Packing tips for traveling to Russia
Here you are, preparing for your once-in-a-lifetime trip to far away Russia. By now, everything is ready, (if it's not, please contact our professional Russia travel experts for unlimited help) but what's next? Our experience as one of the world's leading destination management companies for Russia allows for us to give you the most accurate and reliable info to ensure seamless travel from start to finish and unforgettable (positive) memories. Let's dive in:
Money, Rubles and Credit Cards
Do not bring all of your debit/credit cards. A debit card and cash (we will explain how much below) will be the most useful and appropriate source of funds in Russia.
ATMs abound, in hotels and all throughout cities. They use a favorable exchange rate and you can withdraw in US dollars, Russian rubles, or Euros. Many smaller stores only accept cash. Most restaurants accept credit cards, but we recommend you ask them in advance to avoid surprises. So just bring one or two credit cards.
Tip: For emergencies, it’s a good idea to have cash with you as well.
Interested in a deep dive into Russian money? Go here
How much cash do I need?
It's likely not possible to exchange to rubles in your home country before you leave. Use an ATM at the airport in Russia when you arrive as airport exchange rates are high, so we advise against this. If someone is meeting you at the airport and can afford to wait, you can use the ATM at the hotel, in the city, or at a bank.
The Russian currency has been not so strong lately and the rate of the Russian ruble fluctuates around 70-80 rubles for 1 US dollar. In the last couple of years, the USD - RUB exchange has doubled, however prices in Russia remained on almost the same level as before the spike which makes it the best time to visit Russia. We recommend that you have anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 rubles on you at any time.
Tip: Call your bank before you depart and let them know that you will be traveling so they do not block your cards while you are in Russia (not all banks do this, but we recommend that you look into it). Bring more than one card in case one gets blocked. If all of your cards get blocked, call Travel All Russia’s emergency number and we'll organize a cash delivery to you, no problem.
Important: Carry your money and cards in a pocket that is not easily reached from the outside to prevent any pick-pocketing. It's smart to keep your cards and cash in separate pockets.
Find more information about Russian money here.
Weather & Clothing
If you are traveling during the summer, bring what you would wear in the summer at home, plus a warm sweater and/or a light jacket for evenings. The hot summer season is quite short and by August it will have already cooled down substantially.
If you have booked one of our guided tours, please bring comfortable walking shoes. Sneakers will be perfect (that is one of the ways Americans are spotted in a crowd as Russians tend to prefer casual leather shoes).
If your program includes a visit to an opera or theater, bring a jacket and dark shoes for men and nice clothes for women. Black tie and fancy gowns are unnecessary.
If you are traveling for a week, pack enough clothes for the entire visit so you won’t have to worry about laundry. If your trip is longer, laundry service will be available at your hotel or cruise ship.
Tip: Since airlines baggage restrictions are getting tighter, we recommend one bag per traveler and a smaller carry on. If you bring more, you might be required to pay airline luggage fees. Having one bag per traveler also helps you get through airport lines faster.
Check your documents before departure to make sure they are valid for your trip.
You cannot enter Russia twice on a single entry visa. If you plan to enter and leave Russia multiple times in one trip, you will need a multi-entry visa. Tourist visas are valid for 30 days, so make sure your departure date is before your visa expiration date. If you arrive a day or two earlier than the date on your visa, you will be fined at customs up to $300. If you notice any irregularities in your visa, please contact your travel specialist.
Tip: Make two copies of your passport and visa before leaving. Keep one copy with you and one with the hotel.
Russia uses 2 round European outlets (see the image). You can easily find an adapter at an electronics store or pharmacy in the US or online. Russia uses 220 volt electricity (America uses 110 volts). Most electrical devices support both. Look on the back of your power adapter it to find its supported voltage. If you see the range “110-240 volts”, your devices are compatible and you're set to go. If it says “110 volts”, it won't be useful.
Phones and SIM cards
To use your cell phone while in Russia, either activate international roaming or unlock your phone with your service provider. The first is easier but more expensive. Unlocking your phone allows you to use local Russian calling services and plans. A phone call made this way from Russia to the US will cost about $1, while US cell phone companies can charge up to $5/minute for international roaming in Russia...so give your service provider a call and they'll set it up for you.
SIM cards can be bought on almost every street corner in Russia (you will be required to show your passport when making a purchase).
Tip: If you want to keep it simple, just buy a cheap pay-as-you-go phone in Russia for around $20, get a SIM card, and you're ready to go.
Russian literature is a treasure trove reflecting on the country's complex and tangled history. Reading some Russian classics before your trip or while exploring Moscow and Saint Petersburg will only enhance your overall experience. Imagine walking the same streets and looking at the same buildings Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov did while writing one of their classic novels. Sightseeing will take on a whole new depth.
You do not need any shots before you visit Russia – it is a civilized European country that is safe for foreigners. Tap water is avoided, even by Russians who don’t drink it unless it is boiled (tea, anyone?). If you are taking prescription medication, we recommend that you bring enough to last your entire trip. To get the same prescription in Russia, you will need a prescription from a Russian doctor, which can be challenging as a foreigner.
Tip: in case you forget to bring your medicine, please contact our emergency number and we will arrange a visit to an American hospital in Russia. A general rule is to always refer to the emergency number that we provide you with.
Continue planning for your trip
Russia is big, diverse & awe-inspiring. Explore its vastness and striking beauty.
The best time to go to Russia is in summer, however it is beautiful during any season.
How much cash to bring and how much to tip to guides & drivers while in Russia.