Visiting Russia – Do’s and Don’ts Travel Tips For Visiting Moscow and St Petersburg
I have always been one to try and take the road less travelled, to visit places a little more unusual for a holiday. I decided on Russia, which turned out to be one of my most memorable trips.
Russia is one of the most emotional and beautiful places I have ever visited. Each street is drenched in history. I visited some of the most exquisite buildings and met some of the strangest people. I will never forget Russia and count the days until I can return, but in the meantime I thought I would relive a couple of do’s and don’ts I learned over there.
Do visit St Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow).
The architecture is beautiful and has a sense of majesty. The building is supposed to infer flames rising to the sky, but I think it is like a fairy-tale castle made of candy. Inside is a maze of dimly lit corridors connecting the chapels with a spiral staircase where you can view the many icons and paintings.
Don’t buy a faux Russian hat from the guy outside.
It may give you that one ‘hilarious’ photo opportunity with Vladimir (real name Dave). However, it will be made of cardboard, it won’t last the journey back to the hotel and it will make your head itch, so be warned.
Do experience the cuisine.
I know it sounds silly but I know plenty of people (usually Brits) who will avoid, at all costs, eating local food on holiday. This is such a shame, imagine all the delicacies they are missing out on while stuck in KFC.I think Russia may have a bad reputation for its food but on my trip it wasn’t all caviar and fish soup, more like sweet pastries for breakfast (everyday).
Don’t eat the (very cheap) hotels attempt at fries. At our first hotel in Moscow my friends and I sat down for a quick pre-outing snack and requested something safe, fries. We were greeted with the very opposite. Boiled strips of potato drowned in odd smelling brown oil will make you bed and bathroom ridden. Don’t spoil your first night out by having to sue the owners for food poisoning.
Do travel on the Moscow Metro (Moscow).
I didn’t believe it until I saw it but the architecture in the metro would rival the most exquisite palaces. With high painted ceilings, statues and grand chandeliers travelling, by underground has never been so stylish. It may be intimidating as nothing is in English but your hotel should have dual language metro maps.
Don’t try and take a photo.
If you look closely there will be signs that say no photography in the stations. I had the unfortunate experience of being corned by two large guards shouting at me in Russian while trying to pry the camera from my hands. Let’s say this encounter wasn’t the highlight of my trip.
Do visit Lenin’s body in Red Square (Moscow).
This was one of the highlights of my trip. It was a long queue; although I am sure you can prepay and jump the queue a little. It was eerie inside but fascinating in my opinion. You enter into a small dark room and centred is his glass coffin all lit up. You have very little time once in as you are encouraged to walk around quickly so take it all in while you are there.
Don’t be scared
when the guards practically strip search you before you go in. There is a lot of security but it is to be expected.
Do travel from Mosow to St Petersburg.
I suggest making the most of your Russian trip and visit St Petersburg while you are there. It is completely different to Moscow with its network of canals and baroque architecture. We decided to take the sleeper train which is something I have never done and was an adventure in itself.
Don’t forget to lock your carriage
if taking the sleeper. It was a bit of a scary journey especially when it was just us girls but having a half-naked Russian in your ‘bedroom/tiny cabin’ wasn’t on my agenda. No judgements if it is on yours.
Do visit the Hermitage Museum (St Petersburg).
This museum, the building itself like a work of art, boasts to having the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collection is breath taking from historical portraits to the odd Picasso. The collections are also housed in grand rooms, one of which is laced in gold.
Don’t underestimate your time to enjoy the Hermitage.
Our tour guide enlightened us to the fact that if you stood in front of every picture for a minute it would take you 11 years to get through the museum.
Do try the vodka.
I know it seems like a bit of a stereotype but in my opinion a good one. The amount of different types of vodka on offer was staggering. More so that they were pleasingly palatable unlike many I have tried at home. Even if you are not a vodka fan, take a breath order a shot and be surprised.
Don’t ask for it in a coke.
This is pretty self-explanatory as Russia takes their vodka pretty seriously. I found out later it is acceptable to order a drink alongside the vodka as a chaser. However my poor friend found out the hard way that you do not mix them in the glass especially not when the barmaid can see.
About the Author: Charlotte Critchley is currently working on behalf of Pannone Solicitors, a UK law firm who deal with holiday accident claims.
Photo Credits: Flickr – #1 ambabheg, #2 Vokabre, #3 jurvetson, #4 Metal Chris