Travel Tips for Russia

Russia is becoming increasingly popular with tourists due to its rich cultural heritage and its popular cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. If you are planning or are going on a trip to Russia, then we suggest you consider some of the following travel tips.

Familiarise yourself with Russia

Do some reading around Russia before you visit it to find out a bit about the country. To give you some insight, Russia spans nine time zones and is the world’s largest country, with landscapes ranging from frozen tundras in Siberia and the endless wheat fields and pine forests of central Russia to the mountains and palm trees of the Caucasus in the South. The population was approximately around 140 million according to the last census with Central Russia, which includes Moscow, being the most densely populated area.

Health

Be sure to check what to eat and what not to eat before you head to Russia. The country does not pose any serious health threats, with cases of food poisoning the most common problem. Most guidelines suggest avoiding buying kebabs at stands, especially at train stations, while tourists are also advised to be wary of dairy products. Tap water is safe to drink in Moscow after boiling, but tourists are advised to drink bottled water everywhere else; avoiding ice cubes and using bottled water to brush teeth is also recommended.

Money

Russia is a spectacular country and so are its prices. The large cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg are, like most famous European cities, very expensive. On the outskirts of the larger cities you will find cheaper restaurants and accommodation. Holidaymakers are advised to get their Russian Rubles before travelling, but there are ATMs from local banks like Sberbank and international ones such as HSBC and Citibank all over Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities. When paying for something, retailers in Russia prefer to be paid in cash, but credit cards are generally accepted and travellers can still pay with traveller’s cheques.

Manners

Before jetting off to Russia you should be aware of some Russian etiquette. If you are on a business trip and are running late, there is no need to panic as this is considered normal, often due to the awful traffic in Moscow. If you are offered a drink, it is considered rude not to accept it, especially for men. Some travel guides also say that Russian men often only shake hands with a fellow male upon meeting, so women travelling with their husbands should be prepared to see that their husband’s hand is shaken and not theirs. Russians also like to dress up almost everywhere they go, so it might be worth packing some smart clothes for your trip.

Travel Insurance Buying Tips

We are all quite vulnerable when we travel because it usually means venturing out of our comfort-zones, and travel insurance is the only way to shield ourselves against monetary losses when things do go wrong. So here are some very useful tips to ensure you buy the right travel insurance that will protect you against such expected financial losses.

  • The most important thing to remember with travel insurance is that you are effectively buying an agreement, so always READ THE FINE PRINT, especially the exclusions at a coverage level and the general exclusions. They are written in legal jargon, so be sure to seek clarification on anything that you don’t understand.
  • All Insurance companies are classified as financial institutions and are consequently regulated by the government organizations like the Financial Services Authority in the UK. So be sure to check this.
  • One of the major risks is trip cancellation, so ensure you buy the travel insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed, even if you are not traveling for months. It’s not going to cost you anymore and your cover kicks in as soon as you purchase the trip insurance.
  • Always check the deductibles! A deductible, also known as excess, is what the insurance company deducts before payout on claims. For e.g. if you put in a travel medical claim of USD300 and the deductible is USD150, you’ll only get USD150.
  • Be wary of companies offering cheap travel insurance premiums, more often than not they have very high deductibles.
  • Check the payout for children because some insurance companies only pay half the payout for children, which is ridiculous because the trip costs for a child is almost the same as for adults.
  • You need to count the start day and the end day of your trip when buying travel insurance. E.g. if you are departing on 05-April and arriving back on 10-April, your need cover for 6 days and not 5 days!
  • Don’t get taken in by the high coverages like 10 million medical cover, its highly unlikely that you’ll need that. Stay focused on the actual cover you feel need. For instance, if you are traveling with expensive business equipment, then you need to ensure that is covered adequately.
  • Check the payout ceiling because insurance companies tend to have a limitation on the maximum payout. For instance payout for personal belongings could be USD5000, but the maximum payout per item may only be USD1000. So that may not be adequate to cover your expensive golf clubs. Most insurance companies will list the payouts clearly, if they don’t, avoid them.
  • If you are are frequent traveler you may want to consider taking an annual multi-trip travel insurance because it can save you time and money. Some insurance companies even throw in free extras like ski cover.