Europe > Eastern Europe > Russia



Travel Warning WARNING: Travel to areas close to Ukraine is dangerous due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some governments advise against travel to the North Caucasus due to terrorism and political instability.

Male citizens of Russia, including dual citizens, may be mobilised by the Russian military and deployed to fight in the war against Ukraine. Dual citizens should not expect their embassies to intervene or provide assistance if they are mobilised.

Government travel advisories
(Information last updated 06 Mar 2024)

Russia (Russian: Россия, Rossiya) is the world's largest country, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Russia boasts a rich history and culture, as well as a wealth of natural attractions for those willing to head off the beaten path. Many of Russia's attractions for visitors lie in the hard-to-reach stretches of the planet's most remote lands. The best known sights are in and around the nation's principal cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Moscow offers important historical sites including Red Square, the Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, and its beautiful underground metro system, while visitors flock to St. Petersburg for the Hermitage Museum, the stately Mariinsky Theatre and its world class resident ballet troupe, and the opulent palaces of the Tsars in its suburbs. The Golden Ring of Russia is a collection of ancient cities northeast of Moscow that feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th–18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches.

For the more adventurous, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the world's great rail journey, stretching over 9000 km from Moscow to Vladivostok.


Russia (excluding the disputed territories) is divided into 83 federal subjects: 46 oblasts (provinces), 21 republics, 9 krais (territories), 4 autonomous okrugs, 2 federal cities and 1 autonomous oblast.

Russia regions - Color-coded map
  Central Russia (Moscow, Ivanovo Oblast, Kaluga Oblast, Kostroma Oblast, Moscow Oblast, Ryazan Oblast, Smolensk Oblast, Tver Oblast, Tula Oblast, Vladimir Oblast, Yaroslavl Oblast)
One of the historic centers of Russian culture, dominated by spectacular architecture and historical buildings, as well as housing the capital city, Moscow.
  Chernozemye (Belgorod Oblast, Bryansk Oblast, Kursk Oblast, Lipetsk Oblast, Oryol Oblast, Tambov Oblast, Voronezh Oblast)
South of Central Russia and famous for its rich, deep, black soil (Chernozem is Russian for "black soil"), it was an important battleground during World War II.
  Northwestern Russia (Saint Petersburg, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Karelia, Komi Republic, Leningrad Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, Nenetsia, Novgorod Oblast, Pskov Oblast, Vologda Oblast)
Home to the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg, also known as the "northern capital". It combines the beautiful landscape of the large lakes Ladoga and Onega, and medieval forts of Pskov Oblast, with the lacustrine region of Karelia, and is a gateway from Scandinavia.
  Kaliningrad Oblast (often considered part of Northwestern Russia)
The historically German region of East Prussia, transferred to the USSR after Germany's defeat in World War II, and now Russia's only exclave, which allows Russia to share borders with Poland and Lithuania.
  Southern Russia (Adygea, Chechnya, Crimea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Krasnodar Krai, North Ossetia, Rostov Oblast, Stavropol Krai)
The areas by the Black Sea are the warmest in the entire country, with beautiful resort cities such as subtropical Sochi, juxtaposed with the cold, mountainous and troubled republics of the North Caucasus.
  Volga Region (Astrakhan Oblast, Chuvashia, Kirov Oblast, Mari El, Mordovia, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Penza Oblast, Samara Oblast, Saratov Oblast, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, Ulyanovsk Oblast, Volgograd Oblast)
The most industrialized region in the country, known for producing wide-scale military equipment in cities such as Izhevsk, with a rich culture and history including the Tatar capital and "Third capital of Russia", Kazan
  Urals Region (Bashkortostan, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Khantia-Mansia, Kurgan Oblast, Orenburg Oblast, Perm Krai, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Tyumen Oblast, Yamalia)
One of the wealthiest regions, known for producing many of the resources Russia needs today. Named after the vast Ural mountains, which also form the border between Europe and Asia.
  Siberia (Altai Krai, Altai Republic, Buryatia, Evenkia, Irkutsk Oblast, Kemerovo Oblast, Khakassia, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk Oblast, Omsk Oblast, Taymyria, Tomsk, Tuva, Zabaykalsky Krai)
The largest area in the country - diverse in landscape and yearly temperatures with the stunning Lake Baikal, the world's longest rivers, and swamps in the center and north. This region contains many Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and other ethnic groups that separate Siberia from European Russia.
  Russian Far East (Amur Oblast, Chukotka, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Kamchatka Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, Magadan Oblast, Primorsky Krai, Sakhalin Oblast, Yakutia)
One of the coldest regions in Russia, home to the coldest city in the world, Yakutsk. World-famous for national parks, beautiful scenery and mountains, and the volcanoes of Kamchatka. Also a gateway to North Korea and China.


A list of Russia's most notable cities:

St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin on the Red Square in Moscow
  • 1 Moscow (Москва) — Russia's capital is one of the world's greatest cities and has endless attractions to offer an adventurous visitor
  • 2 Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург) — formerly called Leningrad, Russia's cultural and former imperial capital is home to The Hermitage, one of the world's best museums, while the city center is a living open-air museum in its own right, making this city one of the world's top travel destinations
  • 3 Kazan (Казань) — referred to as the "Third Capital of Russia", Kazan is the most populous city in the Volga Region and the capital city of Tatarstan, one of Russia's many federal republics.
  • 4 Nizhny Novgorod (Нижний Новгород) — often overlooked despite being one of the largest cities in Russia, Nizhny Novgorod is well worth a visit for its Kremlin, Sakharov museum, and nearby Makaryev Monastery
  • 5 Sochi (Сочи) — Russia's favorite Black Sea beach resort, a favourite vacation spot of Stalin, was largely unknown to foreigners until it hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games
  • 6 Vladivostok (Владивосток) — often referred to as "Russia's San Francisco," full of hilly streets and battleships. Russia's principal Pacific city is the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Highway and Trans-Siberian Railway
  • 7 Volgograd (Волгоград) — formerly called Stalingrad, this city was the scene of perhaps the deciding battle of the European theatre of World War II, and now home to a massive war memorial
  • 8 Yekaterinburg (Екатеринбург) — the center of the Urals region and one of Russia's principal cultural centers is a good stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway and an arrival point for visitors to the Urals, the second Russian financial center, and where the last Tsar and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks
  • 9 Irkutsk (Иркутск) — one of the largest cities in Siberia.

Other destinations[edit]

Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world
  • 1 Border of Europe and Asia — it's clearly defined near Yekaterinburg, and a very popular stop for photo ops straddling the continents!
  • 2 Golden Ring — a popular loop of pretty historical cities and towns forming a ring northeast of Moscow
  • 3 Kamchatka — the region of active volcanoes, geysers, mineral springs, and bears walking in the streets.
  • 4 Kizhi — one of the most precious sites in all Russia, Kizhi Island on Lake Onega is famous for its spectacular ensemble of traditional wooden churches
  • 5 Komi Virgin Forests — profoundly remote, and hard-to-visit, but this is by far Europe's largest wild area, containing Europe's largest National Park, Yugyd Va
  • 6 Lake Baikal — the "pearl of Siberia" is the world's deepest at 1,642 meters and biggest lake by volume and a remarkable destination for all who love the outdoors
  • 7 Mamaev Kurgan — a massive monument and museum on and about the battlefield upon which the twentieth century's most pivotal battle played out: Stalingrad
  • 8 Solovetsky Islands — far north in the White Sea and home to the beautiful Solovetsky Monastery, which has served as both a military fortress and a gulag throughout its tortuous history


Capital Moscow
Currency Russian ruble (RUB)
Population 146.8 million (2017)
Electricity 220 volt / 50 hertz (Schuko, Europlug)
Country code +7
Time zone UTC+02:00 to UTC+12:00; UTC+03:00 in Moscow and Saint Petersburg
Emergencies 112, +7-01 (fire department), 02 (police), +7-03 (emergency medical services), 101 (fire department), 102 (police), 103 (emergency medical services)
Driving side right

Russia, by mind, one can't understand,
Nor measure by common yardstick.
She has of herself a build unique:
In Russia you only believe.

«Умом Россию не понять,
Аршином общим не измерить:
У ней особенная стать —
В Россию можно только верить.»,
Fyodor Tyutchev, 1866

Russia was the most senior of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, and still bears scars from its dissolution in the 1990s, with tensions with neighbours, as well as within the country itself. While the country is officially styled the Russian Federation (Russian: Российская Федерация, Rossiskaya Federatsia) and the federal subjects and autonomous republic have some nominal self-government, power has always been centered around Moscow. Out of the nearly 150 million inhabitants, around 30 million have ethnicity other than Russian; see Minority cultures of Russia.


Tsarist Russia[edit]

See also: Russian Empire

Russian identity can be traced to the Middle Ages, its first state known as Kievan Rus and its religion rooted in Byzantine Christianity (i.e. Orthodox) that was adopted from Constantinople. However, it was not considered part of mainstream Europe until the reign of Tsar Peter the Great, who ruled from 1682 to 1725. He is credited with modernizing the country, and transforming it into a major European power. As part of this effort, he moved the capital from the medieval and insular city of Moscow to St. Petersburg, a city built by force of his will and the strength of his treasury.

The Russian Empire reached its peak during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, producing many colorful and enlightened figures such as Catherine the Great, and authors Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Leo Tolstoy. Nevertheless, the gulf between the authoritarian dynasty and its subjects became more apparent with each generation. While Russia proved to be at least equal to some of the great powers as early as in the Great Northern War (1700-1721) and the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), it wasn't until Napoleon's ill-fated invasion that the rest of Europe took note, that Russia had risen to become a great power on equal footing with France, Prussia or Austria. By the late 19th century, political crises followed in rapid succession, with rebellion and repression locked a vicious cycle of death and despair. The occasional attempts to reform the society and ameliorate the condition of the underclasses invariably ended in failure. To make matters worse, the Crimean and the Russo-Japanese wars proved disastrous militarily but even more politically. The 1905 revolution was in part caused Japan humiliating the Russian military, the first time in centuries that an Asian power had defeated a Western one.

Russia entered World War I on the side of Britain and France, ostensibly to defend Serbia, with catastrophic results for the empire. Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, proved to be feckless, weak, and distracted by personal tragedies and the burdens of the war. By 1917, morale was abysmal, desertion rampant, and a general call for peace omnipresent.

The government proved unable to hold back the two revolutions of 1917. While the short-lived provisional government that resulted from the revolution of February 1917 tried in vain to fight on, the Bolsheviks under their leader Vladimir Lenin promised bread, peace and an end to the unfair distribution of land and wealth. By October 1917 the communist Bolsheviks had taken over Moscow and St. Petersburg (soon to be renamed Leningrad) and thus the effective control of the government. Deposed and held under house arrest, the Romanov dynasty were execued on the order of the new government and buried in unmarked graves. They were found after the fall of communism, and reburied in the St. Paul and Peter Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

Communist Russia[edit]

See also: Soviet Union
The world's largest Lenin head in Ulan Ude

By 1917, Imperial Russia's governmental and social institutions were strained to the breaking point by World War I. Following a brief interim government headed by social democrat Alexander Kerensky, the Bolshevik faction of the Communist Party under Marxist Vladimir Lenin seized power, withdrew Russia from the war, and launched a purge of clerics, political dissidents, aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, and the kulak class of wealthy independent farmers and landholders. A brutal civil war between the "Red Army" of the communist leadership and the "White Army" of the nobility and middle classes lasted until late 1920. In the civil war, both reds and whites committed war crimes and devastated the country well beyond what it had suffered in the First World War. In his years in power, Lenin used the Red Army and the internal security apparatus to kill imprison or exile millions of political opponents, launch a terror campaign to enforce strict Communist orthodoxy, secure control over the fragments of the old Romanov Empire, and collectivize farmers and farming into gigantic state-owned farms.

Ballet continues to be favored. Swan Lake is performed nearly weekly in Russia.

Following Lenin's death in 1924, a power struggle among the Bolshevik leadership ensued, with Josef Stalin emerging as the new leader of the Communist Party and dictator of the Soviet Union. Stalin's brutal rule (1928–53) was marked by waves of "purges" in which suspected dissidents in the government, the party, the Red Army, and even the security forces were executed or exiled to gulags (prison camps) on little or no evidence. In addition to following up Lenin's forced collectivization of agriculture and his destruction of private property and economic liberty, Stalin introduced a ruthless economic system ("socialism in one country") that rapidly industrialized the Soviet Union. While the death toll was abhorrent, Stalin's first five-year plan managed to create a heavy industry almost out of thin air, a fact that would prove decisive in the Second World War. Although seen as less of an idealist than his predecessor, Stalin did relentlessly pursue international revolution through the Russia-based Comintern control over the communist parties of foreign countries, and through foreign espionage. If you want to get an idea about Stalin's rule, Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell were in large part based on his disillusionment with communism after hearing of Stalin's atrocities.

World War II, from a Soviet perspective, began with Stalin abruptly entering into a Non-Aggression Pact with Nazi Germany. The treaty, which shook Western governments to their core and stunned the Left in Europe and America, guaranteed Hitler a free hand to launch a war against Poland, France, and the United Kingdom. The pact also granted the USSR leave to invade and conquer neutral Finland and take over all of eastern Poland after the German invasion in 1939. Finally in June 1941, having conquered France and most of the rest of Western Europe, Hitler turned on his erstwhile ally and invaded the USSR. A change to an alliance of necessity with the Western nations was instrumental in the defeat of Nazism in 1945. The Red Army's bloody campaigns on the Eastern Front as well as the murderous warfare and related crimes of the Nazis resulted in over 20 million Russian deaths, most of them civilian victims, or soldiers thrown into ghastly land battles.

After the Second World War, the USSR rapidly moved to establish control over all of Eastern Europe, and grew into a global superpower rivalling the United States, thus heralding the Cold War. It annexed the Baltic states and installed Communist regimes in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania and effectively crushed political dissent. In Asia, it also helped to install Communist governments in Mongolia, China, North Vietnam, North Korea, Cambodia, and Laos. Western critics came to describe the USSR and its European and Asian "satellites" as trapped behind an "Iron Curtain" of ruthless totalitarianism and command economies. Uprisings in East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968) were ruthlessly crushed by the Soviet Army.

After Stalin's death in 1953, Soviet heavy industry and military might have continued to grow under Georgy Malenkov (1953-1955) and Nikita Khrushchev (1955-1964), Stalin's successors as General Secretary of the Party. Although attempts were made to produce consumer goods, the efforts usually failed, and the USSR continued to struggle under the yoke of collectivization and totalitarianism. In 1956, Khrushchev denounced the excesses of Stalin's regime and commenced his purge of sorts to "de-Stalinize" the economy and society of the USSR. Results were mixed, and Khrushchev was deposed. In the late 1950s, the USSR jump-started the space race and was the first to launch a thing (Sputnik), a living thing (Laika the dog), a man (Yuri Gagarin), and a woman (Valentina Tereshkova) into space. However, in-fighting, a lack of funds and incorrect technological and strategic decisions led to the Soviet space program being overtaken by the US thereafter. When the moon landing in 1969 proved that the Americans were now in the lead, the focus of the Soviet space program was instead changed to unmanned probes and a space station. The Soviet Union reached its military, diplomatic, and industrial peak during the closing years of Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982). But continuing corruption and economic malaise marched inexorably to a crisis that led General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (1985–91) to introduce glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). His initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the empire. The European satellites broke free from rule by the USSR and their local Communist leaders, and the USSR collapsed into 15 independent countries.

