Russia Travel Guide

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Russia Travel Guide A Vagabond Life

Russia Travel Guide

Russia is big, it’s the biggest country in the world covering one-eighth of the worlds inhabited land area. It is over 9000 kilometres from one side to the other and it is where the continents of Europe and Asia meet.

Russia is as diverse as it is big with strong Asian influences in the East and a distinct European feel in the west.

Russia also has an fascinating history which is show-cased in the many incredible museums across the country.

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Top Things 5 Things To See & Do In Russia
Need To Know - Russia Travel Guide

Seven Tips For Travelling In Russia

1. You WILL need a visa to travel in Russia. Tourist Visas are normally 30 days. See the VISA tab for more information

2. Download Google Translate – Russian to your phone. Outside the main cities very little English is spoken and this app will be invaluable.

3. Download Maps.Me the off line navigation app. This little app will help you get to your accommodation and around cities and towns without internet connection. Make sure you download the area you are going to when you have WIFI so you’re set to go when you get there.

4. Russia has excellent public transport with all towns and cities having a bus network and the larger cities having metro systems. We found google maps to be excellent in finding out which bus to catch and what the timetable was.

5. Drinking Water – Its is advisable to drink bottled water while travelling in Russia. Bottled water is inexpensive and readily available.

6..Carry some cash – it is always a good idea to carry some cash with you as not all cafes, bars and restaurants accept cards especially in the more remote areas of the country. 

7. Summers can be HOT so pack accordingly.

The huge size of Russia means the countries climate is as diverse as everything else.

The winters are very cold across most of Russia however many people are surprised to learn that it can get hot in much of Russia in the summer.

Most of Northern European Russia and Siberia has a subarctic climate with extremely severe winters in the inner regions of Northeast Siberia and more moderate winters elsewhere.

The coastal part of Russia on the Black Sea, has a humid subtropical climate with mild and wet winters. The region along the Lower Volga and Caspian Sea coast, as well as some areas of southernmost Siberia, has a semi-arid climate. 

 

Russian currency is the Ruble. ATMS are widely available across Russia and credit cards were also widely accepted.

How To Get A Russian Visa

There is so much written on how hard it is to get a Russian and how difficult the Russian consulates are to deal with, putting fear into perspective travellers.

For most countries It is not difficult to get a Russian Tourist Visa.

You do need to be organised, have a plan and time to gather all your information, fill out the application and send away your passport.

How to get a Russian tourist visa

Passport – Check your passport expiry date. You will need to have a minimum of 6 months validity form the date you leave Russia.

Dates – Plan your dates – when do you want to go?

Book Accommodation– you will need to provide details of where and when you will be staying including Hotel names, addresses and phone numbers. TOP TIP. To book these use booking.com and select hotels with full cancellation policies.

Itinerary & copy of tickets – this is new, I did not need to provide this when I applied for my visa.

Passport Photo – You will need to send a passport photo with your application – size: 3.5 by 4.5 cm, less than 6 months old, in colour, with a light background. The photo must be glued (not stapled or attached using adhesive tape) on the form strictly at reserved place. 

Letter of Invitation – Get a letter of invitation. To get a Russian Visa you will need to be ‘invited’ by a registered Russian travel agent. They are a plethora of them that can be found online from which you can buy a letter of invitation. I used iVisa and it cost me $20USD and I had the letter within minutes. When applying for a Letter of Invitation you will need to provide

  1. Dates of Travel –  this MUST be fro the entire time you intend to be in Russia & need to match your itinerary
  2. Passport Details
  3. DOB
  4. Details of Accommodation – You DO NOT need to provide proof of booking 

Once you have your letter of invitation and can apply for your visa

Log into the embassy / consulate website in your country and create an application form. NOTE once you create a number you will be given a reference number WRITE THIS DOWN as it is how you access your application form from this point.

APPLICATION FORM

The application is not difficult but it is time consuming so you will need to make time to complete it.

