Practical Information About Russia
Practical Information for Travel to Russia
Below is some helpful information on the practicalities of travel to Russia. Can't find what you're looking for? Look through the other country information. Still can't find what you need? Drop us a line, we'd be happy to help.
How do you get a Russian Visa?
The process to gain a Russian Visa is straight forward but does require some procedure and submission of papers done in plenty of time before your visit. You can apply for a visa six weeks prior to your arrival. Please note that the rules often change every year, sometimes with little warning. The followings is the procedure and time frames involved:
1) 8 weeks prior to your arrival in Russia you must ensure that you have entered the required information into 'your booking profile' page on our website. The required information is your passport details (ensure your have at least 3 months remaining on your passport expiry after returning home and a blank page for the visa) and your flight details.
2) 5 or 6 weeks prior to your arrival in Russia we will send you a 'travel voucher' and 'invitation letter'
3) Using your Travel Voucher and Invitation Letter you fill in an online application form on the Russian Embassy website. We will send you details to assist.
4) You then need to submit your passport, online application form, travel voucher, invitation letter, visa fee and a photograph to your local Russian embassy. This can be done in person (1-2 days processing time) or by post (7-10 days processing time). Some years it is necessary to submit your papers in person only and this may mean a visit to the nearest city where there is a Russian visa consulate.
Use online websites offering to help you get a visa with some caution. There are sites that have outdated information; the visa form and some of the application processes changed so be wary. There are also agencies that present themselves in a way that makes them look like an official government office when they are in fact a middle-man that will charge extra for their services. A good general rule would be to follow links from the website of ‘The Embassy of the Russian Federation’ in your home country. If you are in any doubt contact or link via the UK Foreign Office.
Although you cannot apply for your visa more than 6 weeks before your travel date you should look at the supporting information prior to this date so that you can send off the application as soon as the 6 week window opens. For example, you need to have all the countries and dates that you visited them ready to put into the online form, plus full details of your work place and your place of education (for yourself and your parents).
The personal data supplied to the office for the invitation letters and on the visa application needs to be precisely as it appears on your passport. Please do double-check the invitation letter very carefully as any inconsistencies may lead to rejection of your application by the consulate. Do also check that you have enough validity remaining on your passport – this depends on your nationality but is usually 3 months validity remaining after your departure date from Russia to home.
The visa form will require you to specify the exact entry and exit dates so really you need to have your flights booked before filling out the form. You need to have planned your whole itinerary, in terms of duration, before applying for the visa. It is not possible to extend your visa whilst in Russia, and nor is it possible to travel freely about Russia without having the arrangements put into your visa application prior to arrival.
Some nationalities are required to send their papers into the Russian consulate - including the invitation letter that we supply - in original format only. This will require posting the documents by a courier service which will cost extra money.
Nowadays the visa is digitally entered into the Russian database so when you arrive your passport is scanned and there is no longer any need for a paper migration card. However, all visitors are still required to register with the local authorities in the area you visit, and this is something our staff will do when you arrive in the republic of Kabardino Balkyrie if you are climbing Elbrus. Do keep your passport with you at all times, it is a law for all foreigners to have their papers with them.
Will I Be Able to Contact Home While I Am Away?
Russian time is GMT/UTC plus 2 hours in the west to +12 hours on the far east. Russia’s country code is +7. International calls while in Russia are extraordinarily expensive. Consider downloading WhatsApp, a free internet-based texting and calling service to keep in touch with loved ones. Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and some public spaces in major cities. Cellular services quickly dissipate as you leave major urban areas. Also, local SIM cards are local to the city you are in. If you plan on bouncing around the country, you will want to get a new SIM card in each city.
WiFi is widely available in urban areas throughout Russia. In fact, the Moscow subway system was the first to offer free WiFi to travelers. However, when traveling to more remote areas, WiFi, like cellular service, will be tough to come by. Be prepared to go off the grid for a bit when you are camping or trekking in remote areas.
What Vaccinations do I need?
We heavily advise that you schedule an appointment with your doctor, or a travel-specific doctor prior to coming to Russia to discuss your individual health needs. Although Russia does not require any vaccinations for entry, it is a good idea to consult with a doctor for other needs such as antibiotics, prescriptions, and any specific health concerns you may have.
Do plan on bringing any prescriptions you may require during your stay. Medication does exist in Russia, but the specific medication you need may not be available and communication with a pharmacist without the help of a translator might be difficult.
What is the Quality of Medical Facilities in Russia?
Russia has free healthcare for all of its citizens. However, quality varies widely. For the best quality healthcare, it is best to head to a private clinic or hospital. Be sure the insurance you purchase covers you for any hospital visit. British nationals do not need special health coverage for travel in Russia if you visit a state hospital.
Although we do not anticipate any problems during your stay in Russia, accidents do happen in the mountains. We require that you carry traveller’s insurance that covers a helicopter evacuation at the altitude you will be climbing. For more information see our Travel Insurance page.
Will I have Access to an ATM in Russia?
Cash withdrawal from ATMS are widely available in Russia. The Ruble is the official currency of Russia and there is no benefit to having any other currency on hand. ATMs in country offer the best rates for currency exchange. Withdrawal limits are limited to 10,000 to 25,000 Rubles per session (check current exchange rates here). Machines are literally everywhere in major cities, but it’s best to stick with the major banks (Sberbank, VTB 24, Bank of Moscow, and Alfa Bank) or any foreign bank ATM.
In more rural areas, there are still ATMs. However, they rely on a connection to Moscow and sometimes that linkage is broken. Always bring enough cash to make it through a stay in a more rural area.
Credit cards are also accepted at major shops and stores in big cities. However, cash is still king for the majority of smaller shops and in towns and villages. Always have cash on hand for transactions while traveling in Russia. We advise that you bring Rubles with you prior to your arrival.
What can I Expect from Toilet Facilities?
Western-style toilets of varying degrees of quality are throughout Russia. Most major cities and smaller towns will have plumbed facilities. Along treks and climbs, toilets will vary from long-drop pit toilets to packing out your poo on the mountain.
We advise to always bring toilet paper for your trek or climb. For ladies, utilizing a wee-rag or “Shewee” device helps when you need to wee. A wee-rag is a small bandana or cloth that you use when you go number one. Simply wipe when you are finished and attach the rag to your pack to dry and disinfect when you are finished. A “Shewee” is a device that enables females to wee standing up, certainly handy along the trail. For feminine hygiene products consider investing in a moon or diva cup. A menstruation cup is reusable, after being cleaned per manufacturer instructions. This helps eliminate the need of hygiene product waste, making life on the trail a much simpler experience.
What is the Water Quality in Russia?
Russian tap water is unfit to drink, brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, etc. Purification can be done using one of several methods. A SteriPen is a good option, however be sure to bring plenty of extra batteries. Another option is the use of iodine and chlorine tablets that will purify water. Lastly, you can use a backcountry or wild camping water filter. Whichever method you choose it is important to also bring a backup method as well.
We do not promote the use of disposable plastic water bottles in Russia. Disposable bottles are harmful to the environment. As a responsible tour agency, we strongly urge you to rely on a different method for drinking water.