Vast, unique and distant Russia is a real mystery to foreign travelers. To break the common stereotypical vision of always snowy frigid Russia with wild bears roaming about the streets, we have put together a list of recommendations which will be real life-savers when packing your luggage. Below you can find answers to common questions, information about climate, weather and currency, as well as advice on what to bring with you to Russia when travelling, how to avoid unpleasant surprises and blend in with the locals.
Weather & clothing
What to pack and when to travel
Your wardrobe for a trip to Russia will vary greatly depending on the season. Summers in Russia are quite hot, although short. So if you are traveling in the summer, it is best to bring clothes you normally wear in the summer. Nevertheless, a sweater or light jacket will also be handy as evenings may be a bit chilly.
Comfortable walking shoes or sneakers are a must, so keep in mind that guided tours imply walking as well when packing. If you are planing to visit an opera or a theater pack something classy but not too fancy (tuxedos or evening gowns are not at all necessary).
If your trip is in the wintertime, warm sweaters, coats, shoes, scarves, hats, gloves and other elements of the winter wardrobe are simply essential as Russian winter months are frigid with average temperatures dropping to 15°F.
Weather averages in Moscow
Weather averages in St. Petersburg
Weather averages in Irkutsk
Money & ATMs
Situation with currency & cash
Rubles are Russia's national currency, and although you probably won't be able to exchange money to rubles in your home country before you leave, you shouldn't worry, as it is possible to withdraw dollars, euros and rubles from your debit card in almost all of the local ATMs. Too many credit cards won't be necessary, and we advise bringing cash, which can be exchanged to rubles in banks, and debit cards, which are accepted in most stores and restaurants. It’s a good idea though to check with your bank beforehand to find out the exchange rates that are implied for your cards when making payments in a foreign country. To be on the safe side, have 3000 - 10000 rubles in cash on you to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Average cost of meals
An average check in a fine Moscow restaurant for a several-course meal with wine starts from 30$ per person. Whereas a check in a mid-range cafe or restaurant is approximately 7-15$. A meal in a budget cafe will cost 3-7$. Make sure to try borsht and blini pancakes - Russia’s national dishes.
Giving tips to guides & drivers
Giving tips is common in Russia yet voluntary. If you are satisfied with the service provided, you may give a 15$ tip a guide who worked with you for 4 hours, 8-12$ to a driver. If you wish to leave a tip in a restaurant, a standard 5-10% of the bill's total is appropriate.
How to blend in with the locals
Although most Russians understand English, the majority of the population aren't fluent speakers. Taking the effort to learn a few Russian words can be very rewarding. Here are a couple of phrases to get you started:
Yes – Da
No – Nyet
How much – Skolko
Please - Pozhalusta
Thank you – Spacibo
My name is - Menya zovut
It’s a pleasure to meet you – ochen’ priyatno poznakomitsya
This meal is delicious – ochen’ vkusno.
Charging your phone & camera
There are European outlets in Russia that are designed for devices with two round plugs. Thus it is useful to have 110 volt to 220 volt adapters or outlet converters with you.
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