Extravagant architecture? Check. World-class culture? Check. Vodka named after a notorious President? Check. (It’s called Putinka. Try it.) It’s time to get rushin’ to Russia.
Everything in Russia is over-the-top – the opulent churches, fairy tale castles, lavish stores and ritzy nightlife – it needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Add to that some world-renowned contributions to ballet, classical music and literature and there’s no better place to get your culture on. So whether you want to browse masterpieces by van Gogh at the Hermitage, marvel at the colours of St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square or share a vodka toast with some locals at a hip St Petersburg bar, Russia is calling.
Russia travel highlights
Take in some of Russia’s most iconic sights including the Red Square, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the Kremlin. Save St Basil’s Cathedral for night though, when its vibrant colours and shapes are illuminated in full glory.
From grand museums, nearly as impressive as the artwork they house to the Mariinsky Theatre showcasing some of the world’s best opera – discover the rich culture of this beautiful port city.
Articles on Russia
Russia holiday information
Local Culture of Russia
Food and Drink in Russia
Festivals and Events in Russia
Geography and Environment
Shopping guide to Russia
Russia travel FAQs
New Zealand: Yes
South Africa: Yes
United Kingdom: Yes
LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most visitors require a tourist visa to enter Russia. You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes called a Voucher or Visa Support Letter, in order to apply for your visa.
You can obtain your LOI online through our local partners in Russia. Instructions and a link to the website will be sent to you at the time of booking. Read the instructions carefully and fill in the online application form. You will then be able to download your LOI instantly. Please note that we will add 3 days to the LOI duration before and after your trip dates for your convenience. If you are planning to stay longer than these dates please let us know as we will need to manually request a LOI to fit your specific travel plans.
The LOI included in the cost of your tour is for a Single Entry Tourist Visa. LOIs for other types of visas may be organised at your own expense and paid directly to our local partners, Parallel 60 (www.visain.ru)
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You must apply for your Russian visa in advance from your home country or your application may be refused. Visas are not available on arrival or en-route. Once you have received your LOI it is your responsibility to apply for your own visa either directly at an embassy or by using a visa agent.
Use ONLY the information and dates on your LOI when filling in your visa application. There is no need to reference Intrepid Travel or include a copy of your itinerary as Parallel 60 is the official inviting organisation, not Intrepid. Do not be concerned if the destinations and accommodation listed do not match your Intrepid trip exactly. This information is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel and stay in Russia.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
• Letter of Invitation (LOI)
• Photocopy of your passport
• Passport size photo (up to 4)
• Flight or other transport details - if required
• Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
Be aware that visa extensions are NOT possible in Russia.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS:
Train tickets in Russia are booked with passport numbers. Please make sure you provide us with your correct passport number. If you have to renew your passport after booking, please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip. If we receive changes to passport numbers less than 30 days prior to departure, we cannot guarantee a purchase of train tickets.
We do NOT recommend travelling on multiple passports for trips that involve border crossings by train. This can cause difficulties with train ticket bookings and cause significant issues delays at Immigration.
WARNING – MIGRATION CARDS:
All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card. The entry portion of the card will be retained by Immigration upon arrival. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport during your stay in Russia and submitted to Immigration upon departure. If you are not given a migration card at Immigration on arrival you must request one, even if the immigration official says that you do not need one. Loss or failure to receive the exit portion of the card will result in you not being able to travel on our trip as all hotels require this card for registration and may result in significant delays or fines upon departure.
It is customary to leave a 10% tip in restaurants and cafes.
Internet can be accessed at internet cafes in large cities, like Moscow and St Petersburg, but is limited in rural and remote areas. You will need to purchase a local connect (about USD 40) for access along some portions of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This will work with some laptops and certain 3G devices.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Russia’s large cities and regional areas, but may not be available in more remote areas. Ensure global roaming is activated with your service provider before leaving home.
Both squat toilets and western-style flushable toilets can be found in Russia. It’s a good idea to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer, as they are not always provided. Some public toilets charge a small usage fee.
Can of soft drink = USD 0.60 – USD 0.85
Bottle of local beer = USD 1 – USD 2
Bottle of vodka (half a litre) = USD 2.70
Simple meal at a cafe = USD 3.50 – USD 8.50
Sit-down dinner at a nice restaurant = USD 34 – USD 50
While brushing your teeth with water is safe, drinking tap water generally isn’t recommended in Russia. Avoid drinks with ice and make sure to peel fruit before eating it. Help the environment and try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water. Your leader or hotel can tell you where to find filtered water.
Credit cards are usually accepted by hotels, large retailers and shops but may not be accepted by smaller vendors. Always carry enough cash for smaller purchases in case credit cards are not an option.
ATMs are widely available in larger cities and regional centres, but are less common in remote and rural areas. Make sure you have enough cash before leaving urban areas.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Geckos are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1: New Year’s Day
Jan 7: Russian Orthodox Christmas Day
Feb 23: Defender of the Fatherland Day
March 8: International Women’s Day
May 1: International Labour Day/Spring Festival
May 9: Victory Day
June 12: Russian Independence Day
Nov 4: Unity Day
Note: Businesses may also close between New Year’s Day and Russian Orthodox Christmas in January and on Easter Monday. Many of these public holidays are religious holidays and change each year as they are celebrated on a lunar cycle. For a current list of public holidays in Russia go to: https://www.worldtravelguide.net/guides/europe/russia/public-holidays/
While homosexuality and other LGBTQI lifestyles aren’t technically illegal in Russia, promoting LGBTQI culture is. Members of the LGBTQI community continue to face stigma, violence and harassment in Russia. Despite this, Moscow and St Petersburg maintain an active, if sometimes underground, LGBTQI scene.