A trip to Russia will require a bit of preparation. You will be visiting the largest country in the world. It has one leg in Europe and one leg in Asia. From West to East, it encompasses no less than 9 time zones. The land of vodka and caviar also has an enormous cultural heritage. Nowhere else will you find so many incredibly beautiful churches, cathedrals and palaces. A visit to Russia is well worth all the effort during preparation. Here are some tips for visiting Russia.
Tips for traveling to Russia
NOTE: these are the VISA requirements for EU citizens. Always check the VISA requirements upfront.
.Although there has been talk of relaxed visa requirements for EU citizens, this is not the case yet, and for the time being it still takes some effort to apply for a visa before you travel to Russia.
Wat do you need to apply for a visa?
- Passport that is valid for at least 6 months after return, with two blank pages side by side.
- Passport photograph
- Document from your insurance provider stating that you are covered for medical expenses and that they will repatriate your body (dead or alive). If you explain this to your insurance provider, they will know which document to send you. The document is entitled "Health insurance coverage for the Russian Federation". The document must state the period of validity of the insurance.
- Invitation. If you are traveling to Russia as a tourist, you can request this invitation from your hotel. This means that it is not possible to travel to Russia without making plans beforehand. If you travel to Russia on business, the Russian company will be able to send you an invitation.
You also have to submit an application form via the site https://visa.kdmid.ru
To complete this questionnaire, you will need the following information:
- Name, address and telephone number of your employer
- Flight details
- Dates from previous trips to Russia (if you were there before)
How to complete the application form?
On the first page, on the top left, you indicate your country of residence and in which language you want to open the document. Unfortunately, Dutch is not an option.
Then check the box "I have read this information" and click on "Complete new application form". If you want to continue an incomplete application document, or make changes, click on “Open previously completed application".
On the next page there is an application ID at the top right. Write down that number because you need it if you want to reopen your application afterwards. Create a password.
On the third page you can click on "Print the electronic visa application form ID". It will generate a document with your application ID.
Click on Next.
If you are traveling to Russia as a tourist, choose “Tourism” twice for “Purpose of visit”. Your visa category and type will be "Common tourist".
Number of entries: Single. It is very difficult to get a visa that allows you to enter the country more than once. If you need that for business purposes, you will have to count on doing without your passport for a few weeks.
On the subsequent pages you will need to enter your personal details, passport details, reason for visit (including the address where you are staying) and some general information.
If you visit multiple places, state the place and address where you are staying the longest.
If you are traveling with minor children you will need more documents:
- Birth certificate (to be requested from the municipality)
- Family composition document (to be requested from the municipality)
- Statement from a bank account in the name of the child with at least €1000. If they do not have €1000 in their account, just transfer that amount, print a bank statement and transfer the amount back to your own account.
After completing the application and collecting all documents, you will need to send your passport and the rest of the information to the embassy. Of course, you can do this yourself, but it will be two trips to the embassy. It is much easier to arrange the application through a specialized agency. The price for your visa then comes to a little over €100.
TIP: there's a way to visit Russia Visa Free: take a ferry.
Customs regulations for Russia
- Just like most other countries, there is a restriction on the import and export of alcohol and cigarettes. Check the rules carefully before you leave.
- Do you have to take special medication? Request a medical passport from your doctor, it includes information on which medicines you take and why you take them. Certainly make sure to do this for medicines that fall under the Opium Act (e.g. certain sleep aids, ADHD medicines or strong painkillers).
- It is forbidden to export art, antiques, or fur. Precious metals, stones or pearls may only be exported if you declare them.
- Sturgeon or derived fish products may only be exported if you have a permit.
- You are allowed to import a maximum of US$10,000 in foreign currency and export a maximum of US$3,000 in foreign currency. Higher amounts must be declared.
- You are not allowed to import fresh vegetables, fruit, or fish. You are allowed to export a maximum of 250 grams of caviar (in original packaging).
- You are also not allowed to import photos or printed matters inciting against the Russian Federation.
NOTE: always check the rules and tips for visiting Russia prior to departure
Climate in Russia
Due to its vast size, Russia has different types of climate. In Siberia, the temperature sometimes drops to -50°C, while in the south it regularly gets over 40°C in the summer.
In cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg, winter temperatures drop to around -12°C and they regularly rise to 30°C in the summer.
It is also dark in Russia during the winter months. From December to February, they may only get one hour of sunlight a day. It also doesn’t rain very much during that period. If there is any precipitation, it is in the form of snow. And as it is cold, the snow does not melt away and there is a good chance there will be a big layer of snow.
On the other hand, it is very bright during the summer. On midsummer’s night (21 June), the sun does not set at all in the north of Russia. This period is called the “White Nights”, and is a great time to visit Russia. Many cities have round-the-clock festivals, concerts and other activities. For a few days, museums, restaurants and shops are open day and night.
Transport in Russia
It is recommended that you take a domestic flight for large distances. However, there are many trains too.
Cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg have an extensive metro system. And as a bonus, the metro stations themselves are often really worth a visit too.
Other ways to get around include buses, plenty of taxis, and Uber is also active here.
Russian cities also have many illegal taxis. This phenomenon dates back to the period after the fall of the Soviet Union. Many people wanted to earn a little extra and “played taxi”. The official taxis are usually yellow and have a meter. If you do take an illegal taxi, agree on a price in advance.
The hotel is happy to arrange a taxi for you. They will also tell you the cost beforehand.
Communication in Russia
- Calls to Russia: +7
- Fire brigade emergency number: 01
- Police emergency number: 02
- Ambulance emergency number: 03
Note: This tip for traveling to Russia is based on GMT+1
.In the far east of Russia, it is 11 hours later than in The Netherlands/Belgium. For Moscow and St. Petersburg, the time difference is 1 hour in summer and 2 hours in winter.
During your visit to St Petersburg or Moscow, you obviously do not want to waste time queuing for hours so this is an important tip for visiting Russia. As it is often very busy, I recommend that you order your entrance tickets in advance. Book a guided tour if you are interested in local culture - The Russians have much to say about their illustrious past.
The local currency is the ruble. Currently (end of 2019), 1 euro is around 70 rubles. However, the rate is very variable so check it before you leave.
You do not need to get rubles from the bank beforehand. You can use the ATM at the airport, and there are ATMs everywhere in the major cities. They are marked with an “ATM” sign. Moreover, most places will accept your credit card.
Buy a travel guide
Buy a good travel guide and read it before you go. The Russians have a fairly turbulent past and there have been so many Peters and Alexeis that you will completely loose track after a while.
Here’s a small overview:
The most famous Russian ruler is Peter the Great or Peter I. He was a Romanov and lived from 1672 to 1725. He had a son Alexei Romanov (1690 - 1718) from his first marriage.
His second marriage was to Marta, later Catherine I of Russia, (1684 - 1727), a Lithuanian farmer's daughter. They had 12 children together, of which only 2 survived, Anna Romanov (1708 - 1728) and Elisabeth Romanov (1709 - 1761). The latter became Tsarina.
The last branches of the Romanov tree are Tsar Nicolas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. They had 5 children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei. They were all executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 and are buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
You have not been to Russia if you have not tasted the following specialties:
This is a Russian beetroot soup. In addition to beetroot, the soup also has a lot of onion and carrot. A dash of sour cream that you can mix into the soup is served on top, or in a separate dish. A plate of Borscht will really fill you up.
This dish is named after the Stroganov family. It consists of thin slices of sautéed steak with a creamy, slightly spicy sauce. The sauce is usually made with onion, sour cream, and mustard. However, every chef has their own recipe.
Rice with meat and vegetables. The rice is cooked in a fairly fatty, well-seasoned broth. They also don’t hold back on the garlic.
Russians love caviar. There is red and black caviar. This is usually served on blinis (small pancakes) with sour cream. If you want to do the proper way, you enjoy it with a little glass of vodka on the side.
These dough balls are filled with meat and cooked in a fairly fatty broth. They are in the middle between ravioli and dim sum.
Nothing more delicious with coffee than this crispy rolled-up biscuit.
A limited number of bears are allowed to be shot in Russia every year. This means that some restaurants serve bear meat.
In Restaurant Sadko you can have pelmeni filled with minced bear meat and it also has bear stew on the menu. The taste will remind you of steak, but it is a little stronger.
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