The application form asks you

  • Personal details (name / address etc)
  • Passport details (PP number / PP dates / nationality)
  • Family details including both parents birth names.
  • Dates you will be in Russia
  • Details of your letter of invitation which includes the registered Russian travel agent (in my case iVisa’s registered Russian business name) and their number. This is all detailed on the letter of invitation.
  • Where you will be staying in Russia. That is details of your hotel / accommodation bookings.
  • Your travel history – what countries you have been to in the past 10 years. Do go back through your passport to make sure you don’t miss any.
  • Signature.

Once you have completed the application form print it out double-sided in PDF format & attach a passport photo using glue to the relevant area.

What To Send

Once you have everything organised and filled out it is time to send your passport and supporting documentation away.

The Russian Consulate now use InterLink Services to process all their visas in Australia. They can be found in Sydney and Canberra. If using the Sydney service you can either make and appointment to drop all your documents off or use the postal service and post all the documents. In Canberra its appointments only.

You will need to provide the

  1. Letter of Invitation.
  2. Passport with a full 6 months validity on it form the date you leave Russia & 2 empty pages.
  3. Passport photograph.
  4. Copy of the data page of the passport.
  5. Fee (see below)
  6. IF USING THE POSTAL SERVICE – A return self addressed envelope that is either express post or registered mail. It is advised to use a mail service that is fully trackable.

FEE

For the citizens of Australia

Consideration periodConsular feeService fee (incl. GST)
Single-entry visa
10 business days$120$43
4 business days$240$43
Double-entry visa
10 business days$192$43
4 business days$384$43
Multi-entry visa
10 business days$360$43
4 business days$720$43

Clothing

  • 2 pants (or if it is hot during the day 1 pants and 2 shorts)

** I threw the second pair of pants in at the last minute and was glad I did as my original pair got wet and it was good to have a second pair.

  • 1 pair track pants (or leggings) – can be slept in on the train.
  • 1  shorts ** see pants
  • 1 x singlets – good for layering and sleeping in
  • 4 short sleeve tee shirts or shirts.
  • 1 x long sleeve sloppy joe or similar
  • 1 x polar fleece jumper
  • 1 x zip-up shell jacket
  • 1 x lightweight windproof raincoat 
  • 3 x socks
  • 5 x underpants
  • 1 x bra
  • 1 x  Northface Dipsea  (or similar) – an absolute essential as it can be used as a head wrap, scarf, face cover etc.
  • I x warm hat
  • 1 x sun hat
  • 1 x warm gloves

Shoes

  • 1 x pair walking or hiking shoes.
  • 1 x pair flip flops (great for showers)

Toiletries

  • Wet Wipes – for on the train
  • Hand Sanitiser – on the train
  • Toilet Paper – on the train
  • Travel Towel
  • Lush Bar Shampoo
  • Bar of Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Brush / Comb
  • Hair Ties

Electronics

1 x Earbud headphones. Light and small,
1 x 6S iPhone loaded with music and podcasts
1 x power bank

Photography

  • 1 x GoPro Hero 5
  • 2 x Spare GoPro Batteries
  • 1 x LUMIX TZ80
  • Spare micro SD Card

Other Stuff

  • 1 x headlight or torch **essential
  • 1 x Swiss knife
  • 1 x medical kit
  • Refillable water bottle

The Trans Siberian Railway is one of the great trips of the world.

The Trans Siberian Railway is a network of railways that connects Moscow with the far east of Russia.

It is actually three different routes

  • The Trans Siberian – travels from Moscow to Vladivostock on Russias eastern coast. – 9250 kilometres.
  • The Trans-Mongolian Railway follows an ancient tea-caravan route from China to Russia via Mongolia – 9258 kilometres
  • The Trans-Manchurian runs as from Moscow, through the Manchuria region of China and onto Beijing – 8960 kilometres.

Here is a snapshot of catching the Trans Mongolian / Siberian. For detailed information click here

How To Buy Tickets For The Trans Siberian Railway – Ulanbaaatar to Russia.

You will need to organise your tickets from UB to Russia before you get to Mongolia for visa purposes. To do this you will need to use an agent.

