Russia 2024 Travel Guide : ALL basic stuff you must know !

Russia 2024 Travel Guide : ALL basic stuff you must know !

Saint Basil church on the Red Square in Moscow, Russia

Russia streatches from the European Union’s borders all the way to the Pacific coast, 9000+ kilometers from Moscow. The largest country in the world still fascinates travellers in 2024.

Despite the political situation and warnings of Western gvernments, foreign tourists can visit the golden domes of Western Russian cities, explore high Caucasian villages, and see Siberia’s wilderness through a train window.

Following the 2022 sanctions, many things have changed for tourists in Russia and it’s easy to get lost in the sea of outdated and wrong informations.

I have put together the ultimate Russia travel guide with up-to date informations and relevant tips for 2024.

Last updated : 29/06/2024

The Radisson hotel at night by the Moskva river in Moscow in Russia with a sign for the ultimate Russia travel guide
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Why is this guide better than others you wonder ?

#1 because it isn’t outdated like most of the blog posts (and famous travel guide book’s websites) on Google’s top results.

#2 I have spend my 3 summer months of 2022 travelling in Russia (and more than a year of travel combined around the Federation). I’m going back this September. I write out of experience.

A travel guide for travellers by a traveller.

RUssia travel insurance

It’s mandatory to have an insurance to travel in Russia and apply for a russian visa (including the e-visa)

I recommend Attollo Assistance (24/7 assistance, medical expenses up to 35 000 €, repatriation)

Carte papier de la Russie avec une drapeau russe posé sur le côté
  • Population : about 147 millions inhabitants
  • Size : 17 millions km² (without the annexed territories)
  • Capital : Moscow
  • Official language : Russian
  • Other languages : There are hundreds of languages spoken across Russia. 37 are state languages ​​in the republics and 15 others have official status
  • Religions : Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Tengrism and Paganism
  • Currency : Russian ruble | ₽ | 1€ = 100₽
  • Federal subjects : 83 are internationally recognized : 46 oblasts, 21 republics, 9 krais, 4 okrugs, 2 federal cities and 1 autonomous oblast. 89 for Russian officials, with 5 territories considered by the international community to be illegally annexed : the Republic of Crimea, the federal city of Sevastopol, the DNR, the LNR, the Zaporozhye oblast, the Kherson oblast.
  • Time zones : 11
  • Territory division : Center, North-West, Caucasus, Volga region, Urals, Siberia and Far East
  • National Parks and Nature Reserves : 42 National Parks and 102 Nature Reserves
  • Western Sanctions : Thousands
Le terminal de départ de l'aéeroport Domodiedovo de Moscou en Russie

Are land borders open?

  • Abkhazia : yes
  • Azerbaijan : no, they have been closed since the pandemic but are due to open on October 1, 2024.
  • Belarus : no, it is illegal for citizens of third countries since there are no checkpoints between the two countries. You have to take a plane.
  • China : yes
  • Estonia : yes
  • Finland : all closed until further notice.
  • Georgia : yes
  • Kazakhstan : yes
  • Latvia : yes
  • Lithuania : yes
  • Mongolia : yes
  • Poland : yes
  • Ukraine : don’t even think about it

Entering by land

  • European Union : Lux Express connects (Finland), Estonia, Latvia to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The journey takes between 12 and 30 hours depending on the route.
  • Georgia : From the Didube bus station, marshrutkas leave daily for Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia – Alania. About 6 hours drive.
  • Azerbaijan : From Baku, you can either take a train or a bus to Dagestan.

Note: There are no longer any trains between the European Union and Russia.

Entering by air

Since the 2022 sanctions, no Western airlines travel to Russia and no Russian airlines are allowed in Europe. Here are some of the major countries and airlines flying to Russian international airports :

  • Armenia : Utair, Azymuth, S7 airlines, Armenia Airways, FlyOne Armenia
  • Egypt : Aeroflot, EgyptAir, Pegasus
  • Serbia : AirSerbia
  • Turkey : Turkish airlines, Pegasus, Aeroflot, Azymuth, Pobeda
  • United Arab Emirates : Fly Dubai, Yamal, Azur Air

    My top 5 best airlines to fly to Russia from Europe

For more information on airlines and flight booking platforms with/without a Russian bank card, read this post.

Un homme russe qui change de l'argent liquide au marché de Derbent au Daghestan dans le Caucase du Nord

Visa and Mastercard no longer work in Russia.

European money currency exchange offices (those at the airports also) don’t sell Russian rubles and nor any banks.

You must bring enough cash for the duration of your trip (Western Union no longer works either). The best currencies to take with you are either Euros or US Dollars. Both are very easy to exchange.

