Home to eleven time zones and a border spanning two continents, Russia, the world’s largest country, is truly a world of its own. As a country that has seen the rise and fall of great empires and unions, its history only adds to its distinct identity. With vast and immensely beautiful landscapes in Siberia and the Kamchatka Peninsula, culturally rich heritage sites in the North Caucasus, and pulsating cities such as Moscow, Russia makes for a destination worth a visit for travelers of all kinds.
St. Petersburg is known as Russia’s cultural capital, and rightly so. Home to more than 200 museums, such as the spectacular Hermitage, the city’s links to heritage from the past can also be seen in several buildings such as the opulent Catherine Palace and the magnificent Church of Saviour on Spilled Blood. St. Petersburg additionally can be a delightful destination for book lovers, with spots to explore Russian authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s legacy. Further, book lovers can visit old bookstores and several libraries in the city, such as the National Library of Russia, are open to the public through pre-arranged tours. A final reason why St. Petersburg is a top destination in Russia is the exciting nightlife of the city, which one can start exploring in and around the Nevsky Prospekt
The capital city of Moscow is definitely among the top places to visit in Russia, for its variety of experiences on offer: art museums such as the Tretyakov Gallery, high-end restaurants such as the White Rabbit to the impressive ballet culture, most prominently in the Bolshoi Theatre.
While the Red Square is a vital part of the city to see the essentials such as The Kremlin and Lenin’s mausoleum, other places in the city, such as the Izmailovo flea market, are also worth a visit.
Arctic Circle (Murmansk)
The vast Russian territories on the Arctic Circle hangs as the crown of country, marked by Tundra and snow. As the northern edge of the world, this region attracts those looking to go stargazing and, if lucky, to catch the Northern Lights. Head to the largest city in the Arctic circle, Murmansk, from where you can head to villages such as Teriberka close by for views of the vast sky and a boat graveyard, beaches at the northern edge of the world, making for a thoroughly surreal experience.
Murmansk is also home to the Lenin Nuclear Icebreaker, the world’s first nuclear-powered ship turned museum. A visit to a husky farm near the city where one gets to interact with the royal, adorable Huskies in their natural habitat is also recommended.
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Capital of Tatarstan region, Kazan is one of the most aesthetically delightful cities in Russia that is home to the Islamic heritage of this part of the country while also incorporating Orthodox Christianity. The highlight of Kazan is thus its heritage architecture, which displays both colorful orthodox Christian churches as well as stunning mosques such as the Khul Sharif mosque.
Other must-see buildings include the Suyumike tower and the Temple of All Religions, an eclectically styled prayer complex where several faiths can go to pray.
A peninsula full of vast volcanoes, stunning natural formations such as Valley of Geysers and a habitat of bears, a visit to Kamchatka is a real immersion into Russia’s natural beauty. There are several trekking and camping tours available inside the numerous bio-reserves located in the valley, making it ideal for those who want to disconnect with the outside world and dive deep into nature.
The city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky can be made a base to further explore the region, where once can sample some of the seafood delicacies such as Kamchatka crabs.
A resort town by the black sea, Sochi is surrounded by stunning snowcapped mountains, which form a backdrop to beaches. Among the most popular summer destinations within Russia, this city, however, this city also makes for an excellent place to try out winter sports activities such as skiing.
Besides lounging around the beaches, the city is a good place to try out adventure sports such as bungee jumping, and one can also head to the SkyPark Sochi for rollercoasters and other adventure activities with stunning views.
Republic of Dagestan
A somewhat offbeat destination in Russia for tourists, the culturally unique and naturally stunning region of Dagestan, which translates to The Land of The Mountains, can be a top choice for those looking to explore the diversity of the world’s largest country. While Dagestan is perceived by many as a dangerous place to visit owing to political movements in the area, visitors to the region attest to the fact that prior planning and taking general safety measures can make for a rewarding experience.
The city of Derbent, with the Caspian Sea on the coast, owing to its old-world charm and stunning mosques, is one prominent place to visit and to explore the heritage and culture of the region.
Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is a vast region full of villages around the lake that make for excellent summer holidays and comes highly recommended for visitors looking to unwind and relax. The famous trans-Siberian railway route passes through this vast water body, which can be navigated after making a base in the city of Irkutsk.
While there are several villages and spots such as Olkhon Island where you can rent a Dacha and proceed to kayak, boat, or simply lounge around the lake, a recommended place to visit is the Peschanaya Bay, which is a stunning beach-like landscape with slanted rocks to form a backdrop.
