Everbrite's Russia, Belarus and Ukraine Pages

Belarus Info

Russia General Info

Russian Consulate Information:
A to F
G to J
K to South Africa
Spain to Z

Obtaining a Russian Visa

Money and Other Tips

Tidbits for Tourists:
A to I
K to Z

Rulers of Russia:
From the Beginning to the Time of Troubles
From the Romanovs to Revolution
From Soviet Times to the present

Russia Regional Information:
Irkutsk/Lake Baikal

Moscow Metro Tour

Central Moscow Tour- in four parts with map:
Part 1 Stops 1 through 13. Marriott Royal/Hotel Budapest to Manezh Ploshchad
Part 2 Stops 14 though 22. Around Manezh Ploshchad
Part 3 Stops 23 though 44. Along Tverskaya Street to the area around Pushkin Square
Part 4 Stops 45 though 48. From Pushkinskaya Ploshchad to Upper St. Peter's Monastery and back

Travel in Russia planes, trains and automobiles

Trans-Siberian Trains
Trans-Siberian Trains general information to get you started on your journey
Trans-Siberian Stops information about common stops along the way
Notes about Chinese Consulates some informataion about Chinese consulates

Russian Language and Culture
The Alphabet
Books, Tapes and other Resources
Basic Words

Ukraine Info


Money and Other Travel Tips

Page Contents
Money Matters and the Deklaratsia
More Tips about Travel in Russia
When to Visit
Be Sure to Register
Your Documents
Guidebooks and Maps
Mondays and other days
Safety Issues

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Money Matters and the Deklaratsia 

Deklaratsia - When entering Russia by plane, after passing through immigration, you pick up your luggage and pass through customs. It is no longer necessary to obtain or fill out the Deklaratsia and get it stamped unless you are bringing more than 3000 USD into the country or carrying other items which someone might think that you purchased in Russia. Do not worry about filling out the Deklaratsia for cameras, cell phones, laptops, etc.

Although the law states that it is ok to bring in up to $10,000 USD in cash without declaring it, please consider that it might be worthwhile to complete a deklaratsia for large amounts or if you are carrying a some sort of equipment and expect to leave the country with it. For laptop computers or cameras, filling out this form is not necessary. For most travelers completing the deklaratsia is no longer required.

If for some reason you need to complete this form, when filling out the deklaratsia, you must list all cash, all travelers checks and to be on the safe side you might want to list all credit cards or personal checks. If you actually do need to get the Deklaratsia stamped, you must go through the red channel. Occasionally, you must insist that the customs officer do this. Just stand there and wait. Often, they simply don't want to take the time because they must mark off the document before stamping it (so that nothing can be added later).

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ATM machines - Use your VISA or MasterCard to get money, but remember that there is a maximum limit you can get each day. Generally banks will permit a maximum withdrawal of 500 USD per day, although you might want to check what your personal limit is. The maximum in rubles is generally much less. In my experience, downtown machines have higher limits than those in outlying or residential areas.

Websites for both VISA (Star / Plus) and MasterCard (Cirrus / Maestro) have pages, which give the locations of ATM machines. Check and for their ATM locator pages.

Many machines offer both rubles and dollars. Some in Moscow and Petersburg even have euros. The exchange rate offered for rubles is pretty good. For dollars, it is generally just the fee your bank changes for an out-of- network bank and a currency conversion fee. For example, my bank has no fee for an out of network bank and only changes 1% for conversion from other currencies to dollars. Be careful though, there are some banks that have an additional service charge of 5 USD per transaction assessed locally. Be aware of this additional fee as it can add up particularly if you are withdrawing small amounts repeatedly.

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Currency - Note that you cannot take quantities of Russian rubles into or out of the country. What money you bring from abroad should be either Euros or new-style US bills with the large, off-center portrait. The notes should be clean with no tears or writing on them. I usually carry mostly 50s and 100s. There are counterfeit 100s floating around in this part of the world and that sometimes makes it easier to exchange 50s. I also carry some smaller bills for use in places like Vernisazh, the crafts market near Izmailovo Park metro station in Moscow. I also use smaller bills if I need money close to the end of my travels. Remember that the commission for exchanging is generally a much higher percentage for a smaller amount of money and for smaller bills.

