Russia

Like centuries ago, Russia remains a mystery. The country of golden domes and unbelievable wealth, rich and volatile history and countless natural resources, great achievements and strong-willed character,  it stands at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, leaving many unsure as to where to relate it to. This land of contrasts incorporated and mixed so many different features from these two worlds that even Russians do not always know where some features of their identity come from – East or West.

The world’s largest country – Russia – has a lot to offer to its visitors. Its largest cultural and economic centres and secluded small villages stretching for a distance of 9 (!) time zones can offer various cultural experiences ranging from contemplating Russian beautiful sceneries and art to Husky sled-dog riding and hiking in the picturesque Lake Baikal region.

Language

Russia is one of the most multinational countries in the world with over 100 nationalities living in its territory. The official language is Russian that is also a mother tongue for 90% of the population. It is the language that government, business and education speak. Among other most used languages here are Ukrainian, Belorussian, Armenian and Tatar.

Speaking of foreign languages spoken by Russians, English holds the top position. Although it is the main foreign language taught at school from the 2nd grade (at least in Russia’s central regions), it may still be challenging to find fluent English-speakers outside its largest cities – Moscow and St. Petersburg. And even in the capital fluent English speakers are more likely to be younger generation.

Time zones

For a country as large as Russia it is hard to say what time it is there. It spans 9 time zones. Moscow, St. Petersburg and most European Russia are the same time zone – UTC/GMT+04. Irkutsk (Lake Baikal region) is UTC+09 and Vladivostok (Russia’s Far East) is UTC+11.

Effective from 2011 there is no change to daylight saving time in Russia which makes Moscow Time UTC+4 permanently.

Weather

The weather in the country differs much across its regions. As a rule, July is the warmest month of the year and January is the coldest. The July temperature in the capital – Moscow – can rise on average to as high as 30°C (86°F) and drop to as low as -20°C (-4°F) in December or January.

The period from May to September is considered a high tourist season in central Russia. During this warm and pleasant time of the year urban parks, gardens and boulevards are magnificently decorated with blooming trees and flowers, and pedestrian streets become full of cozy summer cafes.

Winters that last from December to February are usually very snowy which adds a special flavor to its cities. Travelling during this period is recommended for those who wish to get a “real Russia” experience.

Key country information
Cold, Russian, Rubles
Travel tips

It's not legal to use US dollars or Euro for transactions in Russia. However, you'll still see a lot of prices marked in Y.E. (which means "units" and usually equals the current US dollar or Euro rate). That is the relic of the 90s, when hyperinflation made it impossible to put the prices in rubles. However, you will still have to pay with rubles in most cases. Generally, foreign currencies are usually used for "under-the-table" transactions, which are not going to be declared.

Visas

Visa-free travel is only possible for the citizens of CIS republics, Turkey, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Serbia (who still need an invitation). In order to get a Russian visa, the first thing you need is an invitation (aka visa support letter). After that, you can apply for the visa at a Russian consulate either by yourself or through a local travel agent (for an extra fee). Be careful, however, because many agents and hotels "lock" people into a fixed itinerary or limit their visa validity to the period they're staying at a particular hotel.

Tours

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