You will be able to exchange your money anywhere in Russian banks, legal exchange offices as well as in the black market on the street.

Today’s exchange rate :

They sell Russian rubles at airports outside of Europe, such as in Turkey and Armenia.

Note : if you are unable to find rubles before arriving in the country, ask the Russians people you are traveling with if they want to change even just €20. Enough to get you a taxi, bus or metro to the city center.

If you want to open a bank account in Russia and get a MIR card, read my step-by-step guide on How to get a Tinkoff card.

Des tentes dans les montagnes du Caucase du Nord en Russie

Hotels, hostels, guesthouses and even apartments, everything is available across the country, for all budgets.

Even a small town has at least one hotel (most likely very Soviet looking).

During peak season and public holidays, I advise you to book in advance.

Average prices:

Hostel : from 800 to 1200₽ P for a bed in a dormitory
Economy room in a hotel : 1500₽
Slightly more upscale hotel room : 3000₽ and more, Airbnb and all famous hotel booking platforms no longer work in Russia.

The two best alternatives to these platforms are :

  • Zenhotels : You can book accommodation and pay for the reservation online with a Visa or Mastercard.
  • Yandex travel : In my experience, prepayment with a Russian card is always required to book. On the other hand, there are more choices available.
Un mini van boukhanka qui roule sur le lac Baïkal gélé proche de l'ïle d'Olkhon en Sibérie en Russie


Traveling across Russia, between cities, is easy thanks to the incredible and second largest railway network in the world. Many trains run throughout the country.

Sleeper trains are quite comfortable (depending on your criteria). There are 2 bathrooms in each car, free hot water in the samovar (even in summer), a restaurant car (not always).

Third class : open carriage with 50 beds
Second class : 4 beds compartments
First class : 2 beds compartments (some even have showers).

There are high-speed trains between some cities such as Moscow – St. Petersburg or Krasnodar – Krasnaya Polyana (Sochi). As good as in Western countries.

Try to book in advance during peak season and public holidays. If you have a MIR bank card, book directly on the RZD national railway website, or with a foreign Visa/Mastercard on Russiantrain.

They are almost always on time (I have never had a late train in all my trips). Prices vary depending on destination, length of trip and time of year.


Buses complete the railway network, in the absence of trains or simply if they are full. There are long distance buses almost everywhere, e.g. Moscow – Makhchkala or Krasnodar – Sevastopol. It’s not the most comfortable or reliable way to travel due to traffic or otherwise.

Bookable only online if you have a MIR card or directly at the station. Supplement for luggage depending on the length of the trip.

Marchrutkas are mini-vans popular throughout the former USSR. They are faster than buses and in much better condition. They make short trips like to the next town but also long distances.

They can be found at the bus station or right next to it. A good option for border crossings, e.g. Grozny – Baku or Vladikavkaz – Tbilisi.


To book an international flight I recommend TravelUp and Kupi for a national flight with a Russian airline. Both work with foreign bankcards.

Flights are a popular mode of transportation for Russians because they are much faster than train travel. There are low cost companies which offer very good deals if you book at the right time, competing directly with trains.

For more details on booking flights, check out my detailed post here.


Without a doubt, Russian metros, especially Moscow’s, are the most impressive and efficient metros in the world.

The names of the stations are in latin characters in mant cities, you can buy a single ticket (around 56₽), top up a transport card (like the Troika card in Moscow) or use the contactless payment system of your Russian bank card.

City bus & Tram

Use Yandex Maps to find the right bus or tram number (Google Maps is useless) in every Russian city.

You can pay in cash, with the city transport card or with a MIR bank card. Sometimes there is a lady who collects the money, but they are becoming rare. Otherwise, pay directly to the driver or use the card reader with your local transport card or bank card.

The price of a bus ticket depends on the city. For example. in Moscow 56₽, in Sevastopol 26₽.


Yandex taxi is the country’s leading taxi service. Book directly on the app to avoid scams.

In Crimea, Yandex does not work, locals use Maxim instead.

Russian Blablacar

Edem (meaning “let’s go”) is the Russian version of Blablacar. It’s an interesting way to travel if the buses and trains are full. Some drivers travel HUGE distances across the country.


Hitchhiking is well known in Russia and legal. In remote parts of the country, it’s like hailing a taxi, locals give money to the driver. If you are hitchhiking for free in remote areas, make this clear to the driver before getting in to avoid any misunderstandings.

Personally, I just use my thumb and it works perfectly.

DO NOT accept a ride with a drunk driver. Avoid hitchhiking at night. Make sure you know where you’re heading (keep an eye on your phone’s GPS).

