Standard voltage in Russia is 220V, 50Hz AC. Sockets require a Continental or European plug with two round pins. Remember to pack a travel adaptor.
The Russian Rouble is exchangeable only in Russia. Notes come in the following denominations: 10, 50,100, 500. Coins are also in circulation and come in the following values: 1, 2 and 5 Roubles and 1, 10 and 50 Kopeks.
US Dollars and Euros are the best currency for exchange. Bureau de Change and ATM machines exist in Moscow and St Petersburg (to a lesser extent in the provinces). Changing traveller's cheques is cumbersome so avoid if possible and credit cards are rarely accepted outside the main cities.
Please note that group tour optional activities booked locally must be paid for in US Dollars, Euros, or Roubles. ATMs allow you to withdraw either USD, Euros or Roubles.
Summer: Starts from mid-May to early September are warm and very long. At midsummer in St Petersburg there is no real darkness.
Autumn: Autumn is brief and by the end of November winter sets in, bringing with it lots of snow and extremely low temperatures.
Spring: Spring arrives with a vengeance, heralding the great thaw, in late March and April.
Winter: Pack very warm clothes if arriving in winter, as temperatures between end November through end February plummet to well below zero degrees Celsius.
It is recommended that you be vaccinated for Diphtheria, Polio and Tetanus. Food and waterborne diseases are more common than in the UK, so Typhoid and Hepatitis A are recommended. If visiting Yekaterinburg and undertaking outdoor activities between May and August, a vaccination for tick-born Encephalitis is recommended. This information is only intended as a guide and recommendations can change so please consult with your local healthcare provider.
Drink bottled water only, pack some anti-diarrhoea medication, mosquito repellent and sun cream if visiting in summer.
Russia (European Russia west of the Urals) is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime. From the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October, summertime is in force in the UK and time reverts to 4 hours ahead of GMT.
Russia produces a very diverse culinary repertoire. Restaurants, cafes and other eating establishments have made vast inroads since the fall of communism, despite the fact that most of the Russian population can't afford to eat out. Beyond Moscow, St Petersburg and other big cities, the choice is far more limited. Which is why we include meals in provincial Russia on our group tours.
Caviar, smoked sausage, pickles, field mushrooms, cheese and soured cream are the basis of zakuski (hors d'oeuvres or appetisers) - a popular dish. Also try savoury piroshki (a stuffed pastry) and blini (savoury stuffed pancakes). The Russians excel at hearty meat and vegetable-based soups. The tsar of all soups is Borsch, Solyanka is also good.
Well-loved classic mains include - beef Stroganoff (invented in Russia, as was chicken Kiev), pelmeny (Siberian-style dumplings) and spicy Georgian cuisine such as shashlyk. Russian rye bread is flavoursome and most often eaten without butter. Fish varieties include - omul (similar to salmon and from Lake Baikal) and sturgeon - often poached and served with a sauce or mushrooms
The Russian's excel at the art of ice-cream making. St Petersburg is particularly renown for its ices.
A word on garnishes. Dill reigns supreme in Russia and its use is not limited to fish dishes. You'll find dill zealously sprinkled across many dishes. Russia even produces dill-flavoured potato crisps!
The Moscow Metro is the easiest and quickest way to get around and your tour (if incorporating time in Moscow) will include a Moscow Metro travelcard (for 6 journeys/rides). A Stalinist gift to the people of Moscow, this is one Stalinist project Muscovites are proud of. Graffiti-free stations offer an air of elegance with granite and marble-clad surrounds. Many of the stations boast chandeliers, huge mosaic freezes depict the power of good Soviet workers banding together to help the state and strikingly elaborate sculptures cast in bronze offer a study of people from an age where collectivism was at the forefront of the Communism dream. Art Nouveau style lamps illuminate the long escalator arches.
Riding the Moscow Metro is a sightseeing excursion in itself! Meanwhile, although St Petersburg has an equally fine Metro transportation system, as the city is more walker-friendly you'll be able to get to most inner-city sights often without the need to board the Metro.
SPECIAL NOTE: Mind your purses and bags aboard the Metro. Pickpockets are as prevalent here as elsewhere.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has embraced the free market. Gone are the days of trading your Levi jeans for vodka, caviar and worthless currency. Today, shops are positively brimming with consumerism. Souvenirs are authentic, inexpensive and usually well-made. The trademark souvenir is the gaily decorated wooden Matryoshka doll, a set of dolls within dolls. Enamelled wooden boxes known as palekh are also popular. Perhaps the most curious hangover of Communist times is the quantity of surplus Red Army and military souvenirs. Everything from badges to important looking peaked hats, MIG fighter jet dials fashioned into clocks and clothing is available. The ubiquitous 'fluffy brown hat', so common an image of Russia, is a must-buy. Dodgy examples in faux-fur are available at all tourist sights! The Russians themselves wear similar hats but theirs are often made of real mink, ermine or fox fur. Winter clothing such as coats and boots are often less expensive in Russia, as is winter sports equipment. If you ever fancied replicating the on-ice exploits of Torvill and Dean, ice-skates are far cheaper in Russia. Watches previously made for the Russian military are available in myriad designs. Camera & lens brands such as FED, Kiev and Zorki have a respected following amongst enthusiasts, though be sure to do your research before buying.
As a rule shops are open from 9.30am to 7pm or later and generally closed on Sunday. Banks are usually open weekdays from 9am to 5pm in Moscow and St Petersburg, with a break for lunch. Restaurants, cafes and bars trade until late. In Moscow and St Petersburg, many grocers trade 24/7.