9 Incredible things to know about Russia
For those of you who are intrigued by the prospect of exploring Russia, the time has come! Enter the land of circuses, ballet, vodka, snow-covered landscapes, and more. Not reason enough? A visit in June guarantees a football spectacle plus a tour around this vast and charming country.
Yes, this year Russia is playing host to the grandest football tournament. Scheduled to take place this June and July, it will play host to 32 national teams and is sure to entertain scores of footie enthusiasts and travellers who are going to be thronging the country. Russia is a land of geographical and cultural diversity, which makes it essential to keep a few things in mind before you set off on your adventure.
- Get that Russian visa now!
Before anything else, you will need a visa to enter Russia. It’s a straightforward procedure but could take up to 20 days to be processed. So, apply well in advance , and ensure you submit all the necessary documents (passport photographs, signed visa application form, hotel accommodation documents etc.) to get your visa on time. These are essential documents when applying for a tourist visa. As a foreign national entering Russia, you also have to register at the foreign office. Your place of accommodation normally holds on to your passport for a night for verification, so there’s no need to worry on that count.
- Plan well
To ensure a pleasant trip, it is best to have a pre-planned itinerary in place. Russia offers so much to do and see, especially in Moscow and St Petersburg. With set timings to access museums and not many days in hand, planning each day will help utilise your time effectively. For those who thrive on spontaneity, it is recommended to arrive with a general understanding of each city you plan to visit. This way you can make the most of your time and visit every spot your heart desires. During peak tourist season, having a plan in place helps avoids crowds. To escape the hustle and bustle, you can also take short day trips from the city, which will certainly require some planning. Some popular day-trip destinations you can consider include Pushkin, Shlisselburg, Vyborg, Pavlovsk (from St Petersburg) and Sergiyev Posad, Vladimir, Yaroslavl and Suzdal (from Moscow).
- Dress appropriately
One of the best ways to experience a country is by trying to fit in, and this applies to the way you dress as well. Russians usually follow a formal dress code while going to a classy restaurant or to the theatre . Despite being known for its cold winters, many parts of the country enjoy hot, humid summers. So, check the weather and carry clothing that’s appropriate for the climate. That apart, a general understanding of the climate lets you plan activities accordingly.
- Learn about the cuisine
Russian cuisine is an array of surprises and offers quite a few unfamiliar dishes. Staples include breads, salads, and soups; however, you should do your research and look up some more dishes to do justice to your appetite. Different foods are served during different seasons, so check what is available when you visit. Although centrally located eateries and restaurants have English-speaking staff that can help you with the menu, if you are looking for an authentic local experience, you may need to be more resourceful as English is not fluently spoken in less touristy areas . It might be helpful to learn a little bit of Russian ahead of your vacation- things like general greetings, basic questions on directions and other small things that could make it easier to converse with the locals. And there are tons of apps and books available to help you out here.
- Avoid tap water
While it is common to drink tap water in most European countries , Russians avoid drinking their tap water. The best way to enjoy your time in Russia and ensure your trip is not hampered by falling sick, play it safe and drink bottled water instead.
- Respect local customs and rules
Although Russia has become more relaxed over time, it is still known to be a traditional society. If you are invited to a Russian home, bring a small gift for your hosts. Theatres and restaurants expect everyone to follow a certain formal dress code. Do your fair share of research about basic etiquette rather than turn up clueless. Russian Orthodox churches expect women to wear long skirts and cover their heads, while men should be dressed in long trousers and without any headgear. Ensure you find out about other dos and don’ts before setting off.
- Overcome the language barrier
Don’t let the language be a hassle when exploring the country. Either hire an English-speaking guide or carry a phrasebook while travelling through the country. Smartphone apps such as Google Translate and Word Lens can also be useful! Having even a slight grasp of the language will enhance your travel experience immensely. Do try and get familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet, which will help with decoding metro and street signs, menus, train timetables, and in communicating with the locals.
- Carry just enough cash
Never venture out without a little cash. Although Russia is making a transition from paper money to cards, the transition is gradual. Public transport usually accepts only cash, and the same goes for tips in restaurants. Exchange Rupees for Roubles before you leave, to get the best exchange rate. Another option to make transactions smoother is to use an HDFC Bank ForexPlus Card. Not only is it easier to make payments on the go, but it offers several other benefits – eliminates the need to carry cash and provides cashless way to carry foreign currency. Additionally, they are widely accepted and protect you from fluctuations in foreign exchange
To apply for the HDFC Bank ForexPlus Card, click here
- Be mindful of safety
Contrary to popular belief, Russia is perfectly safe for travellers, same as most places across the globe. However, be cautious of your surroundings and stay away from dodgy areas, and always keep copies of your travel documents on you. While most people prefer taking the efficient public transport, it is acceptable to get around by private taxi. Ensure that somebody who speaks Russian communicates your destination to the taxi driver, or carry the address written in the local language on a piece of paper. Ensure you have a good travel insurance plan in place, like HDFC Bank’s travel insurance, which can offer emergency and financial assistance in case you need it.
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Here are some additional travel safety tips to ensure your security when travelling overseas. Follow these tips, and you can be sure of having a fun-filled and wonderful experience that Russia has to offer..