Rumor has it that there are more $100 US bills in Russia than in the US and that the US spent millions educating people there when they changed the style some years ago.

Carry your money in three separate packets. Do not keep the bulk of your cash with your passport. If stopped by the militsia and asked to present your documents, you then reveal the whereabouts of your funds. I carry some money in a change purse, some with my passport, but the larger amounts I keep hidden on my person.

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More Tips about Travel in Russia 

When to Visit 
September is my favorite time to visit Moscow. Weather is usually still quite pleasant, and the majority of tourists are gone. The fountains are still operating, and the estates such as Kuskovo and Ostankino are still open. Evenings tend to be cool, but days can be quite pleasant. Also there is still a reasonable amount of daylight. To determine the amount of daylight you can anticipate, check this website: Sunrise/Sunset.

Probably the worst months to visit are March and early April. The weather is unpredictable and alternates between melting the snow and ice so that things are slushy. Also overnight refreezing of melted snow and ice makes things slippery. Travel in November is also iffy for the same reason. Although cold and dark in winter, it is predictable. If you travel to Russia in winter, be sure to dress in layers, bring a hat and gloves plus warm, waterproof footgear that will enable you to walk safely on the slippery snow and ice-covered streets.

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Be Sure to Register 
Men who look like foreigners are often stopped and asked to present their papers. It seems to be especially true for poorly dressed, backpacker types, but it could occur to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. On occasion it's a scam, but mostly it's militsia looking for some money to supplement their meager salaries.

In Moscow, the most common place to get stopped is near the Kremlin or Red Square. In Petersburg, most reports suggest that the most common place to get stopped is outside a bar or club frequented by foreigners late in the evening, usually when you are partially under the influence. Other factors that increase the likelihood of being stopped include being between 18 and 35 years old, being "of color," being male, being alone or only in the company of other males. Single women, older folks and couples are much less likely to get stopped.

It is Russian law that you must register within seven business days of arrival in any city (not including weekends and holidays.) Also carry your passport or a photocopy of the front page and your visa with you at all times. Theoretically, you are now required to carry your migration card as well.

If you have a cell phone, be sure to program it in advance with the telephone number of your embassy in Russia. In the event that you are stopped, assuming that you speak little to no Russian, call your embassy to assist you. In many cases simply indicating that you intend to call will deter further questioning from militsia who are simply out to harass you.

For more information about registering see Migration cards and Registering your Visa and Registering a stay at a private apartment.

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Your Documents 
It is Russian law that you MUST carry your travel documents with you. Even Russians are supposed to carry their internal passports at all times. If someone does stop you, hold onto your papers and only pass over copies of documents. If someone questions you regarding this, indicate that your passport and documents are being registered at the hotel at which you are staying. Generally, hotels will provide you with a room card, and you can present that.

If you entered Russia through Belarus, you should receive a combined Belarus and Russia migration card at the border. There is no official border crossing between Belarus and Russia. If you take the train, it does not stop at the border. If you drive, there may be no border crossing but there is often customs control.

If, for any reason, you did not receive a migration card at the time of entry, or if you lose your migration card proceed immediately to your consulate or embassy. You will need something to get registered, and you will need to present this card to exit the country. Most people who have had this problem have gotten something from their consulate or been directed to a Russian department to obtain something and then not had any problems at the time of departure.

There are increased reports of individuals entering Russia, receiving a migration card, never registering because they were never in one place long enough to register and never being asked to surrender their migration card at the airport when exiting. While this can occur and there might be no problems in the future as a result of this, the reverse is also true. There is no way to predict when someone will enforce the regulations that exist.

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If you want to try to blend in note that blue, blue jeans are less common. Most Russian young men in their 20s and 30s wear dark clothes - black jeans or darker colored slacks are the order of the day. And they almost never wear shorts downtown. If they want to appear more casual, then you might see a guy wearing a jogging suit, but generally black, gray or dark blue.

The same is true for sneakers or trainers, darker are better, although many men wear leather shoes. Few Russians wear plaids - most wear darker colors in general. Also despite warm summer temperatures, it is not uncommon to see black leather jackets worn all day. Because of the need to carry documents all the time, many men carry a plastic shopping bag or what looks like a black purse with a strap off one end. Generally only students and foreigners use a backpack or fanny pack. Again these are generalizations and there are always exceptions.