Marked with history and home to several heritage monuments, Nizhny Novgorod is a top choice for Russian history lovers. Once known as ‘Gorky,’ this city was also considered an important center for the production of military equipment, but these days, the highlight of the city is its architecture.
Places to explore include the city’s Kremlin, with its 13 towers, and the historic Rozhdestvenskaya Street. Other activities to indulge in include watching the sunset over the confluence of the Oka and Volga Rivers, which can be viewed set against the city’s Kremlin.
Vladimir and Suzdal
The two cities of Vladimir and Suzdal, located very close to each other, are part of a cluster among the “Golden Ring” cities around Moscow. While Vladimir was once the capital of the Russian empire, the adjacent Suzdal extends the sense of history and heritage through the numerous churches to be found here. Wooden houses with ornate window panels, large church and monastery complexes, and charming markets delight visitors.
Spectacular, awe-inspiring rocks that go up to impressive heights and nicknamed Mountains of Rising Gods among locals form the Lena Pillars Natural Park. A one-of-a-kind landscape that’s worth a visit in Russia’s Yakutia, Lena Pillars can be accessed from Yakutsk. River cruises around the park offer a spectacular view, but one can also opt for a helicopter or air tour of the area.
A winter wonderland located on the banks of the Kama River, Perm can be a surprising delight for those looking to visit ice caves such as Kungar Ice Caves in the nearby region. In itself, the city also has an impressive ballet scene as well as other cultural activities. Visitors can also take a day trip to the Memorial Complex of Political Repressions, Kuchino, Permsky Krai, also known as the Perm 36 Gulag Museum, which was once a forced labor camp.
A stunning city in the Far East of Russia, Vladivostok is a port city located close to both China and North Korea. The beauty of this city, marked by mountains and bays, is most prominent in its Golden Horn Bay. Meanwhile, the city’s Eagle’s Nest Hill is one of the best places to get views of the cityscape.
As a big city, Vladivostok has several notable museums, with the S-56 Submarine Museum, a World War II museum located inside a submarine, being a unique choice for visitors.
Kizhi Island, Karelia
Russia’s wooden architecture is among the many things unique to the county, and the Kizhi Island, located in the Karelia region, is an open-air museum of these detailed and classic structures. Kizhi Island is increasingly becoming a popular site for visitors, with ancient structures such as the Church of Transfiguration as well as an arranged display of rural life. The island, which houses the oldest wooden church in Russia, can be visited from Petrozavodsk and can only be visited for a day trip.
A large industrial city in the Ural Mountains, Yekaterinburg is among Russia’s crucial spots with a significant history in the Russian Revolution: it is where Russia’s last Tsar and his family were executed. Exciting for history and culture enthusiasts, this city is home to a thriving theater and dance scene. Further, Yekaterinburg also houses over 30 interesting museums.
Those in the city can also plan day trips to fascinating spots close to the town, such as the quirky Kirillov’s House in the Kunara village or opt for a nature trip to the mountains.
Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Covid Travel Guide To Russia
Q. Is it safe to visit the state of Russia in the upcoming months for travel?
A. Yes, it is safe to travel to the state of Russia if traveling in a small group while following the health and safety guidelines provided by the health department. As the country is slowly resuming its tourism sector, it will take some time before all the attractions resume operations at full capacity but you are still welcome to take a trip given that you adhere to the advisory and take care of yourself and others around you during the journey.
Q. Is it mandatory to have a negative Covid-19 test report while entering the state of Russia?
A. It is mandatory to obtain a negative Covid-19 PCR test report to apply for the tourist visa for Russia. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India is yet to provide details on the Covid-19 travel advisory for Indian visitors. Stay tuned for updated information here.
Q. Is home quarantine mandatory for those who have a negative PCR test report?
A. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India is yet to provide details on the Covid-19 travel advisory for Indian visitors. Stay tuned for updated information here.
Q. What is Russia famous for?
A. Besides being the largest country in the world, Russia is also popular for the Tsar Kolokol bell, Moscow’s capital heritage, classic vodka drinks, and Lake Baikal.
Q. When is the best time to visit Russia?
A. The best time to visit Russia is during the summer months that extend from May to October. That is because Russia is one of the coldest countries and it is important to note the climate well in advance and then plan a visit.
As many places and attractions are subject to various seasonal changes. And, you definitely do not want to miss out on them. You can also plan a visit during the spring time as the summer months happen to be high travel season for tourists that make the country a crowded destination. So, if you desire a good time but amidst lesser crowds then plan your visit during spring.
