Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States are still undergoing great changes, and keeping track of the latest information can sometimes be difficult. Frequently material of more than a week old is out of date. We have offices and representatives in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a number of other cities, and are therefore able to keep informed of most of these changes and will be happy to respond to any of your queries.
Your passport must be valid for longer than 6 months. Travel Russia will provide you with a Russian Visa Invitation. A visa is required for all non Russian Nationals. Your visa should be obtained in advance and will be valid only for the given dates of your trip. We will send this to you within 48 hours of receiving the following information:
• Full name (as in the passport)
• Passport Number
• Date of birth
• Sex & Nationality
This invitation combined with whatever documents your embassy or consular service requires, will get you a Russian Visa.
Arrival in Russia
Your visa and passport are examined.Your holiday voucher can also be checked. You no longer have to complete an immigration form. On arrival you visa and passport will be electronically scanned and your immigration form will be generated automatically. Half of your immigration form will be placed in your passport. Please do not lose it! If you do, it will cause problems on departure.
b) Baggage Hall
Claim your luggage off the conveyor belts. Trolleys are available free of charge.
A bank (not always open), toilets and a duty-free shop are located in this hall.
You ARE to complete two currency declaration forms (which you will either be given on the aircraft or will have to personally pick up in the baggage hall). A currency declaration form is only necessary if you are carrying more than $10,000 (or equivalent) in cash. In this instance you must complete two forms and proceed through the Red Channel.
Fill in both forms entering how much cash you have but answering NIL to all other questions. Proceed through to customs inspection. It is very important that your customs declaration forms are presented to a customs officer, who must stamp them and return one or both of them to you. There is a choice of red and green channels, and we recommend that you exit through the red channel, as you are more likely to find customs officers here! You must ensure that the form you retain is stamped. Keep this carefully; you will be required to present it when you leave the country, as well as completing a new form showing how much money you are taking out of the country. If for any reason you lose the stamped, completed customs entry declaration form, you may be banned from taking any hard currency out of the country because you will not be able to prove that you brought it into the country with you!
d) A member of Travel Russia's staff will be waiting outside the customs hall with a sign.
e) To avoid the queue on arrival you may book VIP procedure through Travel Russia, which means that you are met at the plane by airport representative, pass quickly passport control and customs area, helped with the luggage by porter.
The official currency in Russia is Ruble. It is possible to exchange dollars and euro in numerous Exchange Offices. We recommend you to take credit cards and cash with you (dollars/euro). The rate of exchange changes, and is
You can pay cash (Rubles) or by credit cards. In the markets or small private shops you may pay in dollars. When exchanging foreign currency, most currencies are easily exchanged, although cash dollars are still preferred; due to widespread counterfeiting, only clean, reasonably new bills are accepted. Traveller's cheques are accepted, but only in major cities and in few banks.
Holidays in Russia in 2016
Friday, Jan 1, New Year's Day, National holiday
New Year’s Day is a family holiday for many Russians. Dinner usually starts late on December 31. Traditional meals include Russian salad, herring and sparkling wine. A pre-recorded address by the country’s president appears on TV, listing the achievements of the past year, at 11.55pm (23:55) local time in each of Russia’s time zones. Many people watch his address and raise a toast to the chiming of the Kremlin clock. The Russian national anthem begins at midnight and people congratulate each other and exchange presents. Some people go out to make a snowman or light fire crackers in their backyards.
People may celebrate the day at a friend’s house or attend the fireworks in their city. Celebrations for children include a decorated fir tree and Grandfather Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, who gives presents. Grandfather Frost often comes with his granddaughter, Snegurochka (“The Snow Girl”). As things quieten down later in the day, many people visit their friends or relatives. Another tradition is to wish a “Happy New Year” to passers-by throughout January 1.
Tuesday, Feb 23, Defender of the Fatherland Day , National holiday
Defender of the Fatherland Day, which is on February 23, is a public holiday throughout the Russian Federation. Many Russians observe February 23 as men’s day because military service is obligatory for most men in Russia. Women often give presents and postcards to their male relatives, including those who never served in the military. On a workday before or after the holiday, many women also congratulate their male colleagues and schoolboys may receive small presents from their female classmates.
