ManGo Travel

Travels to St. Petersburg and all Russia

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Before you go (30)

OK, so, you decided to travel to Russia! Congratulations! Your trip to Russia will definitely be an experience. And here you can find a lot of useful information and travel tips about Russian travel, which you should know before you go to Russia. These Russian travel tips will also be helpful to you while your Russian travels.

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Arrival to Russia

Arrival to Russia (0)

Choose among different ways of coming to Russia. Moscow, St. Petersburg and other big cities have a variety of international connections by air, train, bus or ship.

 

 

 

By plane


Moscow and Saint Petersburg are served by direct flights from most European capitals, and Moscow also has direct flights from many cities in East Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and North America. There are airports in all large cities in Russia. Some international servicecan be found in Novosibirsk, Sochi, Vladivostok, Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg. International service to other destinations is limited, however you can travel there via Moscow or other bigger cities. There are a lot of regular Russian domestic flights. For details on flights and airports see our air travel section.

 

What to do when you've arrived

Non-Russian citizens, upon arrival in Russia, will be expected to fill in two copies of the migration card. Passport control officers will tear off one half of the migration card and leave you with the other half, and it should be stamped. Keep track of this card as you will need it to register your visa and for your departure from Russia. Not being able to present a migration card when leaving Russia can result in fines and can potentially result in a wait of several days while the authorities decide what to do with you.

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Visa to Russia

Visa to Russia (5)

Citizens of most non-CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries must obtain a Russian visa prior to arriving in Russia. Citizens of Croatia (3 months, invitation required), Israel (90 days), Montenegro (90 days), Cuba (30 days), Thailand (30 days), Venezuela (90 days), Argentina (90 days), Hong Kong (14 days), Japan (only for Russian islands in north of Japan) , Serbia (30 days, only biometric passports), Brazil (90 days), Nicaragua (90 days), Turkey (30 days), Uruguay (90 days) do not need a visa.


To get the Russian visa, you need to get an invitation (also called visa support) first. The invitation can be for a tourist or a business Russian visa


Russian tourist visa is usually valid for up to 30 days and can be single- or double-entry (double-entry only valid if you travel to/from CIS countries the second time)


Russian business visa can be valid for up to 1 year and can be multiple entries. You don't need to be in a business to get a business visa, but you should be careful to specify the information consistent with the type of your invitation when you apply for a Russian visa at the Russian consulates (e.g. you can't say you're visiting friends if you're getting a Russian tourist visa or that you're going for sightseeing if you're getting a Russian business visa). A Russian business visa is far more flexible and desirable for an independent traveller than a Russian tourist visa. To obtain a Russian business visa you must have a letter of invitation from a registered Russian company or organization, and a covering letter from your company (or you) stating the purpose of your trip. We will be happy to provide you with more information about Russian business visa - simply tell us your needs and we will advise you the Russian visa that suits your needs in a best way.

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Russian customs

Russian customs (1)

Once you've got the visa, things become really simple (unless you bring your own car). The regulations are not much different from anywhere else. There are limits on how many cigarettes, how much alcohol you can bring in. You can also bring in up to $3000 US in cash without declaring it, if you've got more on you make sure it's declared, so that when you leave they don't charge a tax on it. Regarding equipment, you can bring stuff worth not more than $2000 US without a tax. If you've got more expensive items, you'll have to pay 30% tax on them. So if you want to avoid that say it's for your personal use, very old, crappy, and cheap. If you're taking any medicines, make sure they are allowed in Russia and always carry your prescription with you, so the customs don't think you're carrying drugs.

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Russian money

Russian money (5)

Information on Russian currency and how to keep your money - Cash, Travelers Cheques, Credit Cards in Russia

The official currency of Russia is the Ruble (RUB), divided into 100 kopeks. Coins are issued in 1, 5, 10, and 50 kopek and 1, 2, 5, and 10 ruble denominations. Banknotes come in 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 ruble values. The 1 and 5 kopek coins are of little use, as their value is low; in many stores prices are rounded up to the nearest 10 kopeks and many people refuse to accept these coins.


Rubles only: All payments in Russia are officially made in rubles. Payment is made in Rubles at all shops while some smaller owner operated shops and stalls may still allow foreign currency (USD or Euro). The legal tender for all payments is the Ruble and foreign currency is not supposed to be accepted for payments.  Supermarkets, restaurants and all major stores will not even consider foreign currency, but most will have either a money changer very close by or possibly a money changing machine in the vicinity.

