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Home Etiquette
| image=[[Image:Moscow's Kremlin along the riverbank.jpg|noframe|250px]]caption=Kremlin, Moscow| location=[[Image:LocationRussiaRussia in its region.png|250px]]svg| flag=[[Image:ru-flagFlag of Russia.png]]svg
| capital=[[Moscow]]
| government=Federal Republic
| currency=Russian Ruble (Pуб.)
| area=''total:'' 17,098,242 km<sup>2</sup><br />''water:'' 720,500 km<sup>2</sup><br />''land:'' 16,377,742 km<sup>2</sup>
'''Russia''', ([[Russian phrasebook|Russian]]: Россия) [] is by far the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's largest countryinhabited land area, spanning [[Europe|Eastern Europe]], and northern [[Asia]], sharing land borders with [[Norway]], [[Finland]], [[Estonia]], [[Latvia]], [[Lithuania]], [[Poland]], by administering the [[Kaliningrad Oblast]] exclave on the Baltic coast, [[Belarus]], and [[Ukraine]] to the west , [[Georgia (country)|Georgia]] (including the disputed regions of [[Abkhazia]] and [[South Ossetia]]) and [[Azerbaijan]] to the southwest, and [[Kazakhstan]], [[China]], [[Mongolia]], [[North Korea]] to the east and much of the south. While geographically mostly in Asia, the bulk of Russia's population is concentrated in the European part, and culturally, Russia is unmistakably European.
*[[Moscow]] (Москва) — Russia's gargantuan capital is one of the world's greatest cities and has endless attractions to offer an adventurous visitor
*[[Saint Petersburg]] (Санкт-Петербург) — Russia's cultural and former political capital is home to the Hermitage, one of the world's best museums, while the city center is a living open air museum in its own right, making this city one of the world's top travel destinations. It's also the second largest city in the country.
*[[Irkutsk]] (Иркутск) — the world's favorite Siberian city, located within an hour of [[Lake Baikal]] on the [[Trans-Siberian Railway]]
*[[Kazan]] (Казань) — the capital of Tatar culture is an attractive city in the heart of the [[Volga Region]] with an impressive kremlin
*[[Nizhny Novgorod]] (Нижний Новгород) — often overlooked despite being one of the largest cities in Russia, Nizhny Novgorod is well worth a visit for its kremlin, Sakharov museum, and nearby Makaryev Monastery
*[[Saint Petersburg]] (Санкт-Петербург) — Russia's cultural and former political capital is home to the Hermitage, one of the world's best museums, while the city center is a living open air museum in its own right, making this city one of the world's top travel destinations
*[[Sochi]] (Сочи) — Russia's favorite Black Sea beach resort has been largely unknown to foreigners, but that is set to change in a major way when it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympic Games
*[[Vladivostok]] (Владивосток) — often referred to (somewhat ironically) as "Russia's [[San Francisco]]," full of hilly streets and battleships, this is Russia's principal Pacific city and the terminus of the [[Trans-Siberian Railway]]
''В Россию можно только верить''.»,<br/>Fyodor&nbsp;Tyutchev,&nbsp;1866''
Russia is the '''largest country''' in the world by far; spanning nine time zones, its territory covers nearly twice as much of the earth as that of the next largest country, [[Canada]]. Despite its massive size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture. Instead it has huge reserves of some of the world's most important resources (oil, gas, coal, platinum, gold, chromium, water). Mount Elbrus (''Gora El'brus''), at 5,633 meters, is Europe's, and Russia's, tallest peak.
Russia has both extensive coastlines bordering the Arctic Ocean and Northwest Pacific, as well as smaller coastlines on the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. Russia is bordered by [[Norway]] and [[Finland]] to the northwest, [[Estonia]], [[Latvia]], [[Belarus]], and [[Ukraine]] to the west, [[Georgia (country)|Georgia]] and [[Azerbaijan]] to the southwest, [[Kazakhstan]], [[China]] and [[Mongolia]] to the south, [[Japan]] (via strait) and [[North Korea]] to the southeast. The [[United States of America|American]] state of [[Alaska]] lies opposite the easternmost point of Russia across the Bering Strait.
Russia also administers the exclave of [[Kaliningrad Oblast]] on the Baltic coast located in between [[Poland]] and [[Lithuania]].
Citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States, [[Argentina]] (90 days), [[Bosnia and Herzegovina]] (90 days), [[Brazil]] (90 days), [[Chile]] (90 days), [[Colombia]] (90 days), [[Croatia]] (3 months, invitation required), [[Cuba]] (30 days), [[Ecuador]] (90 days), [[Fiji]] (90 days), [[Hong Kong]] (14 days), [[Israel]] (90 days), [[Macau]] (30 days), [[Macedonia]] (90 days), [[Montenegro]] (90 days), [[Nicaragua]] (90 days), [[Peru]] (90 days), [[Serbia]] (30 days, only biometric passports)[], [[Thailand]] (30 days), [[Turkey]] (30 days), [[Uruguay]] (90 days), [[Venezuela]] (90 days) all do not need a visa. Everyone else does.
Transit through a few airports, including Moscow Sheremetyevo [], Moscow Domodedovo , Moscow Vnukovo or Yekaterinburg Koltsovo airports , does not require a transit visa, provided the traveller has a confirmed onward flight, remains in the airport for no more than 24 hours . Flights to and is ''not in transit to or from [[Belarus]] are considered domestic, therefore visa-free transit is not available. Transit to and from [[Kazakhstan]]'' (travel to and from these countries use domestic terminalswhich is in customs union with Russia)is visa-free only through Moscow Vnukovo airport. Passing through St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport ''requires a transit (or other) visa''. Visas can, in some cases, be obtained from consular officers at the airports.
A "visa-free" regime will be introduced for visitors from all nations for the duration of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Russia.
A '''tourist invitation''' (also called '''reservation confirmation''') is a letter of confirmation of booking and pre-payment of accommodation and travel arrangements in Russia. It is accompanied by a '''tourist voucher'''. These two documents can be issued by "government approved" tour operators, hotels, online hotel booking services or Russian travel agencies (several Russian travel agencies have offices outside Russia and are adept at facilitating visa applications). "Government approval" here means that the organization in question has a "consular reference" and has been registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Only hotels and travel agencies that have a consular reference can issue confirmations valid for visa purposes. '''An ordinary hotel booking is not sufficient to constitute an invitation.''' Some hotels charge a fee to issue the invitation.
Booking one night in a hotel will get you an invitation valid for one day (maybe two) and hence the resulting visa will be valid for a very brief time. '''For independent travellers planning to travel around Russia, it is best to get an invitation through an agency'''. These agencies will issue a confirmation for a fee (approx. $30 or £15), ''without actually collecting the accommodation prepayment''. While the strict legality of such is questionable, it is a largely academic point and does not leads lead to problems for the traveller. If your itinerary is confined to only one hotel, then it makes sense to obtain the invitation documents directly from the hotel as the service fee will be similar.
Consider getting a '''private/homestay''' visa if you have friends or relatives in Russia (they do not necessarily have to be Russian). They would need to seek an invitation through their local Passport and Visa Division of the Federal Migration Service (formerly OVIR). These invitations tend to take at least a month to process. The inviting individual also becomes solely responsible for all your activities while in Russia and can be penalized heavily if something were to go wrong. Because of this, personal invitations are usually not available for a fee through the net.
There is no doubt that car travel is the best way to see the country, but it is a risky enterprise which is recommended only for the brave and capable.
Russian highways have highway patrol police (GAIДПС - DPS) roadblock every 20 km or so. If you have an international license plate, prepare to pay a bribe ($5-$20) in some of the most corrupt regions (e.g., in the Caucasus). Russian traffic rules are very numerous and you will be found violating some of them. If you decide not to pay, at best you should expect to spend several hours at every road block.
Service is scarce and poor, and the countryside can be quite dangerous without experience and fluency in the Russian language.
Because virtually all long-distance trains are overnight, the long-distance tickets are bound to specified train. At Russian counter or travel agencies you'll get a reservation automatically, but if you buy an international ticket from some European non-CIS country, you should ask for reservation explicitly.
Ticket price depends on train class and car class, as well as on season (off-peak day tickets can cost 2/3 of peak day tickets). You can check the ticket price at Russian language version of [], [] or Russian Railways e-shop [] (only in Russian tooEnglish version).
