Arriving in Russia
For your arrival in Russia it is best to arrange a pickup rather than brave the usual hungry crowd of unregulated taxi drivers. A prearranged pickup is always the cheapest and simplest approach. Forget about renting a car. Although car rentals are available, often quite cheaply, Russians have their own unique form of reckless driving, this combined with frequent police checks and an immense language gap makes driving a harrowing experience for the new arrival. Once you get your bearings you will find that Russia in general has an efficient and relatively inexpensive public transport system. As a pedestrian you should always try to maintain an added alertness. Never assume because you think you have right of way a vehicle will actually stop for you. Sometimes traffic lights seem merely a suggestion rather than an imperative.
Russia has a fairly loose taxi system. In fact any car is potentially a taxi. Stand by the side of the road with your arm out but down (not up American style) and pretty soon cars will start stopping and asking where you want to go (in Russian of course). Most destinations can be negotiated safely for from 5 to 7 dollars. This is not a good idea for visitors to try by themselves
The amount of English spoken is much less than most other tourist destinations. The alphabet being Cyrillic rather than Latin adds to the confusion. The similarity between the two alphabets, perhaps not apparent at first glance, is really enough that a few hours familiarization will pay great dividends. Consider a Russian language crash course.
Money management is relatively easy in Russia. There are many cash machines, in Moscow they usually offer a choice of rubles or dollars while in Petersburg the Euro is the more common alternate currency.
Being a Guest
If you are invited to dinner with a Russian family you will usually be offered house slippers or "tapochki" at the entrance. Russian do not like to wear street shoes in the house. It is usually polite to bring vodka or some dessert. Fortunately there is a plentiful supply of both readily available. When shaking hands DO NOT reach out across a threshold. Russian consider this to be bad luck.
Russians do like to drink and seem to have a supernatural ability to absorb alcohol, each round being preceded by a meaningful, often humorous toast. Usually drinking is accompanied by snacks known as "zakuski", which are taken after every drink in the belief that it will help protect the stomach from the alcohol. Unless you have a supernatural ability to absorb alcohol DO NOT try to keep up with your hosts.
For chocolate lovers Moscow produces some of the best chocolate in the world. The brand to look out for is Red October or "Krasni Oktyabr". The factory is located in the center of Moscow next to the giant statue of Peter in the Moscow River.
Crime in Russia
Although many people still seem to have the idea of Russia being a dangerous place for visitors overrun by mafia thugs, this is not really the case. Contrary to the popular stereotype Russians are for the most part very warm and friendly with a great sense of humor. Violent street crime is relatively low in Russia. The communist system created a generally uniform urban structure and high danger zones such as can be found in New York or many other large western cities are fairly nonexistent. What you need to be alert for are small groups of confidence tricksters who often work in collaboration with local petty corrupt police officers. Be highly skeptical of any chance situation that may seem to offer an unexpected reward. Always carry your passport and visa with you.
Moscow Airport Transfers.
Russian Language Lessons.
General Guide and Transport Service.
To Find Out More
RUSSIA TRAVEL PACKAGES
A selection of Russian tours to take as they are or adjust to your needs.
THE GOLDEN RING
Visit the heart of ancient Russia. What is the Golden Ring?
What you can see in Moscow.
MOSCOW DAY TRIPS
Get out of Moscow and take a relaxing trip to some of these places
Some of the sights to see in Petersburg
LAKE BAIKAL TOURS
Hiking and trekking around the world's deepest lake in the heart of Siberia
Come and work in the field on a Russian Archaeological dig. Full training given on site.
TRAVEL TIPS & SERVICES
Getting around in Russia