Are you planning to visit Russia? This is a list of services that will help you to plan and organize your journey: buy plane and train tickets, book accommodations, get travel insurance, find city tours. I use those services myself and recommend them as reputable and reliable.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through following the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
- HOTELS & ACCOMMODATIONS
- TRAIN TICKETS
- BUS TICKETS
- AIRPORT TRANSFER
- TICKETS TO THEATRES, CONCERTS & SPORT EVENTS
- MOBILE CARRIERS & SIM-CARDS
- TAXI & AIRPORT TRANSFER
- PAYMENTS & BANK CARDS
- YOU MAY ALSO WONDER ABOUT TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA
In 2022, planning a trip to Russia became more time-consuming than before. The main difficulty is that international bank cards and digital payment services (Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, ApplePay, etc.) do not work in Russia any more. You can only use cash or bank cards issued by Russian banks. Indeed, using cash instead of bank cards is not what a contemporary traveller is used to.
Besides, most travel services have banned everything Russian. For example. Booking and Agoda do not show accommodations in Russia, there are no direct flights and trains from Europe and the USA to Russia, cruise liners excluded Saint Petersburg from their tours, etc. But this problem was quickly solved.
Russian proverb says: «A good place will never be empty». And indeed bookings, momondos and skyscanners were successfully replaces by other services. They are not widely known, but I use them myself and confirm that they are not a scam.
Pay attention: several countries restrict the amount of cash dollars/ euros that one person can bring to Russia. So if you are from the EU or the USA, please, take in account this possible restriction while planning your trip.
When you cross the border and arrive to Russia, you will see that within the country everything works: flights, trains, hotels, museums, and city tour companies.
HOTELS & ACCOMMODATIONS
IMPORTANT : Since March 2022, Booking, Agoda and Hostelworld do not allow booking accommodations in Russia. Instead of them, I recommend you to use these services. They are less known but equally user-friendly and reliable:
apartments, rooms, cottages & guest houses
Sutocho.ru is an online booking service for those who prefer to rent flats, guest houses, and mini hotels. It is an analogue of AirBnB. The service is available in Russian and English languages.
hotels, apartments & hostels all across Russia
Ostrovok.ru offers 12 000+ accommodations in 1 600 cities of Russia: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Veliky Novgorod, Vladivostok, Kaliningrad, etc. The service is available in Russian and English.
At Ostrovok, you can book a hotel in Russia without prepayment: at the search page, go to Filters — Payment and booking — and tick No card required for booking/Pay on the spot.
How to book a hotel in Russia with no bank card at Ostrovok.ru
1. Choose a destination, check in / check out dates and click on Search.
You will be leaded to a page with search results. Below, you see an example of search results for Moscow.
In the top right corner, you can choose site language (English, Spanish, German, French, etc.) and the currency. In the right, there is a map that shows hotel locations. In the left, there are filters for refining your search.
2. Find hotels that you can book with no bank card.
In the left column, find the filter Payment and booking → No card required for booking. You don’t need to give your bank details while booking those hotels. You will need to pay for your stay when you arrive to the hotel.
Not every hotel allows booking with no bank card. However, I find that the choice of available accommodations is still wide.
3. Refine your search.
Use additional filters to refine your search: accommodation type, facilities and services, ratings. Check reviews from other travellers.
4. Book your hotel.
Choose a hotel and a room and proceed to booking. Put guest’s contact info and hit the button Complete Booking. Your reservation is made!
Rzd.ru is the official site of the Russian Railways. Here you can purchase tickets to all Russian trains. RZD gives full information on train itineraries, schedules, and tickets prices. When you purchase a ticket via this site, you will receive an e-ticket right to your e-mail box. There is no need to wait in line in a ticket office of a railway station.
The site has two versions: Russian and English.
If you have no Russian bank card, it would be impossible to buy tickets online. In case you have only cash, just go to one of Russian railway stations and purchase tickets via ticket offices.
P.S. «RZD» is an abbreviation from Rossiyskiye Zhelezniye Dorogi which means Russian Railways.
Since 2022, international aggregators do not show flights to/from Russia any more. However, planes do fly to Russia from Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, China, Algeria, India & other countries.
Aviasales is a search engine that compares rates from different companies and gives best rates. If you need an international plane ticket to Russia, Aviasales is the best service to buy a ticket. You can also find tickets for internal flights all across Russia.
bus tickets Helsinki – Saint Petersburg & long-distance bus tickets throughout Russia
In Russia, there is no universal bus company that operates on the territory of the whole country. However, you can check bus schedules and prices on tutu.ru.
Pay attention: Tutu.ru includes only long-distance routes. It can be a route within one region or between different regions. Tickets for city buses (for instance, a ticket to a city bus in Saint Petersburg) are not available there. Tutu.ru «speaks» only Russian, but you can use automatic Google translation (it works well!)
By the way, if you travel to Saint Petersburg from the EU, you can buy here a bus ticket Helsinki (Finland) — Saint Petersburg (Russia). Buses are the only transport that operates between Russia and the EU (all flights, trains, and ferries are cancelled).
comfortable taxi transfer from airport to your hotel
IntuiTravel offers comfortable taxi transfers from the airport to your hotel and vice versa. You can order a car of any capacity (so useful when travelling with family and heavy suitcases!) At the right time, the driver will wait for you with a sign showing your first and last names.
