Train travel
in Australasia

The most usual (and easiest) route from Europe to China is via the classic Trans-Siberian Railway, shown in blue on the map below. But there is another route now open to foreigners, the so-called Silk Route via Kazakhstan, shown on the map in yellow. Let’s be clear, if you want to travel between Europe and China, the main Trans-Siberian route is faster and easier to arrange, both in terms of visas and train tickets – for a start, just one Trans-Siberian train will get you all the way from Moscow to Beijing. The Silk route will take a little more thought and organisation, with more visas, train tickets and stopovers to arrange. However, this page will explain routes, train times, costs and how to buy tickets. You can also use trains to reach Central Asia from Europe and Moscow.

Step 1, London – Moscow – This is the first step, with daily trains taking 48 hours.

Step 2, Moscow – Almaty or Astana (Kazakhstan) – This is the direct option, take this route if you want to head straight for China.

Moscow – Bishkek (Kyrgistan)

Moscow – Tashkent (Uzbekistan) – Alternatively, take this train if you want to start by visiting Uzbekistan.

Tashkent – Samarqand – Bokhara & Urgench for Khiva – Trains link Tashkent with 3 of Uzbekistan’s most remarkable cities.

Tashkent – Almaty

Step 3, Almaty or Astana – �r�mqi – The next step on the route to China.

Step 4, �r�mqi- Xian – Beijing – The final train ride into Xian & Beijing.

Update: Trains to Russia were suspended due to Covid-19 and remain suspended due to sanctions. International trains to/from China are also suspended due to Covid-19. This route is currently not viable.

Route map.

Route map - Moscow to Central Asia to China by train

London – Moscow.

You can travel from London to Moscow by train, for times, fares, how to buy tickets and Russian visa information, see the London to Russia page. Direct sleeper trains run to Moscow from Paris, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Berlin, Budapest, Helsinki and many other cities, go to this page and select your starting city, then select Moscow. You will usually need a Belarus transit visa as well as your Russian tourist visa, see the visa section on the Russia page.

Trains to Russia were suspended due to Covid-19 and remain suspended due to sanctions.

Moscow – Almaty & Astana (Kazakhstan).

Trains link Moscow with both Almaty and Astana in Kazakhstan. A direct train links Moscow with Astana every 2nd day. The time-honoured direct Moscow-Almaty train Kazakhstan was sadly discontinued in June 2017 (nobody knows what RZD is playing at here), but it’s still possible to travel between Moscow and Almaty with a change at Saratov as shown below. Or you can travel from Moscow to Astana then Astana to Almaty, which may be better.

Moscow ► Almaty & Astana

Almaty & Astana ► Moscow

The best place to confirm days of running & times, including times of border crossings (and therefore entry dates for visa purposes) is at the Russian Railways site www.rzd.ru, or using the Real Russia online system below.

The Saratov times shown above are Moscow time. Local time is one hour head of Moscow time.

UPDATE: After decades of running to Moscow time, from 1 August 2018 trains are shown in local time on Russian timetables, usually with the difference from Moscow time shown in brackets, for example (MCK +5).

Train 7 & 8: Kup� (4-berth) and platskartny (open plan berths). There are no 2-berth sleepers. Southbound, train 8 departs Saratov on even dates (2nd, 4th, 6th etc of each month). Northbound, train 7 departs Almaty also on even-numbered dates. The train passes from Russia into Kazakhstan, but briefly transits another part of Russia before re-entering Kazakhstan. However, it is reported that you just need single-entry visa for Russia to travel on this train. Multiple-entry visas are not required for this. In fact, this Kazak visa question may have been resolved completely, as Kazakhstan has removed the need for UK & some other nationalities to get a visa from 2014 onwards -please check the latest Kazak visa situation. Moscow to Almaty is 4,017 km in total.

Train 17: A Russian domestic firmeny (quality) train with spalny vagon (2-berth), kup� (4-berth) and platskartny.