Russian authorities may organize local parades to honor the military and veterans on this day. It is becoming more common for women who serve in the military to be honored on this day, and this challenges the traditionally masculine aspect of the holiday.
Tuesday, Mar 8, International Women's Day, National holiday
International Women’s Day is a public holiday in Russia on March 8. International Women’s Day is often celebrated among family or friends with a festive meal and drinks. Many women receive flowers, cards and other gifts on March 8. Many television programs pay tribute to achievements of famous Russian women from the past and the present. Most banks, official buildings and educational institutions are closed on this day, although shops and kiosks usually stay open. Public transport may run less frequently than usual.
Sunday, May1, Orthodox Easter Day, Observance
Russia is celebrating Easter, Christianity's most important and joyful feast when the Church commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Preparation for Easter celebrations begins in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday - the last day of Holy Week, also known in Russia as Passion Week. On that day, people come to churches in great numbers to have paschal cakes and eggs blessed by priests.
Russia's Easter traditions include painting and coloring eggs - normally red as a symbol of the blood of Christ - and cracking them. The tradition of giving each other paschal eggs dates back to the first century A.D.Many Russians on Easter Sunday visit the graves of loved ones, a tradition not welcomed by the Church, which has special days to commemorate the dead and says Easter is a time of joy rather than sad reflection.
Sunday, May 1, Spring and Labor Day, National holiday
Spring and Labor Day is a public holiday in Russia. Many Russians use this public holiday to relax. Some may go on a retreat to their country homes (called dachas) to work in the garden or spend time with their families. It is also common for people to have picnics or barbecues. Men may give spring flowers, especially tulips and lilacs, to women, and parents may buy balloons and ice-cream to their children to celebrate the end of the cold season in Russia. Most banks, public buildings and educational institutions are closed on this day. Public transport routes may vary in the case of demonstrations in a city or town.
Monday , May 9, Victory Day, National holiday
Many people attend a local military parade and watch the fireworks at night on Victory Day. The biggest parade is in Moscow’s Red Square, showcasing Russia’s military forces. Most veterans wear their medals as they head to the parade or an event organized by a local veteran organization. Another tradition is to give flowers, usually red carnations, to veterans in the street and to lay wreaths at the war memorial sites.
At home, families gather around a festive table to honor surviving witnesses of World War II and remember those who passed away.
Victory Day is a national holiday in Russia. Public offices, schools and most businesses are closed for the celebrations. There may be changes in public transport routes due to parades and street performances.
Sunday, Jun 12, Russia Day, National holiday
Russia Day is an occasion for many Russians to demonstrate national pride. Some people celebrate Russia's economic and social achievements and pay tribute to famous Russians on June 12. People may attend concerts and fireworks that take place in many cities throughout the country. Prominent Russian writers, scientists and humanitarian workers receive a National Award from the Russian president on this day. Yet many other people see Russia Day as nothing more than a day off.
Russia Day is a national holiday in the Russian Federation. Most banks, public offices and schools are closed on June 12. If the day falls on a weekend, the public holiday shifts to the following Monday. Public transport schedules may vary depending on events taking place in each city on June 12.
Friday, Nov 4, Unity Day, National holiday
Russians may celebrate Unity Day in many ways. Some may lay flowers to the monuments of national heroes, Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, who led a popular uprising that freed Moscow from occupation forces on November 4, 1612.
Russian Orthodox Christians may attend a church service to honor Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most important Russian Orthodox icons. November 4 is this icon’s feast day. The church service usually ends with a procession. Concerts and exhibitions take place on this day.
November 4 is a public holiday in the Russian Federation. Schools, post offices, public buildings and most businesses are closed on this day. Public transport schedules may vary due to religious processions and political demonstrations.
