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Travel to Russia from Russian tour-operator

Travel Tips for Russia

Russian currency is Russian Rouble. In many places credit card (VISA or MASTERCARD) are accepted, but cash is still widely used in Russian cities and towns. So, we highly recommend you to have cash with you, because it can be the only possible payment method in some places. So, we advise you to carry with you to Russia some cash in EUR or USD and a credit card. Cash in EUR or USD will help you to get some cash in roubles in case if the ATM-machines won’t accept your credit card or give you only a small amount. And while your stay in Russia we also recommend you to have everywhere some cash in roubles besides your credit card just in case.
Currency Exchange
To have some Roubles right upon your arrival to Russia we suggest you to exchange 100-300EUR (or USD) at the airport. We do not recommend you to change all the foreign currency into roubles at the airport as the exchange rate there usually is not very good. The most of your money you can change in the banks of the city center or in some official currency exchange offices. For exchanging more than 600EUR it is obligatory to show the original of your passport to the bank staff. Also it’s advisable to exchange any roubles into your home currency before you leave Russia, as the exchange rate will more than likely be better here. For each exchange operation the bank or exchange office takes a commission of about 20 roubles.
ATM-mashines (or cash machines) are becoming more and more popular in Russia, because more and more Russian people use debit and credit cards. As anywhere in the world, ATMs take a commission for each operation, thus it is better to take out larger amounts at once rather than pay this commission each time. In some hotels there are ATMs, where you can even exchange EUR or UDS into roubles.
Tipping about 5%-10% is customary at restaurants, cafes and bars; but is not so popular as in Europe and USA. For example, you can leave a 100-rouble tip for the meals that cost you 1000 roubles.
Tipping Tour Guides and Drivers
Average tip for a private guide is 10-20 EUR (or USD) per day. If you want to tip your driver, the recommended amount is 5-10 EUR (or USD) per day. Please, remember that tipping is not obligatory and is always only your own will and decision.
In big Russian cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg you will have many opportunities to buy Russian souvenirs. There are some special souvenirs’ stores and also some street souvenir-markets and etc. But anyway it is better to consult with your local guide where to buy some certain souvenirs and present and what is better to purchase.
Most popular Russian souvenirs
The most famous and popular Russian souvenirs are as follows: “matryoshka” (also known as a ‘Russian nesting doll’ that is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another); lacquered boxes of Palekh; Khokhloma wood crockery; ceramic items of Gzhel (Russian style of ceramics in white-blue colours, that takes its name from thevillage of Gzhel, where it has been produced since 1802); famous Russian shawls and scarves (‘Pavlo-Posadskie platki’); ‘Ushanka’-hat (a winter fur hat with ear flaps); amber jewelry and many other nice souvenirs.
Russian International code is 7. If you want to call to a Russian phone number from abroad (from your country, for example), please, dial 007 from a fixed phone or +7 from a cell (mobile) phone. Then dial the city code and the number itself. If you are already in Russia and want to call to a fixed phone number from the fixed phone (of your hotel room, for example) you should dial only 7 figures of the phone number. But if you call from your mobile phone, you should dial +7, than city code and then 7 figures of the phone number.
If you need to call to your country from Russia (from a fixed phone) you should dial 8, then wait for a dial tone and after than dial 10 and then the country code, city code and phone number.
Mobile (cell) phones
Russia uses the GSM and LTE networks. This makes communicating by mobile phones for Europeans quite easy. As for the guests from USA , you can use your mobile phone in Russia only if it is GSM or LTE phone. It is also quite easy to buy a mobile phone at a reasonable price in Russia as there are many cell phone stores and mobile payment centres in any Russian city. A cheap mobile phone can cost about 30-40EUR and a SIM-card costs approximately 200-300 roubles (3-5EUR) and already includes a 200-300 rouble top-up. The cost for calls and texts is extremely cheap in Russia for the local numbers (if you call or text to the people in the same city where you are staying). Be aware that if you are travelling between cities then you’ll need to make sure that your SIM-card works in all the cities and if the service of roaming is connected to your SIM-card. Many people in Russia use prepaid mobile services, in other words, they purchase prepaid phone cards. Russia has 4 main mobile phone networks – Megafon, MTS, Beeline and Tele2.