Some drivers travel thousands of kilometers.

For more information and links to transportation sites, check out my travel resources page here.

Des soldats de l'armée privée de Kadyrov à Grozny en Tchétchénie dans le Caucase du Nord

Scams & crime

There is no such thing as zero risk. However, I find that Russian cities and metros, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, are much safer than Paris for example.

A little common sense, don’t brag or tell anyone who will listen that you are a foreign with pockets full of cash and don’t walk around with luxury items.

In the train

Trains are very safe in Russia. Depending on where you are heading or passing through, you might see a few police officers passing in the train car from time to time.

Tip: Put your money and documents in the pillowcase when you sleep and always take them with you, if you go to the bathroom, dining car or anywhere else.


In Russia, corruption involving foreign tourists is very low. If this happens to you, don’t pay the policeman. Instead, make a scene, ask to be taken to the police station and it should end there.

Bribing an official is obviously illegal in Russia and I even dare say that as a foreigner you would be in a much worse position than a Russian citizen.


[Disclaimer : I am a white Westerner and I have never experienced racism in Russia]

Unfortunately racism is real. However, since the 2018 World Cup, I and my Russian friends have found that people seem more open to non-white foreigners.

If you are of Asian origin, you could be mistaken for someone from Central Asia and your passport could be checked by the police.

If you are of African, West Indian or mixed race origin, you will be noticed a lot. But people are getting used to it in big cities, there are a lot of African students for example

Most people who ask you for a picture don’t mean it in a bad way. Take this as an opportunity to meet locals.

If you are of Arab origin, some might think you are a rich arab from the Middle East. And apparently they have been welcome since the 2018 World Cup.

If you are Muslim, you will be very well received by people in predominantly Muslim regions of Russia. There are many of them across the country and huge communities in Moscow for example.

If you are Western, Russian people don’t hate us, obviously.


Avoid showing it. Russian society is very traditional. Men date women, a family is a husband and wife + children. Unfortunately, there is very little room for difference. If you are traveling with your same-sex partner, husband or wife, avoid public displays of affection.

Solo female tourist

Speaking from experience, sexual harassment is a rare thing in Russia. So rare that it never happened to me there. Even when I came back to my hotel alone late at night. This is something I would never do in a Western country including my own, but in Russia I feel safe enough to do it.

I always feel safe wherever I go alone: ​​subway, walking down the street at night, hiking solo in the mountains. Trust your common sense, just like anywhere else in the world.

Travel insurance

For a travel insurance valid for the Russian visa application, with medical expenses up to €35,000, repatriation and 24-hour assistance I recommend Attollo Assistance, which is the European branch of Ingosstrakh, one of the largest insurance companies in Russia. Click here to get yours.

Un visa russe dans un passeport européen

Russia issues visas to foreigners, including Westerners.

  • Regular tourist visa : Russian immigration services seem to issue tourist visas to anyone, regardless of their country of origin.
    I advise you to contact the Russian embassy/consulate directly in your country of origin if you come.
  • E-visa : Since August 2023, the e-visa has been available again for citizens of 56 countries including most of Europe. Single entry valid for 16 days throughout Russia.
  • Business visa : If you apply for it through an agency, the process seems to be as normal as the tourist visa.
  • My personal experience : I am a French national and I obtained a 3-month double entry tourist visa. The process took 12 days. Very easy and quick.

For more information on visas, read my guide.

Une personne qui utilise son smartphone

The 3 most popular phone operators in Russia are MTS, Megafon and Beeline.

You can easily buy a SIM card upon arrival, at the airports or in shops in each city center.

In my experience, Beeline works best for villages and more remote areas in the South. But if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’re unlikely to have any phone signal at all.

For city use, I find Megafon very good.

Example of what you can get for 650₽ – 10€ with Megafon: 20Gb of internet, 400 call minutes in Russia + some unlimited social networks like Telegram.

Tips: If you plan to travel throughout Russia, make sure the SIM card you buy works in other regions as well.

For more details, take a look at my SIM cards guide.

Crimea : watch out for roaming charges!

Crimea has its own mobile operators. If you haven’t bought a special package for Crimea with, say, MTS, they will charge you a lot and all your available data gone after a few minutes on Instagram.

These “special 2-week vacation plans in Crimea” are more expensive than getting a local SIM card on the peninsula.

You can buy one right out of the bus or train station in Crimea. For example, a lady sells Volna Mobile SIM cards in front of the door of the Sevastopol bus station. Impossible to miss, she has a table with stacks of SIM cards under a parasol.

Also, get a VPN for your trip. Read my guide about it.