Q. How to reach Russia?
A. The easiest and best way to reach Russia is by taking a flight to reach Moscow. Russia’s Sheremetyevo International Airport is the major airport and there are many direct flights from various countries that land here.
You could also reach Russia via the Volga-Baltic waterway if you are coming from Europe. And, again if you are coming from Europe, you can reach Russia through the Russina Railways.
But, if you are going from India for instance, then the best way to reach Moscow would be to take a direct flight via the Russian Airline named Aeroflot and reach the International Airport of Sheremetyevo. It would take about six hours to reach.
Q. What is Russia famous for?
A. Below is the List –
- Matryoshkas: After your Russian tour it is a must to take the wooden dolls made by Russian Artists that are called the Matryoshkas. These are the nation’s symbol and extremely popular amidst tourists.
- Culture: Russian culture is the most influential and richest. And it is inclusive of Russian literature besides the popular form of art, the ballet dance.
- Cuisine: The Russian drinks and food are going to satisfy you so much that you crave for more. Hence, whenever in Russia, do not miss on trying the Piroggi, Blinis, Syrniki, and Borscht soup.
- Lake Baikal: The most famous and breathtaking destination has to be the deepest and oldest freshwater Lake Baikal. And you cannot miss out on witnessing its pure, crystal-clear water.
- Moscow: When in Russia, you cannot miss the Red Square and Kremlin in Moscow because the city is the cosmopolitan capital of the country.
Q. Do I need a visa for Russia? How does one get a Russia visa?
A. Yes, you require a visa for visiting Russia because there is no option of visa on arrival. And, you can get a Russian Visa by visiting the nearest consulate in your city. You will require specific documents for the process of visa and those include confirmed tickets, passport validation, and stay confirmation.
In about twenty days you will get your visa but you must apply well in advance because visa processing takes time. You have to download the application form and reach the Russian Consulate for further processes and interviews.
Q. Is Russia expensive to travel?
No, traveling to Russia is not that expensive as compared to other countries of Europe. Russia is cheaper for the Indians as you could expect to shell out anywhere close to 6000 INR per day. And in dollars that amount would be around 49 US dollars a day.
Q. Is Russia safe for tourism?
Yes, Russia is safe for tourism because you will never come across any news of violent crimes committed in broad daylight. But, having said that no country is free of crimes so you may encounter petty crimes like pickpocketing. Take basic precautions and you are good to go.
Q. What are some famous tourist attractions in Russia?
A. Below are the main attractions –
- Mount Elbrus: Located on the Mountain Rage of Caucasus in the Southern part of Russia, Mount Elbrus is a mountain that was formed as a result of a volcano. It is one of the highest summits and there is a system of cable cars that takes visitors above.
- Valley of Geysers: The Valley of Geysers is the world’s second largest geyser that comprises boiling springs, thermal fields and waterfalls that are all worth a watch.
- St Sophia Cathedral: The 125 feet high adorned cathedral with five spectacular looking domes is the most attractive location with gates that are ornately carved.
- Suzdal: If you are an architecture enthusiast then you can make the most of the historic architecture of Russia in Suzdal (called the “Golden Ring”). It is full of monasteries, Kremlins with onion-dome tops, monasteries, cathedrals and preserves Russia’s living museums.
- Moscow Kremlin: This walled enclosure is home to the top offices of the government and is filled with all kinds of royal treasures that include a diamond of 190 carats.
- Hermitage Museum: This massive culture and art museum is a must visit for its collection of more than three million items that include the historical building of Winter Palace.
- Lake Baikal: The oldest, the deepest and the clearest lake of Baikal must be on every tourist’s list as it is the best vacation destination and is home to numerous resorts.
- Kizhi Island: Kizhi Island is blessed with some of the picturesque Russian ensembles that include Lake Onega, wooden churches, and dozens of barns, chapels, windmills and houses.
Q. What are the different activities one can do in Russia?
A. Below is the list of activates
- Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway: To embark upon the greatest adventures of travel, you must set forth on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway ride that takes you across China, Mongolia and Russia.
- Visit the Mausoleum of Lenin: The Mausoleum of Lenin is another stunning attraction for tourists as it houses the ever renowned “modern mummy” (embalmed body) of Vladimir Lenin with a colored step-pyramid.