Trains 83 & 84: Train 84 leaves Moscow’s Kazanski station on even-numbered dates (2nd, 4th, 6th etc of each month). Train 83 leaves Astana on even-numbered dates. The train has kup� (4-berth sleepers) & platskartny (open plan dormitory cars) plus restaurant car. There are now no 2-berths, but you can book 4 tickets in a 4-berth to have sole occupancy for one or two of you. Moscow to Astana is 3,105 km.

Fares: Moscow to Astana costs around �247 in kup�, booked with Real Russia.

How to buy tickets: You can book train travel in Russia, including this train, through several reputable Russian agencies, including:

You can make arrangements for trains, hotels and tours in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan through local agencies such as www.tourasia.kz. You will need Russian tourist visa for this journey (by all means double-check, but at the time I write this Kazakhstan no longer requires UK & some other nationals to get a visa. For information on Russian visas, see the visa section on the Russia page.

What are the trains like?

Moscow-Almaty better via Astana than direct? Traveller Chris Nuttall suggests going Moscow-Almaty via Astana: “I travelled from London to Almaty (Kazakhstan) and back last autumn (2009). On the return journey I travelled via Astana and as a result made the journey from Almaty to London in under 5 days, about 13 hours quicker than using the (then) direct train from Almaty to Moscow. I departed Almaty 2 station at 19:28 on the daily Talgo overnight train to Astana (train number 1/2) and travelled in Platskartny which consisted of 4 berth compartments, the same as the ‘Tourist class’ on the Spanish railways own Talgo sleeper trains, rather than the usual Russian semi-open carriages. According to my sister, who lives in Almaty and has used this train on a number of occasions, this service has a reputation for arriving punctually, unlike many other trains in Kazakhstan. I then used train 83/84 to Moscow as shown on your site. As well as being quicker and giving me the opportunity to explore Astana for a few hours, this route only crosses the Russia / Kazakhstan border once. I know you mention that only single entry visas are required for train 7/8, but I couldn’t find further information on this, so my chosen route gave me added peace of mind.”

Moscow – Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).

A train called the Kirgizia links Moscow with Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, with 4-berth sleepers & restaurant car. No 2-berth sleepers.

Moscow ► Bishkek

Bishkek ► Moscow

The best place to confirm days of running & times, including times of border crossings (and therefore entry dates for visa purposes) is at the Russian Railways site www.rzd.ru, or using the Real Russia online system below.

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Fares: Moscow to Bishkek costs �295 in 4-berth kup�, booked with Real Russia. Check days of running using the Real Russia online system below.

How to buy tickets: You can book this train in either direction Real Russia online system below.

Train corridor The Moscow to Bishkek train
The Moscow to Bishkek train

Moscow – Tashkent (Uzbekistan).

There is a train running 3 times a week from Moscow to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. This is the Uzbekistan, with Spalny Vagon (2-berth sleepers), kup� (4-berth sleepers) and platskartny (open plan dormitory car) plus restaurant car. The train passes from Russia into Kazakhstan then it enters Uzbekistan.

Moscow ► Tashkent

Tashkent ► Moscow

The best place to confirm days of running & times, including times of border crossings (and therefore entry dates for visa purposes) is at the Russian Railways site www.rzd.ru, or using the Real Russia online system below.

Fares: Moscow to Tashkent costs around �415 in 4-berth kup� or �461 in 2-berth spalny vagon, booked with Real Russia.

How to buy tickets: You can book train travel in Russia, including this train, through several reputable Russian agencies, including:

Visas: You will need a Russian tourist visa and Uzbekistan tourist visa for this journey. For information on Russian visas, see the visa section on the Russia page. By all means check the latest Kazak visa situation but at the time I write this Kazakhstan no longer requires UK & some other nationals to get a visa.

You can make arrangements for trains, hotels and tours in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan through local agencies such as www.tourasia.kz or www.advantour.com.

