I have just come back from a six day trip to Russia and I thought what better time to write a blog on the same before everything just flies off my mind. I went to Russia with my Parents and we covered two major cities of Russia i.e Moscow and St. Petersburg. I am going to tell you in a nutshell about our planning before the trip and our experience during the trip. First things first, it was a well planned group tour organised through Cox and Kings. So we didn’t have to personally get into the details of booking our flights, hotels, tickets for visiting the famous tourist places, restaurants for Dinner and even our Visa for that matter.
So here’s a step by step process of Planning Your Visit to Russia-
Would you believe if I told you that we weren’t handed over our Visas and passports even until a few hours before the departure for the trip. YES! We literally had our bags packed, hotel and flight bookings done and take away snacks ready but it was only a few hours before the trip that we got to know we are actually going. So my father has earlier also opted Cox and Kings as the travel agency for various other foreign trips. It wasn’t the first time we got in touch with them. Yet, they made a big blunder from their end. At the time of our Visa application, we were never really made aware of signing our documents and sending them the originals along with a passport size photograph and relevant documents. Turns out our Visa application got rejected at the time of first application and despite of asking the Cox and Kings manager, he told us that he is not aware of the reason. Though he gave us an option to apply Visa under Fast track issuance which by the way costs nearly three times the actual Visa application cost but since we had just 3-4 days in hand, and our bookings for flight and hotels were non-refundable, we let him do the process under fast track Visa issuance.
This time (for the first time) he sent us the application documents for signing. Rest of the process was handled by their agent himself. Russia Visa isn’t that typical to apply if you are made aware of the Visa application process well in advance. You don’t have to personally visit the Embassay. Few people also apply it online and send their documents in original alongwith passport through courier. In our case, it was done through the agent and therefore the cost is a bit more when the agent handles it for you.
Documents Required For Russia Visa Application-
- Original passport with atleast two blank pages for stamping of Visa (the passport must be valid for atleast six months after intended departure for the trip)
- Russian Visa Application form (signatures at the bottom of the page in a box)
- Paste your passport size photograph on the Visa application
- If you’re going through an agency in a group tour, then a copy of your itinerary along with letter from local tour company and confirmation from Russian travel company showing reference number and confirmation number for Visa
- If you’re going on a customised tour, then your hotel confirmation voucher showing reference number and confirmation number for Visa
Ideal Time To Visit Russia
While a lot of people say that the ideal period would somwehere range from last week of May to September, I would be very specfic in telling you that you can make most of your Russia trip if you visit during second week of June. June period is a little expensive because of White nights celebration in St. Petersburg. 12th June also happens to be the Russian Day and there are flowers blooming during this time of the year. You experience long days and shorter nights making it so ideal for travel photography and tourism. It gets mildly dark in St. Petersburg and that’s called White Nights of Russia. The sun sets around 10:25 pm and rises at around 3:15 am. It never really gets completely dark though. The sky’s blue and it’s mildly dark and very beautiful to the naked eye.
Cost of Russia Trip
As we visited during June (which is the best and idela time, also the peak time of tourists), it costed us 14 to 19k more than what it can usually cost. You can set a Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 1.05 lakh budget for the Russia trip during the non-June summer period.
Metro Station in Moscow
Weather In June And Deciding Clothes For The Trip
This is my most favourite part of travelling- deciding CLOTHES! Well, for Russia, I had to literally scratch my head and toss a coin because we weren’t entirely sure of the kind of weather we will be welcomed to. Even after watching numerous vlogs and reading a hundred blogs, none of them were as clear to what kind of clothes one must pack for Russia when visiting in June.
Now from my personal experience, Moscow in June is quite hot in the day with average temperature reaching to 30 degrees and above. But, if your’re lucky, you might see the weather turn around in the evening and get some rain showers. It gets a bit windy and chilly in the evening if it rains.