Wednesday, Dec 31, New Year Holiday Week, De facto holiday
The major cities now have a wide range of restaurants. It is important to reserve tables and to discuss payment methods before arriving. Check what kind of payment they will accept. Travel Russia will provide the list of recommended restaurants for you and our guide will help you to make reservation. In major good restaurants you will find the menus in English.
Moscow and St Petersburg are three hours ahead of GMT (Summer time) and two hours ahead (Winter time).
Taxi To hail a taxi, stand on the side of the road with your arm held out. The official cabs have a yellow light illuminated with the word "Taksi" if they are free. It is essential to negotiate a price before starting the journey. Private individuals will stop equally often and act as taxis.
Metro The metro is not only clean, efficient and punctual but the architecture and decoration are quite outstanding. Wonderful mosaics, arches, statues and paintings in 1930s style Art Deco make the Metro well worth a visit. Purchase a token at the station and try to read the Cyrillic alphabet before embarking, otherwise it is easy to get lost.
Train Travel Russia recommends high-speed train “Sapsan” for the journey between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Air Travel Russia can book air tickets for internal travel as well as for some international sectors.
Russian electricity is 220 volts delivered via twin round-pin plugs.
Please inform your clients to read the health requirements and/or recommendations given by their Doctor and their Government Health Office carefully and to discuss health precautions for their exact travel itinerary with their doctor at least 4/6 weeks before their departure. You should be aware that requirements and recommendations can change, sometimes on short notice. It is important that you check with a qualified health professional for the most current information concerning your exact travel itinerary and taking into account your personal health history. It is suggested that a travellers medical kit would be appropriate for a specific destination bearing in mind the length of the trip and your general health. Doctors can advise on specific items to be included. The kit should always contain an adequate supply of any prescribed medications which the traveller may be taking. Prescription medicines must always be carried as hand luggage in original, labelled containers. Although, there many clinics and medical centers in Moscow and St. Petersburg which offer services of the highest level and have multilingual staff.
The immense geographic area of the Russian Federation has a variety of seasonal weather conditions. April through to October is considered by many to be the best overall time to visit, and June and September are the busiest tourist months. However, the winter months also have appeal. St Petersburg is always a few degrees cooler than Moscow and often has a breeze blowing in from the Gulf of Finland.
Clothing and Accessories
A travel wardrobe must be planned according to the places you will visiting and the time of travel. For daytime sightseeing and leisure activities in Russia, informal dress is appropriate. To maximise the versatility of a travel wardrobe, it is recommended to pack lightweight clothes that can be worn in layers. Clothing made of "breathable" natural fabrics is generally the most comfortable.
However, do note that in the winter, while it can be very cold outside, the buildings are still well heated inside, and you will need to take your coat off. In this climate, it is better to take a good, really warm coat so that you can wear normal clothes underneath.
All restaurants require visitors to take their coats off on arrival, and it is generally considered rude not to do so. It may also be wise to consider the following items: a supply of personal toiletries, toilet tissue, a travel alarm clock, facial tissues, lip balm, moisturising lotion, and a supply of additional batteries for cameras/torches etc.
While most of these accessories can be bought in the major cities, they can still be hard to come by in smaller cities, so take ample supplies with you.
Please check with your guide before purchasing any paintings or icons in Russia to be sure that your intended purchase is of an exportable type. This applies to both purchases made in stores and on the streets. In general, a store receipt is necessary for exportation, and purchases without appropriate receipts are confiscated. Almost all stores and restaurants accept basic Credit Cards (Visa, MasterCard).
It is also suggested that you check the working order of your camera and have your equipment insured before departure. In the majority of sights one should pay for the special permission for taking pictures on the territory. It is usually prohibited to take pictures inside cathedrals or museums.
Many travellers view tipping as a difficult subject, though this need not be the case. There are no fixed amounts and it is entirely up to the individual to decide if it is even necessary. However, set out below is a rough guide: For two passengers travelling on a three to four day itinerary in Russia, $70.00 (per couple) for the guide would be considered a good tip. A smaller tip to the driver would also be in order. Waiters, doormen, porters etc. may be tipped depending upon the service.