Life on board the Uzbekistan: The corridor, a 4-berth sleeper compartment, and food in the restaurant car.

Travellers’ reports.

Traveller Jeff Mortelette travelled Tashkent to Moscow in 2016: “The boarding arrangements were crazy. We arrived an hour early and made our way to the security check. There were tons of people pushing to get in. I think there was another train leaving right before us, so a lot of people were trying to get on that train. We waited in line for about half an hour before we realized we needed to start pushing our way to the front if we wanted to catch the train. We finally got through with about 10 minutes to spare and hustled to the platform. We got on our car with a few minutes to spare.

The train left Tashkent at 18:50. About half an hour later we spent 80 minutes at the border while Uzbek border patrol went though. They had me open some bags and answer some questions about where I was going and why. They spoke no English. We went for 20 more minutes and did the same thing with the Kazak border control. It was pretty similar when we left Kazakhstan/entered Russia. We only entered Russia once.

On the train there were a few power sockets. One at each end and one in the middle, but none in our cabin. A nice feature is each car had shot water dispenser people used for noodles or tea. We also had one employee of the train assigned to each car and ours was really helpful, especially when crossing borders.

There was a restaurant car that served Uzbek staples: plov, lagman, and dumplings. In addition sometimes people would go by our cabin and sell the food the restaurant cooked. My friend and I got two bowls of plov and scopula beers for around $7. It was pretty good for plov, but there was not much variety. We paid in Kazak Tenge, but you could also pay in som or rubles. It would help to not carry big bills; I couldn’t use my 10,000 Tenge note. In addition to he food on the train, many stops of at least 20 minutes had places you could buy food. Mostly crackers, potato chips, candy bars, water and soda, and uncooked ramen noodles. Each car of the train had a place where you could get hot water that many people used for tea and ramen noodles. In Samara, we could find more food for sale: cheese, bread, sausage. In general the closer we got to Moscow the more choices we had when we stopped.”

Tashkent – Samarkand – Bokhara – Urgench (for Khiva): See the Uzbekistan page.

For train service within Uzbekistan, linking Tashkent, Samarkand, Bokhara & Urgench, see the Uzbekistan page.

Tashkent – Almaty

Update: There were plans for a twice-weekly Tashkent-Almaty train to start some time in 2017, though it’s not clear if this ever started. Tashkent depart 15:10 Tuesdays & Sundays, arriving Almaty 08:51 next day. Almaty depart 22:30 on Mondays & Saturdays arriving Tashkent at 13:47 next day. The train will use modern articulated Talgo cars, with Grand Class sleepers (1 or 2 berth compartments with shower & toilet), Business Class (1 or 2 berth compartments with washbasin) and Tourist (4-berth sleepers with washbasin).

There are reportedly two infrequent direct trains between these cities, one running once a week departing Tashkent at 17:22 on Wednesdays taking 24 hours, and another running every 4 days, but please check locally. It’s also possible to go by train on other days with a change at Arys, or by train+bus via Chimkent. Use www.poezda.net to check train times. Traveller Helmut Uttenthaler reports “It’s possible to go by train with changing at Arys. We did this, we had 53 minutes for our connection from daily train 23 (to Aktjubinsk) to the twice-weekly train 381 (Ufa – Tashkent). Although train 23 left Almaty with 40 minutes delay, we arrived at Arys on time. The connecting train was also on time, so no problem. However, getting tickets in advance from Arys to Tashkent on train 381can be difficult. Free places for getting on at Arys are very rare and appear in the “express” booking system only a few days before departure (as the train comes from Ufa in Russia). We were three people, and when we booked our trip to Arys 8 days ahead it was not yet possible to buy tickets from Arys to Tashkent. Some days later (4 days ahead) we tried it again and now just 3 free places appeared for Arys-Tashkent. Two in platskartny, one in kup�. We bought all of them. However, if we had failed to buy tickets or had missed our connection we would have made the way from Arys to Tashkent by taxi, as it’s only about 150 km. From locals we heard that they usually take the train to Chimkent and from there a bus to Tashkent. But we wanted to go by train all the way.”

