Useful tips for a trip to Russia
In a new series of articles here on Hello Russia Tours we will be giving you a step-by-step guide on how to make it to Russia – and have a time of your life here. First chapter is dedicated to the prepping stage of your journey – take notes! Here are some trip tips for Russia you can find helpful.
Your trip to Russia starts with your tourist visa (valid for up to 30 days). In order to obtain one you will need: a passport (valid for at least 6 months after your visa expires), a couple of recent passport photos, an invitation (which you can obtain through our Visa Support Service here) and a visa application form (available here; choose English language in the second drop-down menu). Take all of the above to your nearest Russia Consulate, pay a consular fee (starts at $160) and be ready to wait for up to 2 weeks for your documents to be processed. You can also use the services of a local travel agency to submit your papers for you.
When to come
The time of your visit is entirely dependent on your travel preferences. Summer is, of course, the most popular season: gorgeous Peterhof fountains are working, St. Petersburg rooftops open exceptionally beautiful views of the city and on particularly hot days you can always get away from the summer madness with a private tour of rivers and canals. Fall is when the theatrical season starts so for traditional Russian ballet you might want to come in October or November. During winter the number of tourists drops significantly, which will give you a chance to have a completely stress-free visit to The State Hermitage. Moreover, there is no better time to see The Catherine Palace than spring.
Some trip tips for Russia are about money. Russian currency is called rouble. The current exchange rate (as of August, 2016) is approximately 65 roubles for $1 and 75 roubles for 1 euro. While you can pay with a credit card almost everywhere (VISA and MasterCard are most common; AmEx won’t be accepted in the majority of places), it is a good idea to have a little cash on you, in case you want to have something from an ice cream stand on the street or pay for a souvenir in a tiny church shop. Apple Pay has not been introduced to Russia yet, so be sure not to leave your plastic at home.
What to take to Russia
Other travel tips to Russia include information about things that you should take with you to Russia. The list of your travel essentials depends on the time (season) you are visiting. However, make sure you take the following:
- an umbrella will be very useful, since rain in St. Petersburg is an common type of weather all year round;
- a warm jacket for your nights out – even during summers they can be quite cold;
- comfortable choice of clothes will be your best bet, however you will be needing a cocktail attire if you’re planning on going to nice night clubs;
- do not forget to check the compatibility of your electronic appliances with Russian sockets (for instance, those traveling from the U.S. or the U.K. will be needing a power converter);
- make sure to bring your prescription drugs;
- also, download all necessary maps so they work offline (CityMaps2Go app is a good choice), taxi apps (Uber, Gett and Wheely all work in Moscow and St.
Petersburg), metro and public transportation apps (Yandex Transport).
Peacock clock in Hermitage
Among many other things that draw people to St.Petersburg’s most popular museum, the State Hermitage, is the Peacock Clock. This beautiful mechanism can be found in the Pavillion Hall. This hall was used for official reception. The history clock dates back to 1777, the time of Catherine the Great. Born as Sophia Augusta Frederica, she was raised in Prussia. At the age of 15 she converted to Russian Orthodoxy and married the future emperor of Russia, Peter III. The marriage was unsuccessful, along with the short monarchy of Peter III. In 1762 she performed a coup d’état, an overthrow of the Peter’s government. This eventually led to Catherine’s seizing the power over the Russian Empire. From this moment she was known as Catherine II, the Empress of Russia.
Catherine the Great was an ambitious monarch, who, after gaining the power, almost immediately started to implement her new ideas into Russian society. During her monarchy, she introduced many changes. For example, she introduced a renowned economic reform (which showed an incredible growth due to the liberation of import and export) and first paper money. She extended Russia’s borders and declared tolerance towards all religions. She also founded the first educational institution for girls, Smolny Institute for Noble Girls, and freed Russian the nobility from compulsory state or military service.
Construction of Peacock Clock
Catherine II was deeply committed to the ideas of Renaissance. Her time at the power is definitely the Golden Age of the Russian Empire. Among many other institutions, she established the National Library of Russia and, of course, the State Hermitage that started with her private collection. It is only later it became one of the oldest and largest museums in the world with more than three million items. The legendary Peacock Clock, mentioned in the beginning of the article, was added to the collection in 1797. The artwork of a British jeweller James Cox was gifted to Catherine the Great by a Russian military leader Grigory Potemkin. Around the clock, there are mechanical figures of three creatures: an owl, which, as a night bird, wakes up first, the peacock itself which symbolises the sun, and a rooster. Although this clock was made 250 years ago, it still works and is open to public during the open hours of the Hermitage.
With three million items located in the museum, it is difficult to find a way around it on your own. A private tour of the State Hermitage is a perfect opportunity to see the highlights of one of the biggest collections in the world, including the famous Peacock Clock. Your professional private tour guide will give you the most interesting facts about the Hermitage, tell the story of Russian monarchy and offer you an incredible insight into the history of the collection. Another unbeatable advantage of having a private tour guide is a line-free entrance to the museum, which, if you consider its popularity, is a very important issue. Book your private tour to the Hermitage here.
St. Petersburg rivers and canals
Among many other things, St. Petersburg rivers and canals are probably something the city is most famous for. Built on the Neva River, it is scattered over numerous waterways that cut through the city. Be it narrow Griboedov Canal or the Fontanka River with the impressive Anichkov Bridge thrown over it, these views tend to be some of the most beautiful memories about a visit to St. Petersburg. Picture-postcard embankments of the Moyka River, the Malaya Nevka or any other of more than 90 waterways will give you glorious views of St. Petersburg’s imperial architecture and some of the most renowned attractions. Not to mention a number of islands that are formed by those rivers and canals.
Canals were initially formed as a way to avoid negative consequences of the city being built on swamps but later became a symbol of the place, inextricably connected with its history. They were also a way to pay tribute to the Italian city of Venice and create one of Russia’s own – the Northern Venice. Alexander Pushkin, the most famous Russian poet, lived in a house built on the Moyka River Embankment and was killed in a duel at the Chyornaya River. The Fontanka River is mentioned on several occasions in the novels of the legendary Fyodor Dostoevsky. Nikolai Gogol, another Russian writer, at one point lived in the immediate vicinity of the Neva River, an endless source of inspiration for him and many other creators.
St. Petersburg rivers
A visit to city is a unique opportunity to see a number of St. Petersburg rivers and canals, as a part of your walking tour, something extra added to your personal customized tour around the city or a ride down the waterways of St. Petersburg on a private boat. With this approach to your visit, a private tour guide will guarantee you some of the most magnificent views of the Northern Capital.