Reasons to Visit
The colourful dome topped cathedrals of Orthodox Russia are stunning and present a stark contrast to the Soviet era monoliths that are so often a part of Russian cities.
Some of the world’s greatest writers, composers and choreographers and cultural institutes are Russian; from Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky to the Bolshoi theatre and Kirov ballet.
Russia is the birthplace of ballet and a visit to either Moscow's Bolshoi or St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre is a must. Even for those who aren't well versed in either art form, you should take in a performance simply for the wonderful music, beautiful theatres and sumptuous costumes on show.
St Petersburg is on the world’s most romantic and beautiful cities, home to stunning architecture, a cultural arts scene and world class restaurants and hotels. A true winter wonderland.
The domination of the USSR is inescapable, as is the legacy of Lenin and Stalin. Russia has shaped and changed 20th Century history and will continue to do so for years to come.
The Trans-Siberian railway is one of life’s great journeys, travelling hundreds of kilometres across Russia’s vast expanses, across European Russia, the Ural Mountains and into Siberia.
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China, Russia & Central Asia
Our Russia specialists are experienced and passionate about the country - between them they have spent many weeks a year researching new experiences and ensuring everything is of the highest standard. They know Russia inside out.
ChrisRussia Specialist01993 838 213
JohnRussia Specialist01993 838 217
Not so long ago the monolithic Soviet state controlled visitors from the moment of arrival to departure. With the freeing of the markets new, privately run enterprises have sprung up offering the attention to detail and first class customer service demanded by Audley clients.
Whether visiting the palaces and galleries of St Petersburg or hiking by the shore of Lake Baikal we will choose the most appropriate means of transport to get you to your destinations in the maximum comfort and convenience, and provide expert guides to bring your experience to life.
The short summer months between May and July are the peak travel periods and destinations can be crowded and accommodation availability scarce.
Timing your visits to avoid this period means lower prices and the chance to enjoy Russia’s magnificent cultural and scenic treasures in a more relaxed and civilised manner.
The official language is Russian. In hotels and tourist places, English should be spoken. Elsewhere do not expect English to be widely spoken, though young people increasingly will speak some.
Russian food has a reputation for blandness but can, in fact, be extremely tasty. Russians are particularly adept at making soups as well as pelmini (meat in pasta like parcels). Caviar is also popular (available in red variety - from salmon, or the most expensive, black variety from sturgeon), along with shaslick (grilled meat) and blini (pancakes). Vodka is the national drink, usually drunk neat. Beer is also widely available. Russian wine can be rather too sweet for Western taste buds, though Georgian wine can be good. Shampanskaya (Russian champagne) is a lot sweeter than the French variety, but very cheap.
Russians are slowly awakening to the idea of tipping, though it is still not widely expected except in Western style hotels and more upmarket restaurants. It is accepted practice to tip local guides though this is, of course, at your discretion.
The currency of Russia is the Russian Rouble, with 1 pound sterling being roughly equivalent to 50 roubles. Roubles can be purchased outside of Russia. Most towns and cities now have cash machines which can be used to withdraw roubles from. Currency exchanges are also common place, where you will need your passport to exchange money.
Photography is not allowed in airports, or on the metro. Do not take photos of military installations either. You should ask permission before taking photos of people - older people in particular retain a suspicion of having their photograph taken. Russians' attitude to race is not as developed as in the Western world. Respect for elderly people is deeply ingrained and it is expected that younger people give up their seats on a crowded metro, train, or bus. In working churches and religious places, men should take off their hats, women may be expected to cover their heads.
For a great and very readable overview of the Russian revolution, Orlando Figues's 'A People's Tragedy' is hard to beat. He's also written a sweeping overview of Russian culture which is very good - 'Natasha's Dance'. The greats of Russian literature are well-known and loved by most Russians, Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' and Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' being two of the most famous. Another classic that is very enjoyable is Mikhail Bulgakov's 'Master and Margarita', a veiled attack on Stalin's Russia that was not published until after the author's death.
Russian composers feature among the greats of classical music - Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich to name but a few.
Sergei Eisenstein's 'Battleship Potemkin' is a landmark of world cinema, set in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. More recently, Nikita Mikhalkov's 'Burnt by the sun' deals with the purges of the Soviet era, while 'The Barber of Siberia' is a sweeping epic tale that is highly recommended.
Borshch (beetroot soup) is delicious and warming, especially in the winter months. Blinis (pancakes) are popular with both sweet and savoury fillings.
Vodka is the national drink, with Diplomat, Russki Standard and Flagman being decent brands. Kvass, a drink made from fermented rye bread, is a refreshing, mildly alcoholic drink, sold widely in the summer months. Sovietskaya Champagne is a very sweet version of the real thing, widely sold and worth tasting if only because of the audacity of using the word champagne for such a drink.
Ka-nyesh-na (Of course/that's fine).
Culture, literature, tsarist opulence, communist powerhouse, russian revolution.
Matryoshka dolls are widely sold in Russia and vodka can be cheap.
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Further reading:Tours in RussiaWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationCountry Guides
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