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Travel notes

What You Need to Know Before Trip to Russia (Believe me, I’m Russian)

Tips from Russian who travels a lot

Hello! I meet with a lot of people from China, USA, Australia, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Italy, Austria, Argentina, etc., and visit some of these countries. And sometimes my family was a host for foreign tourists.

So, I understand, peoples the world are not much so different as we hope. Russians believe in their exclusivity, and sometimes we have the right to say that, but actually it’s from the fact that many have never been to other countries.

But it’s better to be prepared for our features, especially without Russian speaking guide. Because this country can surprise you whenever it is least expected.

1. Prepare app on your phone before visit Russia

Google Translate is first you need to have. You can translate your speech using the phone and usually, people try to help you. For text the same. It is very simple. Today Google Translate can recognize text on photo. It is useful.

Most Russian shy to speak English because of little practice even if somebody will understand something. If you have trouble — try to ask somebody to help, especially young people. Russian responsive and kind people.

Tips for Chinese (and maybe other people speaking languages difficult for Google translate): First translate from Chinese to English and then from English to Russian. And backway the same in order to prevent absolutely stupid meaning…

Most of Russian use Yandex Taxi instead of Uber (also Yandex bought Uber in Russia and now it is the same company).

Use Yandex Map instead of Google Map in order to find transport tips, underground and actual information about buildings, shops, etc. And it’s better to download offline map of your target city using WiFi before the trip for the case if you will have problem with an internet connection

It is better to setup Maps.Me and download all maps that you plan to use for offline using. Maps.Me will not help you with transport route but will help with walk routes. And Maps.Me have good quality of mapping territory and requiment little space in phone memory. You can open map without cell network and GPS and show what place do you need to somebody to help you.

Use Booking to find a hotel or hostel or even an apartment. Airbnb not so popular among Russian hosts.

Setup Skyscanner or Aviasales to find and book flight tickets

Setup RZD to find and buy railroad tickets

Most of the people in Russia use WhatsApp instead of Telegram or Viber

So, the list of app you need in Russia:

  1. Google Translate
  2. Yandex Maps
  3. Yandex Taxi
  4. Maps.Me
  5. Booking
  6. Skyscanner
  7. RZD
  8. WhatsApp

2. Buy Russian sim card

Hotels, hostels and most of restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg have free WiFi. But if you want to use usual mobile internet anywhere or you planning to stay in Russia for more than 2-3 days — it is a good idea to buy SIM card for your phone.

We have 4 most prevalent mobile phone network providers: Tele2, MTS, Megafon, and Beeline. In most cities of the Ural region, it is 5th — Motiv.

For 400-500 Rub (6-8 USD) you will have 400+ minutes and 5-10 Gb of 4G internet for one month. All incoming calls (even from Antarctica) are free of charge — this is the law.

It is better to download an app of this provider of the network for Android or iOS, and you can see all additional options, balance and so on.

And only you need to purchase a SIM card is a passport. You can buy it everywhere, you can find a lot of small shops and boutiques with logos of cell network companies.

More than, you can purchase russian SIM card in your country using the internet.

3. Internet not everywhere

The Internet in big cities is usually 4G.

But remember that between cities on the road in the fields and forest usually no cell network connection, sometimes near villages only GPRS or EDGE (2G). You can find mobile network almost in any village, but don’t hope on good internet.

4. Metro (Subway, Underground) beautiful, clean and popular

Russian calls Subway or Underground — Metro. Everybody understands this word and will show you the way.

It is cheap. You no need book tickets before. In Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and other big cities you can buy tickets in the Metro before the turnstile at the box office.

For Moscow — the metro is the best way to mooving in city for long distance. Moscow has common transport system. You cn buy an unlimited ticket for 1-3-5 days.

5. Trains

Russian doesn’t know there are any classes in trains. Use 2nd-3rd class — it is ok!