Almaty & Astana (Kazakhstan) – �r�mqi (China)

Direct train twice a week.

Two trains per week link Almaty in Kazakhstan with �r�mqi in China, one using the original route through Druzhba/Alashankou, the other via the new much shorter route through Horgos/Altynkol. One train per week carries through cars Astana-�r�mqi. One set of carriages is Kazak with 2-berth and 4-berth sleepers, the other set Chinese with modern air-conditioned soft class 4-berth sleeper compartments and hard class open-plan bunks. A Kazak restaurant car runs Almaty to the border, and a Chinese restaurant car runs from the border to �r�mqi. If you use this route, please let me know!

Update: International trains to/from China remain suspended due to Covid-19.

Astana, Almaty ► �r�mqi

�r�mqi ► Almaty, Astana

One train is operated by Kazakhstan Railways, the other by Chinese Railways. Astana is now also known as Nur-Sultan.

Which station in Urumqi? There are two main stations in Urumqi, plain Urumqi which opened in 2016 just northwest of the city centre (see map), and Urumqi Nan (see map) which is the original Urumqi station, south of the city centre, and confusingly called plain Urumqi until 2014. These trains use the new Urumqi station. Urumqi has an unofficial local time 2h behind normal Chinese time, but the times shown above for Urumqi are all the official Beijing time zone used by the railways.

Check your train times & dates carefully using the Real Russia online system below or (for journeys starting in China) as times and days of running have changed regularly over the years, and there is much conflicting information online depending where you look. You can get more definitive info at the Kazakhstan Railways online timetable at https://epay.railways.kz but you need to be clever with cutting and pasting Cyrillic place names алматы for Almaty and урумги for Urumqi.

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Fares: Almaty to �r�mqi costs around �123 in 4-berth or �138 in 2-berth, booked with Real Russia.

How to buy tickets: You can book these trains using the Real Russia online system below for eastbound journeys or www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains (click International Train from China above the journey planner) for westbound journeys.

Traveller’s report.

Traveller Tom Earwaker reports: “Departure was 23:14 on Monday 14/10/19, Beijing time. Note that there’s an unofficial local time in Urumqi, 2 hours behind Beijing, but train times are all in Beijing time. The train had around 10 carriages, I only counted about 18 people getting on! I had a 4-berth compartment to myself up to the border crossing and there was a nice German couple in the next compartment. It was an old train, but clean and comfortable, with bedding and hot water provided. Got to the China side of the border around 9am where security checked passport, looked around compartment and asked some questions about reason for travelling, where we went in China, etc. Got off the train 09:30 with luggage, more questioning (about purpose of visit, my job, and whether I liked China!), luggage search and they took fingerprints. They also looked though the photos on my phone for quite a while and the books on my kindle. It was quite thorough, but they weren’t unfriendly about it. Back on the train and left the station around 11:00, reaching the Kazakh side of the border at 11:20 (09:20 Kazakh time) There was 1.5hr of security checking passport, checking bags, questioning and waiting, all carried out on the train. Then we had to get off the train for another 1.5hr and wait at Druzhba station while they changed the wheels over. There was a small cafe at the station serving typical Russian/Kazakh food (Borscht, Samsa, Plov etc.) and I was able to exchange Yuan for Tenge at the station’s convenience store (also a bank nearby with similar exchange rate). We left at 12:40 Kazakh time, and the train very quickly filled up over the next few stops. Arrived in Almaty 2 station at 05:50 next morning (16/10/19).”

�r�mqi – Xian – Beijing

All these trains have soft & hard sleepers and most have a restaurant car, see the Train Travel in China page for general information about trains in China. There are other trains available between �r�mqi and Xian and between Xian and Beijing, see the Train Travel in China page.

