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Russia is a beautiful country and you will enjoy your trip. At the same time it's quite different from other tourist destinations and you should plan your visit carefully.

First question that you will face when starting to plan your trip - what is the best season to come to Russia. There are no doubts, you'd better go in summer. Summer in Russia lasts from June to August. July and August are the warmest months and the main holiday season. If you are going to Siberia or Far East, the most beautiful weather there is in September.

Winter travels have their special charm, but you'd better don't try if you are not used to subzero temperatures.

Rains in Russia are usual for any season, except winter, so take an umbrella with you. Even in summer the temperature sometimes is only +3...+5 degrees C, and warm clothes (jacket and sweaters) are necessary. Russians are not fond of shorts, you'd better take jeans.

Russia is a vast and diverse nation that continues to evolve politically and economically. Travel and living conditions in Russia contrast sharply with those in the Europe and North America. Major urban centers show tremendous differences in economic development compared to rural areas.

While good tourist facilities exist in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other large cities, they are not developed in most of Russia and some of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Petty crime affects foreigners in large urban centers. Travel to the Caucasus region of Russia is dangerous. Travelers may need to cross great distances, especially in Siberia and the Far East, to obtain services from Russian government organizations.

Aeroflot has been broken up into many small airlines, leading to virtually unregulated skies and the worst regional safety record in the world. Flying within Russia is an unreliable, unpredictable and difficult business. Try to get a seat on a domestic flight that ultimately has an international destination, because these carriers are certified to meet higher standards than domestic-only services.

European Russia is crisscrossed by an extensive rail network that makes trains a viable means of getting to practically anywhere. They're cheap and comfortable and usually take a long, long time. The rail network runs on Moscow time; the only general exception is suburban train services, which stick to local time.

Driving in Russia isn't everybody's cup of tea but, if you've got a sense of humour, don't mind some fairly rugged road conditions, a few hassles finding petrol, and getting lost now and then, it's a great way to see the country.

Tourism in Russia: approximately 7 million visitors per year.


One of the most prominent Russian traditions is hard drinking. It does not mean they all are alcoholics; Russians are just drinking more alcohol when they are drinking.

It's applicable more in particular to men though women also drink much more than it's accepted on the West. Drinking a bottle of vodka for three, or a bottle of vine for each is normal and is not considered as excessive.

Refusing to drink, as much as the rest of the company is considered disrespect. The favorite men's drink is Russian vodka, the favorite women's drink is Soviet Champagne - a decent Russian sparkling vine.

70% of Russian alcohol spend goes on cheap vodka.Drinking until one falls is all right. The parties usually take place in private flats, and majority of the guests stay to sleep overnight occupying all free space on coaches and the floor. The next morning the party may continue. "The morning after the night before" condition, named in Russian "pokhmel'ie", is supposed to be cured by drinking a small amount of alcohol ("opokhmelitsya"). It does provide some relief but thereafter people usually can't stop. Small shops on the streets (kiosks) selling mostly alcohol and chocolate, work 24 hours 7 days a week, and the party can get extra drinks any time if they think they do not have enough.

Russian joke
( A diary of a foreigner working in Russia)

June 24 2002.
Was drinking with Russians. I think I almost died.

June 25 2002.
Was drinking with Russians. I think I'd better die.

June 26 2002.
In the morning came Russians, and offered a drink.
Why I didn't die yesterday?

Soviet Era Poster R
ussian drinking traditions are very much a cultural thing, and the person who drinks and does not become drunk is always respected. It's called "he can drink". The more you drink and don't fall down drunk, the more your friends will respect you. Many business deals are solved while drinking together, it's probably one more reason why women don't succeed in making careers.

Drinking alone is considered as being an alcoholic, drinking in company is encouraged.
Russians don't usually drink without a reason. It does not mean that they do not drink just when they want, it means that every time they want to drink they bring up a reason. It can be anything - from buying a new thing (in this case they call it "obmyt" - in literal translation "to wash" the new thing) to celebrating the weekend.

70% of Russian alcohol spend goes on cheap vodka.

70% of Russian alcohol spend goes on cheap vodka.The process of drinking is specific. The glasses of all company members must be full, then somebody should propose a "toast" - what for the company is going to drink this drink. "Toasts" can vary from trivial "Na zdorovie" or "Budem zdorovy" ("For our health") to any other wish or somebody's desire: "Za udachu" ("For good luck"), "Na dorozhku" (before leaving - "For the way"), "Daj Bog ne v poslednij raz" ("Hopefully it's not the last time when we drink, with God's help") etc. After the toast people clink their glasses with each other and drink their drinks. Everybody must finish his drink, otherwise it means that he does not support the toast. The next toast follows in 5-10 minutes.

Click here to learn how to make drinks with Vodka.

Events and holidays

Russian Winter.Easter and Christmas are celebrated with midnight services, candlelight processions and flourishings of folk art.

In April St Petersburg celebrates Music Spring, an international classical music festival, and the last 10 days of June feature the White Nights, a time for general merrymaking and staying up late.

A film festival is held in Moscow in autumn in odd-numbered years. The Russian Winter Festival is celebrated in St Petersburg, Moscow and Novgorod from late December to early January, and includes folklore shows and vodka.

he biggest Russian holiday is New Year (1 January). During the Soviet time people were not allowed to celebrate Christmas (Russian Christmas is 7 January), and New Year was the most cheerful holiday. Its celebrated with presents, champagne and yet more vodka.

The next holiday is the Old New Year (13 January). Russians had a different calendar before February 1918. The difference between Julian (the old Russian) and Gregorian (European) calendars was 13 days, and after the Soviet government adopted Gregorian calendar Russians started to celebrate many holidays twice: according to the new style and the old one.