Russian women in the big cities tend to dress far more stylishly than in the US, Australia and much of Europe. Although they have a small wardrobe, what they wear on the streets generally is quite dressy and often very sexy. Except for students, teens and children, expect them to be well dressed when downtown. Dresses, nice slacks and tight sweater tops, etc. are the order of the day. Light colors and bright colors can be seen in summer, but again colorful prints and plaids are unusual. Young women do wear jeans but, generally speaking, unless they are designer jeans, not in downtown Moscow or Petersburg.

If you are a woman, and plan to visit any active churches, monasteries or convents, you may need something to cover your head and perhaps to cover your shoulders if you are wearing something sleeveless. It is easiest to keep something simple in your purse to cover your head and shoulders. Be aware that in some monasteries, you might even be asked to pull a skirt on over your pants. If this is required, sometimes, they offer something you can rent to tie around your waist.

Note that the hair color of most women in Russia comes from a bottle. All the older women dye their hair; almost nobody has grey hair like they do in Western Europe and America.

If you happen to be blessed with curly black hair and brown eyes and/or wear glasses or a hat during the warmer weather, you will be seen as a foreigner no matter what you do. Even if you dress like a native and have Slavic features, your walk and how you look at people often will give you away. Of course, this doesn't mean that people won't stop you for directions, they will. Sometimes this is simply strike up a conversation, but more often it happens because as a foreigner you are viewed as somewhat more approachable than the average local.

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If you haven't learned the Cyrillic alphabet, please take a few hours to do so. One third of the letters look and sound like Latin/English, one third look the same but sound different and one third are both different looking and sounding. Here's an example to get you started: PECTOPAH is pronounced as if it were written RESTORAN and means restaurant. Just being able to read the letters will allow you to understand some of the language.

Very little is written in Latin letters anywhere. Even in the Moscow metro, it is just the names of the stops on the maps posted on the walls and in the cars. All the signs and directions are in Cyrillic.

Check out this website for some resources to learn Russian/Cyrillic: Learn Russian. Also take a look at the pages I put together with information about Russian Language, specifically about The Cyrillic Alphabet including links that explain how to "Russify" your computer and Books, Tapes and other Resources used to learn to Russian.

Guidebooks and Maps 
There is really only one guidebook which covers all of Russia, the Lonely Planet's book Russia. The most recent edition, the 5th, published in March 1, 2009 covers only Russia and does not include any other countries. There is no similar book published by Rough Guide, Fodors, Frommers, Moon, etc. that covers all of Russia. It isn't great, but then what single publication could possibly cover this entire country well. Insight publishes a single book that attempts to cover all of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in less than 400 pages. The most recent edition was published in November 2008.

There are a number of guides that cover Moscow and St. Petersburg including the nearby towns such as Novgorod, Sergiev Posad and the Golden Ring. One unique volume in this category worth considering is not part of a series. Nor is it about a single city. Masha Nordbye's Moscow, St. Petersburg & The Golden Ring published by Odyssey Illustrated Guide in March 2007 is currently in its third edition and packs quite a bit into its 700+ pages.

Where there is some variability and options are in guides to the individual cities that most everyone going to Russia visits. Generally speaking, getting the latest guidebook is best assuming that you are looking for restaurant and accommodation recommendations. If not, then preferences for style, layout, maps, etc. may be stronger factors in making a choice. There are lots of relatively current guidebooks covering these two major cities.

There are a number of guidebooks which cover both Moscow and St. Petersburg plus there are quite a few single city guidebooks. Books by Frommers, Fodors, Moon, all cover both cities and major cities nearby. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the LP city guides as they are mostly a rehash of what is in their Russia guide. Instead, I tend to look at the Eyewitness series for Moscow and St. Petersburg or the Rough Guide for Moscow or St. Petersburg. National Geographic published its first Traveler series book about St. Petersburg in March 2007 but it hasn't been updated and they never published one for Moscow.

If you are planning to take the TransSiberian Route, then there are two options, the Lonely Planet's TransSiberian Railway a Multi Country Guide published in April 2009 or Trailblazer's TransSiberian Handbook due to be released in November 2011. If it were me, I would probably get the LP Russia guide and the Trailblazer Trans-Siberian Handbook to complement.

