Canada Travel Guide – Travelling to Russia

Russia is a huge country with an immense variety of natural and man-made attractions. It has some of the world’s most spectacular architecture, museums and art treasures. It is also one of the oldest and most senior republics of the former Soviet Union, with a long history of conflict with neighbours and internal strife between its own ruling classes.

As with most former communist countries, Russia is still recovering from the economic collapse that ended the Soviet era in 1991. A small group of rich business people now dominates the economy, while most ordinary Russians are poorer than they were under communism. The country has vast reserves of oil and other natural resources, but this wealth does not translate into prosperity for most Russians.

The extreme weather has helped to make life difficult for much of the population, and this is reflected in a high rate of mental illness and drug abuse. In addition, there is a significant number of suicides each year, and homicides are common in the major cities.

There are a large number of organised crime groups active in Russia, including drug dealing and extortion. Visitors should exercise caution and limit interactions with strangers. If you become a victim of crime, contact the nearest Canadian Embassy or Consulate.

You will need a valid passport to enter Russia and should be aware of security issues in many parts of the country. There is a threat of terrorist activity, which has resulted in injuries and deaths in the past. Intense public surveillance is in place, and travellers should stay alert at all times.

English is not spoken very widely in Russia, so familiarizing yourself with the Cyrillic alphabet and some basic phrases will make your trip much more enjoyable. Most signs, maps and menus are written in Russian, so learning the language will also help you to navigate your way around.

In the west of the country lies Moscow, an imperial city with 261 museums and a long history of art and culture. Suzdal, a medieval city with more than 40 churches, is another popular attraction.

South of Moscow is the Volga region, with the city of Nizhny Novgorod at its centre. This city has a famous university and is known for its many fine museums. In the north is Murmansk, a cold but scenic town where you can camp in glass domes to watch the northern lights.

East of the Urals is the Russian Far East, with Vladivostok as its main city. The Far East is a region of planned cities, industrial plants and raw-material processing centres. It is linked to Moscow by the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The region is rich in natural resources, particularly oil and gas. It is a frontier, both geographically and in terms of its relationship with the rest of the country. In the north, it borders with North Korea and China.