VISA AND OTHER PROCEDURES
Russia has bureaucratic and demanding admission procedures. First, you must obtain a letter from a travel agency accompanied by a detailed program. These documents testify that you will visit the country under the authority of these entities and give precise information about the places you are going to visit and on what dates it is supposed to do so. Then, you have to take out a mandatory insurance. With these elements, you can apply for a visa at the nearest embassy – forms, photographs and a payment apply – and wait for approval. More information at www.vhs-portugal.com
Russian authorities do not require any specific illness certificate to allow entry into the country. Besides the special attention to the very low temperatures (perfectly possible -20°C from November to March) and not drinking tap water even in Moscow or St. Petersburg, there are no prior precautions or risks worthy of alarm.
For more information on traveling health, see the Health Portal of the Ministry of Health and Tropical and Traveler Medicine Clinic. In FitForTravel find country-specific health and disease prevention advice (in English).
TRIP TO RUSSIA
A TAP (tel: 707 205 700) operates direct flights from Lisbon to Moscow, the main gateway into the country. Count on round-trip flights from €200, more expensive in high season (June to end of August.)
The huge distances between the various places in the largest country in the world make flying a huge advantage for those who have time to explore different regions of the country. Until some time ago, Russian airlines maintained an unenviable reputation for safety. The situation has improved but remains far from ideal.
They are the most advisable alternative to the plane to travel between different areas. Russia has an extensive and functional rail network that passes through countless villages or, at worst, nearby. Russian trains are efficient and punctual and, as a rule, the staff on board carry out their duties diligently. Furthermore, traveling by train in Russia is an unforgettable cultural experience. The Trans-Siberian, in particular, is probably the most iconic and desired rail service on the face of the Earth.
Russian trains have the following classes:
Lux: it only exists on some special trains. Passengers travel in private compartments for two adults and one child (also private bathroom inside).
1st Class: in private compartments for two people but not so luxurious
2st Class: in private compartments for 4 people.
3st Class: up to 6 beds in the same space
Sitting places: as a rule, they only apply to short trips.
Normally, Russian cities only have bus connections to others, at most, 6 or 7 hours away and connected by good roads, which rarely happens. If you still consider the country's deplorable road safety, it is easy that the train is almost always a better option.
Boat trips apply in Russia as ferry trips to international destinations or to reach villages on islands in the middle of large lakes or seas, such as Kizhi on Lake Onega and Solovetsky on the White Sea.
Moscow, St. Petersburg and several other major Russian cities have very comprehensive and functional metro systems.
We recall the issue of poor road safety to discourage this option. Russian roads continue to be miles from standard Western European roads. Drivers do not look for ways to get there faster than others and they flout rules and even mere wisdom whenever it seems more convenient to them. If we add to this, the high level of alcohol consumption, it is clear why Russian roads are among the most tragic in the world. Also, the more you drive in Russia, the more you are putting your life and that of your passengers at risk.
Unless you're a serious fan of the cold, the ideal time to visit Russia is from May to mid-September, the country's summer. In these months, sunlight lasts longer (it's a dark night only about 4, 5 hours in June in St. Petersburg, and even less to the north) and the weather is more favorable, with mild temperatures – even hot days – and much less rain. In early autumn, Russia is embellished with beautiful yellow foliage but this period is short, fluctuates from year to year and region to region and is difficult to predict accurately. In addition, it can happen with a predominance of blue skies and radiant sun, as it can happen mostly under cloudy skies or permanent rain. Having stated all the conditions, we strongly advise you to try to experience this fascinating yellow Russia.
The Russian currency is the Ruble (RUB). Russia is currently a very expensive country. Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world, St. Petersburg is increasingly following the example and, in other less emblematic cities or in the countryside, the cost of living is decreasing, but not as much as one would expect. The main Russian cities are well equipped with ATMs and most of the most modern and sophisticated establishments accept credit card payments.
In St. Petersburg and Moscow, quality hotels have increased exponentially in number. and they charge more and more affordable prices for the comfort and service they offer. It has also become common for homeowners to rent their homes to foreigners through internet sites, which has proven to be an excellent solution for many visitors.
More cosmopolitan, Moscow and St. Petersburg also have a good number of guest houses at prices that could be more merciful. Unless you are in a period of ruble devaluation, expect to pay around €25 for a spartan double room and most likely cramped. From €10 to €18 for a dormitory stay.
Overnight in a real hotel in Moscow or St. Petersburg can start at €70 per night for a double room and go up to many hundreds of euros per night.
The situation in other cities with lesser notoriety can be radically different with a lack of hotels and high prices in those that exist. At times of important events, it becomes difficult to get rooms at any price in any Russian city.
Keep in mind that the above reference values can drop substantially – by half or less – during the long Russian winter.
It's expensive in every way. The cheapest meals you'll find are in neighborhood restaurants, some with a semi-Soviet atmosphere. They allow for different combinations of ingredients, drinks, desserts etc that the customer always chooses with eye contact as he goes, gathers on a tray and pays. In these types of restaurants, a full meal usually costs between €10 to €15. More sophisticated and famous restaurants represent significantly more expensive meals up to prices so high that only Russian millionaires or visiting wealthy foreigners get used to eating them.
It has spread at great speed since the turn of the century, and today it is abundant throughout Russia and is achieved without great difficulty even in lost cities in remote regions. In larger towns there is Wi-Fi in hostels and hotels, cafes, restaurants and other public spaces. If you really have to browse internet cafes, be prepared to pay well.
Another solution is prepaid SIM cards with credit for calls and internet, as a rule, accounted for by the minute + GB, for example 600 minutes of calls and 3 or 4 gigabytes of traffic. You can buy these SIMs upon arrival, at airports, or all over the city