Travelling in Russia, including customs, lodging, eating out, etc
Planning your first trip to Russia? Your mind must be swelling with questions then.
After all, there always has been a lot of controversy and stereotypes about Russia. The very word Russia summons up quite equivocal (and rather stereotypical) images that tend to baffle, if not scare a foreign person. While with most Western European countries everything is more or less clear, Russia leaves most foreigners completely clueless as to what to expect of it. It is truly hard to find any adequate answers and not to drown in this vast ocean of stereotypes, obsolete facts, and contradictory information that surrounds Russia. Even now that its borders have been open to foreign citizens for over a decade, Russia is still shrouded in mystery. It keeps foreigners wondering… What is Russian life like? Is it safe to be in Russia? Is it difficult to travel to and around it? Is life in Russia expensive? What exactly do I need to bring with me?.. and so on, and so forth. Who can possibly answer such questions about a country better than a native who has been living in it most of their life and knows it inside out? So, let me become your Russian guide to Russian everyday reality to help you form the most realistic impression of what Russia really is like. I would like to begin with something that concerns people most these days – safety issues.
Safety in Russia
One of the most common and least accurate stereotypes about Russia is the one that makes it look like one of the most turbulent places on Earth with the most rampant crime. The recent terrorist attacks in Moscow, regrettably, have only helped to perpetuate the negative stereotype. It is apparent, however, that virtually all of our world, including Europe and the USA have become targets of international terrorism, not just Russia. In this particular sense, one’s personal safety is no longer a matter of geographical location. Rather, it is largely dependent on one’s own behavior.
According to American sources, the crime rate is actually substantially higher in the US than in Russia, although it has increased in Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union. That means that the precautions an individual should take traveling in Russia are identical to the ones recommended elsewhere in the world, including the USA. It is understood that people are most vulnerable to crime in a foreign country. In this manner, in Russia foreigners become easy prey for those who do not exactly mean well. Therefore, I suggest you keep in mind that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and follow some simple, yet arbitrary rules on a day-to-day basis. First of all, avoid flaunting valuables or large sums of cash and flashing your wallet. Secondly, you are strongly advised against walking alone at night or through deserted and secluded places at daytime. Third, be careful striking up acquaintances with strangers. Try to not too attract too much attention to yourself either, especially in crowded public places (unless you want to be eased of your wallet or even worse).
Do not be paranoid, though. Just be wary. Be friendly and open-minded, but do not forget to use your common sense. Hospitability is, beyond all doubt, a Russian national trait, but remember that there are black sheep in every family. So, watch your step as you go and you will be safe and sound.
You might also want to memorize the Russian police and Medical Emergency phone numbers – 02 and 03 respectively. You can dial them toll-free from any public phone. Just in case. Hope you will never have to dial them, though.