RUSSIA

Russia – the world’s largest country! Stretching from the borders of Europe to the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic to the Caspian Sea. It is a land of many histories, fables and tales and has been central to some of the most important events in world history for the last two centuries. Many people’s first impressions of Russia include Emperors, Stalin, Rasputin, dancing soldier, babushkas and vodka. But there’s much more to discover. See the grandeur of the Imperial Court and palaces in Moscow and St Petersburg. Sail along mighty rivers, be in inspired by the impressive churches, idyllic countryside and traditional fayre. You will be amazed as the photos do not do it justice!

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
• Passports
Your passport should be issued within the last 10 years and be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay and have at least 2 blank pages. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport prior to travel.

Visas
Visas are required to enter Russia and entry regulations are strictly enforced. You must apply for your visa in good time ahead of travel – they cannot be issued on arrival. Processing times are often 20 business days for standard service, depending upon the visa category applied for and the application itself and often have a minimum gap between date of issue and date of entry into Russia.
To obtain your visa, you will need to present your current passport, information about your travel plans and confirmation numbers for services booked, as well as pay the visa fee. Visits may be required to your relevant Russian Embassy or Visa processing centre to apply in person and biometric data, including fingerprints be taken before visas are issued. Requirements vary per country, so please check with your Ministry for Foreign Affairs on the current requirements in good time.

Ocean Cruising - Different regulations apply for visitors to Russia travelling on ocean cruises and entering the country at various ports. Please check with your Ministry for Foreign Affairs for the latest information.

• Hotel details for Visa Applications
These will be provided with your tour confirmation paperwork.

• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Moscow, including those for the US, Canada and UK, Australia and New Zealand. However, embassies for other countries, including are located in other European cities, offering coverage to Russia. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.

N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.

HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.

• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.

• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Russian River Cruise Tour is an Activity Level 1 tour and involves some moderate physical activity over short periods of time, such as short walks, on relatively level surfaces and gentle terrain. For other tours, levels may vary. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
As facilities for passengers with reduced mobility are limited on board river boats, if you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.

• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you.
Important:

  • Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
  • Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.

Vaccinations
There are currently no vaccination requirements for international travellers, but please consult your doctor before travelling for the latest immunisation information as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.

• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
o Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;

  • Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
  • Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
  • Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
  • Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.

Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.

• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.

LUGGAGE
• What to Pack and Wear
We would recommend comfortable clothes and shoes for this tour. Feel free to include a smart-casual outfit for dinner if you wish, however there is no pressure to follow a dress code.

The weather should largely be warm and sunny throughout the journey, however it is always good to be prepared for every eventuality, so make sure you pack a light jacket in case of rain and the fact that it may be cooler in the evening.

Insect repellent and sun cream are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.

River cruises – For river cruises passing through Russia, please see the specific dress code information provided in your travel pack.

• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.

Porterage
Luggage handling is not included in our Russia tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.

• Laundry
Laundry services may available in some hotels on the tour.

LANGUAGE
The main language of Russia is Russian. However, given the enormous size of the country, there are 35 different languages considered official in the various regions of Russia, as well as over 100 minority languages spoken in Russia today. English is spoken in the hospitality industry and by some of the younger generations.

TIME ZONE
The time zone in Russia is GMT+2 on the western border with Europe through to GMT+12 on the eastern borders, 2 to 12 hours ahead of London GMT. Moscow and St Petersburg are both GMT+3, 3 hours ahead of London GMT.

WEATHER
Due to its immense size, there is no way to describe the weather in all of Russia apart from the sweeping generalisation that it is warm in summer, and very cold in winter. For Moscow and St Petersburg, where most of our tours visit, the best time to visit is from mid-June to September. In the height of summer, there’s almost 24 hours of sunshine. Summers are generally cool but pleasant, with temperatures dropping at night.

ELECTRICITY
In Russia, the standard voltage is 220V and the frequency is 50Hz. You will need a European plug adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.

MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Russia has a good communications infrastructure, especially in the cities. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide free WIFI. Please check data roaming charges for Russia with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.

MONEY
• Currency
The currency of Russia is the Rouble, abbreviated as ‘р' in Russian or R in
(RUB). Credit cards are widely accepted at in the cities, but less so in smaller communities, as well as smaller shops and restaurants. It is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well. ATMs are widely available in cities, but not so in smaller villages.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip. Travellers cheques will prove difficult to exchange in Russia.
Important Note - European countries use chip-and-pin credit cards, so cards with magnetic strips on the back (commonly used in North America) may not work with certain automated machines. You might want to carry some extra cash in your wallet to use in these situations just in case. You may be asked to provide ID if you cannot pay by chip and PIN.

Budget
Though in the past travel to Russia was quite expensive, with the drop in the rouble against the other major currencies, it has become a lot more affordable. Prices for even day to day items are comparably lower than other European countries.

• Bank Opening
Bank opening hours in Russia are short, especially in summer. Banks are usually open 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday, and 9am-3pm on Saturdays.

Tipping
Our local travel service providers are paid well and fairly for their work. However, it is usual for groups to tip guides and drivers and it would be reasonable for each group member to factor in a contribution to the equivalent of around USD10 per person per day.

FOOD
Whilst some may have an image of Russian food as being boring, it could not be further from the modern reality. The food scene has grown in recent years. You will be able to find the traditional blinis, beef Stroganov and shashlik meat kebabs, as well as borsht beetroot soup, but there are new restaurants showcasing all that Russia has to offer. International cuisine is also widely available in the main cities.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.

WATER
Although the Russian authorities say the tap water meets the regulations for being safe to drink, even the locals do not drink it! As it is not to the standard foreigners are often used to, it is advisable to drink bottled water instead. It is not advisable to drink the tap water on board river cruise boats. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.

SHOPPING
Whilst we are sure you will come home from Russia with a traditional matryoshka (set of wooden nesting dolls), there is much more on offer as souvenirs or presents. Discover decorated tableware, fine china, woollen clothing, the famous warm hats, and of course, amber from the Baltic coast.

• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 9am – 6pm Monday–Saturday, and some larger supermarkets open until 10pm, though may vary locally. Most shops open on Sundays, but with reduced hours.

• VAT/Tax Refund
Numerous shops in Russia offer a VAT refund when leaving the country. Please ask the salesperson whether tax-free shopping applies to the shop in question.

SAFETY & SECURITY
Most trips to Russia are relatively trouble-free. However, as always in tourist destinations, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. And do not carry items that will overtly identify you as a tourist. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.

SMOKING
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke. Smoking is prohibited on all means of public transport.

RELIGION
Russia is mostly Orthodox Christianity, along with other variations of the orthodox and Christian faiths. Other religions exist towards the borders.

PHOTOGRAPHY
Russia offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card!

ARRIVAL IN RUSSIA
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.

TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.

OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in other European countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.

FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.

If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: info@thebigjourneycompany.com

Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.

Updated November 2019

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Holiday tours are operated by The Big Journey Company Limited. Registered in England. Registered office: Marron Bank, Branthwaite, Cumbria, CA14 4SZ. Registered number: 6532140. VAT number: 290797457. The Big Journey Company Limited is a member of The Travel Trust Association member number U5675 and holds an Air Travel Organiser’s License number T7282.

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