Russia is a country that appeals to the imagination with its colorful buildings that reflect a turbulent history. So big that it is partly in Europe and partly in Asia.
The start of our world trip and the Transmongolia Express. Our stops in Russia are Moscow and Irkoetsk (Lake Baikal). By traveling by train through Russia you can really see how large and diverse this country is. You travel through different time zones and different landscapes.
Before you go
To travel to Russia you need to apply for a visa. In order to submit the application, you need an English statement from your health insurance company and an invitation in addition to the visa form itself. Add a passport photo to the package and the package is complete. You can fill in the visa form online.
Getting money in Russia isn’t that easy. Although most ATMs accept most cards, you need to be aware of some places. When we arrived in Moscow, our taxi driver pointed out that ATMs with purple lighting aren’t safe. The reason is unclear since his English was really bad. We did take his warnings and didn’t use those ATMs.
Most restaurants, public transport, and shops accept cards and cash.
They have rubles and kopecks. 1 ruble is 100 kopecks. The kopeks coins are 1, 5, 10, and 50 kopecks. The ruble has four coins: 1, 2, 5, and 10. The ruble bank notes are 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000.
Russians pay with cash less and less. Online payments, cards, and mobile apps are widely used and available. Some coins are already disappeared or are very rare.
Making contact in Russia
Russians love to talk. They are examples of conversation and social behavior. In the big cities, they speak decent English. But in the smaller cities and countryside, they sometimes don’t even know what English is. Don’t be afraid when a Russian wants to talk. Just give it a try.
We took the Transmonglian Express from Moscow to Beijing. Here we met a lot of Russians. Although most don’t speak English they put a lot of effort into trying to have a conversation.
When two Russians meet on the train for the first time, they act as if they are the closest brothers. People flirt on the train a lot too. It’s a whole different city if you look at it.
Apart from drinking, which you usually see and hear on the internet, Russians love to converse. You see them talk everywhere. They are friendly and helpful.
Even if you want to enter a building with all kinds of not-so-friendly-looking young people. They open the door and even want to help you carry your luggage (when you carry your own, they are still friendly).
If you enter a hostel or someone’s house, be sure to take off your shoes before you enter the building. It’s a common thing. If you keep your shoes on, they might get a bit angry.
Russians love bread. With most meals, you get a piece of bread. Maybe it’s to drain the grease from the food, I don’t know but sounds logical.
Food in Russia
Everyone has heard of Borscht. And when I am writing this, I realize we didn’t try it!
Russian food is heavy. Mostly meat with potatoes and veggies. If you want something different, don’t worry. Cities have plenty of restaurants with different cuisines.
Besides meals, Russians love pastry and other sweets. There are small bakeries everywhere. In most stores, you can find sweet candy.
At the train stations, you find stalls that sell all kinds of food. From bread to dried fish.
Our route through Russia - 3 weeks
We landed in Moscow, where we stayed for one and a half weeks. Here we visited the Kremlin, Red Square, Arbat, Alexandrovsky Garden, and GOeM. We wandered through the city. The weather wasn’t the best, but it was still doable.
Then we took the Transmongolian Express to Irkoetsk. A two-week trip with some stops. We didn’t really get off in terms of a hotel or a few days. 4 days on a train is too much. Our advice: Add a stop between Moscow and Irkoetsk. Find the 103rd district, which is a nice, typical Russian shopping street.
Irkoetsk is a nice smaller city with a nice city center. It isn’t big, but there is plenty to do. There is this green line through the city. If you follow that you will see all the highlights of the city. Find the
Our 3 favorites things to do
It’s not just this square, but the history – mostly violent – that has taken place here. From this square, you can see Lenin’s Mausoleum and Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
Around the square, you’ll find shopping malls and restaurants. Plan your visit, since the square can be closed due to festivals or other activities.
After Moswoc Irkoetsk is a nice, peaceful city. Follow the green line to see all the highlights and visit the city center park.
Food isn’t that expensive and all kind of food is available. Wander around the small streets and see the differences between poor and rich.
Although I already mentioned Irkoetsk, the 103rd district is a bit special. It’s very different from the other areas in this city.
Here you will find shops, restaurants, and much more. A lot of locals hang around here, which gives you a more relaxed feeling; you are part of this piece of Russia.