Russia Country Guide

Russia is going through a renaissance. Having shed the red cloak of Communist uniformity, it has stepped out in all its cultural diversity, celebrating the richness of its hundred year old culture. The creative arts and literature are reclaiming the fame they once enjoyed, ancient churches and cathedrals are being restored and rebuilt, colourful markets are throbbing with life and age old traditions have resurfaced with renewed vigour.

Tourists today have an opportunity to savour Russia in all her vastness, right from the magnificence of imperial St.Petersburg to the timeless simplicity of the village life of Irkutsk and Siberia.

Our Russia Country Guide will give you all the travel information you need to know to help plan your holiday in Russia, while our Russia Destination Guide will give you some handy information about some of the exciting things to see and do during your holiday in Russia. Joining a Russia tour or activity is a safe and easy way to explore the country!

We recommend you read about travel in Russia on GoNOMAD.

Check out the latest travel information from YouTube.

We currently have a local connection in the following destinations:

- The Golden Circle
- Moscow

Russia Country Guide

Follow the links below or scroll further down the page for some handy details to help you plan your Russian holiday:

Climate/Weather Top

Moscow has a typically continental climate with hot summers and long drawn-out, cold winters. Snowfall commences in October and continues till spring. Temperatures in Moscow are way below freezing point and daylight lasts for only about six hours. It is warm and pleasant but humid in the mid summer months of July and August.

St. Petersburg has an unpredictable but relatively milder climate. The best time to visit this city is in summer, between June and August, when the temperature is still low at around 20 degrees Centigrade (around 65 degrees Fahrenheit). The winters here are cold, with snowfall and freezing winds. January and February, the coldest months, see the mercury dropping to -13 or -12 degrees Centigrade (9 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) and sometimes even lower.

Follow the link to view the current weather in Moscow, the capital of Russia.

Communication Top

The Federal Law 'On Mass Media' and the Federal Law 'On Communications' govern all matters pertaining to communications in Russia. The telecommunications industry reinvented itself in the nineteen eighties after the President of USSR signed a declaration liberalizing it. Today, over 1,000 companies offer a variety of telecom services.

The sixty regional capitals have state-of-the-art digital telecommunication infrastructure as well as extensive digital and analogue cellular services. However, the rural areas still suffer with low density, inadequate and outdated telephone facilities. Digital trunk lines connect the whole country from Moscow to Novorossiysk and from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg.

There are digital switches in many Russian cities supplying more than 50,000 lines for international dialling. Three fibre-optic cables under the sea connect Russia to countries around the world. Satellite earth stations access Orbita, Inmarsat, Eutelsat, Intersputnik and Intelsat.

The international dialling code for Russia is 7.

Currency/Money Top

RUB or Rouble is the official currency of Russia, while small change is called kopek. I RUB = 100 kopeks. It is not easy to find roubles outside Russia. You can however exchange your currency once you arrive there, at hotels, currency exchange booths and banks. Do remember that all of them are particular that the Euros and dollars that are tendered for exchange must be in good condition. Paying for services and goods in hard cash is deemed illegal, yet it is an accepted practice.

Traveller's cheques are expensive and difficult to encash. Carry them if you must, in Euros or US Dollars. Credit cards of all major credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa are accepted by most establishments and hotels that are frequented by tourists. ATMs are aplenty in major towns and cities.

Follow the link to view the latest Russia exchange rate from OANDA.com.

Electricity Top

Russia runs off a 220V/ 50Hz system.

Embassy Locations Top

To view a list of Russian embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within Russia, check out http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/.

General Information Top

Population: 140,702,094 (July 2008 est.)
Total Area: 17,075,200 sq km
Capital: Moscow
Time Zone: UTC+3 hours, daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October 

Follow the link to view the current time in Moscow.

Language Top

The Russian language traces its origins to the East Slavic branch of the Slavic group of languages, which in turn belong to the Indo-European family of languages. Along with the Byelorussian and Ukrainian languages, Russian as it is spoken today is a derivative of the Old Russian language and came into being somewhere between the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries. It is spoken by over 250 million people in the world, including the 180 million who live in territories that made up the erstwhile USSR.

Here are some key Russian phrases and words which every tourist will find most useful.

PREE - VYET = Hello
DO - SVI - DAN - YA = Goodbye
PO - ZHA - LU - EES - TA = Please
SPAH - SEE - BAH = Thank You
PRI - YAT - NA SVAMI PO - ZNA - KO - MITSA = It is nice to meet you
OT - VYE - ZI - TYE MEN - YA V GOS - TI - NIT - SU = Take me to my hotel
GDEH TU - AH - LET= Where is the bathroom
SKOL - KO EH -TO STO - IT = How much does this cost
PO - MO - GI - TE = Help

Public Holidays Top

Follow the link to view a current list of public holidays in Russia.