Only on airplanes. Everything is different on trains. The trains are generally very safe and families and travelers like 3rd class. I explain why is it.

The first class is extremely expensive and there are only 2 places. But no one calls it «first», it is called SV («СВ»). This is not a typical class and there are few such vagoons.

Second class we call «Cupe». It is a 4-place cabin. If you have no 3-4 people company it is not best variant, because you can feel uncomfortably intimate in tiny cabin for several days with few strangers.

The third class means not bad because it is the same train, but a common space for 54 people. We call it «Platskart». It is the same sectors, like a cabin in 2nd class and 2 additional places along the aisle.

Modern wagons have power charging sockets for phones and laptops, conditioners, bio-toilets, and clean spaces. All classes have the same. In some areas, especially to the far north regions, there are old wagons with old toilets, but buying on the website or using app you can choose a wagon with a bio-toilet. Most families prefer to use «platskart» type of wagon.

On the trains, you will be given linen — sheets, pillowcases, a towel. Pillows and blankets are already in place. Before leaving, the laundry must be returned to the conductor.

Water and food in train

You can ask for glass with cup holders for free on the way. Water in train every time hot — from «Titan» (titanium) — a large tank, where there is always hot water. It is located near conductor cabin — you will see, everybody use it. If you need cold water, take it with you. On the train you can’t get clean cold water, only buy. But hot water is always clean and free.

Usually, everybody buys food in shops before going to the train.

But I know, in the main Trans-Siberian direction on the train you can book food for 300-500 Rub in conductor cabin, or maybe she will ask you. It is new option. Restaraunt will cook and delivery to you, but you should know, the same food in the restaurant will cost 3-4 times expensive. Most of the people usually don’t visit the restaurant on train.

6. Russian low-coaster flight company Pobeda has strict limits for carry-on baggage for cabin

This is extremely inconvenient. It seems that soon they will replace chairs with stools or will be transported standing. A joke, of course. But it is better to buy luggage in advance.

Sometimes any other flight company has better conditions for the little difference in price.

European low-coasters don’t fly in Russia.

7. Airports in Moscow — to and back

«Aeroexpress» very comfortable and fast

Use the special train to and back from airports «Aeroexpress».

You can meet with «Aeroexpress» on the official website in English, meet with schedule (every 30 min), how to reach this train and purchase tickets.

Moscow has Aeroexpress for three airports — Sheremetyevo (SVO), Domodedovo (DME), and Vnukovo (VKO). The trains delivery you from an airport to center of Moscow for 40-50 minutes and it is the fastest way.

Remember, Moscow has a lot of different train stations, but Aeroexpress goes only to three of them. You can get the Aeroexpress train at only three train stations, from each to a specific airport.

  • Belorussky railway station — to Sheremetyevo (SVO)
  • Paveletsky railway station — to Domodedovo (DME)
  • Kiev railway station — to Vnukovo (VKO)

Russian calls railway station — «Vokzal», but usually little station — just station, or «Stanciya». It because at the end of 19 century sometimes in the big halls of railway stations it was concerted for singers and famous people. Vocal — Vok, Hall in Russian «zal», so Vok+Zal= «Vokzal». Everybody understand you if you say «vokzal»

Bus is not so convenient

Bus is a very cheap way, but you will spend time on traffic jams if you go to or from Sheremetyevo (SVO), and faster for Domodedovo (DME), but sometimes you will stand.

Taxi in Airport

Taxi in an airport very expensive and extremely expensive in Moscow for any foreign guest. Use official taxi companies in airports for your comfort and safe trip or use Yandex Taxi to save money. But book Yandex Taxi only after you get your baggage and will be ready for exit from the Airport. They will come very fast and will cancellate your booking if you lost them or still in the airport building.

Cars, buses, and taxi depend on traffic and in rush hours and also in case of different other troubles you can spend a lot of time. So if the time is very important for you I recommend «Aeroexpress»

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