Modern Russia[edit]

Millennium of Russia monument, inside the Novgorod Kremlin

The emergence of the Russian Federation from the Soviet Union was accompanied by numerous problems. Boris Yeltsin, the first leader, rose to power after opposing a KGB coup. Although Yeltsin was initially seen as a charismatic, pro-Western leader, his administration was widely regarded as corrupt, inefficient, and unstable.

Yeltsin pursued a highly controversial economic policy known as "shock therapy" which sought to transform Russia into a capitalist economy overnight by eliminating all Soviet-era price controls on essential goods and privatizing the state-owned industries en masse. However, this led to several years of economic hardship, and organized crime gained more influence over the nation. Additionally, a war with Chechen separatists further complicated matters for the country. On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin resigned and appointed Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, as his successor.

During Putin's first and second presidential terms, the Russian economy expanded, standards of living markedly improved, rebel movements in the North Caucasus were suppressed, and Russia regained its position as a major global power. After serving his constitutionally limited terms, Dmitry Medvedev was appointed as his successor and Putin became Prime Minister. In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and recognised two of its regions — Abkhazia and South Ossetia — as independent countries. An independent EU report accused and blamed Georgia for provoking the Russians and Russia for employing excessive military force. As expected, Putin was elected as President again in 2012 after finishing his term as Prime Minister.

Things markedly changed during Putin's third presidential term. In 2014, Putin annexed Crimea and supported wars in Eastern Ukraine, culminating in international sanctions and isolation from the West. In 2018, Putin was elected to serve another presidential term. In February 2022, Putin launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine and annexed four Ukrainian oblasts, much to the shock and horror of the international community. The invasion has significantly contributed to food crises worldwide and has further exacerbated Russia's demographic crisis.

Where the future lies after Putin is anybody's guess.


Russia is a large, vast, colossal Eurasian nation, covering 17,098,246 square kilometres (6,601,670 sq mi) of land. This makes it the world's largest country. Russia is slightly larger than Antarctica, around the same size as South America, and half the size of Africa. The country has the same surface area as the dwarf planet Pluto.

The terrain consists of broad plains with low hills west of the Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along southern border regions; mountainous and volcanic throughout much of the Russian Far East.


Russia is a cold country, but there are always shades in the grey. The contrast of tundra's permafrost, which occupies 65% of Russian land and exotic Black sea coast has in between the continental climate, which is the most inhabited zone of European Russia, southern regions of Siberia, and the Russian Far East. Its summers are always warm with a good portion of hot days enabling outdoor swimming in many rivers, lakes, and the seas.


Siberian birch forest near Novosibirsk. White birch is considered to be a national symbol of Russia

Russia's list of holidays is divided into federally and regionally established, ethnic, historical, professional, and religious. The first two types are all-country day-off and should be taken into account while planning a trip. These are official holidays in Russian Federation:

  • New Year Holidays (1–5 January) are often merged with Christmas and make up more than a week off.
  • Orthodox Christmas (7 January).
  • Fatherland Defender Day (23 February).
  • International Women's Day (8 March).
  • The Day of Spring and Labour (1 May).
  • Victory Day (9 May).
  • Day of Russia (12 June).
  • People's Unity Day (4 November).

Measurement units[edit]

The Russian system of measurement is the same as in most of the world; the SI system. Expect to encounter degrees Celsius, kilometres, kilogrammes, litres, and so on. The archaic units for distance are versta and vershok; for weight — pud, it's used mainly in Russian proverbs: "съесть пуд соли" ("to eat a 16 kg of salt" means "be familiar for a very long time with someone").

Time zones[edit]

Time zones in Russia (with annexed Crimea).

As of 2021, Russia spans eleven time zones, and Daylight Saving Time is not used. Formerly the country has experimented with a smaller number of time zones and with DST.


See also: Russian phrasebook

Russian is the main language of Russia. The language is a member of the East Slavic language family and is closely related to Ukrainian and Belarusian, but with only limited mutual intelligibility. Other Slavic languages, such as Bulgarian and Croatian, are not mutually intelligible but still share a slight similarity. Russian is considered one of the most difficult European languages for an English speaker to learn, mostly because of very complicated grammar. You will not learn the language in a short time; concentrate on learning some key "courtesy" phrases, and the Cyrillic alphabet (e.g. "ресторан" spells "restoran" in the Roman alphabet, which means "restaurant") so you have a chance to recognize street names, labels, and public signs. Familiarizing yourself with Cyrillic is immensely helpful, not only for Russia but for several other countries as well, and not very difficult.

Learning Russian can be challenging for those who don't speak a Slavic language. The script, Cyrillic, uses many letters of the Latin alphabet but assigns many of them different sounds. The language employs three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), six grammatical cases, and free-fall stress, all of which conspire to make it a difficult prospect for the native English speaker.

Trinity Monastery in Sergiev Posad—the spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christianity is the religion with most followers in Russia

English is the most popular foreign language. Although younger, educated Russians and those working in the service industry know enough English to have a basic conversation, very little of it is spoken, even in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Some knowledge of Russian is therefore essential for the independent traveller.

Any knowledge of Russian is bound to impress the locals, regardless of fluency. This said, Russians who are able to speak English will, in some cases, offer to communicate in English, even if you try to talk to them in Russian. Don't be taken aback by this as it is not intended to discourage your efforts; Russians generally do not consider it good manners to speak to someone in a language they don't understand.

As the quality of instruction of foreign languages in normal schools isn't that well developed, those who speak English may deny that they know the language out of fear of being misunderstood or discouraged. Chances are, you may be one of the very few native English speakers a Russian local has ever come across.

Russia has more than 150 indigenous and ethnic minority languages and claims to support most of them. Soviet linguists documented them in the first few decades of the USSR and made sure they were given Cyrillic writing systems (except Karelian, Veps, Ingrian, Votic, and maybe a couple of others). Some were made local co-official languages. Southern parts of Russia are home to Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic languages; the north has Finnic and Samoyed tongues. The southwest corner has a great variety of Caucasian languages, while the northeast has a few Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Eskaleut languages. There are also two language isolates (Ket and Nivkh), and a tiny Yukaghir family of just two languages; each of these are based in Siberia. Nevertheless, most Russian citizens are able to speak Russian regardless of what their native tongue is, so learning the regional languages is not essential to communicate.

The liturgical language in Russian Orthodox church services is Church Slavonic, which differs considerably from any modern Slavic language; it is in fact more closely related to Bulgarian and Serbian than to Russian. However, the sermon will be in modern Russian.

Get in[edit]

Travel Warning Visa restrictions:
With limited exceptions, Kosovan passport holders are denied entry to Russia due to Russia's non-recognition of Kosovo.

Russia has exceptionally onerous visa requirements. In most cases, you have to obtain a notarised letter of invitation from a Russian citizen or organisation before you can apply for a visa.

Some parts of the country ― for example, Chukotka and Norilsk ― are closed to foreigners unless they acquire special permits from the government. In most cases, you will need a local sponsor in the region to issue you an invitation through the local FSB office before you can apply for the permit, but some of these regions can be visited by foreigners on package tours, in which case your tour company will obtain all the relevant permits for you.

Visa policy of Russia: countries in turquoise have access to e-Visa, countries in grey normally require a normal visa to enter Russia, other colours mean visa-free for different periods.


Visa-free travel[edit]

The citizens of the following countries do not need a visa:

Unlimited period

90 days

60 days

30 days

14 days

In addition, holders of a valid APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) except those issued by the United States or Canada may visit Russia without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. However, Russia does not accept the virtual ABTC, and you will need to bring a physical ABTC to avail yourself of this privilege.

Norwegians living within 30 km of the border:

  • These individuals are permitted to enter Russia for up to 15 days without a visa provided they have been resident in the border zone for at least 3 years, and do not travel more than 30 km from the border.
  • A border certificate, which is valid for multiple entries, must be obtained from the Russian consulate in Kirkenes in advance, so one should see it as a special kind of visa valid for multiple entries during up to 5 years. A similar arrangement exists for Poles living near the Kaliningrad area.
For instance, St.Petersburg can be visited visa free by cruise ship

There are a few cases which allow visa-free access:

  • Transit through Moscow Sheremetyevo, Moscow Domodedovo or Yekaterinburg Koltsovo airports does not require a transit visa, provided the traveller has a confirmed onward flight, remains in the airport for no more than 24 hours and is not in transit to or from Belarus and Kazakhstan (travel to and from these countries use domestic terminals). Passing through St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport requires a transit (or other) visa. Visas can, in very limited cases, be obtained from consular officers at the airports.
  • Cruise passengers, arriving in and leaving from Russia by boat, do not need a visa if they stay in Russia less than 72 hours. The cruises from Finland have been terminated because of the war on Ukraine. Check to what extent you must keep to your group. Do not overstay the visa waiver. If you do overstay, you need to apply for an exit visa, need to pay a fine of at least €500 and will not be able to enter Russia on a visa waiver for the next five years. The visa process in this case may take over a week, during which you need to pay for your stay and food.
  • Citizens of China and Iran may visit Russia for up to 15 days without a visa if they are part of an approved group tour with a group size of at least 5 but not more than 50 people.
  • Special events: the best known example was the "supporters visa" temporarily available for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. This was a less onerous visa process, but you had to have tickets for matches and booked accommodation, which meant paying top prices.


Citizens of Andorra, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China (mainland), Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Myanmar, Netherlands, North Korea, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the Vatican City and Vietnam, may obtain an e-visa, which is a single-entry visa that is valid for 60 days from the date of issue, and permits the holder to stay in Russia for up to 16 days. It costs US$40, takes up to 4 calendar days to process, and requires you to enter via specific ports of entry. Unlike for a regular visa, you do not need an invitation to apply for an e-visa. You must print out a copy of your e-visa to show to your airline check-in staff, and the immigration officer when you arrive in Russia.

The visa process[edit]

Everyone else needs to apply for a visa at a Russian diplomatic mission. And for those unfortunates, the complexity of the process depends on the class of visa. Thirty-day tourist visas are fairly straightforward to acquire; 90-day (and more) business visas, less so. US citizens are eligible for 3-year multiple-entry business, homestay/private, humanitarian and tourist visas without an invitation (but with proof of booking arrangements). It is best to start the application process well in advance. While expedited processing is available to those who need visas quickly, it can double the application cost.

I want a tourist visa and I don't want to book any accommodation before I have my visa

Specialist Russian visa companies can do this for you and you don't have to worry about filing any paperwork with embassies. Just send them money, your passport and the relevant information.

However, it's cheaper (but slightly more work) to use these agencies to get you an invitation and then lodge your application at the embassy yourself.

Arranging a visa basically involves two steps:

  1. Getting an invitation and
  2. Applying for the visa.

You may arrive at any time on or after the start date of your visa's validity and may depart at any time on or before its expiry date. Normally, an exit visa is included in transit, private visit/homestay, tourist, and business visas so long as the visa is still valid. Other classes, such as student visas, still require a separate exit visa that can take up to three weeks to process.

Exit and re-entry during the validity period of your visa requires permits. Getting these permits is a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare that is best avoided entirely by getting a double- or multiple-entry visa in the first place.

If you're in Russia and have lost your passport, your sponsor, not your embassy, must apply to the Federal Migration Service to transfer your visa to your replacement passport. Having a copy of your old visa helps with this, but is not sufficient to let you depart. An exception is for U.S. citizens, who only need show proof that they had not exceeded their duration of permitted stay in order to depart (but a visa would be required for a return to Russia).

An unaccompanied minor of Russian nationality needs, apart from the regular requirements for adults, a notarized statements in Russian signed by both parents. This statement can be requested at the Russian embassy or consulate. The child is likely able to get into Russia without this statement, but will most likely be prevented by the Russian border guards from getting out of Russia at the airport!

1. Getting an invitation[edit]

Russia's most striking border crossing—the Friendship Bridge between the castles of Narva and Ivangorod

The invitation type determines the visa. A tourist invitation gets you a tourist visa, a private visit invitation gets you a private visit visa, etc. Except for tourist invitations, these are official documents issued by Russian government agencies and must be applied for by the person or organization inviting you.

Any invitation will include the intended dates of travel and the number of entries required (1, 2 or multiple). The dates on the invitation determine the period of the ensuing visa's validity. If in doubt of dates, ensure that the invitation covers a period longer than the intended stay: a tourist visa valid for 7 days costs the same as one valid for 30 days.

In the likely situation you have to buy your invitation, shop around globally: all invitations come from Russia and the company that gets it for you will have a base in Russia. It doesn't make a difference whether its website is based in Germany, the UK, the US or Eswatini. Many embassies and consulates only require a copy of the invitation; however this is not always the case so check with the embassy or consulate beforehand. If the original invitation is required, it will have to be flown from Russia anyway. It is only applying for the visa that generally requires the application to be made in the applicant's homeland.

A tourist invitation (also called reservation confirmation) is a letter of confirmation of booking and pre-payment of accommodation and travel arrangements in Russia. It is accompanied by a tourist voucher. These two documents can be issued only by government-approved tour operators, hotels, online hotel booking services or Russian travel agencies (several Russian travel agencies have offices outside Russia and are adept at facilitating visa applications). "Government approval" here is not an endorsement of quality; it just means that the company is registered with the Russian government. An ordinary hotel booking is not sufficient to constitute an invitation. Some hotels charge a fee to issue the invitation. Booking one night in a hotel will get you an invitation valid for one day (maybe two) and hence the resulting visa will be valid for a very brief time.

For independent travellers planning to travel around Russia, it is best to get an invitation through an agency. For a fee, these agencies will issue the necessary invitations and vouchers to any passport holder in any country. They do this without actually collecting any accommodation prepayment (and without providing any accommodation, of course). One big player in the online tourist visa support document business is Way to Russia, a company with a US base (invitation US$30). While the strict legality of such is questionable, these companies are well established and do enough not to upset the authorities. Most importantly, their services do not lead to problems for the traveller. However, if your itinerary is confined to only one hotel, then it makes sense to obtain the invitation documents directly from the hotel as the service fee will be similar.

Consider getting a private/homestay visa if you have friends or relatives in Russia (they do not necessarily have to be Russian). They would need to seek an invitation through their local Passport and Visa Division of the Federal Migration Service (formerly OVIR). These invitations tend to take at least a month to process. The inviting individual also becomes responsible for all your activities while in Russia and can be penalized heavily if something were to go wrong. Because of this, personal invitations are usually not available for a fee through the net.