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Safety & Health

Safety & Health (3)

Russia is a relatively safe place, but sometimes there may be annoying situations.

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Public transport

Public transport (3)

Public transportation system in main Russian cities is quite extensive. Public transport is pretty cheap, and you can get around by metro (subway), bus, tram and taxi. Getting around Russian cities buying a good dual-language map is essential, since the street names and metro signs are posted in Cyrillic only.

Find public transport routes

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Go through Russia

Go through Russia (5)

If you are not sure about the best way to the place of your destination we will help you to choose the optimal route at the best price and make your trip comfortable.

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Russian language

Russian language (0)

What makes Russia such an interesting country to visit is that the Russian language is based on a different alphabet. And as an English speaker, planning to go to Россия or Russia, the Cyrillic script can be daunting.

Many of the Cyrillic characters look backwards or upside down and are seemingly switched around. What looks like a “р” is really the equivalent of a Latin “r”. What looks like a “в” is really the equivalent of a Latin “v” and what looks like an “н” is really the equivalent of a Latin “n”. But, fortunately, many Russians -- though they may not be fluent in English -- are familiar with the Latin alphabet despite the quirky differences, and are able to read or sound out a European or English word anyway, so you can be sure that it’s not that difficult for you to reverse the process. 

You will feel much more comfortable and secure in a distinctly foreign region, with some background knowledge of the Cyrillic script. It won’t be difficult to remember the letters, because there are many words that are familiar to English ones - the only problem is that the characters initially look very different. For instance, the word “банк” will look a little strange the first time you see it, but gradually you’ll recognize that “н” is really the equivalent of the latin “n” and that this is almost exactly the same as the English word “bank.” And as you gradually integrate words like these into your memory, you will be able to sound out or recognize many more words, and even some that are completely unfamiliar to you. 

One of the greatest advantages of knowing the Cyrillic script is that you will be able to understand many more words than you predicted, just by their similarity to American words. “турист” being one -- which is transliterated to “tooreest” and becomes a familiar word, once you understand the Cyrillic script. “туалет” is another, which is what they might say to you if you’re looking for public restrooms and transliterates to “tooahlyet.” Now you can see that “у” in the Cyrillic script makes the sound “oo” in English, not “yuh,” and that “e” in the Cyrillic script actually makes a “yeh” sound! 

The Cyrillic script is just one of the first gates into the Russian cultural experience, and you might find your environment much more enjoyable once you’ve learned it.

The Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet has 33 letters (20 consonants, 11 vowels and 2 others that don't have their own sounds)

А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ъ Ы Ь Э Ю Я

And these words you’ll be sure to see many times around the cities you visit:
аптека - aptyeka -- pharmacy
музей - moozey -- museum 
банк - bank -- bank
рубль -- roobl -- ruble (Russian currency)
парк - park -- park
почта -- pochta -- post office
цветы - tsveti -- flower shop
ресторан - restoran -- restaurant
магазин - magazin -- not to be confused with magazine, it actually means a small shop or a store.
три -- tree -- and actually it’s the number three, not a tree!
царь - tsar -- sometimes transliterated as tsar or czar 
я турист - ya tooreest - which means ‘I am a tourist’

Knowing the language of the foreign country you expect to be traveling in is always valuable to make the most out of your experience.

Although in large airports and popular museums, you hardly need worry because they will probably have signs in English, you still might be surprised how little you can find an English speaker on the street when you most need it, or even in the metro or airport. Because of Russia’s political history, it has not been open to tourists for very long and has only begun developing good relationships with English-speaking countries and their tourism.

A good tip when you need directions or help is to search for someone in their youth. A group of students, for instance, will have a better chance of knowing enough English to point you in the right direction, rather than a group of adults from the Soviet Era. 

Though most Russians in big cities understand English, learning a few words of Russian will help prepare you for your trip.

Hi

PriVET

Hello (formal)

ZDRASTvstvujte

Good Morning

DObroe OOtra

Good Day

DObriy DYEN

Good Evening

DObriy VYEcher

Good Night

DObroy NOchee

Bye

Poka

See You Tomorrow

daZAftra

Please

paZHAluhsta

Thank-You

spaSEEba

Yes

DA

No

NYET

Where is...?

