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Visiting Russia for the first time – Russian Visas & Travel Tips

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SO you want to visit Russia… how hard can it be? Maybe the most difficult and time consuming visa process you will encounter in the Northern Hemisphere, but it’s totally worth it… here’s your guide to visiting Russia for the first time.

Visiting Russia For the First Time

Did you know Russia has 9 time zones, deadly climates and more billionaires than anywhere else in the world? It may surprise you that tourism has been booming in Russia since the fall of the iron curtain, but there is still much to discover in Russia for the budding tourist. Yes, there is vodka. Yes, there is a unique culture. Yes, there are traditions so far removed from the West that will leave you wanting to discover more. But for the first time visitor, Russia can seem a little overwhelming. Here’s a guide to get you by on your first visit Russia…

Know Before you Go

Cyrillic – Don’t expect to come to Russia and see signs offering an English translation – it’s perhaps even offensive to expect this would be the case. 99.9% of signs will be in Cyrillic, so it’s a good idea to learn the basics such as ‘exit’ ‘entrance’ and ‘restrooms’.

Traffic Jams – Particularly in Moscow but also in St Petersburg, tourists should expect traffic jams and lots of them. When in Moscow, avoid being on the roads during peak hour as it is not only timely but also considerably more dangerous to be in traffic during these times.

Russian Rubles – The currency of Russia is the Ruble. You can exchange money once you are here, but remember US dollars and Euros are preferable.

Weather – Russia is renowned for its’ harsh climates. If you’re visiting in winter, don’t expect to be able to do everything you have planned – it can be crazy cold! The weather is also very temperamental so be sure to pack some warmer items even for Spring or Autumn.

Food – You will find many options beyond Russian traditional food so rest assured, there will be something for even the fussiest eater.

Tourists will pay more – It is common for locals to charge tourists more – from cab fares to sales on the street. You should expect this and accept it as part of your trip to avoid having an argument with a local.

Safety – As with anywhere else in the world, safety should always be of concern. That doesn’t mean you have to wear a tourist purse around your neck but if you are worried, why not? Go with your gut feeling.

russia

A Guide to the Russian Visa

Ahhh, the ominous Russian Visa.

As a brief introduction, know that there are 6 types of Russian visas. If you are visiting for less than 30 days, you will be concerned with the tourist visa.

The tourist visa is the best option in terms of price, processing speed and flexibility.

The Tourist Visa

  • Valid for double and single entry, up to 30 days in Russia
  • Usually takes 1-10 days to process by the Russian Consulate
  • Costs from $50-$150 USD
  • To obtain this visa, you need a tourist invitation – issued by your hotel or Russian travel agency
  • It is not as difficult as it sounds, you just need to consult your countries’ Russian consulate and follow the step-by-step guide
Where to go in Russia for your first time

 For first time visitors, it’s important not to miss both Moscow and St Petersburg. Many first timers will also include the trans-Siberian railway.

Moscow – First time visitors should not miss a visit to the Russian capital. The Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin…. there really is so much to see here in Moscow and these highlights just scratch the surface. If you’re a history buff, you won’t pass up the offer to have an insight into Russian history by visiting the capital.

St Petersburg – Often regarded as the more touristy city to visit in Russia (which it is), St Petersburg is a true gem that should certainly be visited on your first visit to Russia. It will feel as though you have stepped inside a time warp with the most incredible architecture, sunny summers, and fantastic palaces to visit.

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  • info@toptravellists.com'
    Tajirul Haque
    March 16, 2015 at 1:36 am

    These are some really very helpful tips for someone visiting Russia for the first time. Especially, the language and safety tips should help for sure. I think Russia is a great country to visit and have some unforgettable experiences. I wish to visit Russia the next year. Here are the top 10 tourist attractions in Russia in my opinion. I wish to cover these all. And I am sure these tips are going to help me a lot.
    http://toptravellists.com/tourist-attractions-in-russia/

  • sharden47@hotmail.com'
    Sharon
    July 17, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Have just left Russia 2 days ago. Amazing place -Moscow and St Petersburg are yin/yang quite different to each other. Some locals super friendly – metro ladies not always. Most locals will attempt to help you if lost. Thoroughly enjoyed my time never felt unsafe. Did White Nights tour in Moscow – a must do! Used the red bus double Decker bus on 1st day in St Peters to get my bearings. Walked or metred. Also used local guide. Would love to go back for a Xmas treat

  • onthegosandra@gmail.com'
    Sandra On The Go
    July 16, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks! This was helpful, I want to visit Russia someday 🙂

  • litonkrl@gmail.com'
    Clipping Path Outsource
    July 15, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Good guide! Why not I want to visit Russia-Moscow!

  • polly@agirlandhertravels.com'
    Polly
    July 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I wouldn’t advise people to wear any kind of special ‘tourist’ safety items – it’s super safe, even in Moscow. Also, because of recent changes in the Embassy rules (can’t go to the embassy and have to pay a fee to the office you go to), it’s easier to pay a company to get your visa.

    Russia is great! Yeah Russia! 🙂

  • Angharad.owen1@btinternet.com'
    Harri
    July 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    This is so helpful!! I’m planning on going to Russia for the first time next year, and the thought of organising a visa and learning Cyrillic is absolutely overwhelming…!

  • olganikolskaya@live.co.uk'
    Olga
    July 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Your “ominous” Russian visa made me laugh 🙂 being a Russian I have to get these “ominous” visas to more than 50% of the countries that I visit. UK and the US are the worst, and cost a small fortune. I think the one for the States will set me back more than $300 when I renew it. sighs.

  • cigarette@live.ru'
    N
    July 14, 2014 at 9:57 am

    as I’m from St. Petersburg I just wanna add that the best time to visit St. Petersburg is definitely mid-may – mid-july since this is the time of white nights and not only it is beautiful and unusual for people from more southern places, but also the energy and the drive is amazing and people are not really sleeping.

    But first half of may and mid-july – end of august are good also. First part of september maybe be warm and sunny but not always.

    If you visit at any other time, you may by disappointed but constantly grey sky, lots of rain and not to mention cold!

  • Skyenvyblog@gmail.com'
    Sarah
    July 14, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I was in San Francisco when I applied for Russian Visa. The process can be daunting at first but there are Visa assisting agencies that has a lot of information even a step by step guide for US citizens applying for the visa. We didn’t avail of the help of agencies, instead we did it ourselves. Just allot time to research and you can call or email these agencies to ask questions. Save $$ if you do it yourself. Here are some photos of my Moscow

  • regina@travelschick.de'
    regina
    July 14, 2014 at 2:51 am

    St. Petersburg and Moscow are beautiful places. Two years ago I was in St.Petersburg, stayed in the W St.Petersburg, which was a perfect stay.
    Cheers
    Regina
    http://www.travelschick.de