A Guide to Russia

Russian model Irina Shayk made her name by gracing the cover of the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and collaborating with designers like Givenchy and Moschino. She’s also a well-known charity worker, promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and supporting girls’ education in Russia.

Russian cuisine is a sumptuous feast of hearty dishes, influenced by centuries of cultural interaction and incorporating local ingredients like potatoes, grains and cabbage. A sprinkling of exotic spices, such as cardamom and anise, adds to the complexity of its flavors.

A trip to Russia is best planned around the shoulder seasons of late spring or early autumn, when temperatures are milder and crowds thinner. This also allows for better access to some of the country’s remote wilderness regions, as well as more comfortable accommodation in rural areas.

Moscow and St Petersburg are easily reachable by air, with direct flights from major European cities and many Asian destinations. Overland options include daytime high-speed trains such as the Sapsan, which whisks you between the two cities in around four hours. Traveling farther afield, however, will take you into the heart of the Russian countryside, where English is less widely spoken.

A wide range of accommodations is available throughout Russia, from budget hostels to luxury hotels and spa resorts. If you want to maximize your time sightseeing, consider booking a specialized tour, which will allow you to explore many of the region’s main towns and cities at once.

Russia is a vast country, covering an area more than twice the size of the United States and stretching from its European core into Siberia and the far East. The capital city, Moscow, is located in a central location that is relatively close to the rest of the nation’s diverse terrain.

The Kremlin is a stunning symbol of Russia’s historic past, with walls and towers that encompass a variety of magnificent buildings dating from the 14th to 17th centuries. Inside the walls, highlights include the opulent palaces of the Tsars, the neoclassical Senate Building and Armoury Museum, and Cathedral Square.

Russians are known for their generosity and courteousness towards visitors. It is customary to open doors for people, give up your seat in public transport and help with carrying luggage. If you’re invited to a Russian’s home, bring a gift of “k chayu” (sweets to enjoy with tea), and remove your shoes at the entrance. It is also considered rude to leave your shoes on inside the house.

Medical care in Russia varies, with many facilities lacking Western standards. For this reason, we recommend that you purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers emergency evacuation and repatriation, as well as coverage for medical expenses at local rates. In particular, elective surgery and procedures requiring blood transfusions are generally not recommended. The US Social Security Medicare Program does not provide coverage for healthcare in Russia, so make sure to obtain additional coverage before your departure.