Russia Escorted Tours
Currency: Russian Ruble
Time Zone: MSK/GMT+3
Tipping: In Russia, tipping is encouraged 10-15% is the acceptable rate when in restaurants and bars.
It might be the biggest country in the world but until recently Russia hasn't been the most obvious destination on the tourist radar. For a long time it was presented as a grey, wintery realm gripped by poverty with barely a column inch dedicated to its culture, spectacular architecture, mountains and forests. Now it's a different story, with escorted tours to Russia becoming increasingly popular.
A lot of escorted tours are flight-based and start from 6 days in duration, although a growing number of longer river cruises are fast emerging. River cruises are perfect for those wishing to discover the country from another angle and several are available taking in everything from the highlights of the Volga to Baltic cruises, incorporating other destinations like Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Poland.
However you get there, you can marvel at the gold-topped, pointed domes of Moscow's buildings or the city's garishly painted St. Basil's Cathedral. A peek into the incredible Kremlin and the Red Square are a good place to start on a tour of Russia, while elegant St. Petersburg is the country's glorious cultural capital - its cathedrals, palaces and impressive squares beckon.
Things to do
Russia exudes fascinating sights and cultures from its pores. One things for sure you won't be bored on escorted tours to Russia:
A fascinating city that was once the capital of Russia until the Revolution. Nowadays the city provides an exciting mix of the old combined with the new. Remember not to leave St Petersburg without visiting one of the world's most popular museum complexes, the Hermitage which is home to nearly 3 million works of art by artists such as Picasso and Rembrandt to name but a few.
Any tour to Russia should feature a visit to its capital city where you can explore the Red Square and admire the colourful St Basil's Cathedral. The oldest area of Russia is the Kremlin which was once a wooden fortress but is now a mass of red brick towers and mighty stone walls. Unfortunately, no one can go inside The Kremlin, however there is a section that is open to the public so let your imagination run wild as to what else goes on behind these mighty walls!
Experience what many call, the greatest train journey in the world, with a ride upon the awesome Trans-Siberian Express. You will be taken through some of the remotest places in the world where the landscape is forever changing before your eyes. Most journeys depart from Moscow and can take you as far away as Beijing, enabling you to experience another fascinating civilisation.
One of the largest rivers in Europe that cuts through central Russia and one that you can explore if you choose to cruise The Volga. Most tours begin in St Petersburg where you have ample time for sightseeing before the cruise takes you to picturesque Mandrogui and onto Lake Onega where you'll visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kizhi. Here you can admire the Transfiguration Church, made entirely out of wood but constructed without using a single nail!
Thinking of travelling to Russia? Check out the average temperatures for when you plan to visit courtesy of BBC Weather
Tips & Advice
One of the benefits of a touring holiday or cruise is that you'll be in the safest hands when it comes to holidaying in foreign lands. However, to help you have an enjoyable holiday in Russia, take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
It is always advised to check with your GP 8 weeks prior to travelling to see whether you need any vaccinations or medication.
You should ensure you have travel insurance and access to additional funds prior to travelling to cover the cost of any medical treatment and possible repatriation. Most tours offer the chance to purchase one-trip travel insurance at the time of booking.
The UK and Russia have a healthcare agreement which entitles British nationals to free treatment in Russian hospitals. Any treatment received however is likely to be limited.
Street crime can occur when visiting Russia so always be alert and aware, especially in St Petersburg which is a area high in tourist activity. Be aware of bogus police officers who will try to trick tourists and take their possessions and if in doubt always ask to see identification.
Avoid carrying expensive items or valuables, or anything which will make you stand out as a tourist. Avoid walking alone at night.
Lately there has been a rise in British Nationals having passports lost or stolen in airports in Moscow. Be particularly careful in baggage claim areas and arrival halls.
Local Laws and Customs
Never become involved with drugs as this can lead to long sentencing regardless of drug class. You must carry your passport at all times when in Russia; a copy will not suffice.
Photography near any military site or airport is banned. You are likely to have the camera film confiscated and be detained for questioning if caught.
When travelling to Russia you will need a visa before you travel, which you should apply for well in advance. Always check the correct dates have been applied to your visa. When staying Russia for over 7 days you must register at the Federal Migration Service in the first week after arriving. Most large hotels will do this automatically. Some tour operators offer a visa service but may charge an administration fee. If you're not sure always check at the time of booking.
You passport must be valid for 3 months after the expiration date on your visa. All foreign nationals entering Russia need to sign a migration card which are produced electronically. The card consists of two identical parts; one is kept by immigration by your immigration officer on arrival into the country. You should keep the second part with your passport as you will need it to exit the country.
Any other nationality looking to visit Russia must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
To find out more about Russia, visit the tourist board website at visitrussia.org.uk