Did you know?
- Russia is famous for its vodka and 10% of the government’s income comes from the sale of vodka!
- The closest point between Russia and America is only 4 kilometres.
- Russia’s official name, the Russian Federation, came into effect in 1991 when the Soviet Union split into 15 geo-political parts.
- Russia is the largest country in the world, spread across 9 time zones.
- Russia shares a border with 14 countries: China, North Korea, Finland, Poland, Norway, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.
- Moscow’s underground rail stations are recognised as the worlds most beautiful.
- There is reported to be a second metro system called Metro 2 that links a collection of military bunkers.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Russia need a visa at this time. This needs to be applied for prior to travel.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
Australian Embassy in Russia:
Podkolokolny Pereulok 10a/2
Ph. +7 495 956 6070
Fax. +7 495 956 6170
The official currency of Russia is the Ruble. Notes come in denominations of руб 5,000, 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 10 and 5.
The recommended currency to take to Russia is the Ruble or the Euro. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Euros with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Moscow is approximately Rub240-260.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately Rub750.
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately Rub1,500.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately Rub300-350.
Russia has long-lasting cold winters therefore the food needs to provide energy and warmth to survive during the wintertime. So, the essential components of Russian cuisine are the ones which provide more carbohydrates and fat rather than proteins. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rarely used in food. The top five components of a Russian meal are potatoes, bread, eggs, meat and butter. Beetroot is a popular food staple in Russia and is the main ingredient in the well-known soup borscht.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Throughout Russia, the warm summer months of June, July and August are the best times to visit. Northern and central Russia have the most varied climate and the mildest areas are along the Baltic coast. Summer sunshine may be nine hours a day, but winters can be very cold. Between the seasons there are considerable temperature variations. In southern Russia, winter is shorter than in the north. The steppes (in the southeast) have hot, dry summers and very cold winters. The Black Sea generally has milder winters, but heavy rainfall all year round.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Generally speaking, Russia has quite a thorough public transport system which is very inexpensive. The stations themselves are often spectacularly grand, palatial old buildings that are well worth a look. If you are going to catch a taxi it is safer to use the official yellow taxis, even though it may be slightly more expensive than any of the rogue taxis on the street.
And, of course, walking is a must in Europe’s finest cities. Moscow is a particularly wonderful city to walk around and most attractions are within walking distance of the old town centre.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Russia…
Visitors to Russia will find plenty of ways to spend their money, particularly in Moscow and St Petersburg where shops catering for tourists are everywhere. Here you’ll find art and antique stores, souvenir shops, department stores and outdoor flea markets. Russia’s shops, stalls and department stores sell many items to travellers, including crystal bowls, leather bags, and woollen jumpers, as well as fine amber jewellery, paintings and sculptures. The Matryoshka doll (wooden dolls stacked one inside another) is a popular souvenir item along with vodka, fur hats and Fabergé eggs.
Don’t be surprised at the amount of pushing, shoving and elbowing in subway stations and in other crowded places - just go with the flow.
Carry moist wipes for cleaning your hands after using public transportation and being out and about. They can be invaluable on sticky summer days. Also, carry some toilet paper or tissues in case you’re faced with using a public restroom.
Get in the front seat of taxi cabs if you are travelling alone. Even if you travel with one other person, traditionally one gets in front, the other party in back.
Don’t try to take art or antiques back home without obtaining the proper paperwork. Most shops will provide you with a receipt and paperwork, but if buying directly from an artist, you must obtain the documents through the Ministry of Culture. The artist should be savvy to this.
In Russia, don’t forget to declare all electronic equipment on your customs form when entering the country. Simple consumer electronics, such as laptop computers, are usually allowed in without problems, but more sophisticated equipment (such as radio and GPS) may be subject to restrictions or more detailed documentation. Inspectors may seize equipment if all the appropriate paperwork is not in order. Contact the Russian embassy for more information.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Russia has many events and festivals happening in every city throughout the year, the most famous being the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg. The White Nights Festival is a celebration of music and dancing during the months of May and June.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Orthodox Christmas (Jan 7th)
- Defence of the Fatherland Day (Feb 23rd)
- International Womens Day (March 8th)
- Day of Spring and Labour (May 1st)
- Victory Day (May 9th)
- Russia Day (June 12th)
- Day of Unity (November 4th)
St Petersburg was the former capital of Russia and was built by Peter the Great to keep out the Swedes. It was with skilful planning, along with vast amounts of cash and a diligent workforce, that the Tsar realised his dream of building a state-of-the-art metropolis to outdo anything in Europe. Modestly he named it after himself, moving his capital here from Moscow in 1712. In 1918, after the Russian revolution, Moscow was renamed the capital. St Petersburg has been described as the “Venice of the North” for its winding canals and grand Italianate architecture, yet the city narrowly escaped total destruction during WWII. St Petersburg has since been restored and now reflects its original glory.
Moscow is the largest city in Russia and also the capital city. It is located on the Moscow River and is home to the Kremlin which serves as the residence of the Russian President. It possesses a complex transport system that includes 3 international airports, 9 railroad terminals, and the world’s second busiest metro system, which is famous for its architecture and artwork. The most popular tourist sites in Moscow include the Red Square, the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral. Moscow is also well known for its museums, galleries, classical music and ballets at the Bolshoi Theatre.