I just want to add a few things, that I’ve probably gone over in previous blog posts, that might be handy for anyone who might want to travel to Russia.
- Visa’s – From my experience, if you can fork out the extra dough to get one from an agency, go for it, probably less hassle in the long run, as if you done it all yourself, you would have to dick around getting invitations, there are probably going to be the odd person reading this that think I’m talking balls, but hey, its only an opinion.
- Money – If you are in St Petersburg or Moscow, you should be okay, plenty of cash machines there, my debit card from Norn Iron worked okay there, I’m sure that plenty of others should work there too. The girl who took my Russian class said she used her debit card down around the Black Sea, if you feel you need one or two readies before you get into Russia, you can get them in any of those bureau de changes in an airport, just know that you are probably going to get shafted exchange rate wise.
- Language – Wouldnt do any harm to know at least a wee bit of Russian, but if you are in St Petersburg/Moscow, you could manage okay, up to a point, with English only. Still, I would recommend knowing some русский, and at least have a fair idea of how to read the cryllic alpahabet. Overall, St Petersburg is the easiest place for westerners, as you have the bi – lingual metro, a lot of the shops in the west, are there too.
- Transport – Dont be a wally, and do what I did, and spend most of your time walking around. My feet were worn out after the 2 weeks, I would wholly recommend using the metros, also, if you arent too sure of them, you can book tours of the metros first, plenty of companies/people do them, if you are a bit inexperienced in using underground subways. Plenty of buses there too.
- Things to see – Look up google, to see what you might find interesting, each to their own I suppose, plenty of things to do and see, just depends what floats your boat.
- People – Like anywhere, you get people who are helpful, and people who arent, but I would say in some respects, St Petersburg and Moscow, are big melting pots – you have the natives of each city, as well as Russians from other parts of Russia, then Asians, Central/South Americans, Europeans, the list goes on. I couldnt really fault anyone there, if you just keep the head down, you should be fine. In general, they are more reserved, but get a few drinks in them and they open up, just like everyone else.
- Food/drink – I thought the prices were pretty reasonable, you have good choices between local cuisine and western fast food. Drink is easy enough to get too.
- Culture – I don’t think its radically different to western culture, yes its different, but its not like comparing Belfast to Bangkok. I know some people have this idea that Russia is like the wild west, but I found it okay, mega busy in Moscow, but nothing out of the ordinary, if you’ve been to huge cities in other parts of the world.
- Toilets – If you want to do a bit of log cabin building, just remember, you kind of have to put the toilet paper in a bin beside the toilet – isnt so bad if the bin gets emptied regularly, not so good if it was like one place I was in, full to the neck with shitty toilet paper and the odd jamrag, the smell would’ve make you gag.
- Clothing – Winter time, thermals are a must, big jumper, jeans, I have known people who said to wear baggier jeans in the winter, as you feel the cold more with tight jeans, not really sure if thats totally true, proably a part of it is in your head.
Theres not much more I could add at this point in time, only to say, if you want to goto Russia, its easily doable, just plan ahead, as you would with any other holiday destination, and you should have a good time!