Internet and Wi-Fi
Most hotels and apartments provide Internet (either for free of for an extra fee, check it with your hotel or the owner of the apartment). Also Wi-Fi (wireless internet connections) is also very popular in Russia. You will find hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Many of them are restaurants, cafés, bars and are free of charge. Ask your tour guide or our managers for more information about the places and possibilities where to get online.
The electrical voltage in Russian sockets (outlets) is 220 volts and electrical equipment uses European, circular shaped sockets/plugs. If you need to bring with you some electrical equipment, please, check if it can take the 220 volts and also purchase a plug adapter to make sure that you can plug it into the differently shaped, circular, European electrical sockets (outlets).
Which electric appliances can be used in Russia?
You can use in Russia your electrical appliances if standard voltage in your country is 220V – 240V (as in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). If the voltage in your country is in between 100V – 127V (as in the USA, Canada and most South American countries), in this case you need a power converter. In case of frequency in your country differs from the frequency in Russia (that is 50 Hz), it is not recommended to use your electrical appliances in Russian Federation.
If you have medical problems, you can visit one of medical centers (there some medical centers of European level). But be aware that these clinics charge western prices or may be even more expensive than local hospitals or clinics in your country. Some of them might accept your insurance but most will not, thus it is better to keep all of your bills and cheques (of payments for your medical services in Russia) and then submit them to your insurance company. It is important to purchase a travel insurance for your trip to Russia and also verify which cases and/or services it covers.
There are many pharmacies in Russia, and most popular and branded medicines can be bought here (many of then without any prescription). But at the same time the amount of counterfeit medicines that is sold in Russia is rather big. So, be careful. And maybe it is better to ask your guide for a help (to visit a pharmacy). Anyway we recommend you to bring with you some medicines that can be important and necessary for you during your trip (it is allowed to bring reasonable amount for personal needs).
All types of food are available in the main Russian cities. Western brands can be bought in most big supermarkets, but they can be expensive if compare with prices for the same products in your countries. In St. Petersburg and Moscow can be found the restaurants of almost all cuisines. In most of good restaurants there is a menu in English. You can also find here Western fast food cafés (such as McDonalds or KFC) as well as Russian fast food restaurants (“Teremok” or “Chainaya Lozhka”) that serve Russian pancakes (‘blini’).
Can one drink tap water in Russia?
Water in Russia isn’t of the same standard as water in Europe or USA. We highly recommend you NOT to drink tap water, especially in St. Petersburg. We advise you to buy bottled water in the supermarkets or street stalls (kiosks).
If you are travelling in Russia (from one part of the country to another), please, remember that Russian Federation is divided into several time zones, so be aware of the time changes during your journey in Russia. There are 11 time zones in Russia. It is very important to know these time differences if you are going to make the Trans-Siberian Travel throughout Russia.
NB. Since 2011, daylight saving time is not used anymore in Russia.
Russian Time Zones (in comparison with Greenwich time & Moscow time)
Kaliningrad: GMT+02:00 (MSK -1)
Moscow, St, Petersburg: GMT+03:00 (MSK – Moscow time)
Samara: GMT+04:00 (MSK +1)
Yekaterinburg: GMT+05:00 (MSK +2)
Omsk, Novosibirsk: GMT+06:00 (MSK +3)
Krasnoyarsk: GMT+07:00 (MSK +4)
Irkutsk: GMT+08:00 (MSK +5)
Yakutsk: GMT+09:00 (MSK +6)
Vladivostok: GMT+10:00 (MSK +7)
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk: GMT+11:00 (MSK +8)
Kamchatka & Chukotka: GMT+12:00 (MSK +9)
Please, note that since of June 1, 2014 smoking in Russia has been banned in offices, work zones, public buildings, restaurants, hotels, medical institutions, entranceways, elevators, children’s play areas, on public transport, trains, railway stations, beaches, and inside or anywhere within 15-50 feet of an entrance to subways, airports and rail stations. The sale of cigarettes is prohibited inside a 330-feet radius of educational establishments. The penalty for violation of the law is a fine of up to 1,500 roubles (about 22EUR or 25USD) for individual smokers. It is possible to smoke in public places only if there is a special area for smokers (usually it has a special sign of permission to smoke).
It’s extremely important to know what you can/can’t import or export from/to Russia. The following items must be declared by filling in a declaration form upon crossing the border and you may be taxed:
– Any foreign currencies (including travellers’ cheques and etc.) which total value is $10000 or more.
