Visiting the biggest country on earth might seem like a challenge, but Russia is a country full of surprises and the perceptions you have may change upon visiting. This guide to Russia is really a guide to Moscow and St Petersburg, as these are the two places easiest to reach and most worth seeing for Western tourists, but some of the advice here will stand you in good stead for trips to other parts of this vast country.
Do I need a visa to go to Russia?
Yes you do, and then some. A Russian visa can be a bit of a pain to acquire as there is a lot of paperwork to be filled out. Remember to start the visa process at least one month before you’re travelling and it will cost you around 100 pounds.
Should I visit Moscow or St Petersburg first?
This depends on where you’re situated, as it’s obviously best to travel to and from the locations which give you the best deals on flights and other things. Nevertheless, if you want to dive right into Russian culture then go to Moscow first, because it is the more traditional, authentic Russian city. If you want to ease yourself in, then go to St Petersburg first as it’s more like a European city.
How long should I spend in each city?
If you can afford to spend four days in each, then this is what you should do. There’s endless attractions in both cities and it’s never nice to be rushing around when you could be calmly exploring instead.
When is the best time to visit Russia?
Summer in Russia is about the only time of year you can guarantee good weather, but everything is crowded with tourist who don’t want to face the Russian cold during winter. Coming in late spring or early autumn will mean the city is less busy but bring warm clothing. Finally, winter is the truly authentic time to see Russia, as it is a country built. Clearly the best time to travel depends on your aversion to the cold, but I would say late spring to give yourself a nice balance.
Is Russia safe?
You hear a lot of things about Russia in the media that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a country hostile to tourists. In reality, it’s just like most other countries. Stick to the tourist areas and it’s as safe as anywhere else. Don’t go off the beaten track as you could end up in the wrong part of town.
Is it expensive?
Apart from accommodation, which you can still find great deals on, most things are cheaper in Russia. Food is less pricey, getting around isn’t dear, and general tourist nick nacks are cheaper too.