Religion Top

Russian Orthodox Christianity is the principal religion of Russia. It is practised by almost 75% of Russians who believe in religion. The Russian Orthodox Church is an offshoot of Eastern Orthodoxy and was one of the pillars of tsarist autocracy, because the church was not regarded as a separate entity from the state. In the mid nineties, almost 19 % of believers practised Islam, making it the second most important religion in Russia. A steadily declining but crucial Jewish population and some other non Orthodox Christian groups make up the other major religious sects of Russia.

During the Communist regime, the Church settled for a modus vivendi by relinquishing its autonomous identity, and like all other institutions remained wholly subordinate to the State. Since the Soviet Union was officially an atheist state, there were no figures on the number of believers. But according to various Western and Soviet researchers, more than a third of Russians believed in religion and over 50 million followed Russian Orthodoxy. Of course, most of them were afraid to express their religious sentiments.

However, after the breakdown of Communist rule in 1991, Russians have regained their freedom to practise religion. Many religious buildings that were abandoned or used by the state have been restored and are being used for religious purposes.

Passports/Visas Top

Visa Agencies: Do get your visas through visa agencies. They save you the bother of standing in long queues and the stress of processing the documents.

Entry Requirement for Americans: Citizens of the United States of America must possess a valid passport and do require a visa to visit Russia.

Entry Requirements for UK nationals: British citizens require a valid passport and a visa in order to visit Russia.

Entry Requirements for Canadians: Canadian nationals require a valid passport and visa to travel to Russia.

Entry Requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a valid passport and visa in order to visit Russia.

Entry Requirements for South Africans: South African nationals must possess a valid passport and visa in order to visit Russia.

Entry Requirements for New Zealanders: Citizens of New Zealand require a valid passport and visa to travel to Russia.

Entry Requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must possess a valid passport and visa in order to visit Russia.

Passport/Visa Note: All travellers to Russia must possess a passport that is valid for the duration of their stay. Do remember to carry with you, at all times, your passport or visa as proof of your identity. You will be issued an Immigrant Card either before landing or on arrival. If you intend to stay beyond three days, do register yourself with the local police on arrival. Your hotel could arrange this for you. If you are a tourist, you must carry with you vouchers of travel agencies or hotels. Visitors are also issued exit permits with the visa, which need to be furnished at the time of departure. You can also get these exit permits at your hotel at least two days before your departure.

It is recommended that you check the latest visa and passport requirements with your embassy before planning a trip to Russia as these rules are subject to changes very often.

US citizens who do not wish to go through the trouble of dealing with the red tape themselves can count on the professional services of Travel Visa Pro to speed things up: Apply for Russia Visa Online (service starts from $39). If you need to renew, add pages, change name, or just get a new US passport, you can Apply for a New US Passport here.

Geography Top

Russia is the largest country in the world and has a diverse geography of hills, plains, lakes and seas.

The northern region of Russia is essentially a tundra region made up of many lakes and forests. It stretches into the Arctic Circle.

Eastern Russia is covered by 2,500 miles of Ural Mountains and the Caucasian Mountains which stretch from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea in the South of Russia.

The North European Plain, with its rolling grasslands and rich soil, extends from the western border right up to the Ural Mountains.

About three fourths of the Russian population lives in the towns and cities of Western Russia and one quarter lives in the rural areas.

To view a map of Russia, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.

History Top

The disbanding of the Soviet Union has seen a tremendous resurgence of interest in Russia's history. There has been a lot of analysis of the Soviet era. The Soviet regime has been vilified and there has been an extraordinary effort to restore Russia's heritage. The distinct characters of Russia's ancient communities and cities are being reinstated, Russian artists and writers who were banned are being honoured once again and churches are being restored to their erstwhile glory.

Russia's history as the Westerners know it is a collection of fables, vague legends and sensational rumours, right from the scandalous details of Catherine the Great to stories of the miraculous escapes of the children of Nicholas II. But in reality, Russia has a very compelling factual history and even a very sketchy idea of this history, and the people who made it, adds great value to your visit.

Health Top

The medical facilities provided by the state run hospitals in Russia are not of a high standard and it is advisable to avail of private medical assistance. So do go in for a comprehensive medical insurance that covers both accidents and medical treatment. Citizens of the United Kingdom can avail of free medical treatment in the state run hospitals, thanks to a reciprocal agreement Russia has with that country.

Blood supply in Russia is uncertain and blood transfusions are best avoided. Essential medicines are also limited in supply, so do carry some basic medicines with you, especially those required for travellers' diarrhoea. It is not safe to drink water that is not treated and purified. It is prudent to stick to bottled water, which is available everywhere.

Travellers are recommended to inoculate themselves against typhoid, tuberculosis and hepatitis A. Measles outbreaks and travellers' diarrhoea are also frequent. Tick borne encephalitis is common in the wooded and rural areas of Russia, especially in the Siberian and Ural regions. AIDS and HIV are also spreading significantly. Moscow and many other regions of Russia have reported repeated outbreaks of bird flu, though there has been no incidence of human infection. Do ensure that egg and poultry dishes are well cooked and avoid contact with caged, domestic and wild birds.