11 Tips & Tricks to Travel in Russia
Ami and her family had a travel in Russia with ExploRussia in April 2016. They currently live in Paris, where Ami does freelance writing and photography (for sites such as Mama Loves Paris and The Culture Trip Paris), although her professional background is Advertising. Now she’s documenting her International travels on Social Media as “@amitakesonparis” and can be followed on Twitter, Instagram, Yelp! and TripAdvisor.
1. Learn some Cyrillic before your visit
St. Petersburg is very tourist friendly and there’s plenty of English – spoken and written. Moscow and rural towns are the opposite.
You may not know the meaning of the words, but at least you’ll be able to sound them out.
Practice with the app “Russian Alphabet Mastery-Learn Cyrillic in 3 Hours!” or get the book “Learn to Read Russian in 5 Days” by Sergei Orlov.
FYI, if you’re hungry, you may want to pop into a “PECTOPAH”…otherwise known as a restaurant!
2. Buy a Russian sim card for your mobile phone
It costs approximately $5 USD for 10 days. Worth every penny, especially if you plan to document your trip on Social Media along the way.
TIP: Bring your Passport or they won’t sell it to you.
Top mobile carriers are Megafon, Beeline, and MTS.
3. Buy Metro (aka Subway) cards
Buy the card for the duration of your visit in big cities. It will save you from refilling along the way.
4. See the “Greatest Hits” in each city, but also visit some places that are “off the beaten path”
Some of our favorites were: The Church of the Spilt Blood and The Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg; Red Square, Museum of Cosmonautics and Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow; The Church of the Intercession On the Nerl, Monastery of St. Euthymius and the Cathedral of the Nativity in the Golden Ring between Vladimir and Suzdal.
5. The Ruble goes a long way these days and many smaller businesses prefer cash to credit
Keep that in mind, especially if you’re bargaining for souvenirs. And buy those souvenirs from local artisans and designers. It’s good to support them and far less expensive (and more unique) than what you’ll find at the airports or big city shops. Some of our favorites were The Loft Project in St. Petersburg, the Izmailovsky Flea Market in Moscow, along with the folk art and quilts of Suzdal.
6. Speaking of Rubles…
Stock up when you have the opportunity at a Bank (?AHK) ATM versus in a hotel or restaurant. Many ATM’s limit the amount you can take in one transaction – so the transaction fees can add up pretty quickly.
7. Wear comfortable walking shoes
The Hermitage houses almost a mile’s worth of art and artifacts spread out over 8 buildings. And Moscow is a massive city–even the metro stations are over a mile apart! Sore feet are no fun on a vacation!
8. No surprise – the Vodka is amazing and miraculously “hangover free”
Icy cold is the best way to “shoot” it! Our favorites were Beluga and BelayaBeryozka. Best to buy at the airport before you head home. Those Duty Free people can hook you up!
9. Go to the Ballet!
The Bolshoi in Moscow is the most famous one of them all…and it’s also famously difficult to get tickets. We saw “Swan Lake” performed at the Stanislavsky Theater. Breathtaking is about the only way to describe it! While you travel in Russia go to see the ballet!
Buy them at the site you’re visiting if you think it’s beautiful and mail from your hotel/within a city. Don’t wait to mail from the airport, otherwise, you’ll be sending them once you’re back home!
11. Eat like a Local
Take recommendations for restaurants where locals eat. If everyone says you “have to eat” somewhere- then do it! Some of our favorites were Café Pushkin and Hachapuri in Moscow. We also enjoyed Severyanin (“Old school Russian recipes” and fishing for our own supper at Russian Fishing Village in St. Petersburg.
Written by: Ami B. Cadugan
All words and photos © Ami B. Cadugan
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