Business invitations are issued by the government. They are generally time-consuming and costly to acquire but they can be quickly arranged for exorbitant fees. Any registered company in Russia can apply for a business invitation. Travel agencies and visa specialists can also get them issued for you. Business visas have longer validity than tourist visas. Being a tourist on a business visa is permitted, so anyone wanting more than a 30-day stay should get one of these. As a rough guide, one UK company can arrange a business invitation for a single 90-day stay for various amounts between ₤38 (for 12 working day processing) and ₤121 (for 2 working day processing).

Invitations for student visas are issued by the educational institution where you plan to study. Most universities and language schools are familiar with the process.

Some Russian local governments have a right to invite foreigners for cultural exchanges by sending a message directly to the Embassy or Consulate of Russia overseas, requesting the visa be issued to a particular foreigner or group of foreigners. Such messages are used instead of an invitation. This is normally the way to go if you are invited by the government.

2. Applying for the visa[edit]

Different embassies and consulates have different requirements for visa applications. They may issue visas by mail, they may require application in person, they may accept a copy of the invitation, they may require the original. They may accept payment by card, they may insist on a money order. Check with the embassy or consulate beforehand — in most cases it will be on their website. Holders of U.S., Canadian, and British passports typically have to complete a longer application. Getting a Russian visa issued away from your country of nationality or one you have a residence permit valid for at least three months can be tricky. This can ruin plans for east-to-west trans-Siberian trippers. In Asia, success (no means guaranteed) is most likely to be found in Hong Kong and Phnom Penh (if necessary, temporary Cambodian residence is simple to buy and only costs about US$100).

Visa service companies, for a fee, will double-check your application and invitation, go to the embassy for you, and return your passport to you. This service is nothing that you cannot do yourself (unlike arranging the invitation) but it can save time and frustration.

A single entry, 30-day tourist visa for citizens of EU-Schengen countries costs €35 and takes three working days for standard processing (€70 gets express service for next day collection). For UK citizens the price is ₤50 and processing takes 5 working days not 3 (express service is next day and costs £100). For citizens of the USA the price is US$160 with standard processing being at least 4 working days (express service is US$250 and stated to be 3 working days).

In some countries which have a busy trade in Russian visas (eg, UK and USA), the visa processing has been outsourced to private companies. These companies levy a further unavoidable application fee on top of the visa fees stated above. For applications made in the UK (by a citizen of any country) the application fee is ₤26.40 for standard service and ₤33.60 for express service. For applications made in the USA, the application fee is US$30.

An additional complication for UK citizens is the requirement to personally attend one of the visa application centres in London, Edinburgh or Manchester to have biometric data, that is fingerprints, taken.

The total cost of getting a visa usually has three parts: invitation fee, visa fee and application fee. If you're lucky, one or more of these may be zero but be prepared to be hit by all three. Take as an example a UK citizen applying for a 30-day, single entry tourist visa with standard processing in the UK (not the cheapest example and not the most expensive): invitation bought through an agency: ₤15, visa fee: ₤50, application fee: ₤26.40-91.40 .

Usually, tourist, homestay, and transit visas can allow one or two entries. Tourist and homestay visas have a maximum validity of 30 days. Transit visas are typically for one to three days for air travel and up to ten days for overland journeys. Business and other visa categories can be issued for one, two or multiple entries.

Any business visa can permit a maximum stay in any one visit of up to 90 days. However, a business visa generally only permits a total stay of 90 days in Russia in a 180-day period, regardless of how long it is valid for (whether it be 3, 6, or 12 months). If you stay in Russia for 90 days, you have to leave and your visa will not permit you to return for another 90 days. This means (give or take - a year isn't 360 days) that a six-month visa permits as long a total time in Russia as a three month visa!

Once you have your visa, check all the dates and information as it's much easier to correct mistakes before you travel than after you arrive!

Arrival and customs[edit]

Keep visa woes in perspective—it used to be even harder to travel around here.

On arriving in Russia, you'll have to fill out a landing card (usually filled out automatically by an immigration officer). As in most places, one half is surrendered on entry and the other portion should remain with your passport until you leave Russia. It is usually printed in both Russian and English though other languages may be available. If you lose it, then upon leaving Russia, you will be charged a nominal fine, and your departure may be delayed by an hour or two for the formalities.

Usually, you will be permitted to enter and remain in Russia for the term of your visa but it's up to the immigration officer to decide and they may decide otherwise, though this is unlikely.

Those who enter Russia with valuable electronic items or musical instruments (especially violins that look antique and expensive), antiques, large amounts of currency, or other such items are required to declare them on the customs entry card and must insist on having the card stamped by a customs officer upon arrival. Even if the customs officer claims that it is not necessary to declare such items, insist on a stamp on your declaration. Having this stamp may prevent considerable hassle (fines, confiscation) upon departure from Russia should the customs agent at departure decide that an item should have been declared upon entry.


Upon arrival to Russia and then subsequently upon arriving in any new city, you must be registered within 7 business days of arriving. This law is a relic from the Soviet days of controlled internal migration. Today, even Russians are supposed to register if they move cities. The official line is that these expensive pieces of paper with blue stamps help control illegal immigration from the poorer countries on Russia's southern borders in Central Asia, the Caucasus, China and even North Korea.

Hotels that are authorised to accept foreigners will make a copy of your passport and visa and register you. If you are staying in a private residence, your host is responsible for registering you, and will need a copy of your passport and visa to do that.

Overstaying a visa[edit]

If you overstay, even by a few minutes, you will likely be prohibited from leaving until you obtain a valid exit visa. You may be able to obtain a visa extension from the consular officer at an airport against the payment of a fine if you overstayed for fewer than three days, but this is not guaranteed. Generally, though, obtaining an extension requires an intervention by your sponsor, a payment of a fine, and a wait of up to three weeks.

Be careful if your flight leaves after midnight and be aware of the time at which the train crosses the border. Border guards will not let you depart if you're leaving even 10 min after your visa expires!

If your overstay was due to reasons such as medical problems, the Federal Migration Service may instead issue a Home Return Certificate rather than an exit visa which is valid to depart Russia within ten days of issue.

By plane[edit]

Caution Note: Direct travel to Russia from many countries is no longer possible, as the UK, EU, Canada, the US and several other countries have banned Russian airlines from their airspace, and Russia has applied tit-for-tat measures.
(Information last updated 07 Sep 2023)
The hammer and sickle flies on, Aeroflot

Moscow and Saint Petersburg are the main international airports, while Vladivostok is also served by some flights to China and North Korea.

There are four international airports in Moscow: Sheremetyevo SVO IATA in the northwest, Domodedovo DME IATA in the south Vnukovo VKO IATA in the southwest, and Zhukovskiy ZIA IATA. While first three have an express rail connection[dead link] (500 руб) to a main railway station in the city, each of the stations are quite far apart which makes traveling between the airports quite challenging, so allow several hours between flights from different airports. A taxi between any of the airports should cost about 1500 руб (be prepared to negotiate hard). By public transport, costs range from roughly 200 руб for buses to just under 700 руб for the aeroexpress trains. The system is very user unfriendly so don't expect an easy, convenient or quick transfer. Most foreign visitors to Russia arrive in either Sheremetyevo or Domodedovo.

Sheremetyevo Airport has five terminals in two clusters, and is the main hub of national carrier Aeroflot[dead link].

Domodedovo is a high-class modern airport with a single spacious terminal. It serves domestic and international flights by most Russian and international companies, so you'd be better off choosing flights bound for it. It is the main hub for S7 Airlines, which also flies to numerous international destinations.

Vnukovo is a smaller airport and is generally operated by low-cost airlines. Zhukovskiy is a relatively small airport that mainly serves flights to Belarus and countries of Central Asia.

There are airports in all large cities in Russia. Some international services can be found in: Novosibirsk, Sochi, Vladivostok, Kaliningrad, Ekaterinburg. International service to other destinations is much more limited.

Local airlines are listed in Get around.

As there are no longer direct flights to Russia from Western countries, travellers heading to Russia will typically have to detour via the Middle East.

  • From/via United Arab Emirates, Emirates flies from Dubai to Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow and to Saint Petersburg. Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi to Sheremetevyo International Airport in Moscow.
  • From/via Qatar, Qatar Airways files from Doha to Sheremetevyo International Airport.
  • From/via Turkey, Turkish Airlines files from Istanbul to Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow and to Saint Petersburg.

For getting to the Asian part of Russia, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot flies from Bangkok into several of the major population centres across Asian Russia.

By train[edit]

Typical neoclassical grandiosity at the Krasnoyarsk Railway Station

Russian Railways RZhD (Russian: РЖД) runs reliable services across dizzying distances. Eastern and Central Europe are well connected to Moscow and to a lesser extent Saint Petersburg. Moscow is also connected to some surprising destinations throughout Western Europe and Asia.

New Swiss carriages run from Moscow to Nice and Paris, but the international trains otherwise are of the same standard as the domestic trains (see Get around: By train). However, any international trains that pass through the Belarusian-Russian border are only for Russian and Belarusian citizens.


Caution Note: Train services from the EU are mostly suspended because of the Russian war on Ukraine.
(Information last updated 09 May 2023)

Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine are very well connected to Russia with many trains daily from cities throughout each country. Helsinki in Finland has had high speed trains daily to St Petersburg and one overnight train to Moscow. Riga in Latvia, Vilnius in Lithuania and Tallinn in Estonia each has at least one overnight or daytime train to Moscow and St Petersburg.

Kaliningrad has a short summer-only train connection to Gdynia and Gdańsk in Poland. The trains from Kaliningrad to Moscow and St Petersburg pass through Vilnius in the afternoon.

Beyond Russia's immediate neighbours and former Soviet dominions, direct trains connect Moscow with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Switzerland. Most trains from Central Europe to Moscow pass through Belarus, for which westerners need a transit or tourist visa, even if they're visa-exempt for Russia. The Belarus visa needs to be double-entry to return the same way. Although there are often rumours about westerners being blocked and turned off the train at the Belarus-Russia border, this rail route (as of summer 2018) has for some years been trouble-free, and alternative routes via Ukraine or Scandinavia add more bother than they save. It's the road route across that border where troubles sometimes occur.

Western Europe has a different track gauge from Russia, Finland and the CIS so bogies must be exchanged when the train crosses into the ex-Soviet countries (usually Ukraine or Belarus). This adds a couple of hours to the long wait already encountered for immigration. You can stay on the train as the wheels are being changed so it won't disrupt your sleep too much.


Moscow is connected to all the former Soviet Central Asian countries (except Turkmenistan) – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – at least 2–3 times per week. Journeys take 4 or 5 days. For the Caucasus, there is a service from Moscow to Baku in Azerbaijan (3 days), but the Azerbaijan-Russia border is only open to CIS passport holders. There is also a service from Moscow via Sochi to Sukhumi in the disputed territory of Abkhazia. The Trans-Siberian Railway spans the entire country and connects with Chinese cities such as Beijing and Harbin, as well as Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. There is a service at least twice a month from Moscow to Pyongyang in North Korea, which is nowadays open to westerners with the correct paperwork. Its coaches attached to the Rossiya Moscow–Vladivostok train that are detached at Ussuriysk for the 36 hour onward haul into and across North Korea.

By car[edit]

See also: Driving in Russia

You can travel to Russia by car, but the driving experience there does differ from what you'd expect in most western countries; see get around below for details. Also, crossing the border by car is a peculiar entertainment.

If coming from the EU, check the current situation at your border crossing; the border to Finland has been closed most of the time since the autumn, as of February 2024. Also, your insurance may be invalid in Russia.

By bus[edit]

Sochi's Seaport

A few bus companies, most notably Eurolines, Ecolines and Lux Express, operate international coach services from a number of destinations to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Tallinn, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw and Berlin have regular services to Russia.

By international marshrutka[edit]

In just also known as International marshrutka (Международная маршрутка) in Helsinki to Saint Petersburg an well in Wi-Fi.

By boat[edit]

Ferry services operate in the summer between Sochi and Turkey's Trabzon. In Vladivostok there is a scheduled roll-on, roll-off ferry to Busan and numerous lines to the different Japanese ports, however they are mostly oriented to the used Japanese car imports and less to tourism, there is also a weekly service in summer between Korsakov on Sakhalin and Wakkanai on the Japanese island Hokkaido. Cruise ships are also call to Russian ports frequently. There is a boat connection from Lappeenranta, Finland to Vyborg. There is now daily (overnight) service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg on St. Peter Line that does not require a visa for stays less than 3 days. If you join a cruise tour of St. Petersburg, then you don't need a Russian visa but you have to stay with the tour. See Russia#Visa free entry by ship.

By bicycle[edit]

There are two Eurovelo international cycling routes that pass through Russia: EV2 (Capitals Route) from Ireland to Moscow and EV10 (Baltic Sea Cycle Route/Hansa circuit) interconnecting Saint-Petersburg with Estonia and Finland.

Get around[edit]

The enormous distances hamper all forms of transportation. While the Russian government has tried to make the vast space more accessible since tsarist times much of the country is still hard to reach and even where trains and roads go, travel time is often measured in days not hours. Consider flying for far-off destinations — domestic flight routes cover the country pretty well.

Due to Western sanctions on Russia, Google Maps and Apple Maps may be outdated and unreliable. Instead, most Russians use local app Yandex Maps, which is also available in English, for navigation.

By train[edit]

See also: Rail travel in Russia

Due to the immense size of the country and poor road safety, the best way to get around through the entire country quickly is by train. Russia has an extensive rail network linking nearly every city and town. For intercity travel, the train is generally the most convenient option for trips that can be covered overnight. Although accommodations may not be the best, Russian trains have efficient and courteous staff as well as timely departures and arrivals that would impress even a German. The train is an option for longer trips (many Russians continue to use it for trips of 2 days or more), but mainly if you appreciate the nuances and experience of train travel in Russia. For the complete Russian rail experience, the one-week Trans-Siberian Railway has no equal, and passes through some spectacular scenery.

Russian trains are divided into types: Long-distance (дальнего следования dal'nevo sledovaniya) trains generally cover trips more than about 4 hours or 200 km (120 miles). Take a look at the Russian long-distance rail timetable. Shorter distances are covered by the commuter trains (пригородные prigorodnyye), which are popularly called электрички elektrichki. Most train stations (железнодорожный вокзал zheleznodorozhnyy vokzal) have separate areas for selling tickets for these types.

By bus[edit]

Map of Russian federal highways network

Most Russian cities have bus links to cities as far as 5–6 hours away or further. Though generally less comfortable than the train, buses sometimes are a better option time-wise and are worth looking into if the train timetables don't suit you. A small number of cities, notably Suzdal, are not served by train, and thus bus is the only option besides a car.