FAQ: How to travel to and from Russia right now

A girl holds a kitten in her arms in one of the terminals at Vnukovo international airport

Russia has significantly eased the restrictions for travel to and from the country in August 2020, but the situation regarding international flights is still causing problems owing to quarantine restrictions.

Who can enter Russia

At the time of writing, Russia has opened its borders for citizens of the following countries:

  • Abkhazia
  • Belarus
  • Great Britain
  • Tanzania
  • Turkey

Citizens of these countries can freely enter and leave Russia subject to visa regulations. That is, citizens of the UK, Tanzania and Turkey need to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Russia. As for Abkhazia and Belarus, Russia has a visa-free regime with these countries.

People near an information board at Terminal B at the Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow during the pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), july 21,2020

People near an information board at Terminal B at the Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow during the pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), july 21,2020

Additionally, on August 2, 2020 Russia opened its borders for Swiss nationals, but international flights to and from Switzerland will only resume on August 15. Flights will be operated once a week on the Moscow-Geneva-Moscow route.

Nationals of other states can also enter Russia if they:

    are family members of Russian citizens (family members include spouses, parents, children, carers and guardians). Grandparents and siblings are not included on the list. When applying for a visa, you will need to provide documents showing proof of kinship;

There are several categories of foreign nationals to whom Russia has not prohibited entry. They include:

  • Diplomats;
  • Employees of consular establishments in the Russian Federation;
  • Truck drivers delivering goods to Russia;
  • Members of official delegations and persons who hold official visas;
  • Aircraft crews, sea and river vessel crews and train and locomotive crews of international railway services.

In all other cases, crossing the border of the Russian Federation will be regarded as illegal. People violating this law can be fined up to 200,000 rubles (approx. $2,668) or face compulsory labor or imprisonment for up to two years.

No travel without a certificate

Passengers queue for rapid COVID-19 testing launched at Vnukovo International Airport with the use of testing kits developed by the Russian-Japanese joint venture Evotech-Mirai Genomics. The results are issued in 60min in Russian and English, August 7,2020

Passengers queue for rapid COVID-19 testing launched at Vnukovo International Airport with the use of testing kits developed by the Russian-Japanese joint venture Evotech-Mirai Genomics. The results are issued in 60min in Russian and English, August 7,2020

On July 27, 2020, Anna Popova, the head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), signed an instruction under which all foreigners coming to Russia must, on boarding their flight, have a certificate confirming they have tested negative for Covid-19.

The certificate must be issued no more than three days prior to arrival in Russia and the document can be printed in either Russian or English.

There is no longer a mandatory two-week period of self-isolation on arrival in Russia – Popova lifted that requirement from July 15, 2020.

Traveling out of Russia

People who have arrived from New York City on an Aeroflot - Russian Airlines flight, carry their luggage at the arrivals area of Sheremetyevo International Airport. June 17.2020

People who have arrived from New York City on an Aeroflot – Russian Airlines flight, carry their luggage at the arrivals area of Sheremetyevo International Airport. June 17.2020

The following categories of citizens can also travel out of the country:

  • Persons with dual nationality;
  • Persons with permanent residency in another country;
  • Citizens in possession of a work visa or a visa issued for medical treatment in another country.

Resumption of air travel and flight cancellations

Despite the lifting of restrictions on travel to and from Russia, Russian passenger airlines have started to experience problems with international flights.

From early June, the Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot was selling tickets for flights from Moscow to dozens of cities, including Frankfurt am Main, Paris, London, New York, Rome, Seoul and Tel Aviv.

Another large airline, S7, is also operating flights from Moscow to Alicante and Nice, and promised to resume flights to Turkey from August 10.

Aeroflot was suspected of illegally selling tickets to countries with which air links remain restricted. This was pointed out by the Federal Antimonopoly Service.

