What to pack
Money, roubles, credit cards, mobile vouchers
Golden rule: arrange money amounts and store it in different places. Don’t forget spare voucher for mobile phone. Majority of restaurants accept credit cards, but not all shops, specially smaller ones. It is not necessary to mention that it is good to have cash with you all the time. If you can’t change money in your country, change it into euros or dollars, and than in Russia in roubles. Don’t do that immediately at the airport or a hotel, exchange rates are more suitable in town exchange offices or banks. It is also good to bring more than one credit card and check with your bank where and how to get your money in Russia. Usually on cash machines they take commission at every money withdrawal so it is better to take larger amounts at once.
Mobile phones and internet
European telecommunication nets have the same frequency as Russians, but American mobile phones work on other frequency. It is good to check this kind of details before travelling so that you don’t have problems when trying to make first call from Russia. It is not bad idea to take the Russian card of one of their mobile networks if you have decoded mobile phone or even buy in Russia cheaper one. It will pay out more than rooming calls. The price for international calls depend on network you are on. It is the best to call users service and check the call and internet prices. As Internet communication is concerned ,you don’t have to worry a lot. Most of the hotels, hostels and big number of cafes offer internet without extra charge or at some lower price.
Check dates on visas and don’t forget the passport. Make two or three copies of your passport and one always take will you,and one definitely leave in hostel or hotel. If you lose your documents,call the tourist agency representative or your country’s embassy in Russia. For more information about obtaining a visa link
Depending on a season when you go, you will take warm or less warm clothes. If travelling in spring or summer put some light clothes since the temperatures can be very high. When choosing clothes the weather forecast can help you: http://www.weatherforecastmap.com/russia/.
If you plan to walk around and tour Russian towns, don’t forget comfortable shoes. It is better to sacrifice the long leg impression than miss on beauties of Russian towns. Be careful about the weight you carry because the weight limitations in planes became more strict. More details on that you can find on: http://www.e-aviokarte.hr/?tid=733
Take sufficient amount of medicine, but check the terms with air company .If you take medicine prescribed by your doctor, you must take prescription .In Russia you will get that medicine harder since they have to be prescribed by Russian doctors. Some medicines you use might not be available in free sale in Russia and you will need a prescription for them.
Medicine for soul (books)
If a long trip is waiting for you, it is good to bring books which will make your trip shorter. In Russia you can still meet lots of people who read while travel in underground railway, by bus, wait in a traffic jam or on the bench in the park. We recommend few books (the choice is not easy) which will bring you closer toRussia and Russian culture and the one you should read:
M. Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
B. Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
Short stories by A.P.Chekhov and N.V.Gogolj
F. M. Dostoyevsky, Idiot
L. N. Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
A.I. Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
A. N. Radischev, Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow
A. S. Pushkin, Yevgeny Onegin
V. Grossman, Life and Fate
Short stories by D. Harms
Also, don’t forget poetry by Blok, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Gumilev
It is hard to choose just something from Russian literature. You will not get it wrong with any books from Russian literature splendors. If you know Russian language and you love books, it is a good news that in Russia you can find bargain books, used or new on every corner. Just be careful with luggage weight.
We don’t recommend to bring sockets with you, just to pay attention on them or on voltage of appliances you want to take with you. In Croatia and Russia sockets are 220 V and in America 110 V. Most of appliances are adjusted to both voltages .If it says on your appliance 110 to 240 V, you don’t have to worry. If it only says 110 V, you will probably not be able to use it in Russia.
Many Russians might not even be aware of these things, because they don’t have to experience them personally or they are so ingrained in Russian society that it may hard for them to imagine things being different in other countries. RBTH has assembled a list of tips intended to be useful for short and long-term visitors alike.
1. You need your passport everywhere you go. It is usually required to buy telephone SIM-cards, enter a business center or university, or even to return an item in a shop. Russians carry their passports everywhere they go and for a worry-free trip you should, too (at least a copy).
2. Documents are sacred. If you buy a ticket for a Russian, make sure you use the appropriate passport (Russians have two – a domestic, and a foreign one) and spellings, as one letter off or the wrong passport could mean that someone is not getting on a plane. Never shorten a name; for example, do not substitute Sasha for Alexander on a document.
3. Some foreigners are surprised by the excessive phone charges for roaming between cities in Russia. Make sure to check you tariff and consider signing up for a special one to minimize charges while traveling.
4. A chain is not always a chain as interpreted in other countries. While a store may sell the same products and offer similar services as another store with the same name, it does not always mean that the stores are seamlessly connected. For example, when you buy a bonus card of some kind, make sure it covers the locations you need: do not assume that it will work everywhere. Banks have to be Russian-majority owned, so a customer will be charged for using a Citibank machine even if they have an account back home. One Dutch citizen we polled asked a bank to send them a new bankcard to Moscow after they moved from St. Petersburg. The bank refused and insisted that the customer take a trip to St. Petersburg to pick up the new card. Only after being assertive did the bank acquiesce. The client assumed it wouldn’t make a difference. Russians, however, are used to dealing with one store and rarely make such assumptions.
