Russia is an amazing place to visit, and lots of people have wistfully said to me “I would love to go to Russia one day”. But it can seem a bit daunting to actually plan the trip, and thus for many people going to Russia remains just a wish and not a reality. The truth is, however, that it’s actually not difficult to go to Russia, or at least not nearly as difficult as you think. Here is your complete guide to an easy and safe trip to Russia:
Before You Go
Before you go to Russia, find out where you would like to go and for how long. Then find yourself a reputable travel agent and get started on getting a Russian visa. This is the most important, and often, the most daunting step to visiting Russia and thus it’s crucial to get it over with as soon as possible. Once you have your visa application in process (it’s really not that scary), you can go ahead with all your other travel planning.
By Air: You can fly to Moscow and St. Petersburg from most major airports. Getting to other Russian cities is not always as easy; however, even if there isn’t a direct flight from your closest airport (like, for example, to Murmansk), you can usually fly to Moscow and from there take a connecting flight. If you are going to do this, however, don’t forget to check the airports you are flying from – getting from one to another in Moscow can be difficult.
Hint: If you are going to be traveling through Europe anyway, don’t forget to check out small local airlines such as Germanwings and Rossiya Airlines, which sometimes have very cheap flights to Russia. You can also consider the following options if you are on a budget...
By Train: Two trains (one day train and one overnight) run from Vilnius, Lithuania to St. Petersburg. You can also catch a train to St. Petersburg from Helsinki, Finland. You can get to Moscow by train from Riga, Latvia.
Within Russia, you can (and should, unless you’re very tight on time) travel anywhere by train. If you’re going to Siberia in the east, you may even have no other choice, as flights can be rare and prohibitively expensive.
By Bus: From Riga (Latvia), you can take a cheap bus to St. Petersburg. It takes about 11 hours.
When booking a hotel, keep in mind these tips for Eastern European hotel bookings. If you’re on a budget, or just feeling up for an adventure, consider choosing a hotel alternative instead.
Where to Go
Give some thought to where you want to go to Russia and why. While Moscow and St. Petersburg are the obvious options, there are so many other places you can discover if you take a bit more time to find them. If you’re traveling in the winter, consider going to a warmer area of Russia, unless you truly believe you’re ready to battle the famous Russian winter.
Budget Travel: Budget travel can be more difficult than the kind where you can buy convenience and simplicity. The good news, however, is that it is very possible to travel through Russia on a budget.
Language: One of the best ways to make your trip to Russia (or anywhere, really) easier is to learn some Russian words and phrases before you go. If you want to travel in Russia longer, go to remote regions, or just get to know the country & culture better, you may want to learn the alphabet and taking some additional Russian language lessons.