U.S. citizens need a valid U.S. passport and a visa issued by a Russian embassy or consulate to travel to Russia. You cannot obtain a visa upon arrival, so you must apply for your visa well in advance. The Russian government upholds a restrictive and complicated visa regime for foreigners who visit, transit, or reside in the Russian Federation. U.S. citizen who does not comply with Russian immigration laws can be subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. Russian authorities will not allow U.S. citizens to depart the country if his or her visa has expired. Travelers must wait until a new visa is approved, which may take up to 20 days. Make sure that you have enough empty pages for entry and exit stamps in your passport to ensure your entry and exit. Please verify the expiration date of your Russian visa, and leave Russia before your visa expires. Travelers should be careful not to stay beyond the date permitted on their visas in order to avoid difficulties when departing the country.
If you arrive in Russia without an entry visa, you will not be permitted to enter the country, and could face immediate return to the point of embarkation at your own expense. A Russian visa is only valid for those exact dates listed on the visa and cannot be extended after the traveler has arrived in the country, except in the case of a medical emergency. To apply for a Russian visa online log on to: http://visa.kdmid.ru.
For more updated and other information please visit:
Please note: Each traveler is fully responsible for bringing and acquiring travel documents (e-tickets, hotel and travel vouchers, etc.) necessary for his or her itinerary. If you are not a citizen of the United States, your entry requirements may vary—please contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the country or countries to be visited and obtain the specific requirements for entry.
Please refer to the instructions given in your itinerary confirmation. If in the event that you are unable to locate our representative, please call the local contact number as specified on your voucher or confirmation itinerary for immediate assistance.
Population: 142.5 million
Location: North Asia
Largest Cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg
Religion: Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2%
System of Government: Federation
Russia operates under nine different time zones:
Further-eastern European Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 3 hours.
Moscow Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 4 hours.
Yekaterinburg Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 6 hours.
Omsk Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 7 hours.
Krasnoyarsk Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 8 hours.
Irkutsk Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 9 hours.
Yakutsk Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 10 hours.
Vladivostok Standard Time: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 11 hours.
Magadan Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), plus 12 hours.
At 9:00 am in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, it is:
*Note: Add one hour to local time during Daylight Savings Time.
A good source of health information for travelers is the Center for Disease Control (CDC). You can visit the CDC web site at http://www.cdc.gov. You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. Please ensure that we are aware of any physical disability or frequent of ongoing medical requirements. Sightseeing may require, at minimum, the ability to walk at a moderate pace for a mile or two, and the balance and agility necessary to climb stairs, enter and exit buses and boats, and navigate uneven or cobble-stoned streets. Some sightseeing stops do not have elevators or wheelchair access. Bring medications in their original, clearly labeled containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. If carrying syringes or needles be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. When on vacation, it is always wise to watch what you eat and drink, but please do not drink the tap water while traveling in Russia. Most hotels will provide complimentary bottled water and additional bottled water can be purchased throughout your trip.
The currency in Russia is the Russian Ruble, which is made up of 100 kopeks. It is available in the following denominations: Banknotes: 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000 Rubles; Coins: 1, 5, 10, 50 kopeks and 1, 2, 5, 10 Rubles. You can use all major credit and debit cards (including Cirrus and Maestro) in ATMs and in good restaurants and hotels. Traveler’s checks are possible to exchange, although at a price. Euros or US dollars in cash is the best to bring, and in general should be in pristine condition – crumpled or old notes are often refused. Most major currencies can be exchanged at exchange booths all over any town in Russia. Look for the sign “obmen valyut”. You may be asked for your passport. The exchange rate is constantly fluctuating, but it can be found to be 1 USD = 62 RUB. For the most updated exchange rate, please check www.xe.com.
Electrical service in Russia is supplied at 220 volts and 50 hertz. Bringing an adaptor is a good idea if you are planning on using electronics (i.e. cell phones, laptops, cameras, etc.) during your trip.
Russian cuisine is diverse, as Russia is the largest country in the world. It derives its rich and varied character from the vast and multicultural expanse of Russia. Its foundations were laid by the peasant food of the rural population in an often harsh climate, with a combination of plentiful fish, poultry, game, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Crops of rye, wheat, buckwheat, barley, and millet provided the ingredients for a plethora of breads, pancakes, cereals, kvass, beer, and vodka.