Most stations have a large room called a ''KASsovyi Zal'' (кассовый зал) where tickets are sold. Lines vary widely – some stations are much better organized than others nowadays, and it also depends on the season. If you find the lines unbearably long, it's usually not hard to find an agency that sells train tickets. Commission rates are generally not prohibitive. For instance, buying your ticket to Saint Petersburg from Moscow, it is much better to walk a flight of steps from the ordinary ticketing office – there are no queues upstairs and R140 is a small premium to pay for this service.
Alternatively you can buy an e-ticket online on Russian Railways website []. However it's only in Russian. You should take the printed e-ticket at station counter before boarding and pick up a regular ticket.
Stations in big cities now have ticket machines with interface in both Russian and English. You can either buy a ticket or print the ticket you previously bought on the site. To print a ticket, you can either enter the booking code or scan the bar code from the electronic reservation. These machines don't accept cash, only debit/credit cards.
===By plane===
The tremendous distances of Russia make plane travel highly desirable if you plan to travel to some of Russia's more far-flung attractions. It's worth considering for any destination that is farther than an overnight train ride. Travelling across Russia by train can sound awfully romantic, but it's also time-consuming and rather monotonous. Nearly every major destination of interest has an airport nearby. The great majority of domestic flights are to/from Moscow, but other services exist.However it's worth considering the environmental impact of taking many frivolous flights instead of the train
The Russian domestic airline industry had an abominable reputation in the 90s due to uncertain safety records, unreliable timetables, terrible service, uncomfortable airplanes, and substandard airports. Substantial improvements have been made, however. Plane travel in Russia is unlikely to be the highlight of your trip but it has become tolerable.
* '''Military Parade''' on the Victory Day, which is celebrated on the 9th of May is commonly all-Russia holiday with city squares getting full of uniformed men and military vehicles both dated to Great Patriotic War/WWII and new ones. The '''Defender of Fatherland Day''' is a holiday when women in families or at work congratulate their men and co-workers. It happens on 23, February, just a couple of weeks before men return the favor to ladies on '''International Women's Day''', 8 March.
* '''Dancing'''. Russian classic ballet is renowned in the world and some national troops troupes exist even in such remote areas like [[Dagestan]] or [[Yakutia]]. Lezginka is a vibrant folk dance, always performed at big [[Caucasus|Caucasian]] events. If you are interested in folk style then watching a concert of ''Igor Moiseyev Ensemble'' alive is simply a must. Out of big cities you may easily find Irish dance, belly and Ball clubs, not to mention hip-hop and all.
* '''Cinema Festivals'''. The major movie venue in Russia is ''Moscow International Film Festival''[] held in the end of June during 10 days and boasts of first-class stars from all over the world. ''Kinotavr''[] of [[Sochi]], Moscow's ''Fesrtival of Latin America''[] and ''International film festival "Zerkalo" named after Andrei Tarkovsky''[] in [[Ivanovo]] are also curious for film fans.
*'''Military greatcoats''' (''sheeNEL'') available in hard-to-find stores of military equipment
*'''Down pillows''' of very high quality are to be found
*'''''HalVA''''' (''халва'') — it's different from the kind found in [[Turkey|the Turkish kind]] or [[Greece]] (in that it's made of sunflower seeds, rather than sesame), but Rot-Front products are really good
*'''Honey''' (''мёд'') — produced around the country; sorts and quality vary dramatically, but the higher-quality are worth seeking. [[Moscow]] hosts a honey market in Kolomenskoe some part of the year. A number of honey shops working all the year round can be found on VDNKh/VVTs grounds.
*'''Caviar''' (''икра''), only red since 2007 (producing and selling black caviar is prohibited for ecological reasons) most easy to find in large stores (but maybe not the best one)
Sberbank will cash American Express without comission.
Russian law forbids payments not in rubles. FortunatleyFortunately, '''currency exchange''' offices (called ''bureaus'' in Saint Petersburg) are common throughout Russia. Banks and small currency exchange bureaus offer very good rates; hotels are generally expensive and thus not recommended. You need to show your passport at banks. Be sure to take your time to count how much money you got — different ways are sometimes used to trick the customer.
Small window-in-the-wall offices abound in Moscow and Saint Petersburg but are rare in other cities. They usually offer better exchange rates but don't require identification nor provide any receipts in most cases. Branches of large banks can be found in any major city, and Sberbank outlets are a must in any village down to ''rayonny centr''. Branches of banks are more trustworthy for not-so-attractive rates, and exchange session would last longer requiring a passport and giving you all the receipts you can imagine.