The Russian word for bus station is Avtovokzal (Ahv-tuh-vahg-ZAHL). Most cities have just one for long distance buses and the state buses depart from there. However, in Moscow and in some other Russian cities, a number of commercial buses are available, and they generally don't depart from the bus station. Quite often, you'll see commercial buses near train stations. Sometimes they run on schedules, though for popular routes (such as Moscow-Vladimir, Moscow/Yaroslavl, etc.) the buses simply wait to fill up. On these buses payment is usually to the driver.

Russian buses have luggage storage, but if it's an old Eastern-bloc bus, you may find your luggage wet at the end of the trip. You normally have to pay a "bagage" ticket for luggage.

By marshrutka[edit]

Apart from regular buses there are private minibuses called marshrutka (маршрутка). These emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union as an alternative to the moribund public transport system. Legally, they may be licensed as either taxis or buses. They have fixed routes, but usually no timetables and no regular stations. The official designation for them is Route Taxi, (Russian: marshrutnoye taksi), hence the colloquial marshrutka).

To board one of these, stop at the roadside and wave a hand, if you are lucky and the minibus isn't full, it will stop. In a city, it will stop anyway and offer you an option to stand in the aisle or even stand in some corner bending over sitting passengers. This is neither legal nor convenient, but very common and acceptable. You can arrange with the driver to stop at your destination. If you need to get off, you have to shout: "Остановите здесь!" (Astanaviti zdes, meaning "Stop here!") as loudly as possible so that the driver can hear. Marshrutka will stop pretty much anywhere, even in the middle of the traffic without moving to the side of the road. At main stops the driver may wait and collect more passengers. The waiting time is unpredictable and depends on the schedule, number of passengers, competing buses, etc. There are no tickets, you pay the driver directly. He may give you a receipt, but you have to ask for it explicitly.

Marshrutkas ride both in the countryside (in this case they are more likely to have timetables) and as city transport. Sometimes they look like regular buses, which makes them hardly distinguishable from official buses. Moreover, on long-distance routes you have an option of reserving a place by phone and even buying a ticket in advance. The system is very haphazard and organized in the most odd manner. It is highly advisable to check details about particular route with drivers or at least with locals who should know the current situation in their city. In cities, never rely on the route numbers. Sometimes they match those of the official public transport, but sometimes they don't.

When travelling on a marshrutka, passengers behind you may give you money. It means that you are supposed to hand the money forward so that it eventually reaches the driver. It is common to pass money to the driver via other passengers.

The situation with marshrutkas in Moscow is different from other cities: they operate in the same way as public buses: accept regular tickets, stop only at stops and stick to a schedule.

By car[edit]

See also: Driving in Russia
580 km to Krasnoyarsk

While trains, planes and buses will get you between big Russian cities and many of the smaller places as well, car travel can be a good way for going off the beaten path and travel at your own pace. Nevertheless if you're not used to local road conditions and driving culture and don't understand Russian, independent car travel can be challenging and even dangerous. Roads may be poorly marked, if marked at all, and poorly maintained, especially outside the cities and towns. Road numbers are not well marked, and direction signs are normally in Russian only.

Most federal highways (marked as M-1, M-2 and so on) are surveilled by automated systems, but minor roads are patrolled by State Auto Inspection (ГИБДД or GIBDD, though also known by its former name GAI). GIBDD roadblocks are inside every federal district border (about every 200 km). It's very useful to have a detector for radar speed traps and a video recorder. A video record is your ultimate defence in all problem cases with GIBDD.

If you're involved in a collision as the driver, the main rule is not to move your car and don't leave the scene of the accident until a GIBDD inspector draws an accident plan and you sign it. Any violation of this rule may cost you 15 days of freedom. All other questions should be directed to your insurance company.

Not all highways in Russia are free: some highways are tolled; you may need 20-60 руб per toll (may be paid by a credit card).

Petrol in some regions may be extremely bad; it's always better to find any branded filling station.

Car rental services are expensive. If you don't understand Russian, one option is using a private licensed guide. Guides generally provide their own cars or vans and know the roads, the customs and the countryside, making it possible to see small towns and historic sites.

Interestingly, the road network gets much larger in winter: when marshes, rivers, lakes and even ocean bays freeze in winter, temporary winter roads are built to provide transportation to distant places normally only reachable by air. These temporary roads are called zimniki (зимники).

By plane[edit]

Caution Note: All airports in the southwestern part of Russia have been closed since 2022.
(Information last updated 19 Aug 2023)

The tremendous distances of Russia make plane travel highly desirable for travelling to some of Russia's more far-flung attractions. It's worth considering for any destination that is farther than an overnight train ride. Travelling across Russia by train can sound awfully romantic, but it's also time-consuming and rather monotonous. Nearly every major destination of interest has an airport nearby. The great majority of domestic flights are from Moscow.

Most airliners have caught up to international standards and are operated with state-of-the-art equipment and excellent safety records. The on-time performance is also very good nowadays, with delays usually only happening in case of adverse weather conditions. On the other hand, most Russian carriers have copied carriers around the world regarding additional fees for refreshments, meals, luggage and seat selection. However, due to an inadequacy of rural airport infrastructure, old airplanes and poorer operational standards than mainstream airlines, regional and general aviation still have problems with their accident rate. The sanctions because of the war on Ukraine affect spare parts and service contracts; it will get harder to keep the planes flying.

Most Russian airports meet international standards. Lines at security and check-in are usually short – but don't expect the staff to speak English. If you have done online or mobile check-in (available for almost every airline) you still need to have a printed boarding pass. For passengers doing mobile check-in, there is a small self-service kiosk at many airports for printing a kind of boarding pass sticker.

Given the many airlines operating domestic services, it is a good idea to use multi-airline flight search pages or (online) travel agencies. However, sites common in other countries may not follow all carriers or show the lowest fares. Therefore, use Russian sites like Biletyplus and

  • Aeroflot based at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, is Russia's national airline, with both domestic and international services. Prices for flights from St. Petersburg back into Moscow vary, but you can get them for about US$32 (Feb 2016) and makes this less expensive and less time consuming than taking the train. Aeroflot operates both domestic and international flights from Terminal D next to the old international terminal (now Terminal F) serving non-Aeroflot international departures. Many international flights and most internal ones are operated by Boeing and Airbus aircraft, though several regional routes are operated using Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100s.
  • S7 airlines (ex-Siberia or Sibir Airlines) Russia's largest domestic carrier with international service to many cities in Germany, China and ex-Soviet republics.
  • Rossiya Airlines has a substantial network based at St Petersburg Pulkovo airport to both major cities in Russia, and to western Europe.
  • UTair operates the largest aircraft fleet in Russia and ranks among the top five largest Russian carriers by passenger volume.
  • Yakutia Airlines is Siberian/Far Eastern air carrier having extensive flight network around Siberia and abroad.
Getting around on reindeer sledge in Nenetsia
  • Rusline
  • Red Wings
  • Ural Airlines is one of the major airlines. It has significant problems with punctuality though.
  • Nordwind
  • Nordavia[dead link] operates domestic and regional services mainly in Northwest region
  • Aurora Far East regional air carrier, also serves international flights to Japan and South Korea
  • Pobeda Airlines low-cost carrier operates both domestic and international flights from many airports
  • Nordstar (Taimyr Air Company) domestic and international air carrier
  • Azimuth domestic and international low-cost carrier based in Rostov-on-Don and, for some of its flights, in Moscow

Many of these airlines were formed out of the onetime-Aeroflot operation at their home city from Soviet times when the old Aeroflot was broken up.

For remote locations, general aviation can be the fastest option. Only some of the biggest cities, like Ufa of Krasnodar, have easy bus or train link city-airport. In most cities most passengers use taxis.

By helicopter[edit]

In some northern regions, there are regular helicopter flights to distant villages with reasonable prices.

By air taxi[edit]

In some northern regions, there are regular air taxi flights to distant villages with reasonable prices.

By taxi[edit]

Taxi in just of Russia Ride-hailing is available in Russia, some providers include:

  • Yandex Taxi (Яндекс Такси). Operates in Moscow and other cities.
  • Citymobil (Ситимобил). Operates in Moscow and other cities.

By boat[edit]

In the summer cruise boats are frequent on the rivers in European Russia. Most frequent cruise lines is:

Weekend cruises, from Friday to Sunday

  • Moscow - Uglich - Moscow
  • Saint-Petersburg - Valaam - Saint-Petersburg.
  • Moscow - Konstantinovo - Moscow via Moskva river

Long distance cruises

  • Moscow - Saint-Petersburg via Lakes Ladoga and Onega, 6 nights.
  • Moscow - Yaroslavl - Astrakhan with stops in different cities
  • Moscow - Yaroslavl - Rostov-on-Don with stops in different cities.
  • Moscow - Nizniy Novgorod via Oka river.
  • Yakutsk - Tiksi
  • Yakutsk - Ust-Kut
  • Krasnoyarsk - Dudinka

These are the main lines, as well as other, more rare routes. Some cruise lines, like Moscow - Saint-Petersburg sold for foreign tourists. Most cruises are roundtrip, but you can use cruise ships to travel between some cities too, if you search for rare one-way routes, like Nizniy Novgorod - Moscow.

Besides cruise ships for tourists, there are some scheduled passenger ships for locals which can also be used for tourist purposes:

  • On the Ob and Irtysh rivers there are lots of high speed boats operated by SeverFlot. They can be used to get to really distant villages in the region or to see the whole region from the river. Note that, however, high-speed boats are more expensive and less comfortable than cruise boats. Ticket can be reserved online on the website.
  • On the Yenisey River, PassengerRechTrans operates two comfortable ships on the long distance route Krasnoyarsk-Dudinka. The ships offer comfortable cabins with basic amenities. The prices are quite reasonable and this makes these ships very popular with tourists exploring the beauty of Yenisey river and sights on the way: Yeniseysk, Turuhansk, Igarka, Dudinka. Ticket can be reserved online on the website.
  • There are several passenger boats on the Lena river in Yakutia. It is possible to travel from Ust-Kut to Yakutsk on high speed boats with several stops and from Yakutsk to Tiski (a town on the Arctic Ocean) on a comfortable ship with cabins. The journey from Yakutsk to Tiksi is very picturesque and a great way to see Yakutia, since there are few roads in the region. However, travelling in Yakutia is relatively expensive.
  • There are comfortable passenger ships with cabins from Sakhalin and Kamchatka to the Kuril islands. Tickets are cheap and should be booked in advance on

By thumb[edit]

Russia has a very lively hitchhiking culture, with many hitchhiking clubs, there is even an Academy of Hitchhiking. There are many competitions. Despite horror stories about bad things happening in Russia, it is relatively safe to hitchhike, especially in the countryside. In some regions Russians expect a little bit of money for a ride.


Historical attractions[edit]

Fortress at Derbent

Russia's history is the number one reason why tourists come to this country, following the draw of its fascinating, sometimes surreal, oftentimes brutal, and always consequential national saga.

Early history[edit]

Derbent, in the Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, is Russia's most ancient city, dating back 5,000 years. Home to the legendary Gates of Alexander, the walled fortress-city, alternately controlled by Caucasian Albania, Persian empires, and the Mongols (until its eighteenth century conquest by the Russian Empire) was for 1500 years the key to controlling trade between Western Russia and the Middle East. Other ancient peoples of Russia left less evidence of their civilization, but you can find traces of the Kurgan people of the Urals, in particular the ruined pagan shrines and burial mounds around the old capital of Tobolsk and throughout the Republic of Khakassia.

Of early Russia's city states, one of the best preserved and most interesting is Staraya Ladoga, regarded as the nation's first capital, established by the Viking Rurik, to whom the first line of Tsars traced their lineage. Novgorod, founded in 859, was the most important city of Kievan Rus in modern Russia (with Kiev being the capital of modern-day Ukraine), and home to Russia's first kremlin.

Early Medieval Russia saw two major civilizations, that of the independent Novgorod Republic and the Mongol Empire, which dominated the Russian principalities of former Vladimir-Suzdal (whose initial capital of Vladimir retains an excellent collection of twelfth century monuments and kremlin) and Kievan Rus. While the Mongols left mostly devastation of historical sites in their wake, the wealthy trading nation to the north developed grand cities at the capital of Novgorod, as well as Staraya Ladoga, Pskov, and Oreshek (modern day Shlisselburg), all of which have extant medieval kremlins and a multitude of beautiful early Russian Orthodox churches filled with medieval ecclesiastical frescoes.

As Mongol power waned, the Grand Duchy of Moscow rose to power, and particularly under the later reign of Ivan the Terrible, consolidated power in all of Western Russia, including the conquest of the Kazan Khanate (and establishing another grand citadel there) and concentrated power in Moscow, building its kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, and several other of Russia's best known historical sites. The cities of the Golden Ring surrounding Moscow likewise saw significant construction during this period. A really neat off-the-beaten-path destination also rose to prominence in the extreme north of the country—the Solovetsky Monastery-fortress on the islands of the White Sea, which served as a bulwark against Swedish naval incursions.

Imperial history[edit]

The Grand Cascade in Peterhof
See also: Russian Empire

Ivan the Terrible's reign ended in tragedy, the Time of Troubles, which only saw destruction and ruin, and you will find little evidence of civilizational development until the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in the early seventeenth century. Peter the Great, after having consolidated power, began the construction of his entirely new city of Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland, the Window to the West. Saint Petersburg from its foundation through the neoclassical period became one of the world's most magically beautiful cities, and the list of must-see attractions is far too long to be discussed here. The surrounding summer palaces at Peterhof, Pavlovsk, and Pushkin are also unbelievably opulent attractions.

The Russian Revolution was one of the twentieth century's defining moments, and history buffs will find much to see in Saint Petersburg. The two best known sites are found at the Winter Palace, which the communists stormed to depose Tsar Nicolas II, and the beautiful Peter and Paul Fortress on the Neva River, which housed numerous revolutionary luminaries in its cold, hopeless prison. For those interested in the grisly end of the Romanov family of Nicholas II, perhaps inspired by the story of Anastasia, look no further than the Church on the Blood in Yekaterinburg, built on the spot of his family's execution. Moscow, on the other hand, has the most famous monument from the revolutionary period—Lenin's himself, with his embalmed body on display in Red Square (against his wishes).

Soviet history[edit]

See also: Soviet Union

The Soviet Era saw a drastic change in Russian history, and the development of a virtually brand new civilization. Mass industrialization programs came with a new aesthetic ethos which emphasized functionality (combined with grandiosity). The enormous constructivist buildings and statues of the twentieth century are often derided as ugly monstrosities, but they are hardly boring (whereas the industrial complexes polluting cities from the Belarusian border to the Pacific are genuine eyesores). A new architectural style known today as Stalinist architecture also developed, and was popular into the 1950s; the grandest of these buildings are seven skyscrapers in Moscow known as the Seven Sisters.

