Are you traveling to Russia?
This summer, Russia will be hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This means that in just a few weeks, thousands of soccer fans from around the world will be flocking to Russia. Maybe you’re traveling to Russia for the World Cup or maybe you’re just looking into checking the world’s largest country off your bucket list soon. Either way, keep reading!
Russia is amazing but it can also be overwhelming between language barriers and cultural differences. Those things shouldn’t stop you from having an incredible time though. Taking a few steps and being prepared for the culture you are traveling into is key. These ten tips will help you have a more seamless travel experience leaving less reason to stress and more reason to explore yet another amazing country during one of the most exciting athletic events of the year.
A few tips to make life easier…
#1 Arrive at the Russian airport with plenty of time… Like, 3 hours early.
The general rule for international travel is 2 hours. In Russian airports, try to make it 3. That may sound like a lot, especially for those of you who push for minimal time in the airport, but it’s going to be busy and security is heightened. You’ll go through at least two major security queues, one before and one after check-in. Seriously guys and gals, better safe than sorry. Missing your flight due to waiting in a long security checkpoint line isn’t going to score you any refunds.
#2 No electronic boarding passes
Go ahead and print it. Yeah, I know, who wants one more thing to keep track of right? Sorry, but Russian airports win here again. They don’t accept electronic tickets yet so good ol’ paper it is.
#3 Keep your passport on you – and safe.
This includes your visa as well. You’ll likely need it for a variety of reasons even after you leave the airport and especially when you’re attending the matches since they are large events. The Russian police are likely to stop you and ask for these things and if you can’t show them, you may face fines. Don’t think you should only carry these things on you to the games though, the Russian police are completely entitled to stopping to ask for these documents at any given time. I use and recommend this money-belt. It’s inexpensive and will do the job. Just wear it around your waist under your pants and you’re good to go. It even has RFID blocking.
On this same note, keep most of the cash you’re actually carrying in your money-belt along with a backup credit card as well. Keep what you need in another handy (but safe) spot. You don’t want all of your money in one spot and you certainly don’t want all of it in your money-belt so everyone can see you pull everything important out everytime you need to pay for something. Ward off pick-pockets by locking your backpack (I use these) or by using a travelsafe back pack. I use this one and my boyfriend uses this one.
#5 Exchange carefully
Use caution when exchanging money. This seems obvious but can actually be tricky. Currency forgery is a problem in Russia so make sure you are only exchanging with authorized parties such as an official exchange point or at a bank. This is another one of those times that having your passport is necessary.
#6 Taxi or Uber?
You can stop a taxi on the street but it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. There will also be taxi drivers ready to offer you a ride outside the airport. To save money and ensure safety, always use an app from a reputable company such as Uber or Mytaxi. Yandex is another transportation name you want to be familiar with. Yandex is the same as Uber in Russia so if you do order an Uber, don’t be alarmed if yandex shows up for your ride. Using an app will also give you some peace of mind in the way of security. When you book your ride on an app, your driver is identified and your route is tracked. You’ll know you aren’t being taken for a “ride” you didn’t expect.
#7 Book hotels well in advance through authorized websites
Booking well in advance will get you the best deal and the guarantee that you will have a decent room during your visit to Russia. The World Cup, obviously, is a big deal and hotels are going to sell out fast. If you get there without reservations and a hotel happens to have a room available, expect to charged out the hiney for whatever it is they have left. This means, if you haven’t booked a room yet, you should probably do that right now.
#8 Get a local SIM card
Once in Russia, roaming charges are going to add up fast. You’re not in the EU anymore so you’re looking at roaming charges of about 3 euros per minute. For around 300 rubles (approximately $5 USD or 4 Euros), you can get unlimited calling and internet access within the country. Can you guess what you’ll need to do this? Yep, your passport…
#9 Designated drivers
Should you choose to rent a vehicle in Russia, keep in mind the zero tolerance laws regarding drinking and driving. If you’re traveling with another adult and you want to be able to enjoy some beer or vodka, consider taking turns as designated drivers. Being in the driver’s seat means you must have a 0.0% blood alcohol concentration if you get stopped or worse, in an accident. Don’t risk it.
#10 Be able to communicate
The language barrier in Russia can be difficult as English speaking levels vary from place to place. Make sure you have a good translation app, preferably one that includes speech, downloaded for when you may need to communicate with others. This is especially important if you’re opting to stay outside of a major city such as Moscow.
#11 Using the subway
If you plan on using the subway, be sure to download city and subway maps. I swear by CityMaps2Go by Ulmon, but maps.me is a great option as well. Both can be used offline if you download the map in advance over wifi. Speaking of the subway, try to avoid it during rush hour particularly in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Also, if you use the escalators be sure and stay to the right so you are not blocking the fast track lane (left). If you’re going to use the subway frequently, consider a TROIKA card which can also be used for buses, trams, and trolleys.
#12 This one is simple.
HAVE A FREAKIN’ BLAST!!!
There’s lots more to learn about Russia and how you can make traveling to Russia easier. For more tips and to know your rights in the event of a delayed or canceled fight from Russia and the EU, airhelp.com is an excellent resource. You can download the AirHelp app to use on the go. It’s free and full of valuable information for travelers whether you’re headed to the World Cup or any other anywhere else in the world. Plus, if you end up with flights delays or cancellations, they even have a tool that will help you find out if your flight was eligible for any compensation. Who doesn’t want to know when they get some cash back?!
If you have any other valuable tips for traveling to Russia, I’d love for you to share them in the comments! You never know what off the wall tip will make a difference for a fellow globetrotter. 🙂
I would also LOVE it if you’d share these tips on Pinterest!