For many people, visiting Russia is scary or an unknown quantity. But Russia is a stunning country with (actual) friendly people and scores of things to see and do. Russia is massive and easily the largest nation on earth. Remember that outside of the main cities, not that many people speak English, it is best to learn some essential phrases before traveling to Russia.

While in Russia, visit the remote autonomous North Ossetia region in the south and deep in the mountains see the eerily "City of The Dead" necropolis and see real human remains. Russia is a country of wonders that one will never forget!

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The Sheer Size of Russia

Russia spans some 17,125,191 square kilometers 6,612,073 square miles, by comparison, the United States is only 9,833,520 square kilometers or 3,796,742 square miles. That makes Russia nearly double the size of the United States (but with less than half of its population).

  • Largest: Russia Is The Largest Country In The World
  • Time Zones: Russia has 11 Time Zones

Russia is a very diverse and interesting country that spans from the Arctic bordering Norway to islands just 2.5 miles away from American islands in the Bering Strait. If one travels east and west in Russia, one can travel for thousands of miles without the land meaningfully changing (even the cities are mostly post-Soviet cities that look alike). But one can also travel from frozen Wrangel Island where mammoths clung on until the time of the Egyptian pyramids to the subtropical beaches of Sochi on the Black Sea.

Do I Need A Visa For Russia?

On 1 January 2021, Russia significantly liberalized its visa policy for most European countries and many other countries around the world. Since then European Union citizens and others can now apply for a single entry e-visa but only permit stays in Russia for up 16 days from the date of entry.

  • Do Americans Need A Visa For Russia?: Yes

Otherwise, all Western citizens are required to apply for visas. These are normally issued for only 30 days and are non-extendable. To apply one must typically have a letter of invitation (can be issued by a hotel or Russian tour operator).

When in Russia be aware of restricted zones. For example, it is typically forbidden to go within 25 kilometers of an international border and one can face deportation if one does.

  • Tip: Watch Out For Restricted Zones for Foreigners

The new e-visa does not extend to citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.

Related: 10 Mistakes All Rookies Make During Their First Time In Russia

Is Russia Safe?

Russia - along with many other Post-Soviet countries - went through very difficult times after the break up of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s the economic system was broken, the economy tanked, shelves were empty, corruption was rampant, crime was rife, and the country was barely functioning.

  • 1990s: A Severe Time For Russia
  • 2000s - 2010s: Russia Has Massively Improved

But since the 2000s things have vastly improved. Corruption has dramatically declined (one needn't worry about the police anymore) and crime has fallen massively. While homicides are still much higher than in Western Countries.

The homicide rate in Russia in 2018 was 8.8 per 100,000 (7.3 in 2020). This compares to only 0.7 for New Zealand in 2018, 5.0 for the United States in 2018 (6.5 in 2020), and a whopping 52 for El Salvador in 2018. In the 1990s the rate in Russia was up to as much as 30 per 100,000.

  • Is Russia Safe: Yes - With Normal Safe Precautions and Also Note The Current Political Climate

Everything has improved in the 2000s. Today Russia can be considered safe - just exercise normal safety precautions. It may be more dangerous than most Western countries, but it safer than most countries in Latin America.

Related: Traveling To Russia: 15 Things To Prepare For

How much Time Do I Need to Visit Russia?

A lifetime. But is normally difficult to take a lifetime off work so a trip of 2 weeks will allow people enough time to visit the beautiful cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow and visit Lake Baikal in the east while having a ride on a section of the trans-Siberian railway.

  • How Much Time Is Needed?: One Can't See All Of Russia But 2 Weeks Is Enough To see A couple of Highlights

Those are the most touristy places to go, but there is no limit for how much time to spend in Russia (other than the limited 30-day visas that they issue). There are limitless things to see and do. This is the world's largest country.

Where Should I Go?

Of course, one should visit the main cities of St Petersburg and Moscow as well as Lake Baikal. These are just the best-known places. Also visit the city of Kazan, other kremlins around Moscow, the beautiful Cauccaus mountains, the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, the stunning mountains of Altai, and for the more adventurous - Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East near Alaska.

Next: Moscow, Russia: Planning The Perfect Weekend