Travelling to Russia for the very first time may seem like a crazy adventure – and while the ‘closed door’ policy has been in place for almost a century now, Russia is not that frightening at all. Although tourism destinations cities are well-positioned for visitors, there are a few specifics to consider in advance. Carefully go through the details shared under and start packing!
Foreign nationals coming from most countries outside the former Soviet Union are mandated to obtain a visa before arrival. The system is pretty straightforward, but an invite from a licensed private tour operator in Moscow or a Russian citizen is needed. The only exception is the arrival via a cruise ship. Visitors arriving by sea are granted a 72-hour visa-free entry into Russia if they have made arrangements with a private tour guide in Moscow. There’s not much flexibility to travel around, though, but at least it’s going to save you a little hard work on the visa front.
Carry or download a phrasebook
Although this may differ from place to place, in general, Russians are not too well versed with English. Yes, they do learn it from an early age, and many have a clear understanding of it, but they are primarily shy to talk in it. Eateries tend to have menu options in English; people who work in tourism certainly converse in second and/or third languages, but a random person may not be able to explain themselves correctly. So be prepared to bring in a few guidebooks and atlases that you can use as props. It might be a sound idea to learn a few helpful Russian words and phrases, not only to help you in an urgent situation but also to please the occasional local with a respectful ‘spasibo’ (thank you).
Do a recce on public transport
Expert Moscow city guides suggest the public transport system being the ideal way to get around in most metropolises, especially the big ones with a subway network. Undergrounds tend to be more user-friendly as maps are translated into English, but staff will usually not be able to assist with purchasing tickets or respond to questions regarding directions. So make sure you understand how the system works, that is, where to buy the tickets and how to use the subway map. Besides, when travelling by bus or underground, pay special attention to the titles of the stations announced. They are generally in Russian, but English maps give a phonetic transcript, so be attentive and mindful.
Anyone who comes to Russia, considering that it is snowing all year round, will have a very unexpected experience upon arrival. Russia tends to have cold weather, but summertime can also be exceedingly hot and humid. Of course, the climate is hard to forecast, but a primary impression of the weather can be beneficial when scheduling activities with a Moscow city guide. If you’re travelling during the winter, it’s necessary to protect yourself more from the wetness than the cold. Snow in urban areas tends to liquefy soon after it drops, converting into slushy mud, so pack the appropriate shoes and keep a fresh pair of socks handy if a lot of walking is on the cards. Layers of clothing are welcome and required, as well as warm coats for outdoor activities, but don’t overdo them with fluffy hats—your identity as a visitor will be quickly revealed.
Get familiarised with the local delicacies.
Russian menu has a lot to offer, but it does throw in quite a few surprises with weird names. If you’re looking to make the most out of your gourmet visits, invest in some research beforehand on the distinct varieties of foods available each season so that you’re not bored eating borscht (beetroot soup) each day. Your private tour guide in Moscow can most certainly help here with some vital inputs. Besides, centrally placed restaurants will assuredly have English-speaking staff to assist you out, but if you’re looking for a ground-level experience, it’s a good idea to be prepared, mainly to avoid accidentally ordering something like meat gelatine— Even that could be an exciting experience, though.
Respect Local Customs
There are specific do’s and don’ts you need to adhere to when arriving in any foreign nation. A Moscow tour guide shares that although Russia has become more easy going over the years, since it is a pretty conventional society, there are certain norms that people still follow. For instance, if you are invited to a Russian home, guests are expected to follow specific protocols, such as carrying a thoughtful present upon arrival. Also, the dress code is vital for theatres and some restaurants. No one’s going to stop you from entering, of course, but it’s best to be prepared than arrive wearing jeans in a crowd of exquisitely dressed people.
Having the back of reputable private tours guides in Moscow is sure to help you make most of your time while being in this beautiful country.