Russia, officially known as the Russian Federation, is the world’s largest country. It’s a place which is never far from the news headlines for all the wrong reasons but the Russia I discovered is a country worth visiting for all the right reasons.
Visa: Check with your local Russian Embassy regarding travel visa requirements and visa fees, all of which varies according to your nationality. The most expensive visa fees will be incurred by Irish, British and US passport holders whilst citizens of other EU countries will pay considerably less. Visas are for specific entry and exit dates so plan your trip with this in mind. Visa applications will require supporting documentation. For example, an Irish passport holder applying through the Dublin Embassy requires proof of travel insurance and a Tourist Confirmation/Invite Letter from the hotel or travel agent.
It appears that fans travelling to the FIFA 2018 World Cup will be exempt from the regular Russian visa process on the following proviso as per the Dublin Embassy’s website: However, in order to be admitted to Russia foreign citizens/stateless persons must have a valid identity document (“tourist” passport) and a “Personalized card of the spectator” (also known as a “Fan ID”).
Language: Even in a tourist-orientated city like St. Petersburg English is not widely spoken outside of the main sites although I found that people under the age of thirty were keen to practice their English language skills with a native speaker. Knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet is a must for independent travellers to Russia.
Currency: The ruble is the unit of currency in Russia and its exchange rate seems to vary according to the country’s relationship with the international community. Current UN sanctions over Russia’s annexing of Crimea has caused the ruble to drop in value by up to 50% making the country excellent value for international tourists. All of my Irish credit and debit cards worked without a problem in Russia.
A to B: The method of travel in Russia will depend on how far you need to get! For example, the famous Trans-Siberian Express route from Moscow to Vladivostock takes several days. Within the large city of St. Petersburg, the Metro is an excellent option.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Given the plethora of countries bordering Russia it may be cheaper to travel overland by bus or train, but what you’ll gain in money you’ll loose in time – The security checks are extensive. On the upside, this level of security is reassuring and I found Russia to be one of the safest countries I’ve travelled to. X-ray scanners and security personnel are in situ at the entrances of places where large gatherings of people occur. Russian self-deprecating humour does not extend to military and security matters and they would be horrified if safety issues were the reason you didn’t enjoy your trip. As a solo female traveller I found Russia to be an excellent place to visit for its general safety, friendly people and chivalrous attitude amongst men. I can’t wait to return.
Further Russia travel information and humorous observations can be found in my post Visiting Putin’s Parish.
St. Petersburg was the capital of Imperial Russia until Lenin moved it to Moscow in 1918. Like the European imperial capitals, St. Petersburg is a city with beautiful architecture which attracted the cream of cultural talent. St. Petersburg’s cultural history is elaborated on in Saint Petersburg: Cultural Colossus
Russia is a country with a lot of geography. St. Petersburg is a city with a lot of history, founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. I’ve divided the city’s history and its associated sites into two phases: From Peter the Great to February 1917 and from the rise of communism in 1917 up to the modern day in Red October 1917: From Petrograd to Leningrad
The Visiting Putin’s Parish blog post has further essential travel information for St. Petersburg plus a summary of how current leader Vladimir Putin is perceived. The conclusion may surprise you.
RUSSIA TRAVEL RESOURCES
Books always form a major part of my research prior to visiting any destination. Below are the books I used to research St. Petersburg and life in Russia in general.