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Home Travel Guide Frequently Asked Questions FAQ Travelling in Russia

FAQ Travelling in Russia

VISAS

Is the Russian visa included in the cost and how long does it take to process it?
I’m a US passport holder living abroad. What is Russia visa procedure for me?
I am not based in the US or UK, how do I apply for the visa?
 

FLIGHTS AND AIRPORT TRANSFERS

Which airlines do you use?
What are the flight times?
What airport do you use for flights to Russia?
Can we depart from other cities than London?
Can I book my own flights?
Are transfers provided if I book my own flights?
 

CHANGES TO STANDARD TOURS

Can I add few days at the beginning and at the end of the tour?
Can I shorten my tour?
Are transfers provided if my arrival and/or departure is different than group’s?
 

SAFETY

Is Russia safe?
How not to become a pickpocket victim?
 

FOOD

What is the food like in Russia?
Can I easily find vegetarian food?
Can I drink the water from the tap?
 

CLIMATE AND WEATHER

What is the weather like and what should I wear?
 

TOUR BOOKING & PAYMENT

How can I book a tour?
How much do I need to pay to secure my reservation?
I’m a single traveler, do I need to pay single supplement?
How can I make payment for my holiday?
I have already made a booking, can I profit from a recently released special offer?
Why do you still charge a fee for paying by credit card if the fees have been banned in the UK?
 

MONEY AND CUSTOMS

What money can I use in Russia?
How much money should I take with me?
What is permitted by Russian Customs?
Are there any medical restrictions to enter Russia?
 

TIPS

Do I have to leave tips?
 

OTHER PRACTICALITIES

Will I be able to communicate in English?
How can I order a taxi?
What is the standard voltage in Russia?
Is there any dress code when visiting churches?
What is the time difference between the UK and my destination?
What should I bring from Russia and where can I buy it?
Can I use public mail and telephone services in Russia?
Am I allowed to take photographs everywhere?
Can I take pictures when visiting the major landmarks in Moscow and St. Petersburg?
Homestay or hotel?
How to use the metro in Russia?
 

VISAS

Is the Russian visa included in the cost and how long does it take to process it?
Yes, on all our standard tours we include the cost of the Russian visa in the price of your holiday. There won’t be any further charges except for urgent processing. You just need to fill in the visa application form, attach a passport size photo and send it together with your passport to our visa processing office. Please view our visa processing times. Our website provides comprehensive and updated information on the Russian visa and our dedicated visa department team will assist you with any visa queries.
 
I’m a US passport holder living abroad. What is Russia visa procedure for me?
For US passport holders living abroad we recommend to apply at your local Russian consulate. Please contact the Russian consulate in your country of residence for more information.
 
I am not based in the US or UK, how do I apply for the visa?
If you are not resident in the US, UK or Germany where we have visa processing staff, we will issue official visa support and email the required documents to you (an official tourist confirmation and a voucher). You will need to apply for your visa at the local Russian consulate. The process is very straightforward and we can assist you with completing the visa forms.
 

FLIGHTS

Which airlines do you use?
If you want us to arrange your flights, we will email you various flight options offering the best available airfare. As we do not hold flight reservation you can choose the airlines you prefer for your trip. When you book a tour, you will be offered flight options based on the availability and best value. You then can choose the flight which suits you the best. Details of the airlines will be listed in the flight quote. We recommend to book as early as possible to get the best available airfare. The flight tickets are issued once we have received deposit from you.
 
What are the flight times?
The flight times do vary depending on the airline used for your holiday and your departure city. When you book a tour, you will be offered flight options for your trip detailing exact departure and arrival times.

What airport do you use for flights to Russia?
We use all available airports in Russia that serve international flights. There is no preference at all.
 
Can we depart from other cities than London?
Yes, sure. When you book a tour, just indicate your preferred departure airport and we get back to you with flight options. Please note that there are no direct flights from regional airports.
 
Can I book my own flights?
Yes, absolutely. Just let us know your flight times so we can arrange airport transfers for you.
 
