My Personal Travel Tips
for Visitors to Russia
Note: The following is not to be considered an exhaustive and
absolute list of rules for visitors to Russia. It is my own personal
advice based on my own experiences traveling to Moscow and
St. Petersburg. I highly encourage anyone visiting Russia for the
first time to seek out as many sources of information as possible,
and for what it's worth, here is mine.
VISA: You will need a visa to enter Russia and it is of vital
importance to make these arrangements well in advance to avoid the
kind of problems I had with mine, which I won't go into. The American
Chamber of Commerce in Russia has a very good online document
regarding visas. So rather than repeat all their information here,
I'll just provide a
link. Remember to use your Back button to return here.
MONEY: I did my whole trip using my Visa Check card. Remember
this is the card that, unlike a regular Visa card, draws money
directly from your checking account. I used it in shops and
restaurants that accepted it, and also as an ATM card when I needed
You can use a Visa card in Russia, but it is best to always have
enough cash on hand and use the Visa card more as a way to conserve
cash if you are in places where it is accepted. I opted for the
check card rather than a regular Visa card only because I didn't
want to put any expenses from the trip on credit.
ATM machines are available in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but they
can be a bit difficult to locate at times. They often will dispense
dollars and rubles, but I always got rubles since this is the
state currency, and few places do transactions in dollars. Also
be sure and check for your card's network system logo on the machine
before inserting your card. There are some ATM's in Russia that
are intended only for customers of the bank that owns them.
Never trade currency in the streets! These people can be extremely
tricky and your liable to end up with a fistful of worthless
bills from some strange place you've never heard of, while the guy
you got them from is skating away down the sidewalk with your
There are plenty of reputable exchange outlets throughout Russia;
I usually used the ones located inside the larger banks, just to
be on the safe side.
Despite what a lot of Americans think, the Russians aren't dollar
crazy. In fact, in the last two years the ruble has stabilized
right around 5700 or 5800 per dollar, and it is the best, and
usually only, way to conduct your daily business in Russia.
Amex traveler's cheques can be cashed at American Express offices,
but I didn't use these so I can't really comment on them.
TRANSPORTATION: If your not experienced driving in Russia, I
wouldn't recommend renting a car. There is public
transportation, in the form of trolly cars and subway lines,
available throughout Moscow and St. Petersburg. Also, professional
taxi cabs are readily available.
Never accept a ride from someone offering a private taxi service
in their personal automobile. You never know who the guy driving
the car is, or what his plans for you might be. Many people in
Russia, who own their own cars, are eeking out a living running
these private taxi services, but I would imagine a few of them
wouldn't mind boosting their profit margins by boosting a few
wallets and purses from naive tourists. Your safest bet is the
public transport, or professionally marked taxi cabs.
DINING OUT: There are restaurants of all kinds available
in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The better ones can be pretty pricy
so take a look at the menu first. One of my favorite places was
Patio Pizza near Red Sqaure, some of the best pizza I've ever had!
American style fast food, McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, are also
available. We ate a McDonalds once in Moscow and the prices were
about the same as here in the states, and the food was pretty
much the same.
I always drank bottled spring water while there, as well, just
to stay on the safe side and it's available in just about every
restaurant, shop and kiosk in the city.
SAFETY: Americans all seem to think that Russia is an
extremely dangerous place nowadays. Well, I'm happy to report
that this simply isn't true. After all, I come from Atlanta,
where the city officials had to fiddle with the statistics to
move us down from the number one most dangerous city in the country
to number two!
Moscow is as safe or safer after midnight that many large
American cities at noon!
Why the bad rap then? I'd say the media are largely responsible
for the sensational stories coming out of Moscow. But, if you're
not in the mafia and don't drive around in supposedly bullet-proof
luxury cars, you really don't have much of a problem.
Simply exercise the same caution you would in any large city. Keep cameras
and the like out of sight in backpacks. Don't wear expensive jewelry
like gold chains, or anything else that would make you stand out.
Keep cash stowed away safely and don't carry around large amounts.
Russia is generally a tourist friendly place, despite an air of
gloom that hangs overhead much of the time, and with just a little
bit of common sense and caution, it is a very safe place.
Well, that's about all I have for now. If any of you are experienced
travellers in Russia and have any advice for the first-timers out there
email me and I'll post it up.
- Keep some tissue paper with you as you go sight
seeing, and the like. Even at places like the Pushkin Museum and the
Kremlin, you may find public restrooms lacking in some of the basics.
- Try and avoid the Metro (subway) around normal rush hours, if at
all possible. It can get pretty crowded and if you're not terribly
familiar with the layout you can get lost in the crowd easily.
- Never buy any spirits sold on the street! This stuff may be made
from gasoline or even rocket fuel, so I've been told. Only buy alchohol,
if you're so inclined, in properly labeled and sealed bottles
at reputable stores.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport and visa at all times, leaving
the originals back in a safe place somewhere. Some tourist attractions
require the passport for non-Russians. I always used my copy and never
once had any official ask for the original.
Have a good trip!