Both World War II and Stalin's reign of terror made their presence felt greatly upon Russia's cultural heritage. The bombings involved in the former virtually wiped out anything of historical interest in Russia's extreme west (the Chernozemye region) and damaged much more throughout European Russia. It did, however, lead to the construction of monuments to the war throughout the entire country. For military buffs, a visit to Mamaev Kurgan, the museum complex at Volgograd (former Stalingrad) is an excellent destination. Kursk, for its enormous tank battle, and Saint Petersburg, site of the Siege of Leningrad, make interesting destinations.

The Motherland Calls, looming over the Battlefield of Stalingrad, atop Mamayev Kurgan

Maybe the saddest of the Soviet legacies is the network of prison camps known as the Gulag Archipelago. The term Archipelago really does not capture the scope of suffering across 10,000 kilometers of cold steppe. Perhaps the most interesting sites for those interested in this legacy are on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, and the devastatingly bleak Kolyma gulag system of Magadan Oblast. If you were hoping to see where Alexandr Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned, you'll have to travel beyond the Russian borders to Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan.

Cultural sights[edit]

Russia has several of the world's greatest museums, particularly in the field of the visual arts. The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is the true star, with an enormous collection amassed first by the wealthy tsars (particularly by its founder, Catherine the Great) and later by the Soviets and the Red Army (which seized enormous treasure from the Nazis, who in turn had seized their bounty from their wars around the globe). Equally impressive is the edifice housing the collection on display, the magnificent Winter Palace of the Romanov Dynasty. Saint Petersburg's often overlooked Russian Museum should also be a priority, as it has the country's second best collection of purely Russian art, from icons of the tenth century on through the modern movements, in all of which revolutionary Russia led the charge ahead of the rest of the world. Moscow's art museums, only slightly less well known, include the Tretyakov Gallery (the premiere collection of Russian art) and the Pushkin Museum of Western Art.

Other museum exhibitions certainly worth seeking out are the collections of antiquities in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, particularly at the Hermitage Museum, and the Armory in the Moscow Kremlin. For military buffs, Russian military museums are often fantastic, truly best-in-the-world, regardless of whether you are at one of the main ones in the Moscow—the Central Armed Forces Museum, Kubinka Tank Museum, Central Air Force Museum, Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII), or way off in the provinces. The other category in which Russian museums outshine the rest of the world would be within the literary and musical spheres. Nary a town visited, if only for a day, by Alexander Pushkin is without some small museum dedicated to his life and works. The best of the big city museums include the Bulgakov Museum in Moscow and the Anna Akhmatova, Pushkin, and Dostoevsky museums in Saint Petersburg. Great adventures await in quieter parts of the country, at Dostoevsky's summer house in Staraya Russa, Tolstoy's "inaccessible literary stronghold" at Yasnaya Polyana, Chekhov's country estate at Melikhovo, Tchaikovsky's house in Klin or remote hometown of Votkinsk in Udmurtia, Rakhmaninov's summer home in Ivanovka, Pushkin's estate at Pushkinskie Gory, or Turgenev's country estate at Spasskoe-Lutovinovo near Mtsensk. The best museums are in the countryside. For classical music lovers, the apartment museums of various nineteenth and century composers in Saint Petersburg are worth more than just nostalgic wanderings—they often have small performances by incredible musicians.

Kazan's Qolşärif Mosque

All tourists in Russia find themselves looking at a lot of churches. Ecclesiastical architecture is a significant source of pride among Russians, and the onion dome is without question a preeminent national symbol. The twentieth century, sadly, saw cultural vandalism in the destruction of said architecture on an unprecedented scale. But the immense number of beautiful old monasteries and churches ensured that an enormous collection remains. The best known, as usual, are in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, in particular the old baroque Church on the Spilled Blood, Alexander Nevsky Lavra, and the monumental Kazan and Saint Isaac's Cathedrals in the former, and Saint Basil's Cathedral and the massive Church of the Annunciation in the latter. The spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church is to be found at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiev Posad on the Golden Ring circuit (lavra is the designation given to the most important monasteries, of which there are only two in the country), although the physical headquarters of the Church is at Danilov Monastery in Moscow. Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in Vologda Oblast is often considered Russia's second most important (and is a neat way to get off the beaten track). Other particularly famous churches and monasteries are to be found at Saint Sophia's Cathedral in Novgorod, the Cathedral of the Assumption in Vladimir, the fascinating Old Cathedral of Königsberg (home to Immanuel Kant's tomb) in Kaliningrad, Novodevichy Convent in Moscow, Optina Putsin (the basis for Father Zossima's monastery in The Brothers Karamazov), and Volokolamsk Monastery in West Moscow Oblast. Kizhi Pogost on Lake Onega and Valaam Monastery on Lake Ladoga are also popular sites, especially with those cruising between Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Ecclesiastical architecture does not, however, end with the Russian Orthodox Church — Russia also has a wealth of Islamic and Buddhist architecture. The nation's most important mosques are the Qolşärif Mosque in Kazan, the Blue Mosque in Saint Petersburg and the Heart of Chechnya in Grozny (the largest mosque in Europe). Notably absent from that list is the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, which was considered the principal mosque in the country, before it was demolished in 2011 amid much controversy. Russia's most prominent Buddhist temples are in both Kalmykia, Europe's lone Buddhist region, and the areas closer to Mongolia, especially around Ulan Ude in Buryatia and Kyzyl, Tuva.

Natural attractions[edit]

While the distances are great between them, Russia's natural wonders are impressive and worth seeking out for nature lovers. Most of the country is rich in Eurasian wildlife. The best known destinations are far to the east in Siberia, with Lake Baikal known as its "jewel." At the extreme eastern end of Russia, nearly all the way to Japan and Alaska, is wild Kamchatka, where you will find the Valley of the Geisers, lakes of acid, volcanoes, and grizzlies galore.

Yugyd Va National Park, in the Komi Virgin Forests

Other highlights of the Far East include the idyllic (if kind of cold) Kuril Islands to the south of Kamchatka, whale watching off the coast of arctic Wrangel Island, the remote Sikhote-Alin mountain range, home to the Amur Tiger, and beautiful Sakhalin. The nature reserves throughout these parts are spectacular as well, but all will require permits in advance and specialized tours.

The northern half of Russia stretching thousands of miles from the Komi Republic through Kamchatka is basically empty wilderness, mostly mountainous, and always beautiful. Getting to these areas is problematic, as most are not served by any roads, infrastructure, or really anything else. Russia's great north-south rivers are the main arteries for anyone moving through the area: the Pechora, Ob, Yenisey, Lena, and Kolyma. Beyond that, expect to be in canoes, helicopters, and military issue jeeps will be the only way of getting around, and you'll likely want to go with a guide.

Russia's other mountainous territory is in its extreme south, in the Northern Caucasus. There you will find Europe's tallest mountains, which tower in height over the Alps, including mighty Elbrus. Favorite Russian resorts in the area include those at Sochi (which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games) and Dombai. As you go further east in the North Caucasus, the landscapes become ever more dramatic, from the lush forested gorges and snow capped peaks of Chechnya to the stark desert mountains of Dagestan, sloping downwards to the Caspian Sea.

Throughout the entire country, there are over a hundred National Parks and Nature Reserves (zapovedniki). The former are open to the public, and considerably more wild and undeveloped than you would find in, say, the United States. The latter are preserved principally for scientific research and are often not possible to visit. Permits are issued for certain reserves, but only through licensed tour operators. If you have the opportunity, though, take it! Some of the most spectacular parks are in the aforementioned Kamchatka, but also in the Urals, particularly in the Altai Mountains (Altai Republic and Altai Krai).



Russian folk singers performing songs in a traditionally-decorated room
  • Music — Russia has a long musical tradition and is well known for its composers and performers. There is no doubt you will find more orchestra performances the bigger the city. Classical music is played in various theaters, where domestic and guest concerts are scheduled for weeks ahead. Russia has one of the world's strongest classical music traditions, having give rise to numerous great composers such as Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, and even today the Moscow Conservatory is regarded as one of the best in the world. Besides that, the state supports folk ensembles in smaller towns or even villages and singing babushkas gatherings are still a well-established tradition in many areas. In areas traditionally inhabited by ethnic minorities, you may encounter ethnic music of every possible sound, like throat singing in Tuva or rare instruments of Chukotka. Sometimes only specialists can distinguish the Cossack songs of the Urals from the Cossack songs of Krasnodar. Professional jazz players meet at Jazz over Volga festival in Yaroslavl. Walking along the main street on a Sunday will definitely enable you to hear guitar, saxophone, harmonium or flute in any city.
  • Military Parade on the Victory Day, which is celebrated on the 9th of May is commonly all-Russia holiday with city squares getting full of uniformed men and military vehicles both dated to Great Patriotic War/WWII and new ones. The Defender of Fatherland Day is a holiday when women in families or at work congratulate their men and co-workers. It happens on 23, February, just a couple of weeks before men return the favor to ladies on International Women's Day, 8 March.
  • Dancing. Russian classic ballet is renowned in the world and some national troops exist even in such remote areas like Dagestan or Yakutia. The two most renowned ballet companies in Russia, which are both considered to be among the best in the world, are the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg. Lezginka is a vibrant folk dance, always performed at big Caucasian events. If you are interested in folk style then watching a concert of Igor Moiseyev Ensemble alive is simply a must. Out of big cities you may easily find Irish dance, belly and Ball clubs, not to mention hip-hop and all.
  • Cinema festivals. The major movie event in Russia is Moscow International Film Festival held at the end of June during 10 days and boasting first-class stars from all over the world. Kinotavr[dead link] of Sochi, Moscow's Festival of Latin America[dead link] and international film festival Zerkalo, named after Andrei Tarkovsky, in Ivanovo are also of interest for film fans.
  • Watch sports: - Ice hockey is the leading sport. 23 teams contest the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League), with four based in Moscow and one in St Petersburg; there are also teams from Helsinki, Riga, Minsk and Beijing.
- Football - 16 teams play soccer in the Russian Premier League, the country's top tier; five are based in Moscow and one in St Petersburg. The playing season is August-May with a three month mid-winter break. The national team don't have a fixed home stadium but move north or south with the seasons.
  • Circuses. Russia prides in the enjoyment of world class one-ring circuses. Combined traditions include clowning, juggling, acrobatics, contortion and animal acts. The Great Moscow State Circus, for example, holds everyday circus performances during afternoon and evening.

Outdoor life[edit]

What about an icebreaker cruise?

The association between Russia and its two biggest metropolises, Moscow and St Petersburg, is strong in the minds of tourists, but given its vast expanses and low population density, Russia is a nature lover's paradise as well. Russia has a network of exceptional natural areas, comprising 35 National Parks and 100 Nature Reserves (zapovednik) covering a total land mass larger than Germany. List of Russian Nature Reserves (in Russian) one can find here

Some Russian Nature Reserves on the internet:

Provided your paperwork is in order, you may visit these areas independently. For those wishing to seek guidance, there are travel agencies specializing in ecotourism in Russia such as:

Whitewater rafting[edit]


Caution Note: Due to Western sanctions, most foreign credit and debit cards no longer work in Russia. Your access to funds may be hindered as Russian banks have been shut out of the international monetary system, meaning that wire transfers are not possible. Many multinational retailers and other businesses have shut down service in Russia due to the ongoing conflict. Inflation and shortage of imported commodities are expected.
(Information last updated 18 Dec 2023)


Exchange rates for Russian ruble

As of January 2024:

  • US$1 ≈ 90руб
  • €1 ≈ 100руб
  • UK£1 ≈ 115руб
  • Japanese ¥100 ≈ 65руб
  • Chinese ¥1 ≈ 13руб

Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from

The Moscow GUM—one of the world's most beautiful shopping malls, right on Red Square

Throughout its history Russia has had various versions of the ruble (рубль), which is divided into 100 kopeks (копеек). The latest manifestation, whose ISO code is RUB (replacing the RUR), was introduced in 1998 (although all notes and first issues of coins bear the year 1997). All pre-1998 currency is obsolete. The ruble is sometimes symbolised using ₽, but Wikivoyage will use руб to denote the currency.

Coins are issued in 1, 5, 10, and 50 kopek and 1, 2, 5 and 10 руб denominations. Banknotes come in 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 руб banknotes. The 5-ruble note is no longer issued or found in general circulation. The 10-ruble note ceased being printed in 2010 and will suffer the same fate, but as of 2020 is still found in circulation. Both remain legal tender. Kopeks are generally useless, with most prices given to the nearest ruble. The 1-, 5- and 10-kopek coins are especially useless: even places that quote prices in non -whole rubles will round to the nearest 50 kopeks or ruble.

All banknotes have special marks (dots and lines in relief) to aid the blind in distinguishing values.

Russian law forbids payments other than in rubles.

Travellers cheques are generally inconvenient (only some banks, such as Sberbank, will cash even American Express, though they do it without commission). So bring enough cash to last you for a few days, or rely on ATMs and credit card transactions.

Currency exchange offices (called bureaus in Saint Petersburg) are common throughout Russia in banks and, in the larger cities, small currency exchange bureaus. Banks tend to offer slightly worse rates but are more trustworthy. Hotels generally offer much worse rates but could be useful in an emergency. You need to show your passport to change money at a bank and fill in plenty of time-wasting forms.

Take your time to count how much money you received; various methods are sometimes used to trick the customer, including better rates, prominently displayed, for large transactions and worse rates, difficult to read, for small transactions.

Branches of large banks can be found in any major city. Sberbank has a presence even in unexpectedly small villages.

You should obtain U.S. dollars or euros in your home country to bring Russia to exchange for rubles. Other currencies are not widely accepted, and even the money changers that accept them do so at terrible rates. You can check the rates that are being traded in Moscow online. The ruble is very difficult to trade outside Russia, and even places that do so will have terrible rates, so be sure to get rid of all your excess rubles before you leave.

You will have an easier time changing clean, new banknotes. U.S. dollars should be the current issues, although changing older versions shouldn't be impossible.

Don't change money on the street. Unlike during Soviet times, there is no advantage to dealing with an unofficial vendor. There are several advanced street exchange scams so better not to give them a chance.

ATMs, called bankomats (банкомат), are common in large cities and can generally be found in smaller cities and towns. However, due to Western sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, most foreign bank cards cannot be used at Russian ATMs. English language interface is available. Russian ATMs often have a withdrawal limit of around 100,000—150,000 руб. (US $1,500—$2,000) per day. Big hotels are good places to find them. Due the aforementioned sanctions, Russia has been completely cut off from the international banking system, meaning that it is not possible to wire transfer money from a foreign bank account to a Russian one and vice versa. Therefore, bring all the money you need in physical cash.

Western and Japanese credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB do not work in Russia. Shops that serve many foreigners may accept China's UnionPay or India's RuPay cards.

Museums and sightseeing places take cash and credit cards, with rare exceptions.

