Russia is a massive country with a lot to do and to see and it’s not as expensive as many thinks even Moscow, widely known as a very expensive city, you can travel on a budget of 20USD per day if you stay in a hostel, use public transport, cook for yourself and don’t go out too much.
Transport in Russia
In the cities and towns public transport works quite good you can get around, commute between airports and railway stations by buses or trains. In the big cities like Moscow or St.Petersburg the best option to move around is metro, it’s safe, cheap and connects the main tourists attractions with train and bus stations. Though it can get quite crowded in rush hours; 7-9am and 6-7pm.
Distances in Russia are huge especially if you want to explore more than just European part of the country. The best budget way to travel around Russia is by trains. The railway connects Moscow and St.Petersburg with the Far East (Vladivostok), Southern territories (Caucasus region) and Northern regions (Murmansk, Karelia). There are different classes of trains the cheapest option is a sleeper class train (platskart) with many bunk beds in a cart, 1000km ride will cost you 25USD. If you don’t feel comfortable to share a cart with dozens of strangers, you can get a compartment cart with four beds (two bunk beds) in each. It’s a great option if you’re a group or a family of four traveling together, price 50USD for 1000km distance.
Budget accommodation in Russia
In the last 3-4 years hostels became very popular literally in Moscow and St.Petersburg there must be hundreds of them. You can find a dorm bed in a hostel in the city centre from 6USD, which is quite cheap compare to the most European capitals. Hostels have standard facilities; shared bathroom, kitchen, dormitories and sometimes private rooms. Tip! Some hostels are more popular with foreigners than another check online for these that have more English reviews to increase your chances to get English speaking staff and more international guests.
Budget hotels or B&B are quite popular as well most of them have wi-fi, kitchen, TV and lounge area. Just make sure a place has central location or nearby metro station, some places can be quite far from the centre. Prices start at 20USD per room for tow guests.
Couchsurfing in big cities is quite popular, most of the hosts speak English and usually are happy to show you around.
Money in Russia
You can exchange USD or Euro in most banks in small towns they do exchange currency in hotels or tour agencies. Visa and Master Card are accepted everywhere, for drawing money it’s better to find City Bank, Raiffeisen or any other international bank ATM as they allow you to draw bigger sums compare to Russian banks like Sberbank or VTB. When travel to the country or small towns rather carry cash as usually there is only one ATM and it’s often out of service or have no money.
Tourists from many countries need a visa to visit Russia and it’s often a complicated process as a result most tourists apply through agencies. In 2018 for the period of FIFA World Cup, from June 14 to July 15, tourists from any country can visit Russia without visa with a valid travel document (passport) and Fan ID, you can apply for your ID online if you have a ticket to one of the World Cup games.
For many travellers Russian alphabet is as confusing as Chinese or Arabic it’s not that you just don’t speak the language you can even read street names etc. Though in most cities there are signs written in Cyrillic and Latin letters. Google Translate works good with Russian – English language combination you can even have a basic conversation e.g. on a train or restaurant.
Best places in Russia for adventure seekers
Mount Elbrus the highest mountain in Europe attracts hundreds of climbers and hikers every year. Located in the South of Russia on the border with Georgia part of the Caucasus mountain range Elbrus is a good place for unexperienced climbers. To climb Elbrus no special permits or guide needed though if you’ve never done climbing before it’s recommended to hire a guide or join a group. The easiest way of getting here is flying or taking a train to Nalchik, the nearest city.
Baikal lake is famous as the world’s deepest lake and the largest in fresh water volume. It is located in the Siberia region half way between Moscow and Japan. It’s a great spot for outdoor lovers with some beautiful hikes to do around the lake. In summer except for hiking you can rent a kayak or canoe and paddle around Baikal or do a dive and try to spot Baikal seals. Winter activities are not for faint hearted; ice diving in the lake when it’s -30C outside or skating/skiing on the ice surface of Baikal. In summer flights from Moscow get quite expensive to save some money rather do a 5-day train ride on the Trans Siberian railway.
Kamchatka, the remotest region of Russia with many volcanoes, some of the are still active, geysers, wild bears and beautiful untouched nature where helicopters are used as public transport to get to some remote villages and settlements. The capital of the region Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is a good spot if you want to explore the area on a budget, from here you climb some volcanoes, hike nearby mountains, dive in the Sea of Okhotsk or ski you can find snow up in the mountains till May. If you don’t want to pay a fortune for a plane ticket from Moscow rather come here off season.
Best cities to visit in Russia
St.Petersburg is the most beautiful city in Russia it’s also called a cultural capital of Russia and one of the top tourist destination in the country. The best time to visit St.Petersburg is June – July to experience famous White Nights, to enjoy warm weather and great night life. St.Petersburg is a city of palaces and cathedrals – The Hermitage museum (Winter Palace), Peterhof palace, Catherin palace, St.Isaak cathedral, church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, Kazan cathedral and Peter and Paul cathedral are the must-see sights. There are many interesting day trip you can do from St.Petersburg e.g. Veliky Novgorod the oldest Russian city with its Kremlin and dozens of XI-XII century churches. For tourists arriving to the city as a part of a cruise it’s possible to stay within city limits for three days without visa.
Moscow, bustling capital of Russia and the biggest city in Europe there is a lot to see here. Moscow is one of the oldest Russian cities, a mix of old traditional Russian architecture (Kremlin) and modern hi-tech buildings (Moscow City). There are hundreds of places to visit from art museums to night clubs and things to do Moscow will keep you busy for the whole period of stay. The highlights of Moscow; Kremlin, Tratyakov Gallery, Red Square, Saint Basil’s cathedral, cathedral of Christ the Saviour. It’s very easy to travel between Moscow and St.Petersburg (850km) by railway, from fast speed train, Sapsan, that takes three hours, price 40USD, to cheaper options including the most budget one – on overnight sitting train, this journey takes 9-10 hours but costs only 10USD. trains leave every hour
Sochi is a summer capital of Russia on the Black Sea and one of the most popular beach holiday places in the country. For 2014 Olympic games the city infrastructure was upgraded quite a lot; new roads, cable cars and ski lifts and ski tracks. The surrounding landscape is stunning; sea, mountains, cliffs and waterfalls offer a great opportunity for hiking, rafting, canyoneering or bungee jumping. Sochi has good transport communication with many cities including Moscow and St.Petersburg.