GDYAY...?

Do you speak English?

GavaREEtye lee VOY pah-anglEEskee?

I don't speak Russian. 

ya Ne gavarYOU pahROOskee

My name is...

meenYA zaVOOT...

What is your name?

kahk vas zaVOOT?

I have a hotel reservation here

Ya zakazal nomer

I am looking for my driver

Ya ishu moego voditelya

Where can I make a phone call

Kak mne mojno pozvonit’

Can you please call this number for me

Naberite etot nomer

It’s a pleasure to meet you

ochen’ priyatno poznakomitsya

This meal is delicious

ochen’ vkusno

How much

Skolko

This is too much

Dorogo

Learn to read the Russian Alphabet in 75 Minutes

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Weather and When to Go

Weather and When to Go (0)

You can visit Russia in every time of the year. All year long you can find many interesting places to see and things to do.

The immense geographic area of the Russian Federation has a variety of seasonal weather conditions. April through to October is considered by many to be the best overall time to visit; from June till September are the busiest tourist months. However, the winter months also have appeal. St Petersburg is always a few degrees cooler than Moscow and often has a breeze blowing in from the Gulf of Finland.

The coldest months are January and February with an average temperature of -9C degrees.  The first snow falls at the end of October and remains until the beginning of April. In summer average temperature is about 20C degrees, with much warmer temperatures in July and August.  The rainiest months are July and August, although these months can often be quite dry and pleasant. October is often a dry, pleasantly cool and colorful month, although rain is still common. Autumn and winter have a charm of their own.

If you come in winter time you can visit all the museums, theatres and places of interest, participate in the Russian national festivals and spend unforgettable time. Moreover, accommodation in winter is cheaper than in other seasons, so you can save money. Hotels in Russia offer a wide range of opportunities both for business and leisure travelers, comfortable rooms and irreproachable service. And for sure, by the chance being in the city you will have time for visiting its famous museums...To tell you secretly, there are no awful lines in the museums in winter, and theaters do their best indeed in that time! Russian vacations will give you a lot of impressions that you will keep in your memory for all your life. It would be wonderful idea to see Russian New Year or Maslenitsa, to be congratulated by Father Frost and Snowmade, to explore Russian winter entertainments such as ice fishing, skiing, skating, snowboarding, snowmobiling, huskies, Russian troika with sledge, Russian banya with contrasts of steam and snow... It's not very cold, though sometimes it might be quite freezing. But if you have warm clothes, you'll be ok. Generally, the lowest is minus 10 or 15 Celsius in the winter, though it might sometimes (rarely) go as low as minus 25 or 30. And the true thing about Russian winter is that it's very beautiful.  If you don't like cold, your safer bet is to travel to Russia in summer.

If you would like to come in summer, you can visit also famous resorts, residences of the Russian Tsars and make Russian river cruises. Summer is also the time of renowned White Nights in St. Petersburg with unique chance to feel deeply this time of the year and enjoy fabulous strolls all nights long and the famous bridge partings. July and August are the warmest months and the main holiday season for both foreigners and Russians (which means securing train tickets at short notice can be tricky). The drawback of the summer, however, is that the airfares and hotel prices skyrocket and museum lines lengthen. By booking a private tour in advance, you reserve good rates and bypass museum lines with the help of your personal guide

If you are interested in a budget vacation, we recommend visiting just before travel season, in late April or early May, or right after it ends, in late September or early October. The museum lines will be short, but you will need to bring warm clothes as weather gets surprisingly chilly, especially in the evenings. Golden autumnal colors of September and early October can be stunning. Avoid, though, the first snows (usually in late October) and the spring thaw (March and April), which turn everything to slush and mud.

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Keeping in touch

Keeping in touch (3)

While on vacation, most people don't want to be distracted by things back home. However, sometimes, it is important to keep in touch with friends and family members while you are on the go, traveling out of state or out of the country. Learn about the ways of communication in Russia.

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Russian Food

Russian Food (0)

One of the purest forms of cultural immersion is diving stomach-first into a country’s cuisine. Whether you are being adventurous with aspic or enjoying a pot of borsch, you are guaranteed to find something that will fill you, heart and soul.