Train stations may accept plastic, even outside the big cities, be sure to ask as it won't always be obvious. Otherwise take plenty of cash. ATM machines at train station are popular and often out of cash, so stock up before going to the train station.

Taxis rarely accept credit cards even in large cities. This needs to be checked before boarding. Emphasize that you need a card-accepting cab when ordering it through hotel concierge or a bell-boy. However in big cities there are a number of taxi services (such as Uber, Yandex Taxi or Gett) that accept online payments by cards and can be called by iOS or Android applications.

It is better to avoid street ATMs (or at least to be very careful), as sometimes swindlers attach spy devices to them, to get your PIN and card details; the safest option is the ATMs in hotels, banks or big shopping centres.


While tipping was traditionally frowned upon in Russia it has been emerging after the fall of socialism. Tipping is not necessary, but expected. A tip exceeding 10% would be unusual. Some restaurants may include service into the amount, but that is very rare; if a service charge is included then a tip is not expected. Round up when paying your bill at a restaurant, particularly if it happens to be more or less like 10% above the total, and it may be interpreted as a tip. If the service was particularly bad and you don't want to leave a tip, ask for your change. It is impossible to write-in a tip into restaurant credit-card payment.

Tipping is not considered customary for taxis, in fact, you should negotiate and settle upon your fare before you get in the taxi.


In general, Russian-made items are cheap although Russia has become a major player in the luxury goods market, but products imported from the West are often expensive.


  • Chocolate (шоколад) — Russian chocolate is very good
  • Ice-cream (мороженое) — Russian ice-cream also especially good. Russian dairy products in general are worth investigating as they are diverse and interesting.
  • Halva (халва) — it's different from the Turkish kind (in that it's made of sunflower seeds, rather than sesame), but Rot-Front products are really good
  • Honey (мёд) — produced around the country; sorts and quality vary dramatically, but the higher-quality are worth seeking. Moscow hosts a honey market in Kolomenskoye, usually in August and the first half of autumn. A number of honey shops working all the year round can be found on VDNKh/VVTs grounds.
  • Red caviar (красная икра) — Before buying, examine or ask if it's "salmon caviar", because there is a risk of "knock-off" due to about 30 species of fish which give a caviar of red colour. And this knock-off caviar often tastes bad.
  • Black caviar (чёрная икра) — is still possible to buy. High risk of knock-off. But it is considered a delicacy and it is expensive.
  • Sturgeon meat (осётр, белуга) and meat of other fish of the sturgeon family. Considered one of the top delicacies in Russia. Very expensive but very tasty.
  • Hard cheese (твёрдый сыр) — mostly produced in Altai; occasionally available from there in large stores in Moscow
  • Sparkling wine (шампанское) — Sparkling wine, "Russian Champagne" is surprisingly good (Abrau-Dyurso is believed to be the best brand, yet there are other good ones, too). Make sure you order it "suKHOye" (dry) or Brut. Many restaurants serve it at room temperature, but if you request it "cold" they can usually find a semi-chilled bottle. The cost is surprisingly low also, about US$10


You just have to buy at least one of matryoshka dolls while visiting Russia!
  • Matryoshka (матрёшка) — a collection of traditionally painted wooden dolls, each one stacking neatly within another
  • Ushanka (ушанка) — a warm hat with ears (ushi)
  • Samovar (самовар) — an indigenous design for brewing tea. If you are buying samovars of value (historical, precious gems or metal, etc.), it is wise to check with customs before attempting to take it out of the country
  • Gzhel' (гжель) — porcelain with cool authentic Russian ornaments.
  • Khokhloma (хохлома) — wooden tableware with flower-like paintings, red, gold, black colors.
  • Winter coats in department stores are well made, stylish and excellent values
  • Down pillows of very high quality are to be found
  • Skin-care products. While when it comes to make up, you'll find all the same products, that are popular on the West, a lot of people prefer locally produced skin-care products because of their superior price/quality combination. Brands to check: Nevskaya cosmetica (Невская косметика) and Greenmama
  • Luxury products. Russia has become the go-to place for people seeking luxury goods. For example, you can buy limited edition iPhone cases made with rare materials. You can buy Fabergé eggs.



There are a number of cheap food/goods chains.

  • Perekryostok (Перекрёсток). A bit more expensive than supermarket chains below.
  • Karusel (Карусель). Notorious for price tag tricks, showing artificially increased, crossed-out 'initial' prices, which's making a good looked like having allegedly a huge discount.
  • Auchan (Ашан). A French supermarket chain. One of the cheapest, notorious for occasionally selling out-of-date food, so double-check expiry dates; however, it is mostly OK.
  • Magnit (Магнит). One of the largest supermarket chains in Russia. The prices are low, but the range of products is relatively modest comparing to other supermarkets.
  • Pyatyorochka (Пятёрочка). One of the largest supermarket chains in Russia. The prices are relatively low, some products will cost less with a loyalty card (try to ask a customer or cashier for it). Some Pyatyorochka's have a mini bakery inside – puff pastries are very good. It's recommend to check the expiration date before buying there.
  • Lenta (Лента). A hypermarket chain with a huge selection of goods, including for tourists. It's almost obligatory to have a loyalty card there – without it the prices will be significantly higher! The regular customers usually willingly share their card, if you kindly ask them in the queue.
  • O'Kay (О'Кей). Reminds Magnit supermarkets by prices and a range of goods.
  • Diksi (Дикси).


  • Azbuka Vkusa (Азбука Вкуса). A Moscow- and Saint Petersburg-based premium-class supermarket chain. Along with the 'ordinary' goods, there can be found extremely expensive, often exclusive ones. Known throughout Russia for its 'frightening' price tags, annoying sales assistants, and for possibility of looking from a distance at local socialites making purchases.


You need at least 500-1000 руб per day to cover the minimum requirements for food and public transport within a city or town. Housing rent in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and some other big cities are comparable to elsewhere in Europe.

Parking fees may vary even within the same city district, however it's usually not very expensive unless you're parking in such places as airports. Of course, the parking in Moscow tends to be more expensive. Gasoline prices are 50-60 руб per litre – in Europe, only Belarus has cheaper car fuel.

Many of those who visit Russia find it cheaper than most other European countries, but be ready for prices in remote areas (e.g. in the North or on a few inhabited islands) may be dramatically higher. After the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, international sanctions against Russia have pushed prices up significantly.

Most of the biggest retail chains have loyalty cards which can be purchased at the store checkout, or can be got after a purchase for a certain amount (usually 500-2000 руб). Normally these cards have to be registered in your legal name and linked to a Russian mobile number.


Bliny buckwheat pancakes with salmon roe (ikra), sour cream (smetana) and chopped onion
See also: Russian cuisine

The foundations of the Russian cuisine was laid by the peasant food in an often harsh climate, with a combination of 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. Flavourful soups and stews centred on seasonal or storable produce, fish, and meats. Russia's renowned caviar is easily obtained, however prices can exceed the expenses of your entire trip. Dishes such as beef Stroganov and chicken kiev, from the pre-revolutionary era are available but mainly aimed at tourists as they lost their status and visibility during Soviet times.

Russia has for many decades suffered a negative reputation for its food, and Russian cuisine was known for being bland and overly stodgy. However, the food scene has improved in the past years and Russia has also been known and famous for delicacies like caviar.

Russian specialities include:

  • Ikra (sturgeon or salmon caviar)
  • Pelmeni (meat-filled dumplings, similar to pot-stickers, especially popular in Ural and Siberian regions)
  • Blini (thin white flour or buckwheat pancakes, similar to French crepes)
  • Black bread (rye bread, somewhat similar to one used by North American delis and not as dense as German variety)
  • Piroshki (aka Belyashi - small pies or buns with sweet or savoury filling)
  • Golubtsy (Cabbage rolls)
  • Ikra Baklazhanaya (aubergine spread)
  • Okroshka (Cold soups based on kvass or sour milk)
  • Schi (cabbage soup) and Green schi (sorrel soup, may be served cold)
  • Borsch (Ukrainian beet and cabbage soup)
  • Vinegret (salad of boiled beets, eggs, potato, carrots, pickles and other vegetables with vinegar, mustard, vegetable oil and/or mayonnaise)
  • Olivier (Russian version of potato salad with peas, meat, eggs, carrots, and pickles)
  • Shashlyk (various kebabs from the Caucasus republics of the former Soviet Union)
  • Seledka pod shuboy (fresh salted herring with "vinegret")
  • Kholodets (aka Studen' - meat, garlic and carrots in meat aspic)
  • Kvass (a fermented thirst-quenching beverage made from rye bread, sugar and yeast, similar to young low-alcohol beer)
  • Limonad (various soft drinks, usually carbonated)
Pelmeni meat dumplings with three dipping sauces

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, with Georgian and Uzbek restaurants being particularly popular among Russians. It is also possible to eat well and cheaply there 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 streetside kiosks cooking up blinis, shawerma/gyros, piroshki/belyashi, stuffed potatoes, etc. Although their menus may not be in English, it is fairly easy to point to what is wanted – or at a picture of it, not unlike at western fast food restaurants. A small Russian dictionary will be useful at non-touristy restaurants offering table service where staff members will not speak English and the menus will be entirely in Cyrillic, but prices are very reasonable. Russian meat soups and meat pies are excellent.

Cafes called stolovaya (столовая), a relic of the Soviet era, are a great place to eat: they are usually very cheap — a lunch of three courses may cost as little as 350 руб, offer traditional food and are fast.

It is better not to drink the tap water in Russia and to avoid using ice in drinks, however bottled water, kvass, limonad, and Coca Cola are available everywhere food is served.

Stylish cafes serving cappuccino, espresso, toasted sandwiches, rich cakes and pastries are popping up all over Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Some do double duty as wine bars, others are also internet cafes.

Unlike the United States, cafes in Russia (кафе) serve not only drinks, but also a full range of meals (typically cooked in advance—unlike restaurants where part or whole cooking cycle is performed after you make an order).

Due to Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine, Western fast food chains do not operate in Russia, but Russian knock-offs of them exist. A popular uniquely Russian fast food chain is Teremok[dead link] (Теремок), which is best known for its bliny.

Dining etiquette[edit]

Generally speaking, Russian table manners follow traditional European norms.

  • When having food with hosts, do not get up until you are invited to leave the table. This is not considered polite.
  • The hosts might get quite persistent when offering an alcoholic drink. You will often have to be very firm if you want to reject that second (or third, fourth, tenth...) shot. Claiming problems with medicine or pregnancy, or stating that you're driving a car are imperfect options. Simply and grimly stating that you are an alcoholic can do the job too, but will depress your hosts.
  • Sometimes you will be urged to take second helpings ad infinitum. If so, take it as a form of respect. Moreover, they really will love you if you keep eating.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table. This is considered rude (especially for kids).
  • When a mixed group of people dine together, sometimes the bill can split among the men, and then the women are not expected to pay. This is not always be the case, so it's better to follow the example of your fellow diners.

Tipping in restaurants[edit]

Restaurant staff in Russia are not as dependent on tips as in the United States, but tipping is still encouraged, even if it is not common among the locals. A tip of 10% of the total bill, usually paid by rounding up the invoice amount, would be reasonably generous. Don't tip in cafeteria-like settings, where you travel along the counter with a tray and pay at the cash register. Drop a couple of 10-ruble coins (or the older notes) into the tip jar for staff. There is no way to leave a tip on your credit card so keep enough small notes in your wallet to hand to the staff.


Vodka, imported liquors (rum, gin, etc.), international soft-drinks (Pepsi, Coca- Cola, Fanta, etc.), local soft drinks (Tarhun, Buratino, Baikal, etc.), distilled water, kvas (sour-sweet non-alcoholic naturally carbonized drink made from fermented dark bread) and mors (traditional wild berry drink).

Beer (пиво) is cheap in Russia and the varieties are endless of both Russian and international brands. It is found for sale at any street vendor (warm) or stall (varies) in the centre of any city and costs (costs double and triple the closer you are to the centre) from about 17 руб to 130 руб for a 0.5 liters (0.11 imp gal; 0.13 U.S. gal) bottle or can. "Small" bottles and cans (0.33 liters (0.073 imp gal; 0.087 U.S. gal) and thereabouts) are also widely sold, and there are also plastic bottles of 1, 1.5, 2 litres (0.22, 0.33, 0.44 imp gal; 0.26, 0.40, 0.53 US gal) or even more, similar to those in which soft carbonated drinks are usually sold — many cheaper beers are sold that way and, being even cheaper due to large volume, are quite popular, despite some people say it can have a "plastic" taste. Corner stores/cafés, selling draft beer (highly recommended) also exist, but you have to seek them out. The highest prices (especially in the bars and restaurants) are traditionally in Moscow; Saint-Petersburg, on the other hand, is known for the cheaper and often better beers. Smaller cities and towns generally have similar prices if bought in the shop, but significantly lower ones in the bars and street cafes. Popular local brands of beer are Baltika, Stary Mel'nik, Bochkareff, Zolotaya Bochka, Tin'koff and many others. Locally made (mainly except some Czech and possibly some other European beers — you won't miss these, the price of a "local" Czech beer from the same shelf will be quite different) international trademarks like Holsten, Carlsberg, etc. are also widely available, but their quality doesn't differ so much from local beers. Soft drinks usually start from 20-30 руб (yes, same or even more expensive than an average local beer in a same shop) and can cost up to 60 руб or more in the Moscow center for a 0.5 liters (0.11 imp gal; 0.13 U.S. gal) plastic bottle or 0.33 liters (0.073 imp gal; 0.087 U.S. gal) can.

Cheap beer (less than 50 руб per 0.5 liters (0.11 imp gal; 0.13 U.S. gal)) may not contain natural ingredients at all and can cause an allergic reaction.

High quality and popular domestic vodkas on the table: Russian Standard and Zelyonaya Marka

Street vendors usually operate mainly in tourist- and local-frequented areas, and many of them (especially those who walk around without a stall) are working without a license, usually paying some kind of a bribe to local police. Their beer, however, is usually okay, as it was just bought in a nearby shop. In the less weekend-oriented locations, large booths ("lar'ki" or "palatki", singular: "laryok" ("stall") or "palatka" (literally, "tent")) can be found everywhere, especially near metro stations and bus stops. They sell soft drinks, beer, and "cocktails" (basically a cheap soft drink mixed with alcohol, a bad hangover is guaranteed from the cheaper ones. Many of these alcohol cocktails contain taurine and large doses of caffeine and are popular with the nightlife fans) and their prices, while still not high, are often 20-40% more than those in supermarkets. The chain supermarkets (excluding some "elite" ones) and malls (mostly on bigger cities' outskirts) are usually the cheapest option for buying drinks (for food, the local markets in the smaller cities, but not in Moscow, are often cheaper). Staff of all of these (maybe except in some supermarkets, if you're lucky) do not speak or, at the best, speak very basic English even in Moscow. And furthermore, staff of many markets in Moscow and other large cities speak very basic Russian (its mainly migrants from Middle Asia).