5. Setting up a bank account as a foreigner can be tricky. Sometimes different branches have divergent policies. Generally, doing business with Citibank (for U.S. citizens) and Raiffeisen (for European citizens) are considered the easiest.
6. Foreign bankcards . Some foreigners (especially Americans) tend to have problems using foreign bankcards as most credit card machines in Russia only accept them with a PIN code. Get a PIN code in advance if you do not have one for your credit card. Also, some foreign banks decline online purchases on certain Russian sites; be prepared to go in person to make a purchase or call your bank and ask them to certify the operation. Additionally, foreign cardholders are limited to taking small amounts from bank machines (usually 7500 rubles – $162); Russians can often take out 10 times that amount.
7. Registration. Foreigners must register their visa within seven working days of arrival to Russia excluding holidays and weekends or else they could face fines or deportation. Note that this law changed in 2011 (from 72 hours).
However, there are ambiguities. According to how the text is written it seems entirely possible that as long as a traveler does not spend seven consecutive working days in one city, then they do not have to register at all. However, it is recommended to register as soon as you arrive in Russia and in each subsequent city you visit.
Hotels should register you automatically. If you are staying in a private apartment, then the owner of the apartment will need to go to the local police station or post office to register you. If you have a work visa, then your workplace should take care of this. If on a tourist visa the agency that wrote your invitation should help.
8. Although in theory all hotels should register foreigners , some do not. Always call in advance when booking a hotel to confirm that they register foreigners unless it’s stated on their website.
9. Borders . Different rules apply to foreigners visiting international border regions than Russians. As a rule check in advance if you will be traveling near a border, especially a sensitive one such as North Korea. Always carry your passport and registration with you.
Additionally one American told us that a bus operator refused to sell them a ticket to Finland as there had been difficulties crossing with certain nationalities before. The same has been said to be true for foreigners traveling to China by bus from the Far East. Check in advance if using a private operator to cross a border.
You arrived at airport in Russia
At airport in Russia you need to go through immigration control. The clerk will check your passport and visa. After you take the luggage ,you need to go through customs control if you have something to declare (red passage). If you don’t have anything to declare, you go through green passage. If you are that lucky to carry more than 10 000 USD in cash with you or something which you intend to sell in Russia, most definitely go through red passage and declare that. More on customs terms you can find below in text. After the customs the impatient taxi drivers will wait for you and offer the transport. In most cases they will offer you unrealistic price. Taxi is definitively better choice if you arrive by night flight, during the day you have more choices (train, metro, bus). If you decide on taxi, be persistent in bargaining and firm. If the Russians notice your hesitation, fear or insecurity,they will not stop to bother you. Be polite but firm and the price can be lowered up to 50%. If you want trip without worries and risks ,we can offer you individual transfer which will be waiting for you at airport with the board with your surname or the name of agency your made reservation through ,written on .In case that the flight is delayed, our driver will wait for you for two hours. In case of your delay, you can call the number for emergency cases in order to make needed changes. Waiting is charged per hour. We advise to make notice about the flight delay as soon as possible in order to avoid extra charge .
What you can bring in Russia, and what to take from Russia
Foreign citizens can take out from Russia up to 3000 USD without showing any special documentation (customs declaration or receipt about money).For amounts higher than 3000 and lower than 10 000 USD it is necessary to, when entering the country, fill in customs declaration. For amounts higher than 10 000 USD, when leaving Russian Federation it is necessary to show the receipt of previous legal transfer of money in Russian Federation.
From Russia without customs you can take out the merchandise whose value does not go over 65 000 roubles (cca 1500 euro) and weight of 50 kg. 30% of merchandise value is the custom for things more than 65000 roubles and up to 200 kg of weight.
Things like works of art and old values can be exported only with permission of Ministry of culture of Russian Federation and with custom cost of 100 %.In some cases the salesman of works of art can gain the receipt of Ministry of culture of Russian Federation for the buyer. The amount of specific merchandise is limited such as caviar, medicine, jewellery, gemstones and semi precious stones which can be exported from Russian Federation. Computers and computer equipment should be shown to the Customs office at least two hours before leaving the Russian Federation.
How big tip you give in Russia
In Russian there is not any specific rule on how much to leave to the waiter ,guide or someone else for service. For example: if you are satisfied with the service and dinner in a restaurant, 10% is considered as a generous tip. If you would like to leave the tip to the guide, it is appropriate to give 4 to 6 USD per 2 hours, something less to the driver. If you are in a group, you can make the amount higher. It is specific situation when on cruising. It is not custom to tip for every service separately during the trip. Most often there is special box at the reception in which you can (but you don’t have to) leave the tip 4 to 10 USD, how much you want and can.Russia is not like America and it does not have obligatory and defined amount which should be left as a tip. Anyhow, the amount of the tip is best to define by your satisfaction.
