If you wish to visit Russia but are still discouraged by the negative things you've heard about the country, you'll be glad to learn that most of them are mere stereotypes. Your judgment about the country should not be based on such stereotypes. Russia has numerous great places that you can explore. Many of the major multinational corporations have set up shop in the country. Examples include Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola. The confidence they have to invest in the country should tell you something. This is not to say that the experience will imitate what you come across back in your home country. Here are some tips on the best way to visit Russia.
Public transport is the best way to get around the cities particularly the large ones that are equipped with the subway system. The subway is often more friendly to a visitor due to the translation of the maps into English. However, you need a good knowledge of the subway map since the personnel will rarely help you with directions.
Pay attention to announcements of names of places at the stations whenever you're using the subway. Even though they use Russian, online English maps can provide a phonetic transcription of the names. If you happen to travelling between St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod, then consider using the Sapsan train service. Since the sale of Sapsan train tickets took off, it eased the journey between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Russia is generally safe. It has a civilized and friendly population as well as a properly functioning police service. You’ll have an emergency number as well as the embassy line to call in case you run into trouble. However, just like any other place in the world, basic precaution is important. Avoid moving around with your passport. Leave it instead in your hotel room and carry a copy of it. In case you encounter Russian police, the copies of the relevant travel documents will suffice. Your money and cards should be carried safely to avoid potential pickpockets. Be discrete when getting some money out of your wallet to avoid attracting too much attention. Also, try to spread your documents and other valuables in different pockets.
Respect the local culture
Even though Russia is becoming an increasingly relaxed society, there are specific dos and don'ts that you will need to be keen on. For instance, when invited by a Russian family to their home, bring a gift along. There are also specific dress codes to some places especially restaurants and theaters. In the Russian Orthodox churches, women are expected to cover their heads and put on long skirts. As for men, headgear is discouraged. While no one will deny you entry due to your dressing, it would appear weird if your dressing is out of place.
Exchange Money in Advance
You do not want to hit the Russian streets with your American currency and try to find your way around without any of the country's cash. Even though credit cards are slowly gaining acceptance in many businesses, there are essential transactions you'll need to make at places where only cash payment is accepted. For instance, public transports, as well as some taxis, only take cash. Tipping is also a common practice especially in restaurants and should be done in cash after you have cleared your bill. Have some Russian money ready before you embark on your travel for a better experience.
Queuing – It Can be a Challenge
Don't be surprised when you find disorganized queues. Russian people tend to be an impatient lot and will have difficulty maintaining a straight line. There'll be people who will try to jump the queue. You'll find some quarreling over the queue. In some places such as the subway, there is a total disregard for queues, and you will have to go in with the crowd. There is no respect for personal space. However, this should not shock you as it is a regular practice in Russia.