St. Petersburg on the other hand, is sunny but windy. There’s cold breeze throughout the day with average temperature dropping from 20 degrees in the noon to 15 degrees in the evening.
So here’s a list of essentials you must pack for the Russia trip in June-
- For daytime- Light weight dress, casual t-shirts, tops,
- For cold breeze during the evening- long shrugs for layering (if it gets cold in the evening), summer jacket/blazer
- Comfortable shoes for walking. You can also pack flat boots
- A pair of shorts, full bottoms (jeans or flared pants)
- For accessories- a hat, a cap, a pair of sunglasses, fanny pack and bag pack.
By the Way, I didn’t spot a single girl/woman in Russia whose fashion sense wasn’t good. All the girls are dressed casually but they have such a great taste in fashion. They wear basics like t-shirts, denim jackets, bodycon dresses and style it up with accessories. YEP! I saw them style their outfits with a nice fanny pack or bag packs and it doesn’t feel like they have put too much attention to these details and yet managed to look so stylish effortlessly. Do I need to tell you how naturally beautiful Russian girls are, uff!
Be Prepared To Face These Issues-
- Those who have received Soviet Secondary Education know how to speak English but majority population which is educated through Russian Secondary education knows little to no English. Therefore, language can be an issue when in Russia. You may feel that they are not so friendly and helpful but that may not be the case. Most of Russian population does not speak the English language.
- If you’re a vegetarian, food can be a big challenge. Our tour agency organised buffet dinners for us at Indian restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg and although we got fed up of the dal and paneer by the end of the trip, we were grateful for the fact that we faced no such challenges in finding vegetarian Indian food that was close to our taste in India. But again, I would always tell you to ask twice or thrice before having anything whether it’s cooked pure veg or not. A lot of people consider egg as Veg (for those who don’t eat eggs). Even fish or fish oil for that matter is considered veg in some places. There are lot of famous tourist places like mueseums and cathedrals where you find vendors selling healthy shakes/juices, delicious boiled corns and yummy Icecreams. But again, a few ice cream flavours have eggs in it. You need to be careful if you’re strictly vegetarian. Also, try avoiding picking the icecreams which come in packets. The cones of those icecreams are too soggy. So choose your ice cream scoop flavour and ask the vendor to put it in fresh cone to enjoy the crunchiness of the cone.
Snacks You Can Carry Along With You That Won’t Get Stale For a Good One Week-
My mom doesn’t eat in restaurants where they also prepare non-veg along with vegetarian food. So if you are like her, or even if you are a foodie who likes to munch on some items while you are on a city tour, here’s the list of snacks you can carry with you-
- Roasted sooji- You can add warm water to it along with salt and chili powder to prepare ready to eat Upma for you
- You can take pooris and baatis with you. Prepare it’s dough using milk instead of water and it will stay fresh for a good one week. Don’t forget to keep it in the fridge of your hotel room and you can take out a few pieces daily for your day travelling around the city.
- Munching items like chips, bhujiya, khakhras and theple.
- There are several ready to eat packets available in the markets these days. Check whether they are vacuum free. They stay good for nearly 30 days. For eg- ready to eat bhaji, poha, dal, etc.
Miscellaneous Items You Must Carry With You-
- European charging Adaptors– Must Carry! As Moscow and St. petersburg are in the European part of Russia, hotel charging points are not comaptible with Indian chargers. So to save yourself from any risk of not being able to borrow or denied the adaptors from hotels, it’s better to carry one with you.
- Disposable glasses– Okay *gross alert* But the toilets of European Hotels don’t have a jet or hand shower and if you aren’t comfortable with the paper rolls for your daily morning job, I’d recommend you to carry a set of few disposable glasses along for… you know what! :-p
- Paper soaps- no explanation needed :-p
- Wet wipes- a must have “on the go” item
So well, if you keep the above points in mind, you are sorted for an awesome trip to Russia. Catch everything LIVE on my VLOG.
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Website/ Blog: http://minichoudhary.com