Are transfers provided if I book my own flights?
Transfers are included in the package and you will be met and transferred to your hotel even if the flights were booked not by us. Very important – please provide us with your flight details so we can arrange transfers for you. We operate transfers from all ariports in Russia that serve international flights.
 

CHANGES TO STANDARD TOURS

Can I add few days at the beginning and at the end of the tour?
Yes, absolutely. We can arrange your stay at the same hotels you stay during the tour. Please visit our website for hotel rates.
 
Can I shorten my tour?
Yes, it can be arranged. Please enter your request in the comments box when booking a tour and your travel consultant will advise you regarding the price.
 
Are transfers provided if my arrival and/or departure is different than group’s?
Transfers are included in the package and you will be met and transferred to your accommodation even if you arrive few days earlier / depart later.
 

SAFETY

Is Russia safe?
Russia is a very safe country and people do welcome foreign tourists. You just need to have common sense when traveling around like in any other big city like London or New York. When traveling with us you can be reassured of the highest service quality and you will also be accompanied by a guide if you are on a group tour or a tailor-made travel arrangement that includes guide services. You will also get a 24 hours emergency number and our professional operators will be able to assist you in any unforeseen circumstances.
 
How not to become a pickpocket victim?
Unfortunately pick pocketing is an ongoing concern in many tourist places and the areas where we operate our tours are not an exclusion. Our guides always warn our customers before excursions but still please do make sure all your valuables are safely kept. Please follow the link for some useful advice on how to keep your valuables out of rich of pickpockets: https://wikitravel.org/us/Pickpockets
 

FOOD

What is the food like in Russia?
Russia itself is an enormous landscape with a variety of climates, cultures and peoples. As a result of this, the cuisine is dependent on the region. The staples of the diet are root vegetables like turnips, beets, and cabbage, along with meat and potatoes. Traditionally, Russia is known for its remarkable variety of soups. Borsch, of course, remains a perennial favorite, but you might like to try Solyanka, as well. Classic main dishes include beef Stroganoff (invented in Russia, as was chicken Kiev), pelmeny (Siberian-style dumplings) and spicy Georgian cuisine such as shashlyk. Russian rye bread is flavorsome and most often eaten without butter. Fish varieties include omul (similar to salmon and from Lake Baikal) and sturgeon, which is often poached and served with a sauce or mushrooms. The most famous Russian salad is called “Olivje” and is offered in many restaurants and bars. As for dessert, the Russians make excellent ice cream. If you are in St. Petersburg, you should not miss the opportunity to try the ices. Tea with lemon is the traditional Russian beverage.
 
Can I easily find vegetarian food?
The traditional Russian diet is based on meat, chicken and potatoes. Today, more establishments are becoming alert to the concept of vegetarianism. A variety of salads and vegetable-based dishes are always available, but expect that you will need to be flexible. Please note that whilst we offer a vegetarian option and every effort is made to accommodate your request, the choice and variety of dishes cannot always be guaranteed. Please advise at time of booking and on our Booking Form if you are a vegetarian.
 
Can I drink the water from the tap?
It is not advisable to drink the water in Russia unless it has been boiled or purified. You can buy bottled drinking and sparkling water at any supermarket or street kiosk in all cities and villages.
 

CLIMATE AND WEATHER

What is the weather like and what should I wear?
Summer in Moscow and St Petersburg is similar to that in northern Europe: hot but with frequent showers. Evenings can be cold even in July and August, so don’t forget a warm coverup and a jacket or umbrella. At midsummer in St Petersburg, there is no real darkness. Autumn is brief, and by the end of November winter sets in, bringing with it lots of snow and extremely low temperatures. Spring arrives with a vengeance, heralding the great thaw in late March and April. Pack very warm clothes if arriving in winter, as temperatures between end-November through end-February plummet to well below zero degrees Celsius.

Dress is casual but Russians do make quite an effort when they go out. It is inappropriate to wear clothing which is torn or has holes. In winter (November-March) a warm hat, gloves and a scarf are essential as well as a warm coat. It is advisable to wear removable layers as buildings are often very hot inside.
 

