Remember that you must be registered within 7 days of your arrival in Russia (excluding weekends and public holidays). Hotels are legally obliged to register you within 24 hours of arrival. Many travel agencies can also register you. If you don’t get registered on time, you can expect serious problems when leaving, ranging from paying a fee, to missing your flight while officials interrogate you.
The national currency is the rouble (Rbl). Banknotes come in enominations of 50, 200, 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000. Rouble coins come in 1, 2, 5 and 10Rbl. There are 100 kopeks to a rouble and kopek coins come in 5, 10 and 50. It’s illegal to pay in dollars or euros. Find ATMs at most metro stations, banks and large hotels.
The ‘foreigner price’ is a hangover from the good old days of Intourist-organised Soviet travel. At some theatres and museums, foreigners are required to pay two to five times more than the Russian price. Ouch! These institutions insist that Russian tickets are subsidised with foreigners paying the ‘real price.’ If you have a document (propusk), which says you work or study in Russia, you can usually get the local price.
Be on guard!
Avoid attracting unwanted attention by not speaking loudly in your mother tongue, or walking the streets if you have been drinking. If you are of African, Arab, or Asian descent exercise caution, particularly at night.
02 - Emergency hotline. If you have problems and don’t speak Russian it may be better to call the English language tourist helpine 8 800 303 05 55 and (+7) 812 303 05 55.
The Tourist Information office, Ul. Sadovaya 14, can help you file a police report. Your consulate can help you if your passport has been stolen. The police here generally look for any excuse to fine you, so photocopy your passport and visa. Make sure that you always carry a few photocopies; if the police stop you (they check Russians all the time too) then.
The traditional Russian alcoholic drink is of course vodka. The most traditional way to drink it is straight as a shot, followed by a salty snack. Beer (pivo) is now the most popular alcoholic drink in Russia and Sovetskoe shampanskoe (Soviet champagne) is the national party drink. Take note that you cannot buy alcohol above 0,5% in shops between 22:00 and 11:00.
Health and Safety
Russian drivers are your biggest danger, so cross roads carefully. In the winter icy streets and huge icicles can also pose a danger so watch where you walk. The city’s water is chlorine treated due to parasites and heavy metals, so you can use it to brush your teeth or wash fruit. For drinking or making tea, it is better to stick to bottled water, or clean the tap water with a filter and give it a good boil first.
Winters in Russia are fierce and February is typically one of the coldest months of the year, with temperatures sometimes getting as low as -20, so wrap up warm and don’t forget your thick socks and warm gloves! Layers are usually the most practical. Only in the end of March does the city really start to thaw so until then expect a lot of ice and snow in the streets and minuses on the thermometer.