Russia is one of the most fascinating and wondrous countries in the world. Traveling to cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg is often a life-changing and eye-opening experience, and most people who visit Russia once can’t wait to go back for a second time.
As beautiful and mesmerizing as Russia is, it’s definitely a country where you have to have your wits about you. Because the country is so huge and a lot of locals don’t speak English, you have to do a little extra work to make sure you get the best out of your trip. Check out these 10 common errors you don’t want to make your first time in Russia.
10 Expecting Standard Opening Times To Apply
One of the biggest mistakes you can make while traveling to any destination is assuming everything will be exactly the same as it is back home. In Russia, several things will be totally different from how they are in your home country. One of these is the opening times of attractions such as museums and churches.
According to Elle Croft, it’s a good idea to research the opening times of the attractions on your bucket list so you don’t plan on going when the attraction is closed. For example, Lenin’s Mausoleum is closed on Mondays and Fridays.
9 Not Wearing Layers In Winter
A lot of first-time travelers to Russia really underestimate how cold Russian winters can be. If you are traveling in the winter, don’t make the mistake of not bringing the correct clothing. Please dress for the weather by layering up!
The beauty of layers is that you can remove them when spending long periods of time indoors, where the heating is on. In many places in Russia, they will expect to take your coat when you arrive. Dress like the locals by wearing lots of layers that will keep you warm and can still be removed.
8 Planning Small Lunches And Big Dinners
In many western countries, meals tend to follow a pattern where lunch is something small and dinner is the biggest meal of the day. But in Russia—and in many other countries throughout Europe—the opposite is true. Lunch is actually considered the biggest meal.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to plan larger lunches and smaller dinners. You’ll find that more food might be available at lunchtime, especially if you plan on leaving the big cities. Also, be sure to sample as many delicious Russian dishes as you can during your larger lunches!
7 Leaving Your Shoes On Inside Someone’s Home
Russia is similar to some Asian countries in that leaving your shoes on when you enter someone’s home is a big no-no. According to Wander Lusting K, it’s considered the height of rudeness to wear your shoes inside someone’s house. If you’re invited back to a local’s house, be sure to remove your shoes at the door.
In most cases, slippers will be provided for you that you can wear in the house, or you can bring your own. Walking around in socks might also be unacceptable if the socks have holes in them.
6 Forgetting To Learn Any Russian Or The Cyrillic Alphabet
We can’t stress the importance of learning a few words in the local language of your destination before traveling. In Russia, this is extremely important. A lot of the time, people in your destination will speak English anyway, and learning some of the local language is just a courtesy. In Russia (particularly outside the major cities), a lot of people won’t speak English, so this will be a necessity.
It’s also a good idea to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, whether you're traveling to Russia or anywhere else in Eastern Europe. This is so you can read menus and signs and don’t have to rely on locals to translate.
5 Underestimating The Size Of Russia And Its Cities
Most people don’t really understand just how big Russia is until they travel there. It’s important to keep in mind how large the country is so you don’t plan to do too much in too little time. Remember that there may be lengthy travel times between destinations and to always allow enough time to get there.
Moscow is the largest city on the continent of Europe, so it’s a good idea to book accommodation centrally where you’ll be close to the main sights you want to see. Don’t underestimate how long it can take to get from one place in Moscow to the other.
4 Relying On Google Maps
A lot of travelers rely on Google Maps when navigating through destinations they’re not familiar with. While Google Maps may help you out in some places, it isn’t that helpful in Russia. Even though Google does work, Google Maps tends to not show you the information you really need.
Instead, use Yandex Maps. This is the Russian version of Google Maps that you can pre-download onto your phone before you go. These maps will be more accurate than the Google equivalent. Also, you don’t have to speak Russian to use them!
3 Being Underdressed
If you want to fit in with the locals while in Russia, most seasoned travelers recommend dressing up rather than down. There are certain countries where you can get away with wearing your house clothes in public, but Russia isn’t one of them.
Wherever you’re going, always remember to dress the part (if you want to fit in!). At home, you might not think to get dressed up when going out to dinner or to the theater, but Russians tend to dress up nicely for places like this.
2 Being Too Afraid To Use The Metro System
When you first arrive in a city like Moscow, it can seem intimidating to try using the Metro system. Instead, you might want to catch a taxi. But don’t be afraid to use the metro system because it’s often faster and cheaper.
The other reason why you should use the metro, especially in Moscow, is because the stations are incredibly impressive. Some tourists end up using the metro just to soak up the beauty of the stylish stations! This is a unique Russian experience that you don’t want to miss out on.
1 Not Being Aware Of Your Surroundings
Though Russia has a reputation for being unsafe, most travelers who have been will tell you that it’s not any less safe than other more popular destinations in Europe. You just have to be aware of your surroundings, just like you have to be aware of your surroundings no matter where you go.
Don’t leave cash hanging out of your pocket. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. If someone stands close to you, don’t be too afraid to walk away. Don’t leave your bags unattended. As long as you follow these common-sense rules, you’ll drastically reduce your chances of being pickpocketed in Russia.