Traveling in Russia: Useful Services For Planning A Trip

by Anna de Nord
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Many travelers prefer traveling in Russia on their own. Indeed, thanks to the Internet and a huge number of sites and services, planning an independent trip today is not difficult even for those who have never done this before. We have made a list of useful services to help you to organize your holidays in Russia.

Planning a trip is a time-consuming task. That is why I decided to make a list of sites and services which may help you to plan your trip. They are absolutely indispensable if you’re traveling in Russia independently. This list includes sites for booking accommodations, tickets, taxi, and other travel tips.

Disclosure: post may contain affiliate links. That means if you buy something through them I’ll receive a commission, at no extra cost to you. It helps me to manage the cost of running this blog. That being said, I only recommend products and services I use and love.

Traveling in Russia: how to plan a trip
Torzhok — one of the oldest Russian towns

RUSSIAN VISA

When you start planning your trip to Russia, a Russian visa is the first thing you should think of.

In most cases, a foreign citizen needs a visa for entering the Russian Federation. For getting a visa, foreign citizens have to go to a consular department of the Russian Federation with a required set of documents (passport, invitation, photo, etc.) Russian consular offices issue visas depending on the purpose of the trip and the length of stay of the foreigner in Russia.

List Of The Countries Which Citizens Don’t Need Any Visa For Traveling In Russia

Citizens of several countries do not need a visa to enter the Russian Federation. In most cases, their stay in Russia is limited (to enter Russia for a longer period, a visa will be required).

CountryLength of stay
Azerbaijan Length of stay no more than 90 days
Argentina Stay no more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Armenia Duration of stay no more than 90 days
Belarus Unlimited period
Bolivia Duration of stay is not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Bosnia and Herzegovina For tourists, the stay is not more than 30 days for every 60 days period, for any other purposes no more than 90 days; documents confirming the purpose of the visit are required
Brazil Stay no more than 90 days out of every 180 days period for non-commercial purposes
Brunei Duration of stay not more than 14 days for non-commercial purposes (not for employment or study)
Chile A stay of not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Colombia Duration of stay is not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Costa Rica Duration of stay no more than 90 days (not for holders of diplomatic and service passports)
Cuba Duration of stay no more than 30 days.
Ecuador Duration of stay is not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Fiji Length of stay no more than 90 days
Guyana Length of stay is not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Guatemala Length of stay not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Honduras Duration of stay is not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Israel Duration of stay — no more than 90 days out of every 180 days period. An agreement on the abolition of guest and tourist visas is in force between Russia and Israel. Travel requires a passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry. The presence of any other documents by the Agreement is not provided
Kazakhstan Duration of stay no more than 90 days. Allowed entry by internal passports
Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyzstan) Duration of stay no more than 90 days. Allowed entry by internal passports
Macedonia Length of stay no more than 90 days.
MontenegroStay no more than 30 days
MoldovaDuration of stay no more than 90 days
Mongolia Length of stay no more than 30 days
Nicaragua Duration of stay is not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Peru Duration of stay no more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Serbia Stay up to 30 days for holders of biometric passports issued after April 8, 2008
South AfricaDuration of stay no more than 90 days
South Korea Duration of stay no more than 60 days per trip, and no more than 90 days during six months
Tajikistan Allowed to enter with internal passports. Duration of stay no more than 90 days
Thailand Length of stay no more than 30 days
Uzbekistan Duration of stay no more than 90 days
Ukraine Duration of stay no more than 90 days. Allowed entry by internal passports
Uruguay Stay no more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes
Venezuela Length of stay not more than 90 days out of every 180 days period, for non-commercial purposes

E-Visas For Traveling In Russia

Russia is introducing e-visas for some Russian regions. E-visas are not yet available for citizens of all countries but most European can already enjoy a simplified process of getting a Russian visa.

At present, e-visas are introduced in the following areas:

Moreover, Russian authorities have announced that e-visas for visiting the whole territory of Russia will be introduced in 2021. So let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope more countries will have the possibility to get an e-visa for traveling in Russia.


TRAIN TICKETS

Rzd.ru — official site of the Russian railways. If you plan traveling in Russia by train, use this site for booking your tickets. It is possible to book tickets for all trains riding in Russia + tickets for international destinations (for cities which have railway connections with Russia, for example, St. Petersburg — Helsinki).


BUS TICKETS

Busfor is a user-friendly service for booking bus tickets for intercity routes. For instance, you can purchase bus tickets for routes like Saint Petersburg – Veliky Novgorod or Moscow – Yaroslavl.

Busfor operates in Russia and Europe. Thus, if you need a ticket from Helsinki (Finland) to Saint Petersburg (Russia), it’s possible to book it on Busfor.

