As the largest country in the world, Russia offers a fascinating and captivating destination with much to explore, see and do. With a long and rich history to delve into, stunning architecture to admire, varied and impressive landscape to gaze at, extreme cold to endure and hearty vodka to sample, a trip to Russia is bound to be truly unforgettable.
Being such a vast country, the climate in Russia varies greatly from region to region, from cold Arctic conditions to warmer, sometimes subtropical lands. Extreme cold weather is the dominant feature in the Russian climate, prevailing all but a small part of the south of the country. Temperatures can be surprisingly warm in the summer months even in deepest, darkest Siberia. Temperatures tend to rise and fall rapidly in spring and autumn meaning that over most of the country there is effectively only two seasons - summer and winter. Rainfall is rather low throughout Russia with most rain to be expected in spring and summer.
Russia observes a number of public holidays. These include:
1st-6th January - New Year
7th January - Russian Orthodox Christmas Day
Day of the Defenders of the Motherland
8th March - International Women's Day
1st-2nd May - Spring and Labour Day
9th May - Victory in Europe Day
12th June - Russia Day
4th November - National Unity Day
12th December - Constitution Day
The main airports in Russia are Moscow Domodedovo (DME) and St Petersburg (LED). Domestic flights charter mainly from Moscow's four airports; Domodedovo (DME), Vnukovo (VKO), Bykovo-Avia and Sheremetyevo (SVO). Over 100 regional airlines operate flights from Moscow to other regions.
Russia has an extensive network of trains connecting nearly every town, city and neighbouring country. There are various connections from London which run through Brussels, Cologne or Berlin through to Moscow or St Petersburg. The Moskva Express runs from Berlin to Moscow. The famous Trans Siberian Express is one of the most famous trains in the world and is one of the best ways to see Russia. It runs from Moscow to the Pacific Coast of Siberia and on to Japan, taking ten days, with 91 stops. The Trans Manchurian Express takes the same route but diverts towards south east China and on to Beijing. The Trans Mongolian Railway travels from Moscow, through Mongolia on to Beijing offering stunning, dramatic scenery en route.
There are a number of excellent road links between Russia and its neighbouring countries. Regular coach services operate to and from other European countries.
The European side of Russia depends heavily on its road network whereas the few roads in Siberia and further east are generally impassable during the colder months.
Traffic drives on the right. Every car must be fitted with seatbelts, a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and emergency triangle. Every car must display registration plates and stickers denoting the country of registration. Speed restrictions are as follows: 60kph (37mph) in built-up areas, 90kph (55mph) in non built-up areas and 100kph (62mph) on highways. Visiting motorists who have been driving for less than two years must not exceed 70kph (43mph).
Russia has ports at its Pacific, Arctic, Black Sea and Baltic shores. Cruises and excursions are available on many of Russia's rivers. Popular routes include the Volga Towns, the Golden Ring and Moscow to St Petersburg. Boats tend to be modern and comfortable.
Russian is the official language although there are over 100 other languages spoken throughout Russia. English is widely spoken by younger people and some older generations. However, here is are some key expressions:
Hello: Zdravstvujte (formal), Privet (informal), Alló (on the phone)
Goodbye: Do svidanija
Thank you: Spasiba
Do you speak English?: Vy gavarite pa angllyski?
The currency of Russia is the Rouble which divides into 100 kopeek (1 kopeika).
The domestic electricity voltage is 220v, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs are used. It is advisable to take adaptors with you as they aren't so commonly available in Russia.
The country dialling code for Russia is +7. All cities and regions have their own codes: 095 for Moscow and 812 for St Petersburg.
In an emergency, dial the appropriate number as follows:
Fire - 01
Police - 02
Ambulance - 03
Travel in Russia has become easier than ever although visas are still required and need to be obtained well in advance of travel.
The quality of tap water varies from region to region. It is advisable to use bottled water for drinking and cleaning teeth.
Tipping is traditionally frowned upon but is increasingly becoming common practice and expected in restaurants. A tip of between 10 and 15% is the norm.
ATM's are readily available in larger cities such as Moscow, St Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
Smoking is generally acceptable unless stated otherwise.
It is customary to shake hands when greeting someone.
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