A country of epic proportions, Russia’s mighty size is reflected everywhere, from the glimmering palaces of St Petersburg and Moscow to the towering Kremlin. But Russian culture is not just about power and grandeur; it’s also about a sense of refinement, as evident in the grace of the ballet and the elegance of Russian literature. To see the full scope of this vast land, you have to get out into nature, from the eerily still wilderness of Siberia’s taiga forests to the volcanic moonscapes of Kamchatka and the blue expanse of Lake Baikal.
The Russian people are a family-oriented nation, and they take great pride in their history. They have a unique culture, and they’re warm-hearted, good-humoured and welcoming once you get to know them. It’s often a surprise to non-Russians that many Russians aren’t very good at small talk, and prefer to get straight to the point. However, once you break the ice, most people are willing to speak about their country with enthusiasm.
Most Russians are extremely patriotic, and it’s not uncommon to hear them proudly singing the national anthem. They also love their sports, especially hockey and football, and are eager to show off their skills. They’re also a surprisingly good-humoured and friendly bunch, and love to show off their wealth to foreign visitors.
Russia is a large country that occupies more than a third of the world’s land mass, with an area greater than all the European countries combined. Its western part is largely agricultural, but the eastern portion is dominated by Siberia’s rolling plateaus, glacial deposition, and morainic ridges.
In terms of population, the largest city in Russia is Moscow, with about nine million residents. Saint Petersburg is a close second with eight million residents, and both cities are filled with museums and other cultural sites.
Although there are some direct flights from Europe to Moscow, most travellers fly via the Middle East or Serbia and Turkey. Flights can sell out quickly, so book well in advance.
When planning your trip, consider using a specialist travel agent to arrange visas and make key transport bookings. They can also provide valuable tips and advice about staying safe, getting around, local laws and customs, and any political or social protests that may occur.
Most visitors will need a visa to enter Russia. Apply at least a month in advance to ensure the process is completed in time for your trip. You should register your visa within seven days of arrival (excluding weekends and public holidays). This is done through a hotel or hostel, or with a landlord, friend or relative if you’re staying in private accommodation. When travelling, it’s important to keep your passport in sight at all times and to avoid drink spiking, particularly in busy bars and clubs. Store emergency contact numbers on your phone and carry an extra passport photo in case of loss or theft.