Bus tickets are cheaper than train tickets. Thus, taking a bus while traveling in Russia may save you some money —it’s a great option for those who travel on a low budget!

Besides, sometimes bus timetables are more convenient than train timetables.


HOTELS & HOSTELS

Booking.com is probably the most known service for booking accommodations throughout the world. It’s possible to find all kinds of places to stay from hostels to luxury hotels.

Agoda can help you to find better deals for hotels. It often offers discounts, promo-codes for booking, and other money-saving possibilities.

Hostelworld is great for those who prefer hostels.

Airbnb primarily offers homestays. This is the best booking service for those who want to stay in a private apartment, a house, or a villa.


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 10 Gb + 100 min of voice calls + unlimited Internet for social networks, instant messengers, and YouTube — 390 Rub
  • Tele2: Internet 40 Gb + 400 minutes of voice calls + unlimited Internet for social networks and instant messengers — 350 Rub
  • MTC: Internet 7Gb + 300 min of voice calls — 365 Rub.
  • Beeline: Internet 20Gb + 300 min of voice calls — 350 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 big shopping mall, on railway stations and in airports. You will need an ID/ passport for purchasing a SIM-card.


TAXI & AIRPORT TRANSFER

Taxi

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.

But this is what you can find in most popular Russian cities:

  • Yandex Taxi 
    Yandex Taxi operates in more than 300 major cities of Russia, including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Veliky Novgorod, Murmansk, and Vladivostok.
  • Taxovichkof 
    (available in Saint Petersburg, Moscow) Taxovichkof (in Moscow and Saint Petersburg). I prefer Taxovichkof to Yandex Taxi though it’s a little more expensive.
  • Wheely, luxury cars 
    (available in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Perm, Sochi, Krasnodar)

You can download applications for all these taxi services. 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.

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).

Thus, for more comfort at your arrival (or if you’re afraid to be lost in the airport), opt for a transfer. I’d advise you to use KiwiTaxi. They are always on time, have good cars, and Kiwi Taxi drivers often speak English.

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). Some taxi services (like Taxovichkof) offer kids’ seats and boosters for free.


PAYMENTS & BANK CARDS

Bank cards (Visa, MasterCard) are accepted everywhere: in hotels, shops, restaurants, museums, etc. 

If you want to exchange cash, do it only in banks.


GUIDED TOURS

If you want to visit Veliky Novgorod in Russia, you can book a guided tour or plan a visit on your own
Ancient churches in Veliky Novgorod, Russia

We all love seeing new places and discovering new cultures. So what to choose for traveling in Russia: guided tours or independent exploring?

I would advise combining both. Go wander outside, shopping, trying local food and taking photos on your own.

But when visiting museums, I highly recommend that you join a guided tour. At least, I always do so even if I have previously read a lot about the museum and its collections. Guides always tell us much more, and their knowledge is always fascinating! 

Besides, you can choose a tour not only in English but in many other foreign languages: French, German, Arabic, Italian, etc.

Another great option for exploring Russian cities is a tour on a hop-on/hop-off bus. Those tours are available in big cities like Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Kazan.

Where To Book Tours In Russia?

Get Your Guide and Musement are two reliable services which allow you to book tours online. There are plenty of interesting tours in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Kaliningrad, and other Russian cities.

By the way, I always include a few tour recommendations in my city guides. 


HOW TO FIND GOOD RESTAURANTS

Travelling is not only about seeing beautiful places. Travelling is also about tasting new dishes, right? So if you travel to Russia, you may want to discover Russian cuisine.

How to find tasty restaurants with reasonable prices and good food?

  • You can start by asking for recommendations at your hotel/hostel or Airbnb.
  • Another option is to google some local dishes with the combination of the city name where you are (for example, best Borsch in Moscow).
  • Don’t forget to check the reviews of the place on Google maps and checking their menu in advance to make sure that the place is suitable for your budget and other tourists were satisfied there.
  • If you are not sure what prices are usual for your destination you can look at the average prices on the website Numbeo.com

You May Also Wonder About Traveling 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, aeroports, railway stations and metro stations have plates in English. Restaurants and cafes (especially in the centre of the cities) have menus translated to English. Biggest museums offer tours and audio guides in many foreign languages.  

Do Russians speak English?

English is not an official language in Russia and never has been. So at your place, I would not expect to hear many Russian speak English.

You should remember that during Soviet times it was forbidden for Russians to visit foreign countries. So the older generation had no big 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
  • Use ATMs for withdrawing money
  • 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.

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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!

Best wishes from Russia,
Anna

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Traveling in Russia: useful services for planning a trip. Where to book hotels, tickets, taxi & other travel tips

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