As a result, on August 6, 2020, Aeroflot announced the cancellation of practically all of its international flights. A full list of cities to which the airline will not be operating flights up untilAugust 31 has been published on the air carrier’s website.

A stewardess wait outside the Sheremetyevo A.S. Pushkin international airport following the easing of the coronavirus restrictions, outside Moscow, Russia

A stewardess wait outside the Sheremetyevo A.S. Pushkin international airport following the easing of the coronavirus restrictions, outside Moscow, Russia

According to the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency’s (Rosaviatsiya) website, the majority of Russian airlines are primarily planning to resume flights to Turkey, which is a popular summer vacation destination among Russians.

“The number of regular and charter flights to Turkey is to be significantly increased from August 10. Russian carriers Sibir, Ural Airlines, Royal Flight, Nordwind Airlines, Azur Air, Rossiya Airlines and iFly are all planning to commence flights,” the air regulator’s website says. Flights to Moscow by international air carriers Turkish Airlines and British Airways are also expected to resume.

If using any of Russia Beyond’s content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

The dos and don’ts of visiting Russia for the first time

Saint Basil's Cathedral in Red Square in winter at sunset, Moscow, Russia.

The world’s largest country beguiles and fascinates with its world-class art, epic landscapes and multifaceted society. You may also find that perseverance and a sense of humour will go a long way in enriching your first-time Russian travel experience. From the things you absolutely must do before you travel to the things we recommend that you steer clear of once you’re there, here are some top tips for avoiding common pitfalls when visiting Russia.

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People stand at a viewpoint looking out at a huge road bridge over a body of water

DO apply for a visa early and register on arrival

Visas must be applied for in advance by all visitors. How you do that varies depending on your nationality and where in Russia you are traveling to. Travelers from many countries, including the UK and US, need to apply in-person at an embassy or consulate and provide biometric data. An e-visa may be an option for passport-holders from 52 countries, which include many EU travelers, as well as those from China, India, Japan, Singapore, and some Middle Eastern countries. However these are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Check with your local Russian embassy or consulate for confirmation, or get up-to-date information here.

You can apply at the last moment, but it may cost you a fortune. Start the application process at least a month before your trip and consider using a specialist travel agency to arrange visas and make key transport bookings. Every visitor to Russia should have their visa registered within seven days of arrival, excluding weekends and public holidays. The obligation to register is with your hotel or hostel, or landlord, friend or family if you’re staying in a private residence. Also keep in mind that your visa entry and exit dates will be written according to European calendar convention (day/month/year) as opposed to the American style, so don’t get mixed up or over-stay your visa.

A sail boat on a river at night. It has large red sails and is backlit by bright lights

DO check the events calendar

During major holidays – the first week in January (between New Year’s Day and Orthodox Christmas) and the first week or two of May (around Labour Day, or May Day, and Victory Day) – Moscow and St Petersburg empty out. Despite this, both cities are festive during these times, with parades, concerts and other events, but museums and other institutions may have shortened hours or be shut altogether. May to September is the best time to visit St Petersburg but mid-June is when the city is irresistible, with the White Nights revelry at its peak.

The exterior of a large white building with columns in the evening

Dress up for a night out, whether you’re going to a club or taking a trip to the theater © Baturina Yuliya / Shutterstock

DO dress up for a night out

We can’t guarantee you’ll make it past Moscow’s “face control” (the term comes from clubs trying to “save face” by only letting in patrons who meet their image standards) but you can better your chances of getting in to the top clubs by making a sartorial effort – high heels and skirts for women, all black for men. Russians also make an effort when they go to the theater or a posh restaurant – you should do likewise to fit in.

A street sign with Cyrillic writing on the side of a building

Some knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet will help you find your way around © Diego Fiore / Shutterstock

DO learn the Cyrillic alphabet

Making an effort to familiarize yourself with the Cyrillic alphabet repays tenfold. It will help you decode street and metro signs, maps, timetables and menus, even if you don’t know many Russian phrases. While digital tools like the Russian Metro app and Google Translate make it easier than ever to visit countries where you don’t speak or read the language, brushing up beforehand can reduce frustration and endear you to the locals.