Russian national cuisine uses lots of grains and roots, vegetables and lots of fish, mushrooms and berries. Because of the harsh climate, Russians have a limited variety of ingredients, but this hardship has been compensated with creative recipes and combinations. Russians have invented a mind-boggling variety of soups and, because they had to preserve food for cold winters, they have made a science out of pickling vegetables.

Contemporary Russian cuisine is truly delicious. It is also healthy because it mostly relies on naturally grown ingredients. It is also very filling because Russian dishes have tons of vegetable oil, sour cream and mayo.

Russian breakfasts are very similar to those in some western countries. For breakfast, Russians almost always drink tea with a sandwich with meat (kolbasa), fried eggs or omelets (but without bacon). Sometimes they make blini, which are thin pancakes, which are similar to French crepes.

Russian lunch is somewhat different from what you are used to. Russians have great variety of soups: rassolnik - chicken soup with pickles, salanka - meat soup with olives and sausages, okroshka - cold soup made of kvas andchopped vegetables, red borsh - beet soup, shchi - cabbage soup, soup s frikadlkami - meatball soup, uha - fish soup and the list goes on.

Russians dinners are similar to any western cuisine as they feature variety of fried meats and fish. Meals are served with rich salads, pickled vegetables, and boiled of fried potatoes. Some dishes are more creative than others and take a while to make. Golbuci is another time-consuming dish. Golubci is ground beef with rice wrapped in cabbage leaves and stewed in an oven for 3 hours.

One of the best ways to taste Russian cuisine is during large holidays such as birthdays or New Year's Eve. For holidays, Russians tend to cook five times more food that they can actually eat. There are usually three or four delicious courses in a typical holiday feast.

Russia is not without its unusual cuisine. Two of its most unique foods are salo (pig fat)  and cow's tongue. Many Russians consider these dishes to be delicacies. There is also stooden (студень), or aspic. Aspic is a gel made by letting cooked meat sit in a refrigerator until the broth hardens into a gel. The gel is then taken out and eaten cold.

Russian specialties also include:

  • Pelmeni (meat-filled dumplings, especially popular in Ural and Siberian regions)
  • Blini (pancakes)
  • Black bread (rye bread)
  • Piroshki (small pies or buns with sweet or savoury filling)
  • Ikra Baklazhanaya (aubergine spread)
  • Vinegret (salad of boiled beets, potato, carrots and other vegetables with vinegar)
  • Olivier (Russian version of potato salad)
  • Shashlyk (various kebabs from the Caucasus republics of the former Soviet Union)

While Russians are most famous for vodka, there are a number of other delicious national drinks as well. Aside from alcoholic beverages, many Russians drink tea, coffee, and a variety of juice. They also produce a beverage called Kvas, a drink made from fermented bread.

Both Saint Petersburg and Moscow offer sophisticated, world class dining and a wide variety of cuisines including Japanese, Tibetan and Italian. They are also excellent cities to sample some of the best cuisines of the former Soviet Union (e.g., Georgian and Uzbek). It is also possible to eat well and cheaply there without resorting to the many western fast food chains that have opened up. Russians have their own versions of fast food restaurants which range from cafeteria style serving comfort foods to street-side kiosks cooking up blinis or stuffed potatoes. Unlike Europe, cafes in Russia (кафе) do not serve only drinks, but also a full range of meals (typically cooked in advance unlike restaurants where part or whole cooking cycle is performed after you make an order).

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Russian Souvenirs

Russian Souvenirs (0)

Russian souvenirs reflect the national character and soul of Russian people. Lively, carved and painted figurines, nesting dolls, birch boxes and accessories, Gzhel and Majolica Ceramics, Mstera, Kholuy, Palekh and Fedoskino wooden boxes, tin soldiers, clocks, wooden figures are to everyone's liking. These examples of Great Russian culture will decorate your house and bring you back memories of Russia. 

Looking for something unusual and yet beautiful? Our Russian Souvenirs Stores offer you highly artistic articles handcrafted by gifted masters. In every piece you will find reflections of millennium long traditions of Russian folk and decorative art. Every item will make a great addition to any collection or a perfect gift for any occasion.

Nesting dolls - Matreshkas, or nesting dolls, are the most popular national Russian souvenirs. It is a collection of traditionally painted wooden dolls, each one stacking neatly within another. Matreshka is a descendant of traditional peasant toys that parents used to make for their children.

