Travel Guide to Russia


Russia is an amazingly diverse country with world-class cities, vast territories of Arctic tundras and Siberia, grain farms that rival those in Kansas, and mountain communities in the Caucasus. It has a complicated history of monarchy and totalitarianism, rich natural resources, extremes of wealth and poverty, and is now a dynamic state transitioning from a Communist state to part of the global economy.

Russians are renowned for their generosity, and will help you with directions even if they do not speak your language. However, it won’t hurt to memorize a few basic words or phrases and be polite. In many areas there are signs with helpful translations on them.

The majority of the population is Russian, but the country’s other ethnic groups (including Ukrainians, Belarusians, and others) are also significant in population. The country is a mixture of ethnicities, cultures, religions, and languages.

Despite its huge size, Russia is relatively easy to travel around. Busses, trolleybuses, trams, and the underground run efficiently in big towns and cities. In some areas, however, buses can be quite crowded during rush hour. Another option is to take a’marshrutka’, a commercial minibus that follows similar routes as the busses but offers more flexibility for a slightly higher price.

If you’re traveling to remote regions of the country, consider taking a train. It is cheaper and quicker than air, and often makes stops in small villages. It may not be as comfortable as the beautiful modern trains that dominate the Eurorail system, but it will give you a taste of local life.

Russian railways are a marvel of engineering. Often the tracks wind through mountain passes and across frozen lakes, making the ride exciting and adventurous. Trains also tend to have food on board and free wifi, though you’re likely to be too distracted by the window seat sights to use them much.

The Russian government is a centralist one, with the main power residing in the capital city of Moscow. It is supported by a number of republics, which are designed to be home to certain ethnic groups and have their own constitutions and governments, although they are not independent countries. The Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, with fourteen of the republics gaining independence and leaving Russia as the sole remaining sovereign nation. Russia has the largest territory in Eurasia, and is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by China, to the south by the Black Sea, and to the west by the detachment of Kaliningrad (part of what was East Prussia annexed in 1945). The vast continent of Africa lies to the southwest. Russia is also a major energy producer and exporter. It is rich in natural resources, including oil and gas. It is also known for its atypical climate, with hot summers and very cold winters. It is divided into eleven time zones, and does not observe daylight savings. This can cause confusion when traveling between regions.