There’s the kaleidoscopic opulence of St Petersburg, where grand museums house unrivalled art collections, and the surreal beauty of Moscow's metro stations, built by Stalin to inspire the average worker to embrace the ‘radiant future’ of the Soviet Union. What about a journey east on the Trans-Siberian Railway? Or a trip north to the remote Russian Arctic? Get steamy in a Russian sauna then slap yourself with some birch twigs for a full rural spa experience in Lake Baikal, or explore ancient ‘Golden Ring’ towns like Yaroslavl, particularly beautiful under a blanket of winter snow. Travel through tundra to the remote fishing village of Teriberka, where ghostly ship graveyards line the rugged coast. Wherever you go, Russia rewards the curious.
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport – which usually have less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending what trip you're on in Russia, you may find yourself travelling by:
Chandeliers, epic revolutionary statues, marble columns – this isn’t your average metro. Whether exploring during free time or on a tour with your leader, the faded glamour of these stations is captivating.
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in Russia you may find yourself staying in a:
The summer months (June, July and August) are the most popular time for international tourists in Russia as the weather is warmest and the days are longest. Russia doesn’t quite get midnight sun but its proximity to the Arctic Circle means the high summer is accompanied by daylight that stretches until 11 pm. Summer in Russia is also when St Petersburg hosts all-night parties, performances and cultural events as part of the White Nights Festival. The downsides? The major sights and cities get pretty busy and it rains a lot.
While the charms of summer in Russia are well known, we’re actually quite partial to winter travel in the region. While Moscow and its milder cousin St Petersburg are prone to temperatures below 0°C (32°F) from November through to March, the snow coating the cities is unbelievably beautiful. There are fewer tourists, more chances to interact with locals and (in December and January) incredible Christmas decorations and festivities that light up the frosty streets and squares. Plus, Russian food is hearty and designed to keep you warm.
If you’re travelling to Siberia be prepared for a subarctic climate. That means even in summer you can expect July temperatures to max out at between 10°C (50°F) and 17°C (63°F). If you can handle the cold, a Siberian winter is really something to remember. Despite temperatures reaching an eye-watering -22°C (-7.6°F) in Lake Baikal in January, the frozen waters and winter wonderland vibes more than make up for it. Besides, homes and cities in Siberia are built to handle the cold so you’ll do fine once you’re inside.
While the Russian visa process has a reputation for being complicated and strict, things are getting easier every year for travellers who want to visit the country. Most nationalities need a visa to enter Russia, with exceptions given to former USSR states like Ukraine and most countries in South and Central America.
Travellers from the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand need to obtain a visa before travelling to Russia. Before you contact your embassy or consulate, you will need to get your Letter of Invitation sorted. Fortunately, we will organise this for you. Our full guide to visas and LOIs can be found here.
Tipping is appreciated but not expected in Russia. At restaurants there is often a service charge included on the bill, in which case you don’t need to tip. If you would like to tip for good service, rounding up the bill or adding a 10–15 per cent gratuity is more than enough.
If you’re planning to use your mobile phone in Russia (with either global roaming activated or by using a local SIM) you’ll find internet in the major cities is quick and free wi-fi is often available through hotspots. Just keep in mind that in order to connect to hotspots you will have to authenticate your identity. Travellers will be able to find internet cafes in Russia's large cities like Moscow, St Petersburg and Suzdal. In rural areas, internet access might be patchy or non-existent.
Internet access is available on the Trans-Siberian Railway for certain legs of the journey. This requires purchase of a local connection (around USD 40), which will work with some laptops and certain 3G devices.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in the cities and regional centres of Russia, although coverage may not be available in remote areas. If you want to use your mobile phone, ensure global roaming is activated before you arrive (but be aware of the fees this may incur).
Travellers can expect to encounter both squat toilets and modern flushable toilets while travelling through Russia. Be prepared by carrying your own soap and toilet paper as these aren't always provided. Additionally, some public toilets may require a small fee payment before access, so be sure to carry change.
