Hey guys, meet Marshall. He went to my University and decided to study abroad in Russia, learn Russian, and generally immerse himself in the culture. If you ask him why, you’ll get a response something along the lines of, “why not?” which is as good a reason as any, I suppose. While I was putting together my cost guide for everywhere in the world, I realized that Russia needed more coverage than a paragraph’s worth, so I went to the best source I know. Here’s Russia in Marshall’s words:
Few places capture the imagination like Russia.
For the adventurous, the curious, and those appreciative of her long and storied history, there may be no more intriguing country in the world. Fortunately, the time has never been better to go. Not long ago, Moscow topped the charts as the most expensive city on the planet. In recent years, the value of Russian Ruble has fallen in half, making now a better time than ever to see the city – and the whole of Russia.
Food and Drink:
Some of the cheapest food in Russia comes in the form of delicious and filling Shawarma. You can find this nearly anywhere you turn for around $3. Traditional Russian cuisine can be sampled at stolovayas – restaurant holdovers from communist times, where you can chose from a wide range of meats, veggies, borsch, and other authentic staples for around $3-4 a meal.
If you find yourself with a hankering for fine European cuisine, Moscow and St. Petersburg both offer a wide range of excellent fine dining for a fraction of the price from back home.
When it comes to drinks, beer – not vodka – is the most popular drink in Russia. You can grab a pint (0.5L) on the cheap, at around 250 RUB ($4).
Moscow, with a population greater than all of Scandinavia combined, is an absolutely massive city. It is important to stay in central areas for easy access to attractions. Fortunately, hostels are affordable. A night in a modern facility, right in the heart of the city – such as Comrade Hostel – should cost around $11, during peak season.
Must see: The Red Square is the heart of Moscow, Russia and the former Soviet Union. It is perhaps the most famous capital square of any country in the world. Lined on one side by the red brick walls of the Kremlin, and another by the beautiful St. Basil’s Basilica (Open 10:00 – 19:00. Closed Wed. Entrance – $6.70), the Red Square is an absolute must see.
Metro – Single pass: 50 RUB ($0.83)
Stay in the heart of Saint Petersburg, along Nevsky Prospect, for easy access to world-class attractions, the beautiful canals that dissect the city, and the infamous Hermitage Museum. At around $10 a night, it doesn’t get much better than the super-cool Baby Lemonade Hostel.
Must Do: The city is called “The Venice of the North”, and for good reason. Take a sunset river cruise along St. Petersburg’s beautiful canals (90 minutes, with audio guides in Russian or English ($10 / $15). Very few experiences will leave you more in awe of a place, than one of these cruises.
Must See: The Hermitage (Admission: $10). Surpassed in size only by the Louvre, and second to none in terms of sheer grandeur and it’s immense collection of art and history, no visit to Russia is complete without a trip to the Hermitage.
Must drink: For cheap booze, head to St. Petersburg’s infamous Dumskaya street – a haven for those looking to experience Russian nightlife on a budget.
Metro – Single pass: 45 RUB ($0.75) The underground here is the deepest in the world. Many of the stations in both St. Petersburg and Moscow are nothing short of breathtaking.
There may be no overland experience more epic than the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Running across two continents, from Moscow in the West, to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast, this incredible journey is without peers. For the daring, the adventurous, or anybody with an interest in Russia, this is undoubtedly a bucket list item. Fortunately, making the journey never been cheaper. Due to the fallen Ruble, the entire 6,152 mile journey can be made for around $300. Buy tickets that allow you to get off the train and spend a night or two in different cities along the route. As you get further from Moscow, food and accommodation only gets cheaper.
Places to see: Kazan (not technically on the Trans-Siberian, but on a connected railway), Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk (take a few days to journey to nearby Lake Baikal – there may be no more beautiful body of water in all the world. Especially in winter.) and Vladivostok.
Alternate route: Cut South after Irkutsk, and take the railway through the Mongolian capital of Ulan Batar, all the way to Beijing, China.
EU Citizens: Russia offers a 1-month visa for 40 EUR. You must arrange this in advance
USA Citizens: You must use a visa services company to arrange a Russian visa. This can be pricy – coming in at a total cost of $193. Russian visas for US citizens, however, are valid for 3 years.
Thinking of a trip to Russia?
Perhaps the best reason to visit any country is to learn about another way of life, and to explore the culture. Sometimes the hardest part of living in another country is the way it forces you to revaluate everything you thought you knew about life.
About the Author: Marshall is the author of 51 Ways to Offend a Russian, a hilarious adventure in cultural assimilation gone wrong. It is the culmination of the author’s five years spent blundering through endless mistakes, miscalculations, and misunderstandings in Russia. This humorous collection of bite-sized anecdotes will leave you in tears – from both laughter and frustration alike.