TOUR BOOKING & PAYMENT

How can I book a tour?
You can drop us an email with all your details (tour name, dates of travel, hotel category, number of people, your names, preferred departure airport, any optional extras) and we will reserve places for you on your chosen tour. Alternatively you can book online from the tour description page. Please make sure, you enter all your personal details in your Go Russia account. Please check that all your details are entered correctly and match your passport data.
 
How much do I need to pay to secure my reservation?
Please note, if your departure date is more than 56 days you will need to pay the deposit, which should cover the full cost of the flight (if applicable), plus 10% of the land-only arrangements (minimum $250) per person towards your tour. The outstanding payment must be made 56 days prior to departure. If you book less than 56 days before departure, full payment must be made at the time of your booking.
 
I’m a single traveler, do I need to pay single supplement?
Yes, single supplement is applicable if you are traveling alone and covers your single room accommodation. Our tour prices are based on two people sharing a twin / double room and a price per person is less when sharing a room. If we have a single traveler booked on a tour willing to share accommodation, we would always offer other single travelers to share. However it is not guaranteed and not all customers would like to share their accommodation. Please note, single supplement applies to accommodation in hotels only. If you are traveling on a train and would like not share train compartment with strangers, additional charges will apply.
 
How can I make payment for my holiday?
You can make your payment by bank transfer or credit card. Please note, a 2% surcharge applies for credit card payments, no surcharges for UK debit card transactions only. No debit cards are accepted when using US or international cards. You will find all relevant payment details in your invoice.

I have already made a booking, can I profit from a recently released special offer? 
Please note all special offers are subject to their terms and conditions, which are always specified in the offer description. Normally special offers cannot be applied retrospectively and are relevant for new bookings only. Our special offers are dependent on the discounts given to us by our suppliers: air companies, hoteliers, museums, etc. who would like to promote their services based on their own marketing strategy, occupancy, etc. Unfortunately, those suppliers cannot honour any discounts for existing bookings and as a result we have to pass the same conditions to our customers. However we do not want to discriminate our existing customers who did not profit from any special offers, and we will offer them (where possible) complimentary hotel upgrades and discounted prices for optional services. You can also benefit from our “Recommend a friend” scheme where before or after your journey you can get $50 for every customer your refer to us. The more you refer, the cheaper your holiday will be. Please also note, your recommendation will also benefit from a $50 discount from the advertised tour price.

We always recommend to book our tours as early as possible as you are likely to get an early booking discount and more importantly enjoy a much better airfare and more flight options for your chosen destination. Many tours (especially popular cruises) do fill up quickly and you may not get a desired cabin, hotel category if you postpone your booking to the last minute.

Why do you still charge a fee for paying by credit card if the fees have been banned in the UK?
Under the new rules that came into force in April 2013, traders must ensure that payment surcharges reflect the actual cost of processing the payment. We levy a 2% surcharge on credit card transactions only which is even less than the actual cost of processing the transaction charged by our acquiring bank. We do not charge excessive credit card fees and only cover the actual cost of processing the transaction which is a lawful practice under the new rules. All debit card transactions are not subject to any surcharges. Customers are free to choose the method of payment which is more suitable to them.
 

MONEY AND CUSTOMS

What money can I use in Russia?
You will need Russian Roubles (RUR), and you can even get them in your home country. Please enquire at your local post office or currency exchange agents. However, it is simple and convenient to change either US dollars or Euros once you arrive in Russia. Traveler’s checks can be changed, but often with difficulty. All major credit cards are generally accepted in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but not in the provinces.

Currently there are no restrictions for amounts of money that can be brought into Russia. Any sum of money over $10,000 brought into the country (including traveler’s checks) must be declared at customs.

Individual residents are allowed to export foreign currencies in a lump cash sum up to $10,000. All exported cash assets above $3,000 must be declared.
 
How much money should I take with me?
Please note, Moscow and St. Petersburg are among the most expensive cities in the world so please do not be surprised with high prices. A dual-pricing system does exist for most local tourist attractions and museums - Russian residents pay a small percentage of what foreigners do. Typical expenses such as restaurant food, drinks, and entrance fees to clubs are comparable or slightly lower than London or New York. It is also easy to find inexpensive places to eat, drink and shop, and is worthwhile to consult a guidebook. Domestic spirits, beer, snacks, bottled water and cigarettes are inexpensive.