Rideshare options such as Taxovichkoff and Yandex Taxi upended the taxi industry in Russia as much as anywhere else. That means less pressure to know the Russian phrases you’d need to hails cabs in the streets, but it still is wise to learn key phrases in case there’s a navigation mixup, like the address of your hotel or intersection of your short-term apartment rental.

A series of large buildings, the outer one with dark red walls, line a riverside in a city

Foreign travelers often pay more for entry to museums than Russian visitors © Predrag Sepelj / Shutterstock

DO expect to spend your money

Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world and St Petersburg is not a cheap destination either; wallet-thinning shock is common at many restaurants and hotels. As a foreigner you’ll also find yourself paying more than a Russian for some museums – often as much as 10 times the price Russians pay. If you’re a student, flashing your ID can save you money at museums and other institutions.

You can save on dining out a few different ways. Many restaurants offer “business lunches” that are great value and very filling. Several years ago the trend for “anti-cafes” cropped up in larger Russian cities, and there are still a few where you pay by the minute for coffee, biscuits, and a little wi-fi time.

Food markets that blend farmers markets and food halls are popular, and are often found in architecturally significant vintage buildings. You can shop for ingredients to cook yourself or sample cuisines from around the world from dozens of vendor stalls. Many food markets are less expensive than sit-down restaurants and let you try a wider variety of local and international dishes.

A small glass of a clear liquid with a chess board in the background

DON’T ask for a mixer with your vodka

Few traditions in Russia are as sacrosanct as the drinking of vodka, and any foreign notions of drinking it with orange juice or tonic are anathema to your average Russian. If you need something to wash it down, you can chase it with a lemon, a pickle or, perhaps, a separate glass of water. Vodka is drunk in swift shots, not sipped. It’s traditional (and good sense) to eat a little something after each shot, so order some vodka snacks too.

A huge white church with three golden domes on the roof

It is disrespectful for people to show a lot of bare skin when visiting a church © Konstantin Baidin / Shutterstock

DON’T be disrespectful in a church

Working churches are open to everyone, but as a visitor you should take care not to disturb any devotions or offend sensibilities. There’s no face control, but women should cover their heads and bare shoulders when entering a church. In some monasteries and churches it’s also required for a woman to wear a skirt – wraps are usually available at the door. Men should remove their hats in church and not wear shorts.

DON’T take photos of government buildings

Be very careful about photographing stations, official-looking buildings and any type of military-security structure – if in doubt, don’t snap! Travelers have been arrested and fined for such innocent behaviour.

Two police officers dressed in black walk through a heavily touristed area

DON’T be surprised if you’re stopped by the police

Although new laws were passed in 2011 that ostensibly reconfigured Russia’s police and their interactions with the public, it’s still wise to carry a photocopy of your passport, visa and registration – not to mention travel documents that indicate how and when you’ll return home – and present them when an officer demands to see your documents. You may also see special tourist police near major attractions like the Red Square, who have special training and language skills to assist travelers.

If you’re issued a fine, Russian authorities might expect an “unofficial payment” to expedite their service on the spot, as opposed to handling the matter later at the station. Either way, always ask for an official receipt, and consider carrying the phone number for your country’s embassy in case matters get more complicated.

This article was originally published in August 2009.

This article was first published October 2019 and updated September 2021

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Buy Ultimate Travel List 2nd Edition

The second edition of Lonely Planet’s bestseller presents an all-new ranking of the greatest places to visit on Earth.

Source https://www.seat61.com/central-asia-by-train.htm

Source https://www.rbth.com/travel/332558-faq-how-to-travel-torussia-right-now

Source https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/first-time-travel-to-russia

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