Region: North & Central Asia
Until the collapse of the USSR, there were restrictions on religious worship, although most of these were swept aside during the latter part of the 1980s. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest of the Christian denominations with between 35 to 40 million followers. There is also a substantial Roman Catholic following. Such a vast country would have a fair representation of various religions and there are large groups of Muslims, Jews and Buddhists in different parts of the country.
Most people in Russia speak Russian, although some of the minority groups in Siberia and the Far East have their own language. Not much English is spoken outside of the major cities. The Russian language and all of the other minor languages use the Cyrillic alphabet.
Area (sq. km):
17,100,000 square meters
Russia’s time zones span 9 hours. Moscow and St Petersburg are GMT + 3 hours, whilst Irkutsk and Lake Baikal are a further 5 hours ahead, at GMT + 8 hours (the same time as China, Singapore, Malaysia and Western Australia).
The climatic conditions vary dramatically, ranging from northerly polar conditions through sub-arctic and humid continental to sub-tropical and semi-arid conditions in the south. The summers can be quite warm with the temperature reaching as high as 30 degrees Celsius, but it can drop to -35 degrees Celsius in winter. Both Moscow and St Petersburg are warm from mid-May to early-September, but the first snows start around December and can stay on the ground until early-April.
The best time to travel through Russia is in the late spring, summer and early autumn months (May-September).
Moscow's Sheremetyevo-2 International Airport is located 35 kilometes north of the city. To avoid hassles, it is probably wise to pre-arrange a transfer from the airport. If catching a taxi, you will need to bargain for a good price (it helps if you speak Russian!). However you should aim at paying the equivalent of US$35.
The country code for dialling into Russia is 7. The various city codes include Moscow (095), St Petersburg (812) and Irkutsk (3952). Making international calls out of Russia can be quite expensive.
Russia uses European two-pin plugs (220V/50AC) - round pins with no earth connections.
The standard of food has risen since Soviet times, but the so too have the prices. Traditional meals are typical of much of eastern Europe; comparatively bland, rich and heavy on meat and potatoes and pickled vegetables. Moscow and St Petersburg offer a broad selection of restaurants and international cuisines (at international prices), whilst local fast-food equivalents, street kiosks and markets cater to a more restricted budget. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and dairy products are widely available, even in remoter regions such as Siberia.
Travelling conditions in Russia are fairly basic and the roads are in very poor condition, so a train journey is definitely the most comfortable way of crossing the country overland. Please be prepared for long travelling days and nights, but enjoy the experience of travelling through one of the world’s greatest landmasses and revel in the ever-changing scenery. When in the big cities (Moscow and St Petersburg), be sure to catch their underground Metro rail systems. The metro stations, especially those in Moscow, are works of art in their own rights and attract many tourists.
There is much to buy, especially in the way of local arts and crafts. Many travellers buy matryoshka dolls, but other popular items include chess sets, Russian style fur hats (rabbit is the cheapest), and babushka scarves. The large Weekend Flea Market in Moscow’s Izmaylovsky Park is one of the best places to go shopping.
RUSSIA VISA INFORMATION:
All travellers to Russia (regardless of nationality) will require a visa, obtained in advance of travel with a letter of invitation from the Russian authorities. In order for us to arrange this letter you must provide your full passport details at time of booking. Please note that Russian visas are date specific and cannot be extended once issued.
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