Mixed alcoholic beverages as well as beers at nightclubs and bars are extremely expensive and are served without ice, with the mix (for example, coke) and alcohol charged for separately. Bringing your own is neither encouraged nor allowed, and some (usually dance-all-night venues oriented to the young crowd) places in Moscow even can take some measures to prevent customers from drinking outside (like a face-control who may refuse an entry on return, or the need to pay entry fee again after going out), or even from drinking the tap water instead of overpriced soft drinks by leaving only hot water available in the lavatories. Any illegal drugs are best avoided by the people not accustomed to the country — the enforcement is, in practice, focused on collecting more bribes from those buying and taking, rather than on busting drug-dealers, the people selling recreational illegal drugs in the clubs are too often linked with (or watched by) police; plain-clothes policemen know and frequently visit the venues where drugs are popular, and you will likely end up in a lot of problems with notoriously corrupt Russian police and probably paying multi-thousand-dollar (if not worse) bribe to get out, if you'll get caught. It really doesn't worth the risk here.

Wines (вино) from Georgia, Crimea and Moldova are quite popular. In Moscow and Saint Petersburg, most restaurants have a selection of European wines—generally at a high price. Russians prefer sweet wine rather than dry. French Chablis is widely available at restaurants and is of good quality. The Chablis runs about 240 руб per glass. All white wines are served room temperature unless you are at an international hotel that caters to Westerners.

Soviet champagne (Советское Шампанское, Sovetskoye Shampanskoye) or sparkling wine (Игристые вина, Igristie vina) is also served everywhere in the former Soviet Union at a reasonable price. The quality can be quite good but syrupy-sweet to Western tastes, as by far the most common variety is polusladkoye (semi-sweet), similar to Asti Spumanti, but the better brands also come in polusukhoe (semi-dry) and sukhoe (dry) varieties. Brut also exists but is rare. The original producer was Abrau-Dyurso, but Ukrainian brands like Odessa and Krymskoe, are also very popular. Among quality Russian brands, the best brands originate from the southern regions where grapes are widely grown. One of a quality Russian brands is the historic Abrau-Dyurso (200-700 руб for a bottle in the supermarket depending on variety); Tsimlyanskoe (150-250 руб) is also popular. The quality of the cheapest ones (from 85-120 руб, depending on where you buy) varies, with some local Moscow and St. Petersburg brands (produced out of Crimean and southern Russian grapes) being quite good. You can buy if you do want to have a try while not paying much, but it's wiser to stick to something better.

How it should be: a Soviet-made bochka dispensing cold kvass in Nizhny Novgorod

Good genuine kvass (квас) is non-trivial to buy. Non-refrigirated PET bottles typically contain an imitation of varying quality. A reasonably close to genuine product can be found in some supermarkets in refrigerators. The key difference is that it is specifically marked to store in a refrigerator or the bottle may explode.

In warm periods, genuine kvass can be bought from huge metal barrels on trailers (bochkas). Originally a symbol of soviet summertime, bochkas became rare after 1991. Soviet nostalgia and these trailers' no-nonsense good functionality have given them a revival. There are also modern, plastic, stationary, upright barrel-like dispensers but these may not sell the genuine article. Towards the end of an especially hot day, avoid genuine kvass from bochkas as it may have soured.

Medovukha (медовуха) aka mead, the ancient drink brewed from many a century ago by most Europeans was widespread among ancient Russians. It has semi-sweet taste based on fermented honey and contains 10-16% alcohol. You may see it sold in bottles or poured in cups in fast-food outlets and shops.

Tea (чай) is drunk widely in Russia. Most Russians drink black tea with either sugar, lemon, honey or jam.


Hotel in Vladivostok, a city in the Russian Far East

In most cities, quality hotels are really scarce: most were built in Soviet times decades ago and have been renovated in decor, but rarely in service and attitude. Even for a local, it's quite a problem to find a good hotel without a recommendation from a trusted person. For the same reason, it may be really hard to find a hotel during mass tourist-oriented events like St. Petersburg's anniversary.

Generally chained-brand hotels provide better service than independents.

Modern apartments in Yekaterinburg

Hotels in Russia may be quite expensive in metropolises and touristy areas. If you do speak a bit of Russian and are not entirely culture shocked, it is much smarter to seek out and rent a room in a private residence. Most Russians are looking to make extra money and, having space to spare, will rent it out to a tourist gladly. Native Moscovites or residents of Saint Petersburg would rather rent out to tourists than their own countrymen: foreigners are considered more trustworthy and orderly. Expect to pay US$60-70 a night (usually with breakfast prepared by your host), and the accommodations will certainly be very clean and proper if not modern. When it comes to home/family life, Russian culture is very warm and inviting.

Another useful option is short-term apartment rental offered by small companies or individuals. This means that certain flats in regular living buildings are permanently rented out on a daily basis. The flats may differ in their location and quality (from old-fashioned to renovated), but in any case you get a one- or two-room apartment with own kitchen, toilet, and bath. Additionally, the hosts provide bed linen as well as cups, plates, and other kitchen equipment. The apartment rental provides great autonomy and flexibility (e.g., there is no strict check-out time). On the other hand, you do not get certain hotel facilities, such as breakfast, laundry service, etc. The price for the daily apartment rental normally does not exceed the price for the hotel of similar quality, so it is a very useful options, especially in large cities. The negotiations are usually quite official: the host collects the data from your ID, while you get a bill and a rental agreement.

A new phenomenon has been the development of "mini-hotels" in large Russian cities. Such hotels usually (but not necessarily!) provide clean modern rooms with private baths at far lower costs than conventional large hotels, approximately US$60 vs. well over US$150. These small hotels are located within existing apartment buildings and include one, two, or more floors located a story or two above street level. They also often serve breakfast. Saint Petersburg has quite a few with more opening all of the time and some are appearing in Moscow.

Couchsurfing is very popular in Russian cities.


The Moscow State University mammoth, one of the "seven sisters". Who said Stalinist architecture wasn't cool?

Education is taken very seriously in Russia, and the country has one of the best mass-education systems in the world. According to data from the OECD, Russia has the highest tertiary education attainment rate in the world.

Moscow State University is Russia's most prestigious university, while the Moscow Conservatory is one of the world's foremost institutions for aspiring classical music performers.

One of the great attractions of education in Russia is the cost, especially when compared to the quality. Degree study tuition can range from US$2,000 to $8,000 per year, with other costs (room & board, books, etc.) ranging from US$1,500 to $5,000 per year, depending on location and spending habits.

The academic year lasts from September 1st to mid June everywhere, with long summer vacations from July 1st to August 31st. The year is divided at "autumn semester"(from 1st September to 25th January) and "spring semester" (from February to June)

Several universities and private schools offer Russian language courses with either individual or group tuition.


It is generally difficult to obtain a work permit, as Russia has a relatively strict immigration policy. However, to get work and residence permits is reasonably easy for citizens of the CIS countries. There are many migrants also from poor areas of China, from North Korea, Vietnam and Laos in Siberia, and migrants from across Russia.

The work ethic in Russia is similar to that in the Western world, with some post-Soviet particularities. The working day normally starts at 08:00 or 09:00 and ends at 17:00 or 18:00 with the lunch break from 12:00 to 13:00 or 12:45. In Moscow and other bigger cities the working time tends to be shifted to an hour later (from 09:00-10:00 to 18:00-20:00). In some offices, being late often results in fines and reprimands. Staying late at work isn't always considered OK, and this part of your work is not normally paid. There is a chance that a foreign worker will be offered with temporary accommodation (e.g. a dorm room), but this is not a common story.

Russian work culture is hierarchical and formal – you are expected to address your superiors formally and properly (e.g. Ivan Mikhailovich, Dmitri Vladimirovich, Anna Nikolayevna, and so on) and be unquestioningly loyal to them. In other words, if your Russian boss asks you to do something, do it. Being a foreigner in a Russian company will, without a doubt, make you stand out.

Money is perhaps the most important motivational factor in the business world; Russians normally expect to be appropriately and fairly compensated for their skills and experience. Therefore, it is advised that you make your Russian subordinates feel valued.

Stay safe[edit]


Alas, there is a whole Lada police corruption in Russia.

For the most part, Russia is a safe country to visit.

The crime rate has fallen dramatically since hitting an all-time high in the 1990s. Assault, robbery, or pickpocketing are the most common crimes. They often happen in underground walkways, the subway, overnight trains, train stations, airports, markets, tourist attractions, and restaurants.

The infamous Russian mafia (ма́фия), also known as the Bratva (братва́), are still active, but they rarely engage in street crime, and it takes quite some effort to get involved with them as a tourist. Don't go looking for them and they won't bother you.

Foreigners who have been drinking alcohol are especially vulnerable to assault and robbery in or around nightclubs or bars, or on their way home. Spiking is a threat to travelers at bars, so you should keep an eye on your drink all the time and don't leave your drink behind when going to the toilet.

The use of unmarked taxis is also a problem, as passengers have been victims of robbery, kidnapping, extortion, and theft. Although there are few registered taxi services in Russia, you should always use authorized services when arriving at a major airport, and it is best to ask which is registered before moving along. Bogus trolley inspectors, whose aim is to extort a bribe from individuals while checking for trolley tickets, are also a threat, if an increasingly rare one in the 2020s.

Russia's law enforcement are generally well-trained and professional in their jobs. Although they were very inadequate after the Soviet Union's breakup, the government has fought police corruption fiercely with success. Policemen should not dare to take bribes any more, as they themselves would end up being fined huge amounts. While there is an ongoing effort to shape up the police force initiated by the government, some policemen still remain underpaid, and therefore corrupt.

If you intend to take a stroll during the night, have someone to accompany you — going alone can only make you a target for corrupt policemen and criminals.

Political unrest[edit]

Caution Note: The Russian authorities have declared several foreign organisations (e.g. Radio Free Liberty, Jamestown Foundation, Bard College) as "undesirable organisations". You can face fines, imprisonment, or both for simply sharing, reposting, commenting on, or liking articles published by them.

It is illegal to discredit or disseminate "unreliable information" about the Russian military, the war in Ukraine, or Russian state bodies. What constitutes as "unreliable information" is broadly defined. It is also illegal to express support for sanctions against Russia.

In other words, keep your political opinions to yourself and do not get involved in anything political.

(Information last updated 25 Mar 2024)

North Caucasus[edit]

As a tourist, you used to be strongly discouraged to travel to the North Caucasus, as the region suffered from terrorism, crime and extremes of both corruption and lawlessness.

After 2013, the situation has greatly improved and travel in the region is mostly safe, but check the safety of your planned itinerary and activities, and keep yourself updated. Some governments still recommend against travel at least to parts of the region, as the situation is unpredictable.

LGBT travellers[edit]

Russia is not a safe destination for LGBT travellers.

Advocacy for LGBT rights is a crime, and anti-LGBT sentiments are widespread. Russians generally believe that LGBT sentiments challenge and threaten traditional family values and beliefs. If you are the victim of anti-LGBT violence, the police may not help you.

In other words, if you are LGBT, you are strongly advised not to travel to Russia. If you do, be very discreet about your sexuality.

Driving conditions[edit]

City traffic in Moscow.
Russians joke that the traffic jams on Friday evenings are a good opportunity to make new acquaintances

Driving in Russia is chaotic and reckless (hence the viral dashcam videos), and statistics have consistently shown that Russia has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world. Aggressive and impatient driving habits, poorly developed and maintained infrastructure, inadequate training (some Russians have forged licenses), weakly enforced traffic rules and regulations, and the commonness of old cars all contribute to the country's high road fatality rate. Be especially careful when crossing roads, because Russian drivers usually ignore pedestrian crossings.

Russia has a very harsh stance against driving under the influence. The penalty for driving under the influence is two years of imprisonment.

If the GIBDD (Russian Traffic Police) pulls you over for whatever reason, comply. Do not run away from them. If they try to solicit bribes, report the incident to the nearest police station.


Russia is a multicultural nation, due to historical conquests and immigration from parts of the former USSR and other parts of the world. Racially-motivated violent crimes, once a major issue, have dropped steadily since 2009, and the average traveller is unlikely to face any major problems. Most ethnic Russians are of the view that racism has never existed in Russia, and is exclusively a phenomenon of the West.

People from Central Asia, and the North and South Caucasus, as well as the indigenous ethnic groups of Asian Russia, are often viewed with distrust and contempt, and are often discriminated against by landlords. Similarly, individuals who aren't Russian or not from a Slavic-language speaking country can also be barred from renting homes in certain areas. After a terrorist attack perpetrated by Islamist terrorists in March, there are reports that Tajiks face increased discrimination and hostility.

Interracial couples, particularly those in a relationship with a Russian local, may often attract unwanted stares or curiosity.

Identification papers[edit]

Beautiful frescoes in a Vologda church

Not carrying identification papers can lead to 3-hour detention "for identification purposes" (the law says "up to 48 hours" ). Formally, arbitrary document checks are not permitted, and the police officer that checks papers must introduce himself and explain the reason for checking. However, checks do happen, especially to people who might be suspected of being illegal immigrants. Document checks are more likely in places with little tourism – some police officers have very narrow notions of what should be appropriate for tourists.

Having no documents is no crime, and you cannot be arrested on that ground. Although rare, you can be taken to a police station, where you will end up sitting on a chair in a normal room while police "identify" you. You should not be deprived of your belongings (such as mobile phone).

You may choose to carry your passport, migration card and registration slip on you. If you do, keep a separate photocopy just in case. You may also choose to bring a photocopy of the passport (id and visa) and of the immigration card.

Being stopped for ID is not necessarily a pretext for a bribe. Normally a police officer will salute and ask for your passport (listen out for words like 'paspart', 'veeza' or 'dokumenty'). Hand these to them, they will look at them, hand them back and salute you. While generally an unnerving experience for first time tourists, there is nothing sinister in this.

A corrupt policeman may claim that there are problems with your documentation (passport, immigration card or residence registration), and demand a fine (bribe). You have three options: you may in a nice, friendly and firm manner explain that actually everything is fine, there is no problem with your documents and you are willing to go to the police station to clear things up; you can pay (300 руб should be enough in metropolitan areas); threaten. The first option is difficult without some Russian proficiency (and solid nerves), but will generally work. The second option buys you peace but encourages further corruption. The third option is more confrontational and requires some nerve: get out a mobile phone and threaten to call your embassy. This can work and the police may well back off.


Keep your money folded with small notes on the outside, concealing the larger ones. Bring out your cash only when actually handing it over. Keep larger amounts separate and hidden from smaller day-to-day money.

Dangerous animals[edit]

You may meet packs of aggressive dogs that are strays or on guard duty but not chained or otherwise restrained, especially off the beaten tourist path. Staying calm and holding your bags in front of you may prove sufficient. See the linked article for more advice.