Birch Boxes - Birch bark items are made of pure birch or can be decorated by cutting through birch and stamping. Stamping on birch is one of the oldest handicrafts. The production of birch bark items was very popular in Russia.

Ceramics - porcelain, faience, majolica, and pottery - are made of fired clay with mineral components. Ceramic items are performed in traditional national style but with artists' individual vision

Lacquer boxes - the first lacquer boxes appeared in Japan and China. Starting from the 16th century, the art of making such boxes spread in Western Europe. First Russian lacquer boxes appeared at the beginning of the 18th century.

Samovar - an indigenous design for brewing tea. Note that when purchasing samovars of value (historical, precious gems or metal, etc.), it is wise to check with customs before attempting to take it out of the country

Ushanka  - a warm hat with ears (ushi)

Honey  - produced around the country; sorts and quality vary dramatically, but the higher-quality are worth seeking. 

Caviar -  only red since 2007 (producing and selling black caviar is prohibited for ecological reasons) most easy to find in large stores

Be advised, however, that the law prohibits anyone from taking artwork of historical significance out of the country, so buyer/exporter beware of any older works of art or antiques.  This rule is applied especially to icons.  If you purchase artwork that is not old, you should get a certification from the seller which states the age of the item and the cost, in case you are questioned about it at the border.  Don't worry, the merchants are familiar with these rules and will know what you want and why you are asking for it.  If you buy something that is, or appears to be old, and the seller won't certify it, you might be well-advised to pass it up.
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Useful facts about Russia

Useful facts about Russia (5)

That's the kind of information you think you don't need until you realize that your notebook cannot be charged or the time on your ticket actually meant 5 o'clock in the morning, not in the evening. So here's some of that useful information

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Thursday, 17 March 2011 15:09

Visa support

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The invitation* (for a tourist or a business visa) can be obtained through a Russian travel agency, a hotel or your local travel agent. If you get it through a hotel you will be bound by a fixed itinerary and will have to stay at this particular hotel. The agencies usually offer more flexible options. You simply receive it by e-mail or fax and then bring it along with other documents needed to the Russian consulate.


Only hotels and travel agencies that have a consular reference, that is  the government registration number with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, can issue the confirmations valid for visa purposes. Travelers who plan to stay in more than one hotel would be best advised to seek an invitation through a travel agency rather than a hotel directly to ensure that the invitation will cover the entire length of such stay.


However, Russian Embassies and Consulates are inconsistent and unreliable. For example, depending on the embassy, they may or may not issue visas by mail or in-person only and may not accept faxed/e-mailed copies of the invitation in lieu of the original. Check with the embassy in beforehand.


A business visa requires an entirely different type of invitation. Business invitations are issued by the government and many Russian consulates require the original hard copy, though some will accept a faxed copy. Again, check with the consulate before applying. Obtaining a business invitation is another time consuming and costly process. It normally takes 4 to 6 weeks to receive one. But travel agencies in Russia can help with obtaining a business invitation.


*Note that if you are flying directly from abroad into any of the following cities, special invitation rules are likely to apply: Barnaul, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Murmansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Petrozavodsk, Pyatigorsk, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Ufa, Vladivostok and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

Thursday, 17 March 2011 14:24

Applying for a Visa

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Once you have the invitation, you need to make sure you have the other documents ready. Usually it's your

  • passport, which should expire not earlier than 6 months after your visa expires

  • 2-4 passport-sized photos

  • visa application form (available at the consulate or on their websites)

If you live in an EU country (except UK) or USA, you will also need insurance. Usually your credit card will have insurance that covers you worldwide -- if that's the case, just print it out and bring it along.

If you're getting a Russian visa for 6 months or longer, you'll also need an HIV test certificate (available at most hospitals).

Once you apply, wait for about 1-2 weeks and your visa will be in your passport. The consulate's fee is usually $50-$100.

We highly recommended applying for your visa in your home country rather than on the road – indeed, the rule is that you’re supposed to do this, although we know from experience that some embassies and consulates can be more flexible than others.

Trans-Mongolian travellers should note that unless you can prove you’re a resident of China or Mongolia, attempting to get visas for Russia in both Beijing and Ulaan Baatar can be a frustrating, costly and ultimately fruitless exercise.

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