Likewise, transport, postal rates and authentic souvenirs are reasonable. Prices are much lower in provincial Russia and you’ll spend almost nothing there, as most food and activities dictated by our itinerary are included. For Moscow, we suggest a comfortable budget of around $20-$30 a day to cover food, drinks, and expenses such as souvenirs.
 
What is permitted by Russian Customs?
You are permitted to bring in regular amounts of anything for personal use, obviously with the exception of illicit drugs, weapons and items of an obscene or subversive nature. Travellers to Russia must complete a customs declaration form upon arrival, noting items of high value, i.e., unusually expensive photographic or audio-visual/computer equipment. Customs inspection is often cursory for foreign visitors, but spot checks are frequently made. Duty Free upon departure offers shoppers a reasonable range of spirits, cigarettes, perfumes and gifts. Alcohol and cigarettes are cheaper than UK Duty Free prices. Read more about customs regulations in Russia.
 
Are there any medical restrictions to enter Russia?
Currently, there are no medical restrictions for entry into Russia. In case of emergency it is possible to call for an ambulance (phone number 03 from any local phone, or alternatively dial 112). First aid is provided free of charge if the tourist does not require a doctor or hospitalization.
 

TIPS

Do I have to leave tips?
Tipping is quite common at all destinations where we operate our tours. Please find below some guidance.


OTHER PRACTICALITIES

Will I be able to communicate in English?
English is widely spoken in good restaurants, expensive shops and in the busier, tourist areas of Russia. Most hotel staff around the country also speak English. This is, however, not always the case in regular bars, standard shops and amongst most taxi drivers or metro staff. Nevertheless, most people are responsive and will try to help you even without language knowledge. Cyrillic is the alphabet used in the Russian language. A phrasebook detailing the Cyrillic alphabet is recommended for travel.
 
How can I order a taxi?
Your group leader and the support staff in the hotel will always be able to order a taxi for you within a short period of time. If you want to hire a taxi in the street, it is preferable to use official taxis, which are usually yellow in color and have a “TAXI” sign on the top of the car.

The most convenient way to order a taxi in Russia is to use Uber or Yandex taxi. It is better to download either application on your phone and store a credit card for payment.
 
What is the standard voltage in Russia?
The standard voltage is 220V, 50Hz AC. Sockets require a Continental or European plug with two round pins. Pack a travel adaptor.
 
Is there any dress code when visiting churches?
There is a certain dress code to visit working monasteries and churches in Russia and Ukraine – in some places you will not be allowed in the church in shorts, strapless tops etc. and you should always wear clothing covering your shoulders, and women are expected to cover their hair. Please take a small scarf when you will be visiting monasteries/churches.
 
What is the time difference between the UK and my destination?
There are 11 time zones in Russia. St Petersburg and Moscow are 4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in summer, 3 hours - in winter. However the further you go to the east, the bigger the time difference will be. Russia is not changing time for summer / winter. To view time difference between two different locations please use world time zone converter

Please also note, Russian railway tickets indicate the time of departure and arrival by Moscow time.
 
What should I bring from Russia and where can I buy it?
Russian souvenirs are authentic, inexpensive and usually well-made. The most recognizable Russian souvenir is, without a doubt, the matryoshka doll: multiple dolls, one inside another, like the layers of an onion. Small black boxes painted with traditional scenes, called palekh, are also very popular. A rather curious leftover from Soviet times is the amount of surplus Red Army and military gear that can be found and which makes great souvenirs, including clothing, badges, and exotic looking hats. You can get a furry hat with ear flaps, just like the Russians wear! The best shopping locations in Moscow are GUM, the department store on Red Square, Detski Mir (Children’s World), Passazh Shopping Center on Petrovka Street and the recently opened Manezh Shopping Center on Manezh square. Traditional Russian souvenirs such as matryoshka dolls, scarves, t-shirts and palekh boxes can be found in GUM and in kiosks around Manezh square, but greater variety is found along the pedestrian Arbat or at Izmailovo Park. All payment is in roubles only.

