Travel Advice

This section will answer some of the questions that you may have during your trip. We advise that you read it before your trip.

Airport Customs

When you arrive at the airport in Russia you will go through Immigration Control. An officer will inspect your passport and visa for validity. Russian customs officers usually don’t ask you the purpose of your trip (they see the visa and it is clear), but in case they do, just say that you are there for tourism – they will know the word.

Once you clear Immigration Control and pick up your luggage you will then go through Customs Declarations, separated into two corridors, Green and Red. If you have nothing to declare, proceed through the Green corridor. If you are carrying over 10,000 dollars in cash or something you intend to sell in Russia, go through the Red corridor for inspection.

Once you clear the customs you will walk through the gate. Welcome to Russia!

Related: Moscow airports, A Brush with Bureaucracy

Airport Transfers

If someone is meeting you (a transfer service or a friend), you will see them at the exit gate. If your transfers are booked with us, your driver will be waiting with your name on a sign. You will also see a number of people offering taxi service. This service is ridiculously expensive ($100-$200 dollars) and we don’t recommend using it.

Note that if your flight arrives late or there is a delay of any kind, our driver will wait two hours from the scheduled pick-up time. You can request a longer wait by calling the emergency number that we will provide. Such extensions will be billed at an hourly rate.

It is your responsibility to confirm the flight schedule prior to departure. Please immediately inform us of any changes so adjustments can be made.

If your flight is delayed after you have already departed for your trip (flight delays due to weather conditions, missing connecting flight, etc), immediately call the emergency number upon landing so we can rearrange the transfers.

Related: Book airport transfers

 

Giving tips in Russia

Tips are common in Russia but are usually smaller than in the US. For a good experience in a restaurant a 10% gratuity is considered a generous tip.

Giving a tip to a guide or driver on a private tour
If you have booked one of our private tours and would like to give some gratuity to your guide, the recommend amount is $20 for each 8 hours of work. If your guide worked with you for 4 hours, the recommended amount is $10. If you would like to give a tip to your driver, the recommended amount is $5-8 for 8 hours of work.

Please note, it is always at your own discretion to leave a tip or not. We do not require our customers to tip on any of our tours or cruises. We recommend a certain percentage only if you are satisfied with the service and feel comfortable leaving gratuity.

 

Also note, on a land tour you will have the same guide for your entire stay in each city.

Giving a tip to a guide and drivers on a group tour
If you have booked one of our small group tours, the recommended amount for a tip is the same as on a private tour. If there are 10 travelers, each can contribute from $2-3 for 8 hours of work by the guide. We recommend that someone collects the money from the rest of the group and presents it to the guide.

Giving tips on a river cruise
On river cruises, there will be a special box at the reception desk to leave a tip for the crew. In other words, you don't need to tip while on the cruise. Our general guideline for tips is to leave from $5-10 per day depending on how much you enjoyed your cruise.

Tip: You can tip in dollars, Euros, and rubles. $1 equals about 30 rubles. 300 rubles is about $10.

Related: To tip or not to tip?

The Russians...

Russians are more European than Asian. They have a European value system and a common history with major European countries. It was only a few centuries ago that Russia began to expand its borders to Asia, and its cities in Asia still look like European cities.

Russians have had a very troubled history and deeply value their heritage and independence. Russians were usurped by the Mongols for 100 years and became the largest empire on earth by defeating the Mongol hordes. Various European countries attempted to conquer Russia (Teutonic knights, French, German), without success. Russians continue to give a tribute to the sacrifices made by those who so steadfastly defended the motherland.

Tip: If you want to provoke a heated discussion, tell a Russian that the US won World War II.

Some people have referred to Russians as homo soveticus (implying that they have a different value system), but that is not true. You will be surprised how similar their lifestyles are to yours.

Related: Russian smiles, Russian history, Why is Russia so big?, Soviet traditions

Russian language

Though most Russians understand English, learning a few words of Russian will help prepare you for your trip.

