Russia is a country that has had a very different and more turbulent twentieth century than many countries in the West, and there are still a lot of idiosyncrasies and Soviet-style issues that you may encounter as you travel through the country. There are also some truly epic adventures to be had if you are visiting Russia, in a country that has some of the biggest cities in Europe through to large expanses that are almost desolate.
Speaking and being able to read even a little Russian will be a huge help while exploring the country, and here are a few tips for making sure your trip goes as smoothly as it can do.
Visas and Travel Documents
However, you are going to be exploring the country, bear in mind that you may come across the local police, and if you do then they are likely going to ask to see your documents. This means that you will not only need to have your passport and your visa in order but that you will need to have your registration documents completed as well. If you are visiting one of the restricted areas of the country, such as Chechnya, make sure your permits have also been arranged, as they are high-security areas and you may need to present your papers several times.
Traveling by Rail
The railway network in Russia is very good, with routes connecting most towns and cities, and the trains are split into three types, with the high-speed luxury trains, express trains, and local trains.
Longer routes will offer sleeper cabins and regular seats, and each train has its own supply of hot water and attendant, so bring your own tea or coffee supplies, while instant noodles are also good if you are on a budget. Buy your tickets in advance, and if you do get a lower bunk, bear in mind there is a steel box under the mattress for your rucksack, which is ideal if you are worried about theft.
One nice part of travel on a train in Russia is that it is traditional to share food with others in your car or cabin, so if you do have some to spare be happy to share, and you may get to try some authentic local fare in return.
Driving in Russia
Hiring a car is an interesting and exciting experience in Russia, but it does tend to be expensive. When it comes to driving in Russia, having a dashboard camera is a good source of evidence if there are any disputes that happen while you are there, and bear in mind that there are some toll roads which will take you through gates to collect the toll. The quality of petrol is also a problem outside the cities, so make sure you go for branded filling stations which may improve the quality of the fuel. All signs are in Russian, and satellite navigation systems are undependable off the main routes too, so driving is interesting but unpredictable in Russia.
Dealing With Officials
If your papers are in order, then in most cases a request for documentation will simply involve a quick examination of the papers and then a salute as they allow you to go on your way. Unless you are asked for a bribe do not offer one, as if you do this to a genuine officer, it may lead to more problems rather than leading to you getting on your way more quickly.
White, western visitors tend to have fewer problems than those from ethnic minorities, which hasn't been helped by some racial tension over recent years.
Staying Safe While Traveling in Russia
The usual tips for travel in any country apply in Russia, with keeping your luggage safe and avoiding being drunk while using public transport both being good pieces of advice. Unregistered taxis can be a problem in some areas, with victims sometimes being robbed or kidnapped.
Precautions to Take Before You Travel
One good tip when you are traveling in Russia is to have a copy of all your documents online, as losing documents can be a massive headache, and copies may help you to get through and out of the country a little more easily if you are robbed or lose your papers. Best of all, make sure you learn as many Russian phrases as you can, and if possible take a class, as outside the tourist areas you will find it very difficult to get around without a basic grasp of the language and the letters.