Top events in Russia

April
20

St Petersburg's large Christian population celebrates Easter Sunday with religious services and special Easter ceremonies. On this day, it is...

May
05

The main holiday of the Russian Orthodox Church, when Russians end 40 days of fasting with midnight church services and a feast of special cakes...

May
09

This festival marks the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in 1945. Amidst parades, and military band marches, crowds gather at...

The Kremlin, Rostov
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The Kremlin, Rostov

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Russia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

17,075,400 sq km (6,592,849 sq miles).

Population

142.5 million (2013).

Population density

8.3 per sq km.

Capital

Moscow.

Government

Federal republic since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Head of state

President Vladimir Putin since 2012.

Head of government

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev since 2012.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Russia uses a standard two-pin European plug.

Russia is at once breathtaking, baffling and stunningly beautiful. Monumental in every respect, it’s a land where untamed wilderness sits alongside bustling urban centres, and adventure lurks around every corner. From imperial splendour to icy Siberian tundra and from time worn Soviet-era monuments to uber-hip urban culture, Russia is a land of contradiction and superlatives. No wonder Churchill described it as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

In the west of this vast country, the cities of St Petersburg and Moscow serve up sweeping postcard sights by the dozen. Moscow is the rapidly beating heart of the ‘New Russia’, where Asia and Europe combine to create a boisterous metropolis on a grand scale. Whether it’s history, culture or a hedonistic nightlife you’re after, Moscow certainly has it all. St Petersburg, with its majestic film set of palaces, cathedrals and waterways is well deserving of the title ‘Venice of the North.’ Peter the Great’s ‘Window on the West’ is the most European of all the Russian cities with its baroque and rococo grandeur mirroring (and exceeding) the best of the grand capitals of Europe.

For the first time in its history, Russia is now wide open for foreign visitors to experience, and exploration beyond the two main hubs is well advised. The Golden Ring, a collection of ancient gems, transports the traveller back to a bygone age. Towns such as Suzdal and Vladimir, rich in old world charm are a daytrip from the capital, and with Europe’s longest river the Volga travelling south through Russia’s rich heartland to the Caspian sea, it is possible to witness a varied selection of cities, panoramas and peoples. These in turn provide a magical insight into the country beyond its increasingly Westernised veneer.

Those who look further afield towards the east, meanwhile, will find a land of varied, often sublime natural beauty. The region of Russia stretching from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean in the east is vast, rich in diverse cultures and contrasting landscapes. From the lake dwellers of Baikal and the old imperial city of Irkutsk (The Paris of Siberia), the mountains of the Altai and the shamans of Tuva, Siberia has many secrets. It is an area long hidden, rich in mythology and today remains much of a paradox.

It is a combination of the above and so much more, fused with a touch of mystery that is drawing an increasing number of tourists to the Russian Federation, all eager to discover and experience the puzzles and mythologies of modern Russia for themselves. Numbers are set to increase further still in the run up to 2018 when the country will play host to the football World Cup. The poet Fyodor Tyutchev wrote: ‘Russia cannot be understood…In Russia one can only have faith’ and it has been said that Russia is impenetrable. Indeed, perhaps indeed she is. However you’ll have the time of your life trying to find out!

Travel Advice

Last updated: 18 April 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria (including the Elbrus area).

There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks have occurred most frequently in Moscow and in the North Caucasus. The most recent attacks took place on 29 and 30 December in the city of Volgograd. You should remain vigilant in all public places.

Political rallies can occur in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other places across Russia. The situation in Ukraine has led to a recent increase in the number of political rallies in major cities. Check media for the latest information, be vigilant, and avoid any demonstrations.

You should be aware of the risk of street crime. See Crime

Current figures are not always available. However, British nationals made around 127,000 visits to Russia in 2011. Most visits are trouble-free.

Edited by Jane Duru
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