Russia is a country with the long and unique history. There are many places to see. Foreigners are usually impressed with its unusual architecture, especially churches and cathedrals. There are many museums, monuments, and theatres. The most popular tourist destinations are Moscow and St. Petersburg. If you are in Russia, you should see at least those two cities. Though they are so different from the rest of the country that it would not be fair to say that you have seen Russia until you have visited other places off the beaten track.


Russians call their services "non-obtrusive".

Be aware that toilets are difficult to find, and usually you have to pay there.

To use a public phone you will need a token or card. International calls can not be made from street phones. Your mobile phone will work in Moscow and Saint Petersburg but seldom in regional cities.
As a taxi you can use any car, not only a specific one. Drivers are eager to give you a lift to earn a few rubles. Taxi fee must be discussed with a driver before a journey.

To send e-mail you can use Internet cafes or official postal services. Russia has become quite Internet savvy and you will easy find a place with access to the Internet. The best hotels will also provide you with this facility.

In the major cities you can rent a car but it's expensive. Public transport in Russia is quite good, cheap and easy to use though sometimes overcrowded.


Restaurants and cafes offer a wide range of dishes, and you will find something according your tastes. The only problem you can face is that they seldom have a menu in English. Tipping is expected but not mandatory. Check your bill before paying, it is likely to have counting mistakes.

Russians are very fond of soups (which include meat, vegetables and broth), pies and pelmeny (similar to ravioli). Russian cuisine is not spicy. Portions are usually smaller than you are used to. Click here to read more about Russian food.

Crime Situation

You will be safe as long as you don't show around big amounts of money or walk alone at night along dark lonely streets. Murder is considered to be an extraordinary event in Russia that usually happens with people who are involved in organized crime. You can visit any place and peacefully walk on the streets. However, you can easily become a victim of pocket thefts; so take care of your wallet and do not keep big amounts with you.

Acts of terrorism, including bombings, have occurred in large Russian cities over the last several years. Bombings have occurred at Russian government buildings, hotels, tourist sites, markets, residential complexes and on public transportation. While foreigners have not been singled out in these attacks, travelers should be alert for unusual behavior, unattended luggage in public areas, and other possible indicators that something out of the ordinary is in progress.

emonstrations occasionally occur in large cities, and sometimes in front of the U.S. embassy and consulates. While these demonstrations are for the most part peaceful and controlled, it is best to avoid such gatherings.

s a visitor to Russia, be alert to your surroundings.
To avoid highway crime, travelers should try not to drive at night. Never sleep in vehicles along the road. Do not pick up hitchhikers, who not only pose a threat to your physical safety, but also put you in danger of being arrested for unwittingly transporting narcotics or narcotics traffickers in your vehicle. Your vehicle can be confiscated if you are transporting marijuana or other narcotics.

Incidents of violent crime directed against homosexual men have also been reported.

Extortion and corruption are common in the business environment. Organized criminal groups target foreign businesses in many cities and have been known to demand protection money under threat of serious violence. Many western firms hire security services that have improved their overall security, although this is no guarantee. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable. Since the mid-1990's, several American business people have been attacked, kidnapped and even killed.

Travelers should be aware that certain activities that would be normal business activities in the United States and other countries are either illegal under the Russian legal code or are considered suspect by the FSB (Federal Security Service). Travellers should be particularly aware of potential risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, and production facilities or other high technology, government-related institutions. Any misunderstanding or dispute in such transactions can attract the involvement of the security services and lead to investigation or prosecution for espionage. Rules governing the treatment of information remain poorly defined. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. While the U.S. embassy has had consular access to these individuals, arrested Americans faced lengthy sentences -- sometimes in deplorable conditions - if convicted.

Useful Info

• All foreigners visiting Russia will require a Russian visa. To learn more about how to obtain Russian visa please visit Russian Embassy website.

• Official language is Russian, but English is taught at all school levels. Signs in English are common on the streets of Moscow and other big cities.

• All prices are generally quoted in rubles. Currency can be freely converted at banks, hotels etc.

• Electricity throughout Russia is 220 volt/50 hz. The plug is the two-pin thin European standard. Be sure to bring your own converter as most places in Russia do not carry them.

• There are 11 time zones. Time is GMT +3 for both Moscow & St. Petersburg.

• Quality of tap water varies from city to city but normally is quite poor. It will be wise not to drink tap water, and use bottled water for brushing your teeth. Be aware though, that Russian mineral water is usually salted and has a special taste. Buy imported water or ask a salesperson which one is not salted.

• Russians do not wear shoes at apartments, and usually you will be offered to change your shoes to slippers. Even if your hosts do not ask you to take off your shoes, do it yourself.

• It's polite to bring something with you when invited for socials. Bring flowers for a hostess and you will never be mistaken.

• It's not nice if you leave something on your plate when eating at a private house and you can offend the hosts. If you do not drink alcohol, at least take a glass and have a sip. You are supposed to try every dish on the table so keep space. Ask the person who invited you, how many dishes are in queue.

To learn more about travelling in Russia click here.
Thinking about travelling to Russia? Check out Sokol Travel Agency.
May 9th celebration.Non-official "Men's Day" is 23 February, the Day of Army. All men in Russia are liable for call-up (including reservists), so they all are celebrities. On this day women usually give men small gifts.

Official "Women's Day" is March 8th. On this day men give women gifts, usually flowers. Men also are supposed to do all the housework, this is pretty nice - at least once a year women can have some rest and forget about dishes, cooking, kids, take a magazine and relax on the coach...

9 May is a Victory Day (over the Germans in the world war ll). It's widely celebrated throughout the country.

12 June - the Independence Day. It's an official holiday but Russians are not used to it yet. They spend this day on their "dachas" - small plots in countryside where they plant some vegetables.

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