If you like a good dosage of history in association with your travels or to supplement a guide book, consider Laurence Kelly's A Traveller's Companion to St. Petersburg (2003) and A Traveller's Companion to Moscow (2004). Both offer lots of interesting historical tidbits about many of the famous people and the commonly visited sites in these two cities.

Supplement any and all guidebooks with visits to the Eastern Europe branch of Lonely Planet's ThornTree, and the forums of and It is there where you will get most of your travel questions answered, especially to the weird and off the beaten track locations.

Do NOT depend on any guidebook to be up to date on opening days, times or admission fees. These things are prone to fluctuation. Also, it is not uncommon to arrive someplace and discover a sign that says a museum is closed for "technical reasons" or to be told that it is closed for "reasons from above."

I recommend purchasing the Insight map of Moscow. At present, this plasticized map is the best available of Moscow. It's transliterated Russian, but well designed. Try to familiarize yourself with the layout of the city. Note that the Garden Ring is an 8-lane highway that is an entire circle with no trees, while the Boulevard Ring is three quarters of a circle with parkland in the middle. Most of the historic parts of the city are located within the Garden Ring and are easily accessible by public transportation or by foot. If you want to see typical residential areas, visit a large supermarket and such, you will need to get to the Garden Ring and beyond.

For a map of St. Petersburg, it's a toss up between the one by Insight and the one by LP. I own and use both.

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Mondays and other days 
When planning your trip to Moscow and Petersburg, it is important to note that many museums, buildings, churches, sites are closed on Mondays. Almost every tourist place one might want to visit is closed at least one day a week, plus one additional day a month. In particular, lots of places are closed on Mondays. So it is important to consider in advance one's plans for what to do on Mondays.

Mondays in Moscow plan to visit any of the following:
Kremlin Churches and Armory Museum
State History Museum (but not the first Monday of the month)
Cathedral of the Intercession of the Mother of God on the Moat (St. Basil's Cathedral)
Museum of the Romanov Boyars in Zaryade (across from the Hotel Rossiya)
Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery

Mondays in Petersburg plan to visit any of the following:
Peter Paul Fortress
1703 House of Peter, the Great
Mikhailovsky Castle, an affiliate of the Russian Museum
Marble Palace
Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology but not the Kuntskammer Museum
Summer Garden
Russian Museum until 4 p.m.

Safety issues 
Use common sense as in all big cities. Divide your money. Don't flash your money. Keep your valuables close. Don't get drunk. Don't be loud. Don't walk alone at night, etc.

  • The following locations are those at which either others or I have personally experienced problems:
    Petersburg - Buses along Nevsky Prospekt are notorious for pickpockets. Be sure that your money and belongings are well secured. This has also been an issue in some of the metros in downtown Petersburg as well.
    Moscow - The train station at Kievskaya used to be, in my opinion, one of the more unsavory places within the area traveled by most visitors to Moscow. This has changed with the construction of the nearby Europa Mall. Still I would not recommend spending too much time in and around any of the railway stations.
    There are also hoards of young gypsy kids in the metro station that is the intersection of four lines - Biblioteka Lenina (the red line) Borovitskaya (gray) Arbatskaya (dark blue) and Aleksandrovskii Cad (light blue) I would avoid transferring here if possible. Their usual ploy is two or three little ones approach you from the front begging money to distract you, while the older ones follow you trying to get into your bags from behind.
  • If the militsia stop you and hassle you, if you have a mobile phone, take it out and call your embassy or consulate. Be sure that you write down the embassy and/or consulate telephone numbers before leaving home.
  • It's easy to hail a ride from strangers, just be sure to negotiate the price before you get into the car. Don't get into a car with other people already present. Don't get into a car if you see beer, wine or alcohol bottles on the floor, even if they are empty.


Moscow and especially, St. Petersburg are situated pretty fair north. The summer days are long, but winter days are quite short. If you want to know how long or how short on a particular day of the year, check out this page to: Compute Sunrise, Sunset and Twilight for Cities & Airports. When entering information on this site, be sure to note that the local time is GMT -3 hours.

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last revised 16 September 2011 © 2003-2011 Ruth E. Imershein
The information contained on these pages is intended to assist in making travel plans but things change, mistakes can be made.
Please do not depend entirely on this information when making your decisions.

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