There are bears and other potentially dangerous animals in the wilderness. If you intend to visit national parks or the like, check applicable safety measures.

If you get bitten, there is a risk for rabies; treat the wound and urgently seek professional care.

Stay healthy[edit]

'Sobriety is a Standard of Our Life!'.
A Soviet-time mosaic on the wall of a hospital in Kaliningrad

Medical facilities in general vary. A majority of hospitals are extremely well equipped, clean, and possess all of the latest technologies, while there are some that are well below western standards, with shortages in medication and neglected equipment.

Ensure that all of your vaccinations are up to date, and you have sufficient amounts of any prescription medicine you may be taking. Pharmacies are common in major cities and carry quality western medications.

Quality of tap water varies around the country, and may even be variable within cities. In old buildings tap water can be non-potable. In the big cities of European Russia, the water is clean of biological contaminants, but often suffers from the presence of heavy metals, due to outdated city plumbing. If you can't buy bottled water, boil water before drinking, or better yet use a special filter for tap water, which you could buy in any supermarket. Bottled water costs only about 25-50 руб for 2 liters (0.44 imp gal; 0.53 U.S. gal).

Besides local doctors (generally good quality but often working in poor facilities) there are several Western-run medical centres in major Russian cities. These all have different policies for payment (some take credit cards, some require payment in cash up front, even if you have insurance) so make sure you know what you are paying for (and when and how) before you agree to any services.

Be careful not to buy fake vodka, which can be dangerous (seriously here, 'dangerous' doesn't mean 'strong'; it can contain methanol). Only buy vodka in large stores or specialized ones, with the sticker over the cap and/or the region's barcode on the side.

Significant number of food stores, including some food/goods chains, standalone food shops, kiosks and food markets are famous for selling food of bad quality, including out-of-date or even out-of-date with expire date reprinted with a later date. Although most of them are quite good, when possible, check the quality of the food with visual observation, don't especially trust expire date labels, that are added in a replaceable way. Also you can take note of what others are buying, sometimes you can even ask other buyers which product is better, it's considered normal. That could help you make a good choice. Examples of usually bad quality food sold are most of fish products, including smoked and spicy salted (be especially care), pre-made salads, fresh vegetables and fruits, when you can't handpick them (at markets check them after shop-women picked them for you, you can usually change those you don't like, at shops they usually don't allow to change, and use to add some bad ones into bag), vegetables conservatives sold with discount (and with older production date usually), cheaper dairy products, though less consistent, checking what others buy may help you here. Producers of juices can not mark their production as juice (rus: сок) if it isn't 100% juice. Today, all low quality juices marked as nectar (rus: нектар) are up to 50-70% of water and "fruit drinks" (rus: фруктовый напиток) can contain anything!

Russia's HIV prevalence is steadily rising, mainly for prostitutes, young adults and drug users. Be safe.

Like in Northern and Central Europe and much of North America, there may be ticks in the nature - including the taiga tick (Ixodes persulcatus) and castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus). These creatures can spread Lyme disease, relapsing fever (Borrelia miyamotoi), babesiosis, and Siberian (TBEV-Sib) and Far Eastern (TBEV-FE) tick-borne encephalitis.


Russians are generally reserved and well-mannered, and tend to be more traditional than other Europeans. This is partly due to the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is a major force in Russian society.

How many names!

Russians take three names, a first given name (имя), a patronymic (отчество), and a family last name (фамилия). The patronymic is the name of one's father plus an ending of -ovich, -yevich, or -yich for men, -yevna, -ovna or -ichna for women. For example, if the father's name is Пётр (Pyotr), the patronymic would be Петрович (Petrovich) for a man, and Петровна (Petrovna) for a woman. To use someone's name informally, you can refer to them using the first or (less commonly) last name, while to do so formally would require either first name + patronymic, or a title + last name. For example, the biologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (Иван Петрович Павлов) can be referred to informally as Ivan (if you knew him personally). To refer to him more formally — and you generally should use the formal name in Russian — you would need to refer to him as Dr. Pavlov or Ivan Petrovich.

Family names also vary based on gender, often with an "a" added to the end of the male last name for the female version. For instance, the ballet dancer Anna Pavlova shares the same surname with the biologist, except her surname is spelt Pavlova.

But it gets even harder! Russians love diminutives, which are essentially nicknames or "shortenings," for just about everything, including names. Most names can be shortened into three or four variants—"cute" nicknames usually have an insert like -en'k, -echk, -ochk, -ushk, or -yush, like Masha → Mashen'ka (Машенька) or Katya → Katyusha (Катюша). Some of the more common ones are listed in the Russian phrasebook. Generally, you should avoid addressing people with these until you know them well.

Social etiquette[edit]

Smiling is traditionally reserved for friends and close acquaintances. Smiling at someone you don't know could get someone to think you're mocking or making fun of them. Sales assistants and public servants are normally expected to look serious and businesslike.

Although things are gradually changing, Russians, in general, are straightforward. They're quite comfortable with expressing their thoughts clearly, and they prefer to speak to the point. Don't be put off if people deliver brief, terse answers at first — this does not mean that they are uninterested in you.

It is a social expectation to show respect to the elderly and authority figures.

Try to learn a few Russian phrases and words. Even just using the Russian equivalents of 'please' (pozháluysta) and 'thank you' (spasíbo) will make a noticeable difference.

Despite stereotypes, public drunkenness is frowned upon in Russia.

Women are traditionally treated with chivalry. For women travellers, there is a good possibility that Russian male friends could pay their bills at restaurants, open every door in front of them, offer their hand to help them climb down that little step or help them carry anything heavier than a handbag. Male travellers should understand that Russian women will expect these subtleties.

Russians have a marvellously and intimately quiet way of speaking with one another in public. Try to follow suit.

Sensitive issues[edit]

Fortress Oreshek on Lake Ladoga - no longer necessary for defense against the Swedish navy. Here a peace treaty between Sweden and Novgorod was signed in 1323, establishing the border between the two countries for 272 years.

Historical events[edit]

Russia has a long history of turbulent events. You should tread carefully when discussing the following subjects:

  • Russian Empire — many Russians are proud of its achievements.
  • World War II — every Russian family has relatives among the 25–30 million who died. Russians are very proud of the achievements and sacrifices of their soldiers. As in many other European countries, the display of Nazi symbols, or denial of the crimes committed by Nazi Germany (including the Holocaust) is illegal in Russia.
  • Soviet Union — Russians are both proud of the achievements of the Soviet era and ashamed of its failings. Mikhail Gorbachev is widely disliked due to his role in the collapse of the USSR.
  • The Yeltsin years — many Russians hold Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, responsible for diminishing Russia's position as a major world power, and the 1990s are remembered with pain and anguish.
  • Conflict with the North Caucasus — the Chechen wars and the Beslan school siege are still very much open wounds in the national consciousness.

Social issues[edit]

  • Relations with Russia's ethnic minorities are a sensitive issue that is best avoided. While most ethnic Russians believe that Russia has always embraced cultural diversity and treated its ethnic minorities well, some members of ethnic minorities resent what they see as discrimination, for example in terms of disproportionate military mobilization and war casualties relative to ethnic Russians, and forced cultural assimilation policies first adopted during the time of the Tsars.
  • Russians generally do not take too kindly to foreign criticism of their country.

Political issues[edit]

Political discourse is incredibly sensitive; many people, especially those who are opposed to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, have been harassed and targeted for their views.

  • The ongoing Russia–Ukraine war is an extremely controversial subject. Many are not comfortable discussing it.
  • Vladimir Putin is a highly controversial figure. While his supporters praise him for restoring Russia's status as a great power, many of his critics call him an authoritarian leader who has eroded democratic institutions.
  • Many Russians believe that the state-sponsored doping scandal that led to bans on Russian athletes are false allegations.
  • The Abkhazia conflict, the Georgian–Ossetian conflict, Russia's relations with Georgia, Russia's relations with the Western world, and the status of ethnic Russians in the Baltics are sensitive issues in some circles.


Despite having been severely repressed under communism, the Russian Orthodox Church and (in some regions) Sunni Islam have become very influential in Russian politics since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russian Orthodox Church is the state religion and adhered to by the majority of Russians, though freedom of religion is generally respected, and some Muslim areas such as Chechnya have been granted the right to implement Sharia law. Most Russians are believers and are respectful toward religion but do not very actively practise it.

Russia has a blasphemy law that harshly punishes disrespectful behavior towards religion. In 2017, the law was used to prosecute a 22-year old for playing Pokemon Go in a Russian Orthodox Church. Irreligion is not persecuted, but be careful not to say or do anything that religious people might find offensive.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia banned Jehovah's Witnesses from the country and classified them as extremists.

When visiting churches, it is recommended that you dress modestly. What this means: no flip-flops, sleeveless tops, shorts, short skirts, trainers, bright makeup, or bright clothing. Men are required to take their hats off, and women are required to cover their hair with a shawl or veil before entering a church. Additionally, it's disrespectful to take pictures, record videos, or talk loudly in churches.

When visiting mosques, be sure not to openly wear any symbol of another religion. Otherwise, behave with the same restraint as outlined above.

Be very careful visiting the folk religions' shrines within areas where ethnic minorities live. You never know which kind of behavior would be considered there as irreverent. Even a small, seemingly unassuming grove may be seen by locals as a house of spirits. Most often, this can be encountered in Siberia and the Far East, but similar beliefs may also be shared by some of European Russia's ethnicities who syncretize Orthodox Christianity with traditional beliefs (Mari, Erzya, Moksha, Ossetians, etc.)

Home etiquette[edit]

  • If you've been invited to a Russian person's home, do not show up empty-handed. It's customary to bring your Russian hosts a gift as a form of respect.
  • If you plan to give your Russian host(s) flowers, only give them odd-numbered flowers; even-numbered flowers are usually brought to funerals. Avoid gifting your Russian host(s), especially a woman in a relationship, yellow flowers, as the colour is associated with infidelity in Russia.
  • Do not give a baby gift until after the baby is born to a particular family. It is bad luck to do so sooner. Verbal congratulations before a person's birthday is often thought as a bad sign.
Church on the Blood, Yekaterinburg, on the spot where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks, ending the Romanov Dynasty
  • Take off your shoes before entering someone's house.
  • If you've been invited to a Russian person's home, dress modestly. This rule may not apply to young people, however.

Other etiquette[edit]

  • When traveling by train, you would better share your food with others near by, since then you will be viewed as polite. You shouldn't avoid speaking to people on trains: it is common to speak about everything with your train neighbours.
  • Russians believe in a variety of superstitions. Here are a few superstitions to be mindful of:
    • Do not whistle inside someone's house; Russians believe that whistling inside someone's house will make the owner of the house poor.
    • Do not shake hands with someone, kiss someone, greet someone, or give someone something over a threshold; Russians believe that these actions bring bad luck.
    • Do not sit at the corner of a table; Russians consider this impolite.


Most Russian news outlets that don't report the government's views uncritically have been closed down, and many foreign newspapers and broadcasting companies have withdrawn their journalists because of the 2022 laws on "fake news" – ordinary journalism could land them in jail. Getting information on developments in e.g. Russia or Ukraine may thus depend on personal contacts and resources.


Caution Note: Major foreign social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are banned in Russia, and the list is only expected to get longer. See Internet access#Circumventing censorship.
(Information last updated 12 Mar 2022)

As of 2014, the Russian government is moving to restrict access to public Wi-Fi on the grounds that the Internet is "a CIA project" and laws requiring identity documents from anyone attempting to access the network are needed to fight extremism and terrorism. Often you still simply need a Russian phone number and you can register at free Wi-Fi, especially in train stations or banks. Even Wi-Fi at hotels often require a Russia phone number, if you don't have one hotel staff sometimes accept to do it for you and tell you the SMS code.

Some messaging applications are blocked, but this is easily circumvented by using most free VPN apps, and way less enforced than in China. However, there are fears that Russia will cut off its internet from the global network entirely. If that happens, you have to arrange your own gateways.


The country code for Russia is 7.

Russian phone numbers have an area code with three, four or five digits (according to their province), followed by an individual number with, respectively, seven, six, or five digits, always yielding ten digits in total. The three-digit code 800 is used for toll-free calls. Mobile phones always have three-digit "area" codes and seven-digit numbers.

Calls within any one area code may omit the area code (except in Moscow).

Inter-area code calls within Russia: 8 (wait for the tone) full Russian number including area code.

The international access code for dialling out from Russia is the sequence of 8 (wait for secondary tone and then) 10

International calls to Russia, as always, replace the plus sign (+) in the international phone format with the local international access code for the country you're calling from, followed by Russia's country code of 7 followed by the individual Russian phone number including area code.

Prepaid SIM cards[edit]

There are five main mobile operators in Russia: Beeline[dead link], Megafon[dead link], MTS[dead link], Tele2, and Yota[dead link].

All carriers offer cheap SIM cards with data plans that are always a better alternative to paying roaming charges. Megafon is considered to have the best coverage but Beeline is considered to be the cheapest. MTS does not charge differently between areas, as other mostly do. Data is very cheap in Russia and you can buy unlimited packages for all Russia.

If you buy a SIM card in a shop, you'll need your passport for identification and it will take around 5 minutes to complete the required paperwork. If you don't speak Russian, you will need to find someone who speaks English. Alternatively, you can buy a SIM card from automated kiosks in metro stations. Calls to landlines from mobile phones are more expensive than calls to other mobile phones, especially those that use the same network. Incoming calls are free. You can add value to your card at the stores of the company you are using or at automated kiosks or online. You can buy a prepaid card for international calls, but online services such as Skype are often cheaper.

If you want to connect your laptop or computer to a data network, you can also buy cheap SIM cards for a USB-modem.

Useful smartphone apps[edit]


  • Yandex.Maps (Яндекс.Карты): Yandex is the Google of Russia and this is their map application. It provides a search function (also by category), routing, traffic and parking information. In cities, it shows the real time position and routes of buses, marshrutki etc. The interface is available in Russian, English, Ukrainian, and Turkish. Non-native English speakers must add English to their phone languages, otherwise the interface will be in Russian.
  • OsmAnd is known for its offline maps.


  • RZD Passengers (РЖД Пассажирам): The official app of the Russian Railways allows you to buy long distance tickets. Suburban tickets must be bought at the station because for those, foreign passports are not accepted as identification document in the app (Oct 2019). If you don’t find a train connection where there should be one, try writing the departure and the destination in Cyrillic letters.
  • Taxi apps: There are several taxi apps, with Yandex.Go, City-Mobil, Uber and Gett being the most popular.
  • BlaBlaCar: The app connects drivers and passengers willing to travel together between cities and share the cost of the journey.

Travel guides

  • Offline Readers like Kiwix enable you to download Wikivoyage and use it offline.
  • izi.TRAVEL: Several Russian museums and organizations provide free audio guides via this platform.

This country travel guide to Russia is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!