Hello – Privet
Yes – Da
No – Nyet
I will be back (just kidding) – Ya vernus’ (shutka)
I have a hotel reservation here – Ya zakazal nomer
I am looking for my driver – Ya ishu moego voditelya
Where can I make a phone call – Kak mne mojno pozvonit’
Can you please call this number for me – Naberite etot nomer
I love this! – Obojayu eto
I love you – Ya vas luybluy
It’s a pleasure to meet you – ochen’ priyatno poznakomitsya
This meal is delicious – ochen’ vkusno
What is a good restaurant nearby – Kakoi horoshiy restoran est’ ryadom
How much – Skolko
This is too much – Dorogo
This is not expensive – Ne dorogo
I will pay you half – Beru za polovinu
Thank you – Spacibo
What is your email address - Kakoi u vas email
This is my email – Vot moi email

 

Related: How to read in Russian without studying it

Safety

This is a common concern, but Russia is incredibly safe. It is not a third-world country and the turbulent 90s are long gone. Russia has a functioning police force and a civilized, friendly population. Your entire trip will have the luxury of a private vehicle, a driver, and a personal tour guide. You will also have our emergency number and the US Embassy number at all times. Should you run into any problems, you can always call and we will do our best to resolve the issue.

Russia is safe for travel, but there are basic precautions that you should take when visiting any country. First of all, do not carry your passport with you – leave it at the hotel or on the ship. Carry a copy of your passport and visa. If you are encountered by a Russian police officer (which is rather unlikely) showing the copy of your documents will suffice.

Be careful with your money and credit cards. Where there are tourists, there are pickpockets. This happens in every major European capital. The chances that you will encounter a pickpocket are 1 in 100. Some basic precautions are:

  • Don’t let anyone spot you flashing your wallet and money.
  • Beware of the people around you and don’t let anyone walk into you. This is how pickpockets work.
  • Don’t carry more than $100 on you (or about 10,000 rubles).
  • Split your money and credit cards and keep them in different pockets. Divide them between you and your companion.
  • Zipped or buttoned inside pockets are best for storing valuable things – they are the hardest for pickpockets to reach.

If someone does steal your money or cards follow these steps:

  • Notify your guide immediately. If the guide is not available, call our emergency number.
  • Call your bank and credit card company to block the cards that have been stolen.
  • If you need money, we will organize a cash delivery to you.

Emergencies

We provide each customer with an emergency number for your Russian trip. Please contact this number in the case of any emergency. A specially trained representative will determine the best course of action and will notify our main office of the problem and resolve it for you in a timely manner.

If you are unable to make a phone call, please notify your guide of the problem. Our guides are trained to pass information promptly where it needs to go.

In the case of a medical emergency, your guides know to take you to the American clinic in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Your medical insurance will be accepted at such clinics and they can provide you with qualified medical assistance.

Please note: We leave it to the discretion of your guide to decide how to take you to the medical center, either by emergency vehicle or taxi. Due to traffic jams in Russia’s large cities, it may be faster to use the private cab service rather than wait for an emergency vehicle.

Please note: We do not cover expenses that arise from medical situations and other emergencies. We recommend that all of our customers book travel insurance designed for this purpose. 

Related: Terms and Conditions, Travel Insurance

Russian customs and food

The first cultural difference that you will notice is that Russians seem to less friendly. In public, Russians are very reserved. It is considered rude to speak loudly or to look at people for more than two seconds. These social norms do not apply to you, of course, but you should be aware of them in order to not misinterpret the people around you.

Another thing you may notice is that when people give you change after a purchase, they put it on a little plate, even if you open your hand. This practice is one of the mysteries of Russian culture.

A convenient custom is the ‘people’s taxi,’ which means you can stop almost any car on the road and use it as a cab service. The price is negotiable each time.

Borsht and beet soup are two of Russia’s most familiar dishes. Most of Russia’s national food, in fact, is made of familiar ingredients, which makes it easier for you to order in restaurants. We recommend exploring Russian food while you are there – you might be surprised at the delicious concoctions you discover!

Related: Russian smilesEthnic food in Moscow