- Unveil the city of dead: Dargavs Village is the most mystifying destination that is popular for its unusual stories. It will surely present you the right amount of adrenaline rush to unveil the folklore of this region.
- Feel weightless in the Star City: For an unforgettable experience you must partake in zero-gravity flight experience or a simulated launch of the rocket, all in the training center of cosmonauts, Star City.
- Visit the Temple of all religions: The colorful Kazan Temple is called the Temple of all religions that exhibits a stunning mashup of several architectural flourishes depicting the world’s major religions.
- Take a canal tour: The most memorable thing to engage in at St Petersburg is to take a canal tour in the artificial canals.
- Spend hours at the Psychedelic salt mines: Witness colorful and unique swirls of mineral carnallite with beautiful designs in blue, red, white and yellow colors when in Russia. These enticing mines of salt are sure to cast a spell.
Q. How many days are enough for Russia tour?
A. Seven to ten days are more than enough for a thorough Russia tour. During this span of time you can visit the Russian Capitals, Moscow and St Petersburg without overcoming any hassles.
Q. What is the currency of Russia and where can I get my money exchanged?
A. The Russian Currency is called Russian Ruble and the code of the currency is RUB. 1 RUB= 1.13 INR while 1 USD = 57.98 RUB. You can easily get your money exchanged in bureaus of airport exchange, hotels, and banks.
It is vital to remember that exchanging money with the Russian street vendors is illegal, unlike other countries. You also cannot trade with Euros and US dollars, transactions will happen through RUB.
Q. What is so famous about Russia’s nightlife?
A. Below is the list –
1. Drink liquor at Kot Schrodingera: You must experience unconventional cocktail servings at the zestful yet unusual bar of Kot Shredingera. Every drink has a unique taste, colors and the serving cups are contrasting and unusual.
2. Visit the Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Moscow: Catch some of the most refined classical musical performances by Romantic composers in this mega amphitheater.
3. Enjoy the music and dance scene at Krysha Mira: The atmosphere at Krysha Mira is invigorating and if you desire to witness the river and cities bird’s eye view or soak in some foot tapping electronic music scenes, then this club is for you.
4. Night stroll in the Red Square: Enjoy a liberating and free stroll at night in the Red Square that houses some of the popular landmarks like St Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and Kremlin.
5. Catch art performances and shows at the Bolshoi Theatre: If you are a fan of theatrical performances or performing arts then you cannot miss Moscow’s Legendary Bolshoi Theatre that hosts several classic orchestral music and Russian opera performances.
6. Experience nightlife at the SOHO Rooms: SOHO Rooms is one of the most upscale and glitzy nightclubs that presents you with the ideal escape with their cutting edge light and sound systems, disco room, bar, and restaurant.
7. Photograph at Gorky Park: When Gorky Park hosts no fun fairs, festivals, and open concerts in the evenings you can make the most of the dazzling ambiance there. Enjoy a long and quiet stroll while clicking pictures.
Q. Which are some best destinations for road tripping in Russia?
A. Below are the best destinations for road trip –
1. Moscow: On the “Golden Ring” road trip route, you will come across Moscow that houses the mighty city square called the Red Square, the Moscow Kremlin, Bolshoi Theatre and other iconic locations.
2. Plyos: When you go road tripping you will come across the charming Plyos. It is a city that is situated on the Volga River and is known for its art museums.
3. Vladimir: During the road trip in the city, you will stop at the destination of Vladimir that is a must visit for any art connoisseur as it houses fashionable cafes, golden domes and ancient churches.
4. Suzdal: Very near to Vladimir this picturesque and small beautiful town of Suzdal is one of the most hospitable cozy cities with monasteries, churches, and wooden houses galore.
5. Yaroslavl: Yaroslavl is a site of world heritage. And, it is known for the religious architecture of Assumption Cathedral’s gilded towers, planetarium, and numerous theaters.
6. Kostroma: Standing on the Volga River’s banks, the city of Kostroma is considered a paradise for lovers of history and art as there are the Romanovsky Museum, Ipatiev Monastery, and Russian-style buildings.
Q. What are the do’s and don’ts in Russia?
– Do register your visa on arrival: It is a must to register your visa within a week of your arrival because doing it late can cost a fortune.
– Do check the calendar of events: If you do not want to miss out on visiting institutions and museums make sure you are well informed about the major holidays.
– Do learn Cyrillic Alphabet: Learning Cyrillic alphabet pays tenfold as you can easily decode menus, timetables, maps, and metro signs.
