Russia


A Visitor’s Guide To Russia

The vast nation of Russia occupies a large portion of the territory of both Europe and Asia, and as well as spanning several time zones it also covers a wide variety of different types of terrain from high mountains to coast and the cold north of the country. During the period of the Soviet Union Russia was at the heart of the Union, and as well as the philosophy of Communism the country was also at the heart of a space race with the main capitalist power of the period, the United States. Not only is the vast nation the largest in Europe by quite some distance, it also reaches other extremes including the highest mountain on the continent while the capital Moscow is also the largest city on the continent.

The US State Department does advise visitors to plan their trip to Russia carefully, as there are several areas including the North Caucasus that see acts of terrorism caused by groups seeking independence from Russia, including those looking for an independent Chechnya. They also advise people to be cautious near government buildings across the country which can often be targets for terrorism. Visitors of an ethnic minority have also been subjected to harassment in the country by gangs of white skinheads.

Top Places To Visit In Russia

Red Square – The iconic heart of Moscow is this large square which is the point at which all of the main streets of the city converge, and is an area surrounded by historic places including St Basil’s Cathedral dating from the sixteenth century and the mausoleum of former leader Vladimir Lenin.

St Petersburg – This beautiful city is one of the most popular destinations in Russia for international visitors, with stunning palaces and museums throughout the city, with the Hermitage museum offering an superb collection of international art, and the modern city center having Europe’s tallest skyscraper.

Solovetsky Monastery – Situated on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea to the north west of mainland Russia, this stunning monastery was an important Christian bastion in northern Russia from when it was built in the fifteenth century, and also served as a political prison in the Soviet period.

Lake Baikal – This huge lake is believed to be the deepest and the oldest lake in the world, and is popular among visitors with several resorts on the banks of the lake, along with some wonderful hiking routes and the chance to visit some of the great islands and nature reserves on the lake.

Sochi – The host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi is a city that is soon to be thrust on to the international stage, and is a lovely Black Sea resort during the summer and offers great skiing during the winter, with some slopes equipped with snow guns to add extra snow if needed.

The Kremlin – This superb fortified complex has a series of churches and palaces, and the Armory is a fascinating place to visit with a stunning diamond collection, while the area is easily large enough to spend a whole day exploring.

The Trans-Siberian Railway – This epic feat of engineering is a railway line that begins in Moscow and stretches all the way across the stunning landscape to the eastern coast of the country in Vladivostok, while many visitors will connect to other lines that go to the Sea of Japan or into China.

Kamchatka – This isolated peninsula at the eastern end of Russia is a spectacular but often inhospitable landscape that is famous for the series of volcanoes in the area, with the only real city of any size in the area being Petropavlovsk.

Mount Elbrus – The largest mountain in Russia is also one of the attractions that has been gradually drawing more visitors, both to climb the mountain and to enjoy the nearby ski slopes, but an unstable political situation makes the area a less than ideal destination for most people.

Staraya Russa – This city was founded in the tenth century and is famous for the range of historic buildings and for being a favorite haunt of the Russian writer Dostoyevsky, who enjoyed the atmosphere and the mineral springs of the town.

Where To Stay In Russia

Moscow

AZIMUT Moscow Tulskaya Hotel – Offering stylish and well designed rooms that make the most of the space available, guests can explore the city from a wonderful location with great transport links, while also having access to wireless internet and flat screen televisions.

Melior Greenwood Hotel – A luxurious hotel that provides guests with spacious rooms and large double beds, the bathrooms are lovely with premium toiletries, and the hotel also has great transport links into the city center.

St Petersburg

Antique Hotel Rachmaninov – Located right in the city center, this hotel has a quaint and interesting atmosphere that is created by the old artworks and the traditional furnishings, with the theme of the hotel based around famed composer and pianist Rachmaninoff who studied here in St Petersburg.

Hotel Vera – Offering comfortable and tastefully designed rooms with modern bathrooms, this hotel has a pleasant restaurant and lobby area, along with wi-fi internet in the competitively priced rooms, while also being in a location within walking distance of several of the city’s main sights.

Sochi

Olympic Hotel Sochi – A short drive outside the city, this hotel has been developed in anticipation of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and has a wealth of leisure facilities including an outdoor pool, mini golf course and sauna, with rooms that are comfortable and modern.

Forsage Hotel – This pleasant hotel offers nice accommodation with comfortable rooms and access to a small indoor and outdoor swimming pool, while the location is just a short walk from the Black Sea and within easy reach of the city center.

Ekaterinburg

Atrium Palace Hotel – From the impressive grand lobby area through to the beautifully decorated and furnished rooms, this luxury hotel offers a great experience with an indoor swimming pool, sauna and hot tub, with a prominent location near the heart of the city.

Marins Park Hotel – Providing guests with affordable and pleasant accommodation, the rooms in this hotel are simply furnished but offer large wall mounted televisions and wireless internet access, while also having a sauna and being just a short distance outside the city center.

Russian Cuisine

Covering such a large territory, the cuisine in Russia can be quite varied, ranging from the elegant and attractive restaurants in cities like Moscow and St Petersburg through to the rustic dishes eaten in many of the rural areas. With many people sourcing their own food, game is a common ingredient in many dishes, with Kholodets being a dish that makes the most of the meat available by boiling the meat and allowing it to set into a jelly. Dough and pastry dishes are also common, with Polmeni being small dough parcels that are stuffed with mincemeat, while the lovely Pirozhki are small buns that are stuffed with either meat or vegetables.

Currency And Visa

For anyone visiting Russia, it is important to be aware that not only is the Russian Ruble the currency in the country, but that under Russian law it is also illegal to pay for anything using any other currency. Those who are exchanging their US Dollars for Rubles will usually find that they will receive around 32.95 Rubles per Dollar.
One of the most challenging aspects of any visit to Russia is that obtaining a visa can be quite an arduous process. For those looking for a tourist visa for up to thirty days, the first step is to arrange an invitation through one of the tour companies in the country, and visitors from the USA will usually pay around $30 at this stage. Once the invitation has been received then the application will need to be made, and for American citizens the fee for the visa is $140, while the processing company in charge of visa applications will also take a fee of $30. The Russian authorities are also very strict about overstaying visas, so it is important that you make sure you are out of Russia before the visa expires, otherwise further fees and time will have to be spent in order to be able to leave the country.

Further Reading

One of the most spectacular journeys that can be taken is Russia is on the long distance railway between Moscow and the far east of the country, and this article includes a video that looks at the Trans-Manchurian journey which travels from Moscow to China.