We used the good folk at Mongolia Train Tickets who were brilliant. They booked our ticket and emailed us a copy of the booking reference which can be used when applying for a visa. They then met us in UB with the tickets and this is when we paid them. It worked brilliantly.

How To Buy Tickets For The Trans Siberian Railway

The Russian Railway website RZD is excellent and in English. I downloaded the APP and booked all our tickets via the APP. This then stores all your journeys and if you have an iPhone you can save trips to your wallet.

You can download the APP directly from the RZD website. 

When buying tickets you will need all passengers details including passport details.

Your ticket reference details will be emailed to you and you will need to print them out. 

Once at the station you need to find a ticketing machine where you enter your passport details and ticket reference number and an actual ticket will be generated. There is usually staff at the automatic ticket machines to help although the machine does have an English option.

Types Of Compartments On The Trans Siberian Railway

First Class (Spalny Vagon) – Two single bunks in a compartment.

Second Class (Kupé) – Four Berth in the form of 2 sets of bunks.

Third Class (Platskartny) – Dorm style carriage with bunk beds.

Train Facilities

Toilets – At each end of every carriage is a toilet with washbasin.

Hot Water – Available from the  Samovars in each carriage.

Dining Car – In our experience the dining cars offered a good range of food and beer. There is no dining car between Ulaanbaatar and Irkutsk so you will need to pack food for this leg.

Lake Baikal (Irkutsk)

Lake Baikal is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Ever.

Lake Baikal is situated in south eastern Siberia, Russia and has some pretty impressive stats.

  • Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing 22–23% of the world’s fresh surface water. It contains more water than the North American Great Lakes combined.
  • Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake with a maximum depth of 1,642 metres.
  • Lake Baikal is considered among the world’s clearest lakes
  • Lake Baikal is considered the world’s oldest lakes at 25–30 million years.
  • It is the seventh largest lake in the world by surface area.
  • Lake Baikal completely freezes over in winter.
Lake Baikal is an easy trip from Irkutsk a stopping point for the Trans Siberian Railway.
 
 

Krasnoyarsk

Krasnoyarsk is a pretty city in eastern Siberia Russia on the Yenisey River. The city was founded in 1628 as a border fort intended to protect the frontier from attacks of native peoples who lived along the Yenisei and its tributaries.

Today Krasnoyarsk is known for its surrounding forests and natural landscapes including the Stolby Nature Reserve a 470km² reserve with impressive volcanic krasts type formations.

Krasnoyarsk has a number of pretty pastel coloured historic buildings dating back to the 1700’s lining the main streets of the city.

Krasnoyarsk is a lovely city to break your journey on the Trans Siberian railway in.

Read More About Krasnoyarsk


Novosibirsk

Novosibirsk is the capital of Siberia and a large bustling university town.

It has some interesting architecture an excellent restaurant scene and good shopping.

Like all Russian towns we visited it has a very efficient public transport system.

Buses and Trolley cars run from immediately outside the Train Station.

Read the full Novosibirsk Travel Guide

Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg in the Urals sits on the border of the Asian and European continents.

While probably being most famous for being the place the last Tsarist family were shot to death by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Yekaterinburg has a wealth of other history and is a beautiful city to visit.Yekaterinburg is Russia’s 4th largest city and with that comes a bustling restaurant scene, excellent public transport and an international airport.

Read the full Yekaterinburg Travel Guide

Moscow

Moscow is either the beginning or the end of this epic journey.

You will need a good 4 or so days to just scratch the surface of this epic city.

My favourite sights were

  • The Metro
  • Red Square
  • GUM Department Store
  • Kremlin

Read the full Moscow Travel Guide

Russia Travel Guide
Russia Travel Stories
From remote Eastern Siberia to the sophistication of St Petersburg. Read our stories across Russia
Explore The World

World Destination Guide 

There are 195 countries in the world stretching across seven continents – so there is an awful lot to see.Where to begin? Many people are inspired by a movie they have seen or a story they have heard, or a desire to see the land of their ancestors. 

Use the drop-down on the right to explore the world.

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