– More than 100 cigars or 200 cigarillos or 400 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco.
– More than 2 litres of alcohol.
– More than 250g of black caviar.
– More than 5 kg of fish and seafood (including red caviar)
– Precious stones and metals if their total value exceeds $10000 USD
– Potent or strong drugs (including psychotropic and narcotic drugs)
– Works of art and cultural values (including medals)

If you have less than the allowed amount of the items listed above (for example, $5000 USD, 100g of black caviar, 500g of red caviar, 2kg of fish, 1 bottle of vodka, 200 cigarettes and etc.), then you do not need to declare it when you arrive/leave Russia and you don’t have to pay extra money.
In Moscow and St. Petersburg there are several urban transport: bus, trolleybus, tram, metro, “marshrutka” (mini-bus that stops upon your request).
The means of public municipal ground transport are BUS, TROLLEYBUS and TRAM. A ticket for these tipes of transport costs 40 roubles (in St. Petersburg) and 55 roubles (in Moscow). Within almost every bus, trolleybus or tram, besides the driver there is a special person who sells the tickets and walks around the passenger compartment to collect the money (in Russian this person is called “kondúctor”). But sometimes the driver himself sells the tickets to passengers.
The METRO (SUBWAY) is the type of underground transportation. It is the fastest and most comfortable means of transport. The St. Petersburg’s metro is the one of the deepest in the world (it passes under the river Neva and is up to 100-110 meters deep). Currently, the St. Petersburg’s metro has 5 lines (red, blue, green, orange and violet) and has 67 stations. The Moscow metro is bigger and older. Now in themetro of Russian capital there are 12 lines and 203 stations. But in both cities there are quite beautiful stations with very rich decorations inside. The schedule of St. Petersburg’s metro is from 05:30 (05:45) to 00:00 (00:30) – depending on the station. The Moscow metro schedule is from 05:30 to 01:00. The cost of a trip in metro costs 45 roubles (in St. Petersburg) and 55 roubles (in Moscow). To enter the metro (subway) you have to buy a token – a kind of a metal coin (in Russian it is called “zhetón”) or a plastic card (in Russian it is called “kártochka”), which can be for 10 or more trips. It is also possible to buy a plastic card called in Russian “Podorozhnik” (in St. Petersburg) and “Troika” (in Moscow) that works as the online wallet and it is possible to put on this card some money and when it finishes, you can refill the balance of this card (by putting some more money to it). Another advantage of this type of cards is that it has no limitation for the days of use. About 30-50 rubles is charged as a card a deposit, which is returned to you if the card is no longer needed. You can also use these cards for your trips on public ground transport. In case of using these cards, the trips will be a little bit more economic.
MARSHRUTKA is an alternative to municipal public transport and the second most popular transport after the metro. They are mini-buses or medium buses, which are called “marshrutnoe taxi” or “marshrutka” (both these names come from the Russian word “marshrut” which means “the route”). These mini-buses function almost like large municipal buses, but there the stop upon request is possible for the passengers along the route. They are much faster (due to their smaller size) and also go more frequently than standard buses. “Marshrutkas” have the fixed routes, which are indicated on the signs attached to their windows, and can make stops at any place that is on their route to pick up or drop off the passengers. Many of them have their final stops near the metro stations. They cost about 40-45 roubles (in St. Petersburg) and 50-55 roubles (in Moscow). The price is indicated inside the bus on a special sign. You pay the driver in cash upon entering the bus (or before leaving it) – depending on the bus and its driver. In most of marshrutkas you can pay with “Podorozhnik” card (in St. Petersburg) or “Troika” card (in Moscow).
As for the TAXI, now official taxis are more popular than “private” taxis. Now the most popular taxi services in St. Petersburg are “Peterburgskoye Taxi 068” (speak English), “Taksovichkoff”, “Taxi 777” (speak English), “Taxi Vezet”, “Taxi 7000000” (speak English); In Moscow – “Taxi Moskva” (speak English), “Taxi MosTaxi” (speak English), “Taxi Vezet” and etc.
We recommend you to use the official taxi and avoide private taxi. It’s because sometimes these drivers who work using their private cars as taxi drivers (but not official) are not very friendly and honest. Also we can not guarantee you that this trip by the private taxi can be rather safe.