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REd Square Moscow

Red Square, Moscow. Girls

Russia is by no means a dangerous country to visit. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of visits go without a hitch – assuming that you avoid such flashpoints as Chechnya and the Ukranian border. However, given that the Russian language and culture is somewhat alien to many foreign visitors, and taking into account the vagaries of the Russian landscape and climate, it is just as well to bear a few things in mind which could help to keep you safe, comfortable, and healthy during your trip! Emergency Services In the unlikely event that you should experience an emergency situation while in Russia, knowing the emergency services numbers could be vital. Since 2012, Russia has used ‘112’ as a catch-all emergency phone number – although the system is not quite up and running in remoter regions. In such areas, there is a series of five simple numbers which can be used to access specific services. These are as follows:

  • 01 – Fire service
  • 02 – Police
  • 03 – Ambulance
  • 04 – Gas service
  • 05 – Anti-terrorism squad

Beware The Water Perhaps the health hazard which trips up most foreign visitors is something relatively innocuous: the tap water. Even Russians do not drink Russian water directly from the tap. The pipes in St Petersburg in particular are very old, and poorly maintained. It’s fine to shower in or to boil and make tea from, for example, and it shouldn’t cause you any problems if you ingest a splash or so. However, drinking a mug of the stuff might make you feel a bit sick, which could put a bit of a damper on your vacation for a day! For drinking, and for things like brushing your teeth, use bottled water instead. Luckily, bottled water is not hard to come by in Russian cities. Be Careful Around Traffic If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, particularly in Moscow, it’s a very good idea to make sure that your travel insurance covers car accidents – even if you’re not planning to drive a car! Russian traffic is notorious for being something of a law unto itself, and driver behavior leaves something to be desired. Driver arrogance is often blamed for Moscow’s chronic traffic jam problem and high number of annual road rage incidents. Pedestrians crossing the road would do well to be aware of the risks with interacting with Russian traffic. Pedestrians do not have right of way in Russia. Unfortunately, if you are hit by a vehicle you may wake up in hospital to find an angry driver demanding your insurance details for damaging their car. The law, furthermore, would support the driver – being injured by a car is generally considered the fault of the pedestrian for being stupid enough to walk out in front of the car in the first place. If you’re going to be walking by traffic, therefore, be very aware of what’s going on around you. It’s not unknown for cars to come up onto the sidewalks if the drivers feel that it may aid their journey! Know Your Vodka Beware of any vodka which doesn’t have a label. Russians are well known for their love of vodka – and some of them aren’t too picky about what they make it with. Bootleg vodka can be cut with anything from shoe polish to medical disinfectant, and causes the deaths of many Russians each year. This doesn’t mean that you have to refuse every shot of vodka offered you. After all, it wouldn’t be a real trip to Russia if you didn’t sink a few vodkas! Just make sure that you know where the vodka has come from before you throw it down your throat. Better still, buy it yourself from a reputable dealer. Russian liquor stores are crammed full of good brands of vodka which will give you the Russian vodka experience without doing more than the usual amount of damage! Communicate Effectively Finally, here are a few phrases which may help you in the event of an emergency:

  • Pomogitye! – Help!
  • Pozar! – Fire!
  • Vor! – Thief!
  • Militziya! – Call the police!
  • Vracha! – Call a doctor!
  • Skorooyo! – Call an ambulance!
  • S Vami vsye normalno? – Are you ok?
  • Mnye noozyen vrach – I need a doctor
  • Mnye plokho – I feel sick
  • Gdye blizayshaya aptyeka? – Where is the nearest pharmacy?
  • Eto srochno! – It is urgent!
  • Zdyes bolt – It hurts here
  • Mozyetye pomoch? Can you help me?

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Fed up with the usual annual trip to the Costa something or other? Why not plan something a bit more special and take a trip to Russia? Many still think of Russia as being positioned well behind the iron curtain, but hop on a plane in London and you could be stepping off in Moscow in as little as four hours!

Russia, with a population of around 145,000,000 has a long history and a rich and diverse culture. Everyone is familiar with the unique architecture of the Kremlin, and the sense of a bygone era experienced when standing in Red Square gazing at the amazing views is almost palpable. Images of Lenin and Stalin, of Rasputin and revolts inundate the mind like a uniquely original adaptation of Doctor Zhivago or Fiddler on the Roof.

Food

Asked to associate a food with Russia and most will say ‘Borshch’ or ‘Caviar’. However, there is so much more than the famous beetroot soup and the eggs from the sturgeon, even though both are world renowned. Other well-known favourites include chicken Kiev, Pelmeny (pastry covered balls of minced-meat) and beef stroganov. As Russia is a country associated with long, harsh winters, the majority of dishes are meaty, designed to fill the stomach and warm the cockles.

Drink

The history of vodka in Russia dates back to the 10th century when, it is believed, Prince Vladimir chose Christianity over Islam in order to drink alcohol. Some historians state that it dates to the 15th century when monks learned the craft of distillation. Like whisky, vodka was used by early doctors as an antiseptic and to help alleviate pain during surgery. Whatever the true origins are, Russians need little excuse to break out a bottle or three, and it remains the favourite tipple drunk at birthdays, weddings and funerals, of which there certainly seems to be a lot of.

Travel

Russia is a huge country and this means that visitors have to carefully plan their journey well in advance. It is extremely worthwhile checking out a reliable website for and up-to-date information and advice on what to do and see. Just go Russia is such a site and it offers all sorts of helpful hints on where to go and what to do. The national tourist board also gives advice on Visas. Remember that winters are exceptionally cold, so only go during that time if lots of snow and ice combined with below freezing temperatures conjures up images of fun.

St. Petersburg

One place well worth a visit is St. Petersburg. An entire vacation could be spent in this marvellous city without scratching the surface of her hidden attractions. However, any visitor should make an effort to see at least one of the world-famous imperial palaces which have housed the Emperors of Russia since Peter the Great. Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof are favourites.

Take a train

The Trans-Siberian Railway can be used to get from Moscow to Vladivostok, Beijing, Japan or Korea and tourists can board the train in London. From Moscow, the train to Vladivostok usually takes around seven days, although slower trains take nine. It is possible to take even longer and stay at pre-arranged stops along the way. The distance between Moscow and Vladivostok is 9,258 km or 6,152 miles. Trains comprise of both first and second class berths. It is also possible to board the train in St. Petersburg.

Safety

The wise traveller prepares for any eventuality and, although adherence to the well-worn tourist trail should ensure relative safety, there are always gangs on the prowl for unwary tourists. Falling ill or being robbed of your money, passport or other personal belongings is always a major concern for any traveller, so it is of utmost importance that some sort of insurance policy be taken out prior to departure. The needless stress of worrying about what to do in the event of an emergency can easily be averted by taking out a policy with a reputable company. The last thing you ever want to do on vacation is burden yourself with unnecessary worry. Russia is a huge country and the police are not always able to supply help. Especially in rural areas, communication may prove to be a problem. It is therefore essential to take the necessary precautions in order to avert potential problems.

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