When entering a local store, you might goggle at the amount of vodka on display. Drinking vodka in Russia is a different custom than in North America or Europe. To drink vodka in the right way, you need to have zakusky (Russian for the meal you eat with alcohol (mainly vodka)). This can consist of anything from simple loaves of bread to full spreads of delicious appetizers. The most common are sour or fresh cucumbers, herring, soup, and meat. If you are dining with locals who are serving soup or herring or potatoes be prepared that a generous amount of vodka will be provided. The convention is to say a toast, "na za zdoroviye"-"for good health" is the most common, drink the shot (or half) and follow with a bite of the food. Zakusk(a/y)(singular/plural), will be something salty, dried, or fatty. This is so that the vodka is either absorbed by the food or repelled by the fat. Be careful in when opening a good vodka bottles, once you open it you must drink it all (a good vodka bottle doesn't have a cap that can be replaced). If you are drinking with locals its not problem to skip round. They would just pour you a symbolic drop.
*modified from submission
Largely because of the transition from state socialism to market capitalism, Russia did experience a rise in criminal activity during the 1990s. As those who controlled capital through the state had to reconfigure their business operations towards a free enterprise rationality, profiteering and scams have increased. The truth is that crime was greatly exaggerated in the media, and for the average tourist Moscow, Saint Petersburg and the rest of Russia are actually just as safe as most major [[Europe]]an cities.
You should be noted that Russia is a pioneer country in fighting against narcotics. Russia has a well-developed anti-narcotics enforcement system as well as a set of regulations against uses and carrying of narcotics as tough as Hong Kong and Singapore, drug-trafficking into Russia can be brought a sentence of at least several decades.
=== Crime ===
[[Image:St_Petersburg_traffic.jpg|thumb|350px|Typical traffic in Russia.]]
Driving by the majority of Russians is routinely reckless, and has claimed more than 35,000 lives each year. Reckless Driving habits, the lack of proper training, and a mixture of very old to old model cars all what contributes to a high death rate on roads. Drivers attack their art with an equal mix of aggressiveness and incompetence. Guidelines are lax and rarely followed. As a pedestrian, take great care when crossing the roads, as pedestrian crossings are widely ignored. Most drivers are not very well trained and forged their licenses to avoid problems with the police. More importantly, the rapidly expanding economy has led to an increase in traffic density. Driving in the tunnels is perhaps even more dangerous than driving on the roads — the tunnels are improperly built as a result of underinvestment, and they claim even more casualties than on the roads. If uncertain, it's best to not drive under any circumstances.
When driving '''you must not be under the influence of alcohol.''' Russians have a zero tolerance to this, and the penalty is about two years imprisonment. If you are pulled over by the GAI (Russian Traffic Police), don't worry — they will simply check your papers. By law, the GAI should not try to solicit a bribe — if that happens, you are entitled to report it to the nearest police station. Under no circumstances try to run away from them — if you do, they will shoot your vehicle.
Parking spaces in Russia are ''very'' inadequately marked and there are very few, if non-existent, safe parking spaces for vehicles. Many vehicles are seen parked on sidewalks, on shoulder roads, even on residential buildings due to the lack of parking curbs and markings, making most vehicles highly insecure, even on urban areas, and potential hazards among traffic when attempting to enter/exit the parking (even though there is hardly any).
=== Corruption ===
=== Political Issues ===
Likewise, '''keep your political opinions to yourself'''. Ask as many questions as you like, but avoid making statements or comments about its past and current political situation. Russia and the Soviet Union had an often violent history and most Russian people are tired of hearing "how bad the Soviet Union was" from western people. They lived it, are proud of both its triumphs and tragedies, and they probably know much more about it than you. Also avoid criticising the conflict in Chechnya. Even though horrific things have happened there, most Russians support Putin and people will say that Chechnya was, is, and will always be Russian. The separatist forces are regarded as Islamist terrorists.
Keep in mind that even now independent former Soviet Republics are widely regarded as historical parts of Russia, especially [[Ukraine]] and [[Belarus]].
=== Home Etiquette ===
* '''When arriving at someone's house, remove your outdoor shoes.''' You may be given slippers to wear.
* '''In someone's house''' , Dress in formal clothes. Dressing well shows respect for your hosts. However, this rule may not work among young people.
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