How to feel safe in Russia
No, we don’t recommend to bring the weapon, pay the bodyguard and stay away from all parts of town which are not close to town centre, and after 7pm don’t go out of hotel. It is assumed that Russia is the country of criminal, that you are watched from every side, and they are true as much as they are true in stories about western countries. If you want to feel safe get rid of these prejudices. Behave like in your town. Stay out of trouble. Don’t carry all documents and money with you. If you are in hotel/hostel, leave your valuables in a safe deposit box. It is good to have copy of your passport and visa or voucher with you.In Russia, specially in Moscow, you will feel even safer than somewhere else because you will meet policeman in the streets very often. And no, they will not arrest you without reason and torture with different methods to confess that you are an American spy. Of course,pickpockets are present like everywhere. One of safe ways of carrying the money and documents are small thin wallets which you can carry around your neck and under the shirt so that nobody can see it, and it will be hard to tear it. Golden rule: divide and rule. Don’t put all money in one pocket .You will see some people taking the money out of sock at the cash register. It is not really nice sight, but people like to be safe. If you travel with agency ,you will have emergency telephone number .In case that the accident happens, you can ask for help in that way. The personnel will ,for sure, be ready to do everything what is needed and possible. If it happened that somebody stole your money and credit cards, it is a must to call your bank and guide or escort. The list of some emergency numbers you can find on our web pages in section about cities.
If you travel with Atlantis Travel agency, you will get emergency numbers. One office is in Zagreb, and one in Moscow (Atlantis Holidays), so that both countries are covered and it is easier to do all necessary things to solve the problem in shorter time as possible. It is advisable to pay travellers insurance, specially if you stay in Russia longer time. In that way the expenses of hospital treatments, or part of them, will be covered. Definitely keep all receipts from hospital expenses. Details on travellers insurance you can get from travel agency. If you need to call emergency ambulance service, it is better decision to call taxi to get to needed hospital since traffic jams on Russian streets, specially in Moscow, prevent ambulance service to arrive in a short time.
What to bring home – presents and souvenirs
Apart from postcards and magnets, in Russian shops you will find many interesting things that you can buy for yourself or your close ones: t-shirts with funny titles or pictures, bottles of vodka, interesting lighters, calendars with pictures of Russian sights, fur hats, gloves, hand made jewellery,Russian scarfs and of course Matryoshka doll.It is interesting that Matryoshka dolls came to Russia in 19th century and most probably from Japan,and that they are one of the most famous Russian symbols and souvenirs.Matryoshka dolls(russ. матрешки) are the symbol of fertility and motherhood. If you buy at markets and fairs, bargain. When they realise that you are a foreigner ,they will offer you too high price,it is up to you to pretend that you are not interested and that you are shocked with that price and make it more appropriate .Sometimes it is even possible to lower the price in smaller shops. It is worth to try!
How to spend less
In the chapter above you can find advice on how to save money when buying the souvenirs. And as far as food and drinks are concerned,advice is simple.If you want to save some money,don’t go to restaurants in main streets and on main town squares. There are restaurants where you can eat at affordable price, and the guide can recommend them to you or the personnel where you are staying in. Ingredients in the shops are not significantly ,sometimes not at all, more expensive than ingredients in Croatia. If you are staying in a hostel, in most of them you can buy some ingredients and prepare it in joined kitchen. In the same way you can buy coffee and drink it before leaving so that you don’t get caffeine crisis in the middle of Arbat where the coffee costs more than 6 USD. The cigarettes are much cheaper so you can poison yourself at lower price. If you need clothes, don’t go toMoscow’s GUM (huge department store on Red square where the prices are extremely high),look for smaller shops or some other shopping centre. Moscow is not more expensive than other capitals. We suppose that you will not buy an apartment because you would really feel the difference here. Clothes, food, drinks, souvenirs-prices are even lower than in some other tourist towns for example Firenze, Berlin, London… Don’t rush, ask, check… Personnel and guides already know secret places and they will gladly help you.
As far as public transport in concerned, we don’t recommend to try to have free drives. The tickets for metro are around 1 USD and that is really not a lot if you consider the speed in which you pass big distance. With taxi drivers always bargain, and you can, if you dare, stop any car and arrange the price. In Russian it is not unusual to get a drive by non taxi drivers. The culture will empty your pockets little bit more, but it is worth it. The tickets for different sights you can check in our descriptions on our web pages. Many offer discounts if you have student card ISIC, and if you know Russian, maybe you can succeed to walk in as a domestic tourist and pay less since the prices for foreign tourists are higher than the one for domestic (you didn’t hear this from us).