Inspired to travel to Russia after falling in love with it during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but feeling unsure of what you might need to do or know before you go? Look no further! Russia is an enormous, beautiful, vibrant, vastly different country to the one that is often portrayed in our media. With so much to see and explore, as with anywhere, you just have to be prepared. Have a look at these tips to make sure that you hit the ground running the moment you land!
First things first: visa requirements. For any of you who have started researching, visa requirements for Russia are very strict. Each country has its own set of requirements that need to be met and should be well researched with ample time. As an example though, anyone travelling on a full British passport will need one, and should leave a good four weeks between applying and date of travel. One of the things you will need as part of the visa process is an invitation. Though before you start to worry that you don’t have any Russian friends, fear not! The hotel you are staying at, or the travel agent you book with, will be able to assist you with a letter of invitation.
Cruise ship getaround
This is where the fun sets in. Visa requirements seem a little daunting and you just want a quick taste? Well, there’s a tiny loophole that might be able to work in your favour. The only way around this strict visa requirement is to arrive by cruise ship through certain authorised travel companies, which will give you 72 hours to enjoy Russia without the visa hassle. Whatever way you decide to make your arrangements just remember to do so well in advance so there isn’t a last minute panic. After that, travelling to Russia is virtually plain-sailing!
Registering on arrival
Okay, so there is one final bit of formality you need to be aware of before you go to Russia. Once you arrive you have three days to register as a traveller. You will receive an immigration form at passport control that you must keep on you at all times, along with your passport. Keep your registration stamps up to date at any hotel you stay at, so overzealous law enforcement officials can’t catch you out with heavy penalties!
But what about the language barrier?
Generally-speaking, knowing the language of the country that you are travelling to is extremely handy. Fortunately for you, there are quite a few options so you can learn anything from just a few phrases to several years of Russian classes.
One great option is exploring Russian course providers like Listen & Learn. With them, you have the option of learning online or in your city with a native speaker! And even better, you can learn at your own pace and work on your specific targets. Alternatively, you can go a simpler route: Duolingo offers Russian classes in app form. Maybe you’re looking for a mixture of both? Check out FluentU.
Maybe language prep for a trip abroad isn’t your thing—that’s okay. It turns out that while most Russians don’t speak English, figures as recent as 2017 show that about 32% people in the 18-24 age range have a conversational level. When in doubt, just make sure to have patience, use a lot of smiling, and do your best. Any and all effort is always appreciated!
Russia likes new, crisp banknotes without tear, crease, or blemish; in fact, they insist on them. And they have to be of the latest issue; do not be dismissive about this because you will have your money turned away if you don’t! If you can, arrange your currency before you leave. While there are plenty of currency exchanges throughout Russia you don’t want to be that unsuspecting tourist who gets a handful of unusable cash. Credit cards are becoming more accepted but it is best to ensure you have enough cash for the duration of your trip just in case.
Do NOT drink the tap water
You’ll likely be put off anyway should you turn a tap in your hotel in some places to find it trickling out brown, but in any case, stick to bottled water wherever you go. After a good run, tap water is perfectly safe to rinse your mouth out with when you brush your teeth, and of course there is nothing wrong with the water for showering and bathing. But whatever you do, for the sake of your stomach, find bottled water to drink. At a push you can boil water and leave it to cool, but this will still taste a little heavier than you are used to. Do what is best for you!
So now you have the essentials sorted, the only thing left to do is plan where to go and pack what you want to take. You will have an amazing time in Russia if you follow these few pieces of advice. Счастли́вого пути́! (have a nice trip!)
Disclaimer: This article was written in collaboration with Listen & Learn.
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