5 Tips on Travelling to Russia
Travelling to a foreign country can be a stressful experience – there is so much to organise, double check, then organise again! So, how can coming to Russia be made easier? Read on for five tips to help you in your travels here.
1) Make sure you apply for your visa in time
Give yourself enough time to get everything sorted. A good plan is to double the amount of time you’ll think it’ll take, then work with that time frame. Read documents carefully and ensure that you have all the paperwork you’ll need. You can do it independently, but applying through an agency is a lot easier and reduces the chance of any unwelcome surprises!
2) Don’t get overwhelmed at the airport
Baggage is normally very quick to arrive and security is no stricter than any other international airport. If you have a transfer organised, keep in contact with the company and have their number saved on your phone. Russia’s country code is +7, so put that in front of any number you call. If you need a taxi, make sure you get one at the right price – at the official taxi desk in the airport (if you don’t have transfer organised beforehand). Don’t talk to any person pretending to be an official taxi driver as they will overcharge you. For example, a taxi from Pulkovo to central St. Petersburg shouldn’t be more than €30.
3) Learn a bit of the language
Being able to read some Cyrillic is an absolute lifesaver. Just simple words like ресторан (restaurant) or аптека (pharmacy) are really helpful if you’re hungry or need some medicine. Learning a few words instantly makes you feel more assimilated and less like a tourist. By knowing the Cyrillic alphabet, you’ll be able to read street signs, maps and metro guides, which will come in very useful. Also, knowing words like здравствуйте (hello), спасибо (thank you), and извините (excuse me) is never a bad idea! It shows that you’ve made the effort to learn some of the language and aren’t just relying on English.
4) Read up about the culture
Russia is actually a very easy country to live in. I discovered that smiling at strangers on the street is not the done thing (years of English politeness mean I still struggle with this!), and learned not to be offended when shop workers didn’t return my ‘спасибо’. In churches, women should always cover their heads, whereas men should take their hats off, and your hands shouldn’t be in your pockets. Also, you shouldn’t photograph any government buildings, regardless of the beautiful Soviet architecture (no sarcasm intended…)
5) Always carry your passport with you
Russians take their passports with them wherever they go, and to be on the safe side you should too. Security has been tightened recently so you should always have it with you. Just keep your passport in a safe place (e.g. in a pocket inside your bag) and then you don’t have to worry about losing it. You need your passport to buy things like SIM cards, to enter official buildings, and to return unwanted purchases.
Hopefully these tips will help you during your time in Russia and take some of the stress out of travelling. Don’t forget to read the Liden and Denz blog for more information about visiting Russia!
This post was brought to you by Tilly Hicklin, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz, St. Petersburg.