Exploring Fabulous Russia: Matreshka, Vodka, Balalaika Are Just the Beginning

With the Russian river cruising season about to reopen in just a couple of months, running from around May to mid-October, now’s the best time to start putting together your travel plans. Visiting Russia requires some significant advance preparation!

Why travel to Russia? This choice of destination can raise eyebrows for some; many people expect Russian cities to be grey, uninviting and boring places, but this will all quickly change when you arrive. Moscow and St. Petersburg, in particular, are stunning, modern and clean cities inhabited by hospitable people proud of their country and culture.

Advance planning is essential

Visiting Russia requires a valid passport and an entrance visa, which can take time and cost a few hundred dollars. So, be sure that you allow plenty of time for the process. And don’t book any trips in the meantime, as you’ll be without your passport while the visa is processed.

Learn some Russian basics

Nobody expects you to be fluent in Russian as a tourist, but it can be helpful to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and some key Russian basics. A good English-speaking local guide can act as your interpreter, but learning a few key phrases will definitely mean you’re appreciated more by the locals you speak to.

Planning finances

The Ruble is the currency in Russia, and you’ll need to carry local currency for small vendors. U.S. dollars are accepted in major centers. Most retailers will accept credit cards, but it’s always worth carrying some cash as well.

Russian food is delicious

Make sure that you try as much Russian food as you can during your trip! Main dishes including everything from kulebyaka, a puff pastry stuffed with spinach and salmon a white wine sauce to pojarski koteletti, a pork and chicken meatloaf with a crispy crust. And there are plenty of vegetarian options available.

Pack accordingly

Russia can be cold depending on the time of year you visit, so make sure to pack plenty of layers. Weather conditions can vary. And, make sure to take comfortable walking shoes; there’s plenty of uneven ground or cobblestones that will take a toll on your feet during walking tours. Check out the selection of best offers for tours to Russia here.

Visit all the highlights

Featuring 42 islands, 66 canals and bridges in the hundreds, it’s easy to see why St. Petersburg is widely considered the most beautiful city in Russia.

The capital city, Moscow, is a vibrant metropolis. During your time here, be sure to see Red Square, which you’ll find at the very heart of the city. Spend some time at iconic buildings like the 800-year-old Kremlin; a walled fortress within the city, and the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral domes. You can easily travel between the two cities by train; the Russian Railway tickets service is easy to navigate online.

And, be sure to get out of the city too – visits to small villages can be the best part of your trip. Kizhi, Uglich, Mandrogy, Yaroslavl and Kuzino are excellent destinations to visit if you want to learn as much as possible about Russia and its people.

Bring a souvenir home

There are plenty of traditional souvenirs definitely worth bringing home with you! Vodka is a perfect souvenir of course, and make sure that you get your hands on a traditional hand-painted wooden matryoshka. If the traditional dolls aren’t to your taste, you can get novelty versions of sports and political figures, too.

Or, pick up a classic ushanka to keep you warm – they’re available everywhere from street vendors to major stores. If you want to splash the cash, you can’t go wrong with a container of red or black caviar.

You’ll be surprised at just how much there is to Russia! Start making your travel preparations as early as possible to get the most from your trip.

WE SAID THIS: Is Russia on your bucket list yet?

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