Grocery stores are open from 8 or 9 AM until 8 or 9 PM, and department stores are open from 10 or 11 AM until 7 or 8 PM. Department stores may be closed on Sundays.
 
Can I use public mail and telephone services in Russia?
Local calls in most major cities are free from any mainland telephone. Public phones do require phone cards and these can be purchased in most tourist locations. However, please note that the phone cards sold in Moscow may not be useable in other cities. Tourists can also dial directly from their room phone or from special pay phones in the lobby, however, phoning from your hotel room can be very expensive. Mobile phones also work in most cities and regions with good reception.

The tariff for postal services and international and local telephone service on the territory of Russia is in roubles. Major hotels have post office facilities.
 
Am I allowed to take photographs everywhere?
Using flashes in churches or in performances is usually not allowed. Some churches and museums may ask for an extra fee if you want to take pictures or make a video recording. The fee will be payable at the kiosk before you enter the church or museum. If you do not pay the fee you must hand in your cameras/camcorders into the kiosk and the attendant will give you a numbered ticket to claim your items at the end of your visit. If you take pictures of people, it is recommended to ask them for permission. Batteries are available everywhere, but prices differ significantly in various places.
 
Can I take pictures when visiting the major landmarks in Moscow and St. Petersburg?
Yes, you can take pictures when visiting some museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg, however there are places where no photos are allowed. Please also note, some museums charge an extra fee for photos which is payable locally. No photo fees are included in your ticket prices. Please see some prices below, view current currency rates to convert Russian roubles into major currencies.
 
Photo prices in Moscow
MOSCOW
Landmark Photo allowed Cost
The Armoury Museum no
Lenin’s Tomb no
Tretiakov Gallery additional ticket required, no photo or video with a tripod and flash 200 roubles
St. Basil’s Cathedral photo allowed without a tripod and flash 160 roubles
video allowed without a tripod and flash 180 roubles
 
Photo prices in St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG
Landmark Photo allowed Cost
Catherine Palace & Amber Room photo allowed without a tripod and flash, no photos in Amber Room
Hermitage Museum
(Winter Palace)
additional ticket required 200 roubles
Peterhof photos in the parks of Peterhof are free of charge, additional ticket required for photo or video with a tripod, no photo or video in the Grand Palace, the Special Treasury, Catherine Block 200 roubles
Museum of Political History additional ticket required, no photo or video with a tripod and flash 100 roubles
Russian Museum additional ticket required, no photo or video with a tripod and flash 250 roubles

Homestay or hotel?
On some of our tours (for example, Transib trips to Baikal) you may choose to stay with local families. This will broaden the trip experience, as you get a slice of the local life! You will meet Russian people in a genuine setting, enjoy their hospitality and get the chance to sample delicious homemade Russian foods. Homestay accommodation is simple and not luxurious. You‘ll have a bed and use of the homestay’s bathroom facilities and kitchen to have your breakfast or other meals. While you are welcome to come and go as you please, you’ll usually be reliant upon the host letting you in. Should you be interested in the homestay accommodation, please enquire with our staff if this alternative is available on the tour.
 
How to use the metro in Russia?
The metro is the easiest and quickest way to get around in big cities in Russia. All metro stations are easily found by the “M” signs. Generally the metro system is very logical and easy to use. There are also information points at most of the stations with intercom connection to the station controller which can be used for assistance (however do not expect everyone understands English). Please note, most signboards are in Russian, however the maps of the metro system have Latin transcription. Please find below some useful translations: Metro stations are normally open for passengers daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Passengers must pay the fare every time they enter the metro. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office at any station entrance and are available for 1 or more rides. The price for one ride is 50 Russian roubles in 2016. Children under 7 travel free. Once you have validated your travel card at the station entrance, you can use the whole metro system without any restrictions or extra charges for distances or time spent traveling (there are no travel zones).

Taking the metro in Russia is a sightseeing excursion in itself especially in Moscow! Graffiti-free stations offer an air of elegance with granite and marble-clad surroundings. Many of the stations boast chandeliers and huge mosaic friezes, some of which still present Communist images and symbols. Art Nouveau style lamps illuminate the long escalator arches.