IntuiTravel transfers are usually cheaper than transfers booked via your hotel.
TICKETS TO THEATRES, CONCERTS & SPORT EVENTS
Yandex.Afisha is an aggregator where you can buy tickets to cultural and sport events, concerts, cinema, etc. If you want to watch ballet or hang out at the concert of your favourite group, you will book tickets at Yandex.Afisha. Tip: the main language of the site is Russian, but if you scroll the main page down, you will be able to choose another languages (including English).
MOBILE CARRIERS & SIM-CARDS
In Russia, we have 4 main mobile carriers: Megafon, Tele2, MTC, and Beeline. You may choose whichever you want as there is no big difference in prices and call quality. If you need the Internet, all those carriers provide 4G connections.
For instance, there is a comparison of basic tariffs from different Russian mobile carriers (for February 2020, price per 1 month):
- Megafon: Internet 5 Gb + 300min of voice calls — 500 Rub
- Tele2You (previuosly Tele2): Internet 25 Gb + 400 minutes of voice calls + unlimited Internet for social networks and messengers — 650 Rub
- MTC: Internet 5Gb + 250 min of voice calls — 650Rub.
- Beeline: Internet 10Gb + 250 min of voice calls — 440 Rub.
As you see, tariffs are more or less similar. Prices may differ a bit depending on the city where you buy a SIM-card.
Where To Buy A SIM-card?
You can easily find a shop/ stall with SIM-cards in every largeshopping mall, on railway stations and in airports. You will need an ID/ passport for purchasing a SIM-card.
TAXI & AIRPORT TRANSFER
Before all, I have to mention that Russia is very big. This is why there is no universal taxi service that is available in all Russian cities.
Yandex Taxi (also known as Yandex Go) operates in more than 300 major cities of Russia, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Veliky Novgorod, Murmansk, and Vladivostok. You can download applications for all this taxi service. It’s very useful, especially if you don’t speak Russian well.
Keep in mind that very often you pay less if you book a taxi online. Better pay cash. A tip ~50-100 Rub is not a must but always appreciated.
Transfer From/To Airport
If you need a comfortable ride, you may want to book a transfer from an airport/railway station to your hotel. I’d advise you to use IntuiTravel. They are always on time, have good cars, and IntuiTravel drivers often speak English.
What is the difference between a taxi and a transfer? If you book a transfer, the driver will meet you at the airport/station with a nameplate + driver will help you with your luggage + transfer price includes 1 free hour of waiting (in case you arrive late).
Important! Car Traveling In Russia With Kids
Pay attention, in Russia, the law stipulates that all kids between 0-12 years old must have a car seat or a booster while taking a car:
- 0-7 years old kids must have a car seat/booster, corresponding to a kid’s weight, whether kid seats on the front or the back seat of the car.
- 7-12 years old kids can sit in the back seat of the car with no car seat, but the seatbelts must be fastened. You must use a car seat if your kid is in the front seat of the car.
- 12+ years old kids seat as adult passengers (no car seat needed, but the seatbelts are fastened).
While booking a taxi, you can book a car seat, too (mention you need one while booking). Usually taxi services offer kids’ seats and boosters for free.
PAYMENTS & BANK CARDS
Since March 2022, international bank cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) are NOT accepted in Russia. Digital payment systems as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay are not available either. It is impossible to pay with them or withdraw money at an ATM. You have to use a Russian card MIR or to pay with cash.
If you want to exchange cash, do it only in banks!
YOU MAY ALSO WONDER ABOUT TRAVELLING IN RUSSIA
— I don’t speak Russian. Will it be difficult to travel to Russia for me?
Surely, it’s always easier to travel when we speak local languages. However, you can comfortably travel to Russia if you don’t speak Russian.
Major Russian cities, like Moscow, Saint Petersburg or Kazan are acquainted with international tourists. For instance, airports, railway stations and metro stations have plates in English. Restaurants and cafés (especially in the centre of the cities) have menus translated to English. The largest museums offer tours and audio guides in many foreign languages.
— Do Russians speak English?
English is not an official language in Russia and has never been. So do not expect to hear many Russian speak English.
You should remember that during the Soviet times, it was forbidden for Russians to visit foreign countries. So the older generation had no interest in learning foreign languages.
The younger generation is different as many people can go abroad, to work in foreign companies, and to freely communicate with foreigners (especially thanks to social media!) Hence, if you need to ask something, you better address young people.
And use Google Translate.
— Is Russia safe for travelling?
Yes, Russia is safe for travelling for all those who have a good head on their shoulders.
I mean that you don’t need to travel internationally to have bad stuff happen — scammers exist everywhere. Just be vigilant — and you’ll be fine. Some safety tips:
- Get your travel insurance.
- Write down emergency info.
112 in a national emergency number in Russia for calling ambulance, police or other emergency services. If needed, call 112 from your mobile phone. Operators speak Russian and English.
- Write down the name and the address of your hotel in Russian.
- Exchange money only in banks.
- Learn how to avoid being pickpocketed and follow those important rules.
— Russians don’t smile — why?
I’ve heard so many times that Russians don’t smile. Well, yes, compared to other nationalities, Russians probably smile less. We just aren’t acquainted with fake smiles and don’t smile for no reason. But this doesn’t mean Russians hate you.
I hope that the post is useful and will help you to plan your Russian trip. If you have questions or suggest adding other services, leave me a comment!