– Don’t smile every time: In Russia people reserve their smiles for only their close acquaintances hence it is recommended that you do not smile in public transport looking at strangers.
– Don’t exchange money in evening: Russians believe that money dealings late in the day bring bad omen hence repay any money you owe by morning.
– Don’t whistle: You must not whistle indoors as Russians believe that whistling brings bad luck and that leads to money loss.
Q. Which are the major tourist attractions in Russia?
A. Russia is not only large in size, it also is rich in its culture and history leaving travellers with numerous points of interest, well known as well as unexplored attractions. Some of the top attractions of the country are:
- Mount Elbrus – Mountain range
- Valley of geysers – second largest geyser field in the world
- St. Sophia Cathedral, Novgorod
- Moscow Kremlin
- Hermitage Museum – Saint Petersburg
- Saint Basils Cathedral – Moscow
- Lake Baikal – deepest and oldest lake on Earth
- Kizhi Island – popular for its open air museum
Q. What are the things to do in Russia?
A. The most popular things to do are:
- Ride the Trans-Siberian railway – the longest railway system in the world
- Trek Mount Elbrus – 5642 metres high
- Explore the Kizhi Island
- Visit the Temple of all religions for a sacred pilgrimage
- Visit star city, cosmonaut training centre – experience weightlessness
Q. What is the local food of Russia? Which are the best places to taste this food?
A. Russia’s traditional food mainly consists of veggies and porridges. Overtime, these porridges have been customised and developed into many different varieties using different local ingredients. Apart from the basic, the popular dishes in the Russian cuisine consist of caviar, Borscht, Bliny, Beef stroganoff, Pelmeni and so on. Some of the best places to try these food are:
- Mari Vanna , Moscow
- Percorso, St Petersburg
- Grand Cafe Dr. Jhivago, Moscow
- Stolovaya No57, Moscow
- Palkin, St Petersburg
- Teplo cafe, St Petersburg
Q. What is the best public transport to commute around Russia?
A. Russia is very well developed in terms of infrastructure and thus there are plenty of options when it comes to public transport over there. Some of the popular modes of transport to commute around Russia are:
- Boat – some cities located on rivers, coasts and other water bodies like Moscow and St Petersburg have boat rides which is an unique experience by itself.
- Metro – all major cities have the metro facility. Bigger cities have a more well structured metro, while smaller cities have smaller metros.
- Taxis – taxis are in plenty and are available everywhere. However, it is important for you to choose your taxi carefully in terms of safety and fare. Not all run by meter, so negotiate the price before getting into the taxi.
- Bus, Marshrutky, Trolleybus and Tram
Q. Do I need to have any vaccinations before the trip to Russia?
A. Yes, it is advisable to have some vaccines taken before your travel to Russia. Apart from the routine background vaccines such as tetanus, some of the other vaccines recommended are : typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, Japanese encephalitis and Tick-borne encephalitis.
Q. What is the local language in Russia and which are the most commonly used greetings?
A. The local language used to communicate in Russia is Russian. It can be quite difficult to communicate with the locals without knowing the language. It is advisable to have an English speaking guide with you at all times or if you feel privacy would be invaded that way, carry a Russian dictionary/language book along with you to make it easier. Some common phrases that may be useful to you during your travel are:
- Hello – Zdravstvuyte
- Thank you – Spasibo
- Good morning – dobroye utro
- What is the price of this?– Kakova tsena etogo?
- How far is this place? – naskol’ko daleko eto mesto?
- How are you – Kak dela?
Q. Which are the best shopping places in Russia and what are they famous for?
A. Some of the best shopping places in Russia are:
- GUM mall in Moscow – international brands, retail stores and lot of cultural activities. Also known to be one of the best looking malls in the world.
- TSUM Mall – departmental store with everything you need from clothes to shoes and bags, a great place to relax and enjoy the Russian architectural structures.
- Arbart street in Moscow – great street for souvenir shopping.
- Izmailovo Craft, Flea, Art and Antiquity Market – best for antique shopping from paintings, coins, books, purses, furniture, vessels, etc.
Q. Which are the most famous heritage sites to visit in Russia?
A. There are numerous heritage sites in Russia that travellers can visit. Some of them are also certified UNESCO heritage sites and the top ones are:
- Moscow Kremlin
- Red Square
- Virgin Komi Forests
- White monuments
- Solovetsky Islands
- Kizhi Islands
- Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery, Sergiev Posad
- Putorana Plateau
- Sikhote Alin
- The Caucasus