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Explore Moscow and St Petersburg with the right cover for your holiday
Russia is the biggest country in the world and offers plenty for holidaymakers to explore, with each city providing new experiences and sights to see.
According to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation, the country ranked ninth in Europe for tourist numbers in 2018 with 24.6 million international visitors.
Moscow and St Petersburg are two of the busier cities for holidaymakers, but there is much more to see if you are keen to explore further. Kizhi Island, Vladivostok and Sochi are all stunning destinations to head to if you are planning a trip and they all have unique spots to enjoy.
If you are keen to travel and discover what the country has to offer, then make sure that you have travel insurance in place in case something happens during your trip.
Do I need a visa and travel insurance for Russia?
Travel insurance is essential for a trip to Russia and helps ensure that you have adequate cover for emergency medical costs, as well as protection for your luggage and potential flight delays. Columbus Direct offers both single trip and annual multi-trip policies, and they can be tailored to suit your needs. This includes getting optional add-ons for winter sports, golf cover and extra protection for gadgets that you take with you on holiday.
If you plan to travel to the country, then you will need to apply for a visa from the Russian embassy. All UK citizens aged 12 or over will need to get their fingerprints scanned as part of the application, which involves visiting a visa application centre in the UK. Your visa will include your passport details as well as the dates of your stay. Your passport should also have at least six months remaining at the time that your visa expires. You might also be required to show that you have an insurance policy that is valid for the entirety of your trip.
When visiting as part of a cruise, you don’t require a visa if you are there for less than 72 hours and the tour has been booked through an official company.
Specific vaccinations aren’t required, but you are advised to ensure that your primary courses and boosters are up to date, such as MMR and the flu vaccine. The NHS website also suggests that you could also consider boosters and vaccines for other illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and rabies. If you are unsure whether you should get vaccinations, it is worth checking with a GP ahead of your trip. Holidaymakers should also be careful in areas with a high altitude, as it you can sometimes experience negative effects, and you should look out for show signs of Acute Mountain Sickness if you are feeling unwell.
Is Russia part of Europe for travel insurance?
When it comes to getting travel insurance for a holiday in Russia, the type of cover will depend on which region you are travelling to.
West of the Ural Mountains is usually considered to be part of Europe and travel to this province can be covered by a Europe policy. It has a large portion of the country's population, even though it only covers a quarter of the Russian territory, and it includes major cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
The eastern side of the Urals forms part of northern Asia and is commonly known as Siberia. To have valid cover here, you will need to get worldwide travel insurance. This will ensure that you have protection for your trip, including medical cover and personal baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen. If you intend to visit both sides of the country, then you would need to get worldwide insurance to cover both areas.
If you are planning another trip over the next year, then annual multi-trip cover could be the cheaper option. Worldwide coverage would mean that you can travel as far as America, Canada and Australia within a one-year period without the need to get more travel insurance.
Russia travel advice
Arriving in Russia
Visitors are advised to carry their passport with them at all times, as there can often be random checks from police. You will also be required to register with the local authorities if you are staying in a location for more than seven working days. This is normally done automatically for you when staying at a hotel, but your host will need to do it if you are staying somewhere else.
The EHIC is not valid there, which makes travel insurance even more important, as it can help with healthcare costs that you could face. Hospitals often require cash or credit card payments in advance of treatments. You can usually bring prescription medication if you are planning to use it for personal needs, but some medicines require certain prescriptions to be allowed into the country, so it is worth checking with the Russian Embassy if you are unsure.
If you are planning to drive, you will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP), and your car insurance policy must have a third-party cover as a minimum. The RAC’s guide to driving in the country explains that speed limits vary depending on what area you are in, but generally residential zones are limited to 37mph in built-up areas and 68mph on expressways. When driving you should carry all of your documents with you including your full valid driving licence, IDP, proof of insurance, passport and visa. Your car is also required to carry specific items such as a warning triangle, first aid kit, spare bulb, headlamp beam deflectors and a fire extinguisher.
The size of the country
The current population is estimated to be around 145 million people, making it the ninth most populous country in the world. This is despite it being the largest country in terms of land mass. Moscow is by far the most heavily populated area, with an estimated 12.4 million people living in the capital. The amount of people in Eastern cities is sparser, compared to the west which has considerably more citizens.
As the country is so vast it means that there are several different time zones, so the local time can vary quite dramatically depending on where you are. There are currently eleven time zones spanning across the country, ranging from UST +02.00 in Kaliningrad to UST +12.00 in Chukotka. The time where you are will depend on which region you are staying in, and if you plan to travel around the country then it is likely that your time zone will change several times.
What to do on holiday in Russia
Being such a large country means that it is often impossible to see everything during one visit. The different regions can vary in their culture, as well as the sights and history that you can experience while you are there.
Many tourists will look to visit Moscow, the capital of Russia, during their first trip to the country. Red Square is one of the city’s most visited spots and it is known for its stunning architecture and for being home to the current president. It is also home to several tourist spots include St Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s Mausoleum, as well as a market square where you can find vendors selling a variety of items and food.
St Petersburg is the second biggest city, with over five million people living there, and it has several popular tourist spots. The State Hermitage Museum is one of the most well-known tourist attractions, and it is the second-largest art museum in the world. It was founded in 1764 and has a vast art collection spanning over three million items, including work from various parts of the world.
