Travelling to Russia

The world’s largest country, Russia is located partly in Eastern Europe and North Asia. The country has borders with 14 other countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the Ukraine. Russia also shares a maritime border with the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, and the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Russian Federation has a population of 163 million people and is the seventh-largest country by area. The Russian landscape is extremely diverse, encompassing both vast areas of wilderness and densely populated urban centers. Moscow is the most populous city in Russia, and many other large cities are situated in the country’s European core. In contrast, the sparsely inhabited region east of the Urals is mostly a vast wilderness.

Russia’s rich natural resources have made it an imperial power for centuries, but these riches have not necessarily translated into a good life for the nation’s ordinary citizens. The forbidding climate adds a layer of difficulty to daily living, and the Russian economy is dominated by resource-based industries. These sectors have not always provided jobs for a large share of the population, and economic disparity between the very wealthy and the rest of society is high.

Most overseas visitors begin their journey to Russia in Moscow, with flights connecting from international hubs including Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Zurich. Direct flights to St Petersburg’s Pulvoko Airport also run from several European destinations. Overland travel options include daytime high-speed trains such as the Sapsan, which can whisk you from Moscow to St Petersburg in four hours. Alternatively, take an epic Trans-Siberian journey, either by regular line or luxury private train lines.

When in Moscow, make sure you take a walk through Red Square and The Kremlin. Then venture out to see the stunning architecture of St Basil’s Cathedral and the Moscow Metro, and take in a wide view of the capital’s waterfront from one of the bridges that cross the Moskva River.

Dressing for the weather is important in Russia. During the winter months, layers are essential to survive the sub-zero temperatures. Wearing a wool sweater and coat is ideal, but some Russians will go as far as wearing a full furry parka to keep warm in the cold. If you want to fit in with the locals, wear smart attire for men and a classy outfit for women when visiting upscale restaurants, theatres, or night-clubs.

Pay respect to positive Soviet contributions and achievements, but be mindful that some Russians might view the country’s past through a more negative lens than you might expect. It is a complex and sometimes traumatic history that you should not ignore or trivialise. If you do not understand Russia’s complicated legacy, it can be easy to misunderstand its citizens and create tension. In general, however, the Russians are a friendly and hospitable people who are proud of their country. Their rich culture has a lot to offer, and if you are open to learning more about it, it is easy to develop a deep appreciation for this fascinating nation.