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      Russians       Visiting Russia        English-Russian phrase-book

 

Travel to Russia

Russia is a beautiful country and you will enjoy your trip. At the same time it's quite different from other tourist destinations and you should plan your visit carefully.

 

When to visit Russia

First question that you will face when starting to plan your trip - what is the best season to come to Russia. There are no doubts, you'd better go in summer. Summer in Russia lasts from June to August. If you are going to Siberia or Far East, the most beautiful weather there is in September.

Winter travels have their special charm, but you'd better don't try if you are not used to subzero temperatures.

 

What should you take with

Rains in Russia are usual for any season, except winter, so take an umbrella with you. Even in summer the temperature sometimes is only +3...+5 degrees C, and warm clothes (jacket and sweaters) are necessary. If the purpose of your visit is matrimonial, take jeans rather than shorts - shorts are not the best wear for important things such as courting.

Washing of your clothes in hotels is quite expensive and in some of them may not be available at all. If you need to wash your clothes, ask the cleaning lady - it will be done with utmost care and much cheaper compared to the use of the hotel service. The easiest way? Take a small packet with washing powder and 'do-it-yourself'. Socks, undies, and shirts all can be washed at night and hung up in the bathroom. In the morning, move half-dry clothes to the closet. They will be ready the same afternoon.

Don't forget to take special gifts for the people you are going to visit and some more small souvenirs. If you are visiting your lady, take pictures of you, your house, your city etc.

 

How to organize your trip

Although during the last years traveling to Russia has become easier, you still have to obtain a visa. You can apply for a private, tourist or business visa. Tourist visas are the least complicated to obtain. When you choose a travel agency, make sure that they have a reliable Russian partner in the city you are going to visit, otherwise you can be lodged in a low class hotel somewhere in the outskirts. It's a good idea to arrange being met at the airport by an English speaking person. You must register with Russian authorities after arriving at your destination. If you are staying at a hotel, the administration will do it for you.

The best is to have a local contact in the city you visit, so you can sort out any possible problems and get advice where necessary. If you do not have such a contact, make friends with the receptionist at your hotel and don't be afraid to ask questions.

 

Language

If it's your first trip to Russia, you are sure to experience language problems. If you do not know the Russian alphabet, you won't be able to read signboards and find your way. Even hotel staff may not speak English. The situation in regional cities is worse. You will rarely find a café or restaurant, with an English menu.

You should always have a card from your hotel. If you are looking for some address, it's better to have it with you written in Russian. Ask your translator or friend to write down a list of necessary phrases that you can give people to read what you want. If you can't get right at the hotel or any other place, ask for a person who can speak English. Russians are very helpful and they will keep trying to help you even if they don't understand you.

The easiest way around? Get a 'talking translator' - an electronic device that can pronounce words in both English AND Russian. Most travelers agree it is a great investment.

 

Money

Credit cards are not in wide use in Russia and in small towns it can be impossible to pay by credit card or draw cash. In Moscow and St. Petersburg you will be able to pay by credit card in many places, usually the most expensive ones. Dollars or another currency are officially not allowed as payment means but can be freely converted at banks. There are no any restrictions of amounts. You must produce your passport for the exchange. Never, EVER attempt to exchange money anywhere but the designated official places. Not only it's illegal, you stand a great chance to be scammed. It will be wise to have money with you in cash and travelers checks as well as a credit card.

 

Crime situation

You will be safe as long as you don't show around big amounts of money or walk alone at night along dark lonely streets. Murder is considered to be an extraordinary event in Russia that usually happens with people who are involved in organized crime. 

You can visit any place and peacefully walk on the streets. However, you can easily become a victim of pocket thefts; so take care of your wallet and do not keep big amounts with you.

 

Food

Restaurants and cafés offer a wide range of dishes, and you will find something according your tastes. The only problem you can face is that they seldom have a menu in English. Tipping is expected but not mandatory. Check your bill before paying, it is likely to have counting mistakes.

Russians are very fond of soups (which include meat, vegetables and broth), pies and pelmeny (similar to ravioli). Russian cuisine is not spicy. Portions are usually smaller than you are used to.

 

Services

Russians call their services "non-obtrusive". Be aware that toilets are difficult to find, and usually you have to pay there. To use a public phone you will need a token or card. International calls can not be made from street phones. Your mobile phone will work in Moscow and Saint Petersburg but seldom in regional cities.

As a taxi you can use any car, not only a specific one. Drivers are eager to give you a lift to earn a few rubles. Taxi fee must be discussed with a driver before a journey.

To send e-mail you can use Internet cafes or official postal services. Russia has become quite Internet savvy and you will easily find a place with access to the Internet. The best hotels will also provide you with this facility.

In the major cities you can rent a car but it's expensive. Public transport in Russia is quite good, cheap and easy to use though sometimes overcrowded.

 

Attractions

Russia is a country with the long and unique history. There are many places to see. Foreigners are usually impressed with it's unusual architecture, especially churches and cathedrals. There are many museums, monuments, and theatres. The most popular tourist destinations are Moscow and Saint Petersburg. If you are in Russia, you should see at least those two cities.

 

Tips

  • Take a converter with you for electrical items. Electricity throughout Russia is 220 volt. The plug is 2 pin thin European standard.
  • Quality of tap water varies from city to city but normally is quite poor. It will be wise not to drink tap water, and use bottled water for brushing your teeth. Be aware though, that Russian mineral water is usually salted and has a special taste. Buy imported water or ask a salesperson which one is not salted.
  • Russians do not wear shoes at apartments, and usually you will be offered to change your shoes to slippers. Even if your hosts do not ask you to take off your shoes, do it yourself.
  • It's polite to bring something with you when invited for socials. Bring flowers for a hostess and you will never be mistaken.
  • It's considered being rude if you leave something on your plate when eating at a private house and you can offend the hosts. If you do not drink alcohol, at least take a glass and have a sip. You are supposed to try every dish on the table so keep space. Ask the person who invited you, how many dishes are in queue.

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