There is also the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, which was built during the 19th century as a way of memorializing Alexander II. The Peterhof Palace can also be visited in St Petersburg and it has various gardens and palaces to explore. There is also the Winter Palace of Peter I, which visitors can walk around with private tours available for those looking to learn about its history. There is also an exhibition complex with historical items and paintings available to view.
The country has several nature spots to visit such as the Stolby National park near to Krasnoyarsk. There is also the Kamchatka Peninsula which is 1,250 kilometres long and can be found in the far eastern part of Russia. Visitors can see volcanoes, rivers and hot springs, as well as snow peaks in some areas of the region.
If you plan to get involved in some activities during your trip, make sure that it is covered as part of your travel insurance. Columbus Direct includes 150 sports and activities for free with every policy, which ensures that you are protected for football, zip-lining, yoga and various other activities.
If this isn’t enough, you can also get the Adventure pack add-on to include even more sports to your cover, while our Winter Sports option offers protection for skiing, snowboarding and other winter activities. This includes emergency medical treatment and helicopter rescue, as well as cover for your equipment and delays on your trip because of piste closures and avalanches.
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How to travel around Russia
It is the largest country in the world and if you are planning to visit more than one area, then you will need to decide on which mode of transport you want to use. There are many different options with local flights and trains considered to be the most popular choices.
There are over 150 airports in Russia, including five in Moscow. Which can make it easier to travel between cities, but you are advised to plan your trip beforehand. Aeroflot is the largest airline in the country, but it doesn’t travel to all airports. This means that you may have to look at other options depending on where you are looking to visit. You can compare them by using Airline Ratings, which rates them by safety standards, and it also includes details on seating, entertainment and food in-flight.
Experience the Trans-Siberian Railway
When it comes to trains, the Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the most well-known rail trips in the world. It runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, while there is also the option to take alternative routes through Mongolia and China. Each journey on the train can provide a different experience, as you have the option of going on various excursions, and the train has many different stops that it can make along the way.
Some of the most popular stops on the Tran-Siberian Railway include Yaroslavl, which is a city originally founded in 1010 and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The stunning city has a long history that you can see as you walk through the streets, while there are several 17th century churches to visit as well.
There is also Lake Baikal, which is a historic lake in the Russian region of Siberia, and it is believed to be the deepest lake in the world. The area has a host of wildlife, including several species of plants that can only be found at the lake, as well as various freshwater fish and seal. Lynx and bears can also be found living in the surrounding area.
Some of the other trains can travel incredibly fast, such as the Sapsan, which moves between Moscow and St. Petersburg at an average speed 155 miles per hour.
What are the risks of travelling to Russia?
Most of the country is safe to visit, particularly if you remain mostly in the tourist areas. There are cases of pick pocketing and theft in some parts, so tourists are advised to keep their belongings close and to not leave any bags unattended. It is particularly common on public transport and in busy streets when travelling through some of the busier cities.
There are also some taxis that operate without a licence, and the safer option is to use a taxi app to book your journey or order a cab through your hotel. There have also been reports of drink spiking, which can lead to robberies and abuse, so it is advised that you buy your own drinks and keep them in your sight.
There have been a few terrorism attacks over the last ten years, including a suicide attack in St Petersburg in April 2017, while there have also been attacks in Moscow and other cities. There has been an increase in civil unrest and kidnapping in North Caucasus, while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against travel to various areas, including Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.
Russia is also known for having a low tolerance towards LGBT+ issues, and it was ranked poorly by ILGA-Europe, which examines countries and their progress towards equality. The country has no laws in place to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination and hate crimes, and Moscow Pride was banned for 100 years back in 2012. There have been reports of violence and harassment to members of the LGBT+ community, and tourists are advised that public displays of affection could put you in danger if it draws negative attention.
What to do if something happens while I’m away
If you require the emergency services while you are in Russia, the main contact line is 112.
You can also call 101 for the national emergency telephone line, 102 to reach the police, and 103 for medical emergencies.
You can also reach out to the British Consulate General Ekaterinburg or the British Embassy in Moscow on +7 495 956 7200.
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Your Single Trip Travel Insurance comes with a number of benefits. These include:
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- Our policy can protect you from 1-365 days. Even if you only plan on having one trip, you can let your holiday last even longer.
- Cover for up to £15 million provided for medical expenses. Including emergency medical treatment, repatriation and the services of a medical assistance company
- Insurance may be available if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Let us know if you or any other insured parties require additional cover, and we will do our best to accommodate.
- We provide cover for up to 150 sports and activities free of charge. Let you hair down and try your hand at some of the sports and activities which may be on offer.
- Your baggage will be insured for up to £2500, including your valuables and delayed baggage. Should your luggage or personal belongings become delayed, lost, stolen or damaged during your trip.
- Optional - Winter sports, ski and snowboard cover can be included. Which includes a whole lot more than just ski and snowboarding!
- Optional - Gadget cover can be added. Add extra cover for your mobile phone, tablet or laptop with up to £1000 protection against theft, damage or loss on your trip.
- You can be eligible for single trip insurance up to the maximum age of 85. Be free to travel the world whether you're young, or young at heart
Frequently Asked Questions:
If you have any unanswered questions, please visit our Winter Sports FAQ’s page for more information.
Why Columbus Direct?
- FREE airport lounge access if your flight is delayed for more than 1 hour
- Over 150 sports and activities covered free
- Award-winning products and services
- Over 15 million customers since 1988