Le mont Bolshoï Thach avec des rhododendrons fleuris dans les montagnes de la réserve du Caucase occidental dans le Caucase du Nord en Russie

Late spring to early fall is probably the best time to visit Russia if you fear the cold, but it’s more a matter of personal preference. Russia is a year-round destination.

Here are examples of great experiences depending on the season:

  • Winter : Lake Baikal is undoubtedly the most magical when it is frozen, Christmas vibes on Moscow’s Red Square, skiing in the Caucasus Mountains.
  • Spring : Maslenitsa and many national holidays especially if you want to see military parades.
  • Summer : Hiking in the flowery mountains : Altai, Urals or Caucasus. The White Nights of St. Petersburg.

    Babushka summer (Indian summer) as the locals call it is my favorite time in the South. Summer tourists have returned home in September, temperatures are much nicer, prices are lower and last minute plans are more feasible. This is the perfect time if you like outdoor activities.
  • Fall : Expect to see the first snow falls while traveling east in late October. Western Russia is covered in warm autumn colors for a little longer.
Un couple qui plannifie son voyage en Russie avec un ordinateur portable, une carte papier et tasses de cafés.

One to two weeks

The classic route : Moscow – Saint Petersburg – Kazan

First time in Russia? This is the best travel itinerary to get a good idea of ​​what the country has to offer.

From St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square to Kazan’s Sharif Mosque, visit some of the world’s best museums and art galleries, sample foods from across Russia, and see performances in splendid theaters.

High-speed trains between these cities and international flights + buses and to Moscow and Saint P.

The Caucasian route : Sochi – Grozny – Derbent

From the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. A very accessible route but off the beaten track. The North Caucasus will amaze you with its diversity of landscapes, faces, cuisines and languages.

Enjoy the Russian Riviera in Sochi, spend your morning at the beach and your afternoon in the mountains at the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana. Then head to Grozny to visit the Dubai of the Caucasus, see for yourself the real Chechnya that the media refuses to show. Finally, meet Russia’s most hospitable locals in Dagestan while visiting the ancient Silk Road city of Derbent.

International flights to Sochi, Grozny and Makhachkala. Bus from Tbilisi and bus + train from Baku.

The Siberian route : Irkutsk – Baikal – Ulan Ude

Explore Siberia’s historic past in the pleasant city of Irkutsk, discover Russia’s blue jewel Lake Baikal and the local myths and legends of Olkhon Island, finally take a train along the southern shores of the lake and discover the Buddhist culture of Ulan Ude mixed with Soviet architecture.

Flights from Moscow, trains from China and Mongolia.

The Russian Far East route : Vladivostock – Khabarovsk – Kamchatka

An adventure trip to discover the Russian Far East. Starting in Vladivotok, the surprisingly very western port city, head north to Khabarovk to see China across the Amur River. Fly to Kamchatka over the Sea of ​​Okhotsk and see Russia like you’ve never imagined it before, full of volcanoes and geyers.

Tip: Take a detour to Birobidjan and discover the very first Jewish state created.

One month or more

From the Golden Ring to the Arctic Circle : Moscow – Cities of the Golden Ring – Saint P – Murmansk

The classic route with a plus. Explore the highlights of Russia’s capitals, then head to some of the Golden Ring’s most magical historical cities like Suzdal, Vladimir, or Rostov Veliki. Finally, take the Arktika train above the Arctic Circle to Murmank on the Kola Peninsula, you may be able to see the Northern Lights if you travel in winter!

High-speed trains between Moscow and Saint P. International flights and buses to Moscow and Saint P.

The Transsiberian Railway : The Ultimate Adventure

From Moscow to Vladivostok, a 9 288 kilometers train journey to admire the wild nature of Siberia and see the largest freshwater lake in the world: Baikal. An epic and unique adventure to discover the real Russia, its incredible diversity of people and landscapes.

Read my complete beginner’s guide to the Transsiberian Railway to learn more.


Is it safe to travel to Russia now ?

Most western governments advise against all travel. However it is safe to travel to and in Russia right now. There is no armed conflict on russian soil. The country is huge, simply don’t hang out near the ukrainan border. Russia is as safe for tourists as any european country. I dare say, maybe even safer but of course petty crimes happen just like anywhere else. (Updated June 2024)

Are there still flights to Russia ?

Yes, there are still flights to Russia now, but not from any EU countries. You must fly via Serbia, Turkey, Armenia or Middle Eastern countries if travelling from the West. (Updated June 2024)

How many days is enough to visit Russia ?

Russia is the biggest country in the world. To visit the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, 5 days to a week is enough, but to visit other popular destinations such as Kazan, Sochi, cities in Siberia, one month is the minimum required.

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