Never drink tap water in St Petersburg as it contains Giardia lamblia, a parasite that can cause horrific stomach cramps and nausea. Bottled water is available to purchase everywhere. Both Saint Petersburg and Moscow offer sophisticated, world class dining and a wide variety of cuisines including Japanese, Tibetan, and Italian. They are also excellent cities to sample some of the best cuisines of the former Soviet Union (e.g., Georgian and Uzbek). It is also possible to eat well and inexpensively without resorting to the many western fast food chains that have opened up. Russians have their own versions of fast food restaurants which range from cafeteria style serving comfort foods to street-side kiosks cooking up blinis or stuffed potatoes.
Russian is the official language in Russia. Russians are proud of their culturally diverse language. The language is a member of the Slavic language family, with the minor exception being that it is further sub-classified into the East Slavic family, thus being closely related to Ukrainian and Belarusian. English is becoming a requirement in the business world, and many younger Russians in the cities (particularly Moscow or St. Petersburg but also elsewhere) know enough English to communicate.
Given Russia’s extraordinary size and diverse landscape, you can bet that the country’s climate will vary dramatically. From the extreme Arctic chill of the far north to the blazing desert heat of various inland areas further south, Russia’s climate differs greatly from one region to another. In general terms though, throughout much of the country there are only two distinct seasons—warm to hot, dry summers and freezing cold winters. Spring and autumn only occur for brief moments during the change between summer and winter. July and August are the warmest months and the main holiday season for both foreigners and Russians. Winter brings the Russia of popular imagination to life. If you’re prepared for it, travel in this season is recommended: the snow makes everything picturesque, and the insides of buildings are kept warm. Avoid, though, the first snows (usually in late October) and the spring thaw (March and April), which turn everything to slush and mud.
This will be contingent on your own personal preference and the time of year you are traveling. Generally, we suggest that travelers pack lightly and to bring comfortable, casual clothes in natural, “breathable” fabrics and to choose versatile styles that can be layered during the summer months. A lightweight (preferably non-plastic) raincoat or poncho is a good idea, as well as a sweater or lightweight jacket for early morning/evenings and air-conditioned buildings. If you are traveling during the winter, it can get extremely cold in Russia so pack thick, heavy coats and warm clothes such as long sleeves, thermals, sweaters, earmuffs, scarves, gloves, hats, etc. A sturdy, comfortable pair of walking shoes or snow boots is a must, as sandals may not be comfortable for some sightseeing activities. Some hotels have pools, so you may want to pack your swimming suit. Do not forget to bring sun block, sunglasses, insect repellent, pocket packs of tissues, a sunhat, an umbrella (for both the sun and rain), and any medications you may need. Most hotels offer reliable laundry and dry cleaning services.
Always wear what you are most comfortable traveling in, but a reasonable amount of modesty ought to be exercised. In most areas, comfortable, casual clothes such as short sleeved shirts, polo shorts, cargo pants, etc., are great for sightseeing. Locals in Russia are often style-conscious and like to dress to impress. In major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, men and women dress well and will almost always look put together. Women can be seen wearing makeup and wearing heels or fashion boots.
When visiting Orthodox churches or cathedrals, bear in mind that they are places of worship, so one should dress politely in modest and conservative clothing as they would at any other religious place. It is custom for women to keep their heads covered so do not forget to bring a lightweight scarf with you. Often times, those that are not dressed properly will be turned away.
Hotels may impose a hefty charge on international calls. Check your hotel’s policy before placing any calls. To avoid hotel markups you can use a calling card from your local long-distance carrier. A number of United States cell phones manufactured today have the ability to operate overseas on the GSM (Global System for Mobile) standard. We recommend that you contact your cell phone service provider to determine if your phone operates on the GSM and what, if any, activation may be required. In Russia, reception on any cell phone can be unreliable and unpredictable. In some locations, transmission is not possible at al. If access to e-mail is of critical importance during your trip, please check availability in advanced. Most hotels have business centers or in room WI-FI service, surcharges may apply.
The nationwide emergency phone numbers are:
Fodor’s Moscow & St. Petersburg (Travel Guide) by Fodor’s
Lonely Planet Russia (Country Guide) by Simon Richmond, Leonid Ragozin, Tamara Sheward, & Tom Masters
Lonely Planet St. Petersburg (City Guide) by Tom Masters and Simon Richmond