their websites, you can then usually view a list of the providers that fly to the respective airport. Unfortunately, the major flight search engines do not always list smaller airports, which is why we advise you to use this somewhat cumbersome solution.
You really want to drive through Russia by car? Good, then you are really brave. Of course, that’s not a problem, but you’ll soon realize that the number of SUVs in Russian cities is not only high for show-off reasons, but mainly due to the road conditions. The further east you go, the worse the roads become. This applies to both interurban roads and inner-city traffic. If you rent a car, you should therefore also rely on a powerful machine. Of course, the network of gas stations in Siberia is anything but optimal, a reserve canister is a must! You can find out about the exact traffic rules on this page.
Local transport in the Russian cities
Local transport in Russian cities is divided into four sectors.
You have probably seen pictures of “Stalin’s underground palaces”, i.e. the metro in St. Petersburg or Moscow. And indeed, a ride on the metro in Russia is not only cheap, but a real experience and the fastest way to get from A to B. There are metros in Moscow, Petersburg, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk. You can now mostly pay without cash, but there are also the good old metro jetons, which you can use to get into the underground via a turnstile or barrier.
Buses and trolleybuses
Driving a bus in Russian cities can be an adventure. You need local knowledge to be able to use buses or trolleybuses. Often there are no notices at the bus stops and if there are, they are only in Russian. Getting on the right bus can become a game of chance. The best thing to do is to get a map of the city where the bus lines are marked. Alternatively, you can always ask other people at the bus stops which bus is the right one.
The situation is similar with the streetcar. However, the tram has the advantage that you can roughly estimate where the journey will take you based on the course of the tracks. In buses and streetcars, you can sometimes pay the driver, in some cases also via app. In most cases, however, you only have to go to the kiosk where tickets are sold.
The Marshrutka is perhaps the most legendary means of transport in the former Eastern Bloc. These are small, private shared cabs. If you want a ride, you raise your hand at the stop (which is often not designated as such) and get in. Then you sit down and give the driver the money, which often has to pass through several hands if you have a seat in the back. The change is then given back through the bus. If you want to get off, please yell “na astanovkye pashaluysta” as understandably as possible so that the driver will stop at the next stop. This way of getting around sounds complicated, but it is a unique experience!
The Russian language
Russian belongs to the East Slavic languages and is related to Belarusian and Ukrainian. Here we have compiled some useful phrases for you.
|Good day||Добрый день||Dobry dyen!|
|Good morning||Доброе утро||Dobre utro|
|Good evening||Добрый вечер||Dobryj vyetscher|
|How are You?||Как дела?||Kak djela?|
|Nice to meet you||Приятно познакомиться||Priyatno paznakomitsa|
|I (don’t) understand||Я не понимаю||Ya (nye) panimayu|
You want to learn Russian? Than we recommend this book to you which gives you a great introduction into the Russian language.
You will not always get along with English, but especially in larger cities young people usually speak decent English.Many young Russians can also speak German. Overall, however, you should not always expect to be understood in a foreign language.
Food in Russia
Russian cuisine is hearty, savory and delicious. Historically, it has developed from several regional cuisines and there are numerous overlaps with other cuisines, for example, Polish or Ukrainian cuisine. There are countless restaurants in Russia that serve Russian cuisine, but of course it tastes best at home.
The main dishes
- Pelmeni: small dumplings filled with meat, mushrooms or fruits and served with sour cream
- Borscht: beetroot soup originating from Ukraine, which is also served cold in summer, but then prepared differently
- Shashlik: meat skewers, which are grilled on huge swords over an open fire, unlike in our country.
- Bœuf Stroganoff: beef tenderloin tips served in a sour sauce with along with travel.
- Syrniki and bliny: breakfast classics made of dough, often eaten with jam
- Olivye: salad with lots of mayonnaise, carrots, meat, potatoes, peas and cucumbers.
The security situation in Russia varies greatly. The German Foreign Office advises against travel to Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan and to the immediate border region with Ukraine in Rostovskaya Oblast, as well as against travel to the Russian-controlled Crimea. Terrorist attacks occur repeatedly, especially in the Caucasus.
In the larger cities, the police are very present. You should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings of people there. Petty crime is common, especially in the subway, and robberies can also occur. Also beware of knockout drops in clubs or bars, don’t let your drinks out of your sight! Rides in unlicensed cabs are common, but we advise against it. Caution is also advised against the reading of credit card data, it is best to rely on cash.
- Police: 112 or 102
- Fire fighters: 112 or 101
- General emergency call: 112 or 103
You should not drink tap water in Russia. Most Russian families filter their water or have huge water dispensers delivered to their homes. However, you can use the tap water for brushing your teeth without any problems. To make coffee or tea, however, you should also only use packaged water.
In Russia, type C and F plugs are used. This means that you do not need a travel adapter if you are European. The voltage is almost identical to that in Western Europe, so you don’t need to pay attention to anything here.
Medical care in Russia varies greatly depending on the region. Highly modern clinics in the big cities in the west contrast with dilapidated hospitals and poorly supplied medical practices in rural areas. We strongly recommend that you take out travel health insurance. English is rarely spoken in clinics. You should look for an American Clinic, International Clinic or similar. They are very knowledgeable about travel insurance and speak English. However, just like in a doctor’s office, you will usually have to pay for your treatment in advance.
Pharmacies can be found on almost every corner. Caution is advised against buying medicines from untrustworthy dealers. They are often counterfeits with uncontrollable side effects.
Money in Russia
In Russia you pay with the Russian ruble. You can get money at ATMs. I recommend the ATMs of Sberbank, which are very reliable. Important: When withdrawing money from an ATM, you should insist that it be paid in rubles, just as you do when making cashless payments. The bank may offer you a guaranteed exchange rate, which is always much worse than the official rate.
You can pay almost everywhere with credit cards, but not with EC or even VPAY cards, which do not work at all in Russia. I myself had to cancel my credit card because the data was stolen in Russia. Where and when my card was hacked, I can’t say anymore. Since then, I only use cash in Russia. Applepay and Googlepay are widely used and are considered secure.
Phone and Internet in Russia
If you use your German phone to access the Internet or make phone calls in Russia, you will pay a lot of money. It’s best to switch off your mobile data before you enter the country. There are Wi-Fi networks everywhere, but they are often not secure. Therefore, I recommend you to buy a Russian sim card (for example from Tele 2 or Beeline) immediately after your arrival. These are usually valid for one month and come with a large data package, which should be more than enough for your vacation. Within Russia there are no roaming fees anymore, so you can call all other Russian numbers in the country with your Russian number. By the way, the Russian area code is 007, which is easy to remember.
Books for your trip to Russia
You want more Russia travel tips? Then we recommend these books!
This travel guide is ideal for your trip to Russia and contains tons of practical tips for travelling to Russia, but also descriptions of the most beautiful places in Russia.
You want to explore Saint Petersburg?This book presents Saint Petersburg in all its facets and also includes excursions to the tsarist palaces at the gates of the city.
This book describes Russia’s history, politics and culture and is a great preparation for your trip.
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