November 08, 2013

10 Things to Know Before Traveling to Russia

1. Register your visa! Doing this will ensure smooth travels and save you from running into any problems upon leaving the country. Give any documents or papers you have to the people working at the front desk of your hotel; they can take care of the registration process for you. If you plan on spending less than three days in Russia, you are not required to register your visa, but it would be wise to keep track of your receipts and train tickets during your stay. Print extra copies of your passport and leave one at your hotel, carry one on your person, and tuck another in your luggage, purse, or backpack. Having back-ups never hurts and will be a blessing in disguise if and when you need that extra copy.

2. The rouble is used in Russia so you will need to exchange any US money or Euros before purchasing anything in Russia. (Credit cards are accepted, but like any country, some shops and restaurants accept cash only, so be prepared.) Make sure the bills are crisp and free of any tears, markings, or noticeable folds before you bring them in to be exchanged or you might run into some issues with the bank tellers. Avoid using street ATMs. Always bring your passport with you to the bank, just in case.

3. English isn’t spoken too often in Russia so do not be surprised when you find yourself struggling to communicate with the locals. Nearly every sign in Russia is written in Cyrillic letters, so it would be a good idea to study up before you enter the country.  Bring a dictionary with you and keep it in close proximity at all times. It also wouldn’t hurt to remember these words and phrases:

  • “Здравствуйте” (zdrast-vue-tye) (Hello)
  • “доброе утро!” (dobroye utro!) (Good morning!)
  • “Спокойной ночи!” (spah-kohy-nuhy noh-chee!) (Good night!)
  •  “Как ваши дела?” (Kak vashi dela?) (How are you?)
  • “Меня зовут...” (Menya zovut…) (My name is…)
  • “Где находится туалет?” (Gde nahoditsa tualet?) (Where is the toilet?)
  • “До свидания” (dah - svih-da-nee-ye) (Good bye)
  •  “Выход“ (vyhod)  (Exit)

4. Use the metro to get around, but be polite while you’re riding it. Russians are proud of their subway system, so respect it and do not leave trash, talk loudly, or flash money inside the cars. Buses are also a great way to get around. Research the routes and count your stops before boarding so you don’t get lost. Remember to offer elderly or pregnant passengers your seat if there are no others available. This will help avoid scowls from other riders.

5. Don’t forget to pack a power converter/adapter for any electronics you plan to plug in and use while in the country. The electricity in Russia is 220 volt and the plug is two pin thin European standard.

6. Other essentials include any medications you might need, like aspirin, allergy pills, Neosporin, Tums, tissues, and a simple first aid kit. Having these items on hand will save you a confusing trip to the pharmacy in your desperate time of need!

7. The tap water in Russia is different from what we’re used to in the states and other European countries. Though consuming small amounts of tap water in Russia won’t hurt you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Avoid upsetting your stomach or growing ill by purchasing bottled water to drink, and keep bottles of water in your hotel room to use for brushing your teeth.

8. Be safe and remember to keep valuable items hidden. If trouble arises while in Russia, you can call for help using any public phone in the country by pressing 112. An English speaker might not greet you on the other end, so get help from a Russian speaker nearby if possible.

9. The weather in Russia is a bit unpredictable, so depending on the time of year you plan to travel, pack wisely. Comfortable shoes, boots, a rain jacket, a warm scarf, sweaters, sunglasses, and an umbrella are all things you should consider leaving room for in your bag.

10. There are plenty of fast food chains in Russia to make you feel at home, including McDonald’s, Subway, Domino’s Pizza, Burger King, and Carl’s Jr, but to have a true Russian experience, make sure you try things like borscht (beet soup), pirozhki (pastries), ikra (caviar), shashlyk (kebabs), pelmeni (pastry dumplings), smetana (sour cream), and morozhenoe (ice cream).