RUSSIA TRAVEL TIPS
GMT + 2/4 hours depending on your destination within this area.
Cyrillic is the alphabet of the Russian language. Cyrillic is used in signs and so finding your directions on your own can be difficult if you do not recognise this script.
English is not as widely spoken as in other European countries though those who come into contact with tourists regularly, such as in hotels and restaurants, will usually have some English and/or another European language.
Knowledge of one or two key Russian phrases will show courtesy and be appreciated as a sign of respect.
The official currency is the Russian Rouble.
The official currency in Georgia is the Georgian Lari (GEL)
The official currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistani Som (UZS)
The official currency in the Ukraine is Ukrainian Hryvna (UAH)
The official currency in Armenia is the Armenian Dram (AMD)
Prices are generally displayed in Euros, Dollars and Roubles though the Rouble is the only cash accepted.
Currency can be easily converted at banks, hotels or kiosks specifically for tourists.
Credit cards are generally accepted in hotels, restaurants and larger shops.
An amount equivalent to approximately RUB 1,400/ 40 USD per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide(s), with RUB 1,000/ 30 USD suitable for your driver. For half-day excursions, equivalents of RUB 700/ 20 USD and RUB 400/ 12 USD are appropriate for guide and driver. Transfer drivers should be tipped at a rate of about RUB 500/ 15 USD per service and transfer reps at your own discretion. These suggestions are per service.
Hotel porters will expect the equivalent of about RUB 40/ 1 USD per bag. Tips to hotel maids and other hotel staff are at your discretion.
It is recommended to round up the fare for taxi drivers.
A charge for service is sometimes added to restaurant bills but, if it's not, a typical gratuity would be equal to 10-15% of the total.
If a representative performs a special service for you, it would be appropriate to tip him or her at your discretion.
For full details on climate, please see Best Time to Go.
Conservative "smart casual" clothing will be most useful for daytime touring. Russian women tend to dress rather formally than some of their international counterparts.
Cotton and other light fabrics are comfortable choices for summertime. A light outer jacket is recommended during late spring and summer. Spring and autumn temperatures dictate medium-weight clothing selections. Thick, warm clothing is required in winter when temperatures drop below freezing. Thermal clothing is recommended at this time.
When dining at better restaurants and for any special occasion during your journey, dress is more formal. For gentlemen, a "jacket and tie" standard is appropriate and expected, with an equivalent standard of eveningwear for ladies.
Cathedrals, churches and other religious sites require conservative dress. Both sexes should cover their arms, legs and shoulders.
Even locals don't drink the tap water in Russia. Use bottled water instead.
Don't drink unlabelled vodka. Vodka drinking may be a Russian's favourite pastime. While you're in Russia, it might be yours too, but make sure the vodka is appropriately labelled.
For up to date information on latest health and vaccination recommendations, please contact your doctor.
Electricity throughout Russia is 220 volt/50 hz. The plug is the two-pin thin European standard. Be sure to bring your own converter as most places in Russia do not have a supply of them.
Arrival and Departure Formalities
A signed, valid passport that will remain valid for at least 6 months beyond the completion of your trip is a requirement. Your passport must have enough blank pages (excluding amendment pages) available for entry and exit stamps issued when entering and exiting immigration points.
Visas are required for most nationalities and you are strongly advised to check your status with your nearest Russian embassy allowing plenty of time for visa application.
You are expected to carry identification in Russia at all times and visitors can be stopped by police and asked to show their ID and fined or even arrested if unable to produce it. You are advised to carry your passport safely hidden under your outer garments, ideally in a money belt or similar, and also to carry several separate photocopies of your passport. You are also advised to carry your hotel guest card with you.
Pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way in Russia. In many Russian cities traffic is very intense, so never cross the roads without using special pedestrian passages. Even if you see green man lit up at the traffic light – make sure that all cars have stopped before you start to move.
Pick-pocketing is common in crowded areas and at busy junctions. Exercise caution and keep all valuables close to you, ideally inside your outer garments inside a money belt.
In Russia, taxi fees are usually negotiated with the driver ahead of time. Do not use gypsy cabs or accept rides in cabs that already have a rider.
Despite the recent rapid improvements in the telecommunications infrastructure, telephoning in Russia can be difficult and expensive. Best bet is to use the phone at your hotel or use AT&T, Sprint or MCI's USA direct services. Tokens are required for street pay phones, which can be purchased at newsstands, in some stores, and many kiosks.