Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are standard.

Language

Russian is the official language. Some people speak English, French or German.

Money

The official currency is the Rouble (RUB), which is divided into 100 kopeks. Most major international credit cards are accepted in larger establishments. Currency can be changed at banks, bureaux de change and hotels, with ATMs widely available in major cities. It's hard to get roubles outside Russia and travellers are advised to take currency in good condition to exchange once there.

Tipping

Hotel bills in the large Russian cities usually include a 10 to 15 percent service charge. If no service charge has been added, a tip of at least 10 percent is expected. City Guides and their drivers also expect a small tip and tipping in bars and nightclubs is common.

Health

Drinking water should be treated, with bottled water readily available. Local state medical facilities in cities outside the main urban hubs are of a low standard, and visitors are strongly advised to have full insurance for medical treatment and accidents should they require private care. Blood transfusions should not be performed in Russia, due to uncertainties concerning the blood supply. Essential medications and supplies may be limited.

Safety

Though Russia is generally a safe country in which to travel, visitors should be vigilant and watch out for pickpockets, particularly on the metro and buses. Moreover, travellers must insist on seeing official identification from police officers. Political protests often end in violence and visitors are advised to avoid all street demonstrations and political gatherings.

Local customs

Photography of anything to do with the military, strategic sites or the airport is prohibited. In Russian Orthodox churches, women are advised to wear skirts and cover their heads with a scarf. It's a legal requirement for visitors to carry passports for identification, with copies not being sufficient. Russia has a poor LGBT rights record, and same-sex couples should exercise caution.

Doing business

Business in Russia is conducted in a fashion similar to Western countries, but with some subtle differences. Russians are business-minded so it's not generally necessary to form personal relations with business colleagues, but developing a good network of resident associates is a good idea.

Dress is formal and conservative and on greeting a good firm handshake and direct eye contact indicates strength. Business cards are exchanged and it's advisable to print a Cyrillic translation of your details on the alternate side. Business hours are generally from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

Duty free

The following may be imported into Russia without customs duty: 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco products (over 18 years), 2 litres of alcohol (over 21 years), perfume for personal use, gifts up to the value of US$10,000. Tourists must complete a customs declaration form, to be retained until departure, allowing for the import of articles intended for personal use (including currency and valuables) which must be registered on the declaration form.

Additionally, 250g of caviar per person may be exported, with a receipt proving it was purchased at a store licensed to sell it to foreigners and a licence from the Ministry of Economic Development. Any items or artwork that might have historical value, like icons, maps, coins or paintings, have to be registered with the Ministry of Culture before departure, which usually involves a 100% customs duty fee.

Communications

The international access code for Russia is +7. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.

Passport & Visa

Valid visas in expired passports or other expired travel documents are not accepted. Visitors must carry ID at all times whilst in Russia. An Immigrant Card will be issued on board the aircraft or on arrival. All visitors staying for longer than seven working days must register with the Federal Migration Service upon arrival; if staying in a hotel, the hotel will arrange this, otherwise you can find the forms to fill out at a post office and post the forms to the Federal Migration Service. Anyone travelling on a tourist visa must hold vouchers from the hotel or travel agency. Passengers are required to hold return/onward tickets and documents required for the next destination. Exit permits are required on departure. These are usually issued with the visa, or can be obtained at hotels not less than two days before departure. Passports must be valid for period of intended stay. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

United States citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required.

British citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required.

Canadian citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required.

Australian citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required. Those passengers with an APEC Business Travel Card valid for travel to 'RUS' if traveling on business do not require a visa.

South Africans must have a passport valid on arrival. No visa is required for a maximum of 90 days.

Irish nationals require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required.

New Zealand nationals require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required. Those passengers with APEC Business Travel Card for travel to 'RUS' if traveling on business do not require a visa.

Useful contacts

Russian Tourism Authority: +7 495 623 7978 or www.russia-travel.com

Emergencies: 112.

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Russian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 8907.

Russian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7229 6412.

Russian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 235 4341.

Russian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6295 9033.

Russian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 362 1337.

Russian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 492 2048.

Russian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 476 6113.

Embassies / consulates in Russia

United States Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 728 5000.

British Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 956 7200.

Canadian Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 105 6000.

Australian Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 956 6070.

South African Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 540 1177.

Irish Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 937 5911.

New Zealand Embassy, Moscow: +7 495 956 3579.

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