Russia's unit of currency is the ruble. Prices here are approximate and shown in US dollars for ease of comparison.
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Russia. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Ask your leader or hotel where filtered water can be found and don't forget to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit before eating.
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.
Travellers will be able to find ATMs in Russia's large cities and regional centres. Remote and rural areas will have less ATM availability, so prepare accordingly before venturing out of metropolitan areas.
Given the size of Russia, the weather tends to vary depending on where you are. From June through September most of the country, aside from Siberia, will see warm weather. The long winter from November until March/April sees snow and freezing temperatures, while temperatures in the shoulder seasons vary from place to place. St Petersburg, for example, may see temperatures ranging from 5–20°C (41–68°F) degrees in the lead up to summer.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their tour. 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
Keep in mind that some businesses shut down in the ten days leading up to 7 January.
For a current list of public holidays in Russia go to worldtravelguide.net
We recommend LGBTQIA+ travellers exercise discretion when travelling in Russia.
Russia is not a safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers who wish to openly express sexuality and/or gender identity outside of a very rigid, heterosexual binary. Openly LGBTQIA+ people face stigma, harassment and violence in their everyday lives. Homosexuality isn't illegal but promoting ‘non-traditional sexual relationships’ is. What constitutes promotion is at the discretion of the authorities. Travellers have been arrested in the past for discussing gay rights with young people.
There are active queer scenes in the larger cities, but travellers should be aware that people leaving venues known to cater to LGBTQIA+ folks are often the target of violence. The venues themselves are sometimes targeted, too. Attempting to seek out local queer culture while in Russia may pose a risk to travellers.
If you are travelling solo on an Intrepid group tour, you will share accommodation with a passenger of the same gender as per your passport information. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. A single supplement is available on some tours for travellers who do not wish to share a room.
Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.
While the situation is improving, Russia is still a difficult destination to explore for travellers with disabilities. Even in large cities like Moscow and St Petersburg, old infrastructure has been slow to adapt to the needs of differently abled travellers. Where ramps exist, for example, they are often incredibly steep and therefore useless.
While the exterior of some sites are accessible to wheelchair users, it is often not possible to explore them fully. For example, wheelchair users will be able to enter the Kremlin but can’t access its cathedrals. The stations of the Moscow Metro often have no ramps or elevators, however most of the buses in Moscow are accessible to wheelchair users.
The streets of Moscow and St Petersburg may pose a problems to travellers with restricted mobility or vision impairments as they can be uneven and road crossings are sometimes via tunnels that are only accessible by staircase.
While international chain hotels are often built with the needs of accessible travellers in mind, homestays, guesthouses and locally-run hotels are generally not fitted with ramps, elevators, shower rails etc. Unfortunately, overnight train travel in Russia will be difficult for wheelchair users as the bathrooms are not designed for accessibility.
If you have a battery-operated hearing aid, it’s a good idea to bring extra batteries.
If you do live with a visual, hearing or other impairment, let your booking agent or group leader know early on so they’re aware and suitable arrangements can be made. As a general rule, knowing some common words in the local language, carrying a written itinerary with you and taking to the streets in a group, rather than solo, can help make your travel experience the best it can be.
What you wear in Russia will depend on what time of the year you’re travelling in. If you’re visiting between October and May you will need to be prepared with a warm windproof jacket, scarf, gloves, warm hat and waterproof and slip-proof boots – the streets get icy in the colder months! Even in summer, we recommend you wear clothing that can be easily layered and pack a warm jacket and boots.
When entering churches, either working or historic, women and men should both cover their shoulders and women will need a scarf to cover their head.
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
In Russia, we stay in locally run accommodation including guesthouses, smaller-scale hotels and homestays in an effort to support the local economies. We also visit locally run restaurants and markets where travellers will have opportunities to support local businesses and purchase handicrafts created by local artisans. Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to being the best travel company for the world.
In Russia we spend the night in Maly Turysh, a rural village where a unique honey cooperative has reinvigorated the local economy and bought people together.