Russian holidays are all about visiting picture-book castles and enigmatic cities. Extraordinary and decidedly unique, the country has remained untouched because of its history, but now it’s open and waiting for holidaymakers to enjoy its many tourist attractions.
From discovering the magic in the two main cities of St Petersburg and Moscow to exploring untouched areas where traditional Russian lifestyles are the norm, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable adventure. Here, everything is a pleasant surprise, from the food to the rich history, incredible art and architecture. As the largest country in the world, it’s vast and magnificent, grand and extraordinary, and makes for an enriching holiday.
Why go on a holiday to Russia
- The architecture is decidedly different from anything you’ve ever seen – colourful, monumental and intricate.
- Russia is steeped in epic history, and you’ll find it wherever you visit.
- Russian ballet is legendary and gives an insight into this country’s fascinating culture.
- The landscapes are extraordinary and unique.
- Nightlife in the cities of Moscow and St Petersburg is vibrant and exciting.
- No winter compares to the fairytale wonderland you’ll experience in Russia.
With its cultural and historical riches, spectacular landscapes and incredibly friendly people, Russia is an absolute delight to explore. Thompsons Holidays are experts when it comes to putting together the best Russian holidays, so let us create a special holiday package from South Africa to Russia so that you can experience everything this magical country has to offer.
Things to do in Russia
Russia is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored, offering so many different experiences, things to do and places to visit. A holiday to this fascinating, colourful and extraordinary country is an adventure into an entirely different world. In Russia, you will discover candy-coloured castles and palaces, glittering church spires, incredibly diverse landscapes and astonishing history.
St Petersburg itself offers an incredible selection of world-famous art and architecture as well as the magnificent Grand Summer Palace. Near St Petersburg is Novgorod, one of the oldest settlements in the country and home to the 11th-century St Sophia’s Cathedral. Moscow, the capital, is famous for its breathtaking, unique architecture, such as St Basil’s Cathedral – and then, of course, there is the Kremlin and Red Square.
Things to do in Russia
- Drink vodka with pickle juice.
- Watch the ballet or opera at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.
- Learn all about Siberian culture in Irkutsk.
- Explore the colourful Winter Palace in St Petersburg.
- Visit the Cold War fortress, Bunker 42, now a museum and monument.
- Discover the State Hermitage Museum, home to millions of fascinating artefacts.
- Explore the lavish Faberge Museum.
- Relax, go ice skating or dine out in Gorky Park.
- Visit Kizhi Island, home to 18th-century wooden churches and an octagonal clock tower, also in wood and constructed in 1862.
- Spend time inside Moscow’s iconic St Basil’s Cathedral.
- In Moscow’s Red Square, visit the Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum.
- Discover the world’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal.
- Visit Suzdal, an ancient city that is part of Russia’s famous Golden Ring cluster of ancient towns.
So many choices, so little time – it’s doubtful you’ll be able to experience everything that this fascinating country has to offer in just one visit. But you can always return to enjoy more of what makes travel to Russia such an exciting adventure. Let Thompsons Holidays take you on a trip to this remarkable destination on a holiday package of a lifetime.
Know before you go...
- The best time to visit Russia is from May to October. In the summer, June to August, you can expect crowds.
- If you intend visiting St Petersburg, it’s best to visit in late Spring (early June).
- Winter months (November to March) are very cold – in January the average temperature is -6°C.
- Flight duration from Johannesburg to Moscow with one stopover: 14 hours, 25 minutes.
- There are regular flights from South Africa to Russia. You can also fly to St Petersburg, but this takes longer.
- Russia is visa-free for South African passport holders for a duration of up to 90 days.
- Russia is vast, with 11 different time zones that observe times ranging from GMT+2 to GMT+12.
- Moscow and St Petersburg are both 1 hour ahead of South Africa.
- Daylight saving is not used in Russia.
- The official currency is the Russian Rouble (RUB).
- Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are prevalent in the main tourist areas. Carry cash for smaller towns and more remote regions.
- Tipping is not required for taxis, restaurants, hairdressers or bars. However, locals do appreciate tips.
- More than 120 languages are spoken in Russia, but most people speak Russian, the official language.
- English is spoken and understood in tourist areas and bigger cities.
- Christianity is practised by a large portion of the population, especially Russian Orthodoxy, which was introduced into Russia over a thousand years ago.
- When visiting religious sites and churches, dress conservatively. (See ‘What to pack’).
- It is not safe to drink tap water in Russia. Bottled water is readily available in larger towns and cities.
- Many public restrooms charge a small fee for use, so keep change on hand for this.
- Vaccinations are not currently required but check with your travel clinic before you go.
What must I pack?
- Depending on when and where you visit, summer temperatures can exceed 30 degrees Celcius. Pack lightweight clothing, bearing in mind that Russia is fairly conservative.
- The winters in Russia experience below-zero temperatures. Be sure to pack a snow coat, boots, hat and gloves.
- Dress modestly when visiting religious sites. Some museums and churches might refuse admission if your head, shoulders and knees are uncovered. Women should wear a scarf and men would not be allowed to enter in shorts.
- Add in a smarter outfit for more formal occasions, such as the ballet or opera.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses for summer holidays.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication – be sure to carry a copy of your prescription with you on entry to Russia.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
- In most Russian cities and towns, you can get around by metro, bus, tram, trolleybus, and marshrutka shared taxis. There are underground systems in Moscow and St Petersburg.
- Towns in outlying areas may have less sophisticated transport infrastructure – it depends where you are going.
- Cross-country trains are a popular option if you would like to see more of the land outside of the main cities.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Avoid single-use plastic; rather take fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Do not support animal encounters and wildlife activities that are harmful or unethical.
- Always have a map (or app) on hand, especially when travelling at night.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
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