Russia is supplied with 220 Volt and 50 Hz AC current. This means that if you are from Continental Europe (France, Germany etc) your electrical items will work just fine. If you are from the UK or America you will need to use an adaptor. It is easier to purchase an adaptor in your home country.
There are many internet cafes in Russia, so you never need to be far away from checking your bank account or private mail. Ask your guide for the closest internet point to your Hotel, or alternatively most hotels provide internet access although at a more expensive rate.
Because the Rouble is not an international currency, it is better to bring Dollars or Euros into the country. Please note, many exchange booths only accept Dollars or Euros which are brand new, meaning no ink marks or tears of any kind.
Currency can be converted at Exchange Offices all over the city, or alternatively at every Hotel (although, Hotel rates are less competitive than at Exchange offices). It is also worth mentioning that Travellers Cheques usually carry a 3% commission when they are exchanged. ATM (Cash Points) abound in every city. Cash withdrawals may be expensive, check the price with your own bank before you arrive in Russia. Do not change money with anyone who offers on the street.
Credit cards are accepted in most shops.
Shop Opening Hours
In the larger cities, some shops remain open for 24 hours. Typically though, shops stay open until 20:00, and on Sundays until 18:00. Department Stores are usually open until 22:00.
It is actually very safe in Russia and street crime, although it exists, is rare. However, for your own protection, take the same care that you would take anywhere else in the world. This includes using a money belt for cash, or putting you wallet safely in an inside pocket and do not take more money out with you than you need.
Moscow and St Petersburg Metro
The easiest way to get around Moscow and St Petersburg is by metro. Tickets currently cost 40 Rubles for a single unlimited journey. There are maps of the metro in every carriage and at various places in every metro station. All maps are posted in English and Russian. Just remember to learn the Russian for “Exit” before you start your journey, or you could be trapped underground for some time!
No need to be afraid of the weather in Russia provided you know what to expect. Summers are generally hot. The average temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius, but it can easily soar to 30 degrees and above. Spring and Autumn can be wet (so remember to bring an umbrella) although relatively warm at around 10 degrees, and the famous Russian Winter is of course cold – although do not let this put you off coming in Winter. Whilst the temperature can fall to 20 degrees below zero, the air is very dry and the conditions are actually very pleasant! When planning a trip to Russia, please check the long range weather forecast before you arrive, to ensure you bring the right clothes.
Do not drink the tap water, although it is OK for brushing your teeth. Bottled water is available in every food shop or kiosk, or at your Hotel, and is inexpensive.
The Cyrillic alphabet is actually fairly easy to learn and is phonetic. Once you know it, using public transport is much easier. There is no need to spend much time on learning Russian before you come. It has a reputation for being one of the most difficult languages, but a few words such as “please”, “thank you” and “hello” will get you a long way.
Yellow (official) Taxis can be stopped on the street in the large cities. They run on a meter, but we recommend that you get an estimate and agree the price before you start your journey. Many other cars will stop when you hold out your hand on the street. These are “Gypsy” cabs, and while cheap and generally safe it is better to stick to official Taxis.
Russia spans a continent and thus has many time zones. Moscow and St Petersburg are GMT+3. Moving East, Yekaterinburg is GMT+5, Novosibirsk is GMT+6, while Kamchatka is GMT+12.
If you bring a cell phone to Russia, you will probably find that it will automatically connect to a local network. If you are planning on using it to phone internally within Russia, it will be undoubtedly cheaper to purchase a pre-paid SIM card from one of the many mobile phone outlets around the cities. Using a land line is fairly simple.
International Calls from Russia.
Dial 8, wait for a tone, then dial 10 for international access, and then the international code of the country you need (44 for the UK, 1 for the US) then the city code and finally the number that you need. If you are using a city code, it is cheaper to call via an IP phone card, that can be purchased from a kiosk or communications shop.
International to Russia
The phone code of Russia is +7. Each city also has a dialling code, for example Moscow is 495 and 499, St Petersburg is 812. Check the Hotels section on this web site to find out the dialling code in the place where you will be staying. If your Moscow Hotel number is 123 4567, then you can be reached form abroad by dialling +7 495/499 123 4567.
Within the city inside Russia
Simply dial the advertised number without the city code or any international prefix. If you are using a public phone, you may need to buy a phone card in advance. These can be bought from most kiosks and also at the counters in the Metro.
City to city within Russia
Dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial the city code and finally the number you require.
Make sure you carry your passport with you at all times in Russia. Without it, you may leave yourself subject to a fine. If your passport or visa is lost or stolen, please contact our office immediately and we will arrange for you to receive a replacement via your embassy.
When you arrive in Russia, the Hotel will take your passport for about one hour in order to register you at the Hotel.
Service in Bars and Restaurants
Russia is not famous for good customer service. However, the service culture is slowly taking hold, and it is possible at last to get good service in many places and even exceptional service in expensive bars and clubs. If you do get service which may be less than you would receive at home, please don’t let it spoil your holiday, and just remember that the lack of a smile isn’t personal!
There is no set rule in Russia for tipping. Firstly, check your bill to see if service has already been included. If not and the service has been good and you would like to leave a tip, we recommend between 5 and 10%. Tipping your guide and driver, if they have been valuable to you, is also good practice – Tips in Russia are never included in the bill!!!
Contrary to many rumours, you can take photos of anything in Russia. Getting a film developed here is also very easy, and many kiosks or shops provide a 1 hour Express service. 35mm film is available throughout Russia, and memory cards for Digital Cameras can be purchased in most cities.
If you are sending something very important to or from Russia, make sure you use an international courier firm such as DHL. For postcards and other non essential mail, the Russian postal system is cheap, but very slow and not 100% reliable. Most Hotels operate a postal service, or alternatively ask your guide for help.
Of course there are lots of places to buy souvenirs of your time in Russia. Traditional souvenirs such as Matrioshka Dolls and other Russian crafts are available everywhere. Also, you may wish to take home some vodka and caviar. Our tip is not to wait until the Duty Free at the airport, as you will find prices cheaper in a local supermarket in the city.