Travelling in Russia

Whether it’s world-class art museums and palaces, the legendary Red Square, or the vast wilderness of Siberia, Russia has plenty to offer travellers. Yet it’s also a complex country with centuries of monarchy and totalitarianism, a rapidly changing economy, and extremes of wealth and poverty.

Geographically, Russia spans two continents (Europe and Asia) with the Ural Mountains separating Europe from Asia. It’s a land of dramatic contrasts—from icy, snow-covered Arctic regions to warm, subtropical Black Sea beaches; from taiga forests and grain farms to mountain communities in the Caucasus.

Modern Russia has a rich cultural heritage with some of the world’s most famous artists, writers, and musicians—think Anna Pavlova, Galina Ulanova, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov—and major cities like Moscow, St Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and Yekaterinburg are bursting with historic buildings and relics from the past. And its science has contributed greatly to the world’s knowledge—think Nikolai Semenov, Sergey Mendeleev, and Yuri Gagarin.

It’s important to take the threat of terrorist attacks seriously, but don’t let fear paralyze your plans. You can travel safely in most parts of the country, including Moscow and St Petersburg.

Be aware of the risks of terrorism and other types of organized crime. Extortion is also common, especially in large cities, so it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand. Be sure to report extortion attempts to local authorities.

The best way to explore Russia is by train, which is comfortable and reliable. However, renting a car can be difficult due to lengthy traffic jams, poor road maintenance, and random police inspections. Plus, it’s important to be aware that drink spiking is a serious problem in many Russian bars and clubs.

There are also many bus routes throughout the country, but it’s important to know that not all buses are safe and reputable. Buses are frequently used by criminal groups for robbery and mugging, so it’s important to use caution.

While the majority of people in big cities speak English, this is not true for most other parts of the country. The best thing to do is prepare in advance by learning the Cyrillic alphabet and using translation apps like Google Translate or Yandex.

It is also a good idea to pack a medical kit and carry identification at all times, particularly when travelling away from the main tourist areas. Medical facilities are limited outside of the main cities, and there is a risk of a shortage of medicine and supplies. It’s also a good idea to let a friend or family member know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Also, be aware that Russia conducts frequent, random identity checks at airports and on the street. Be prepared to show your passport at all times and obey all security, customs, and immigration regulations. If you have questions, please contact your nearest embassy or consulate.