St. Petersburg Russia Travel

Russian for Travelers: Transport and Hospitality

Published: January 5, 2022

Russia’s two major capitals are largely tourist friendly. Much of the metro systems and city navigation are available in English. Many restaurants have English-langauge menus and even waitstaff that speak a little English. However, not everywhere will English get you by in a Russian-speaking country.

This bilingual resource hopes to build students’ vocabulary skills and cultural knowledge in areas surrounding travel and transport within Russia to encourage additional domestic travel while abroad.

Documents in Russia

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

Especially for Americans, who are used to travelling in our own country with just a водительское удостоверение and who can often travel to other countries with just our passports, the number of documents needed to stay legal in Russia can be quite bewildering.

Before you can plan your airport arrival, you’ll have to first get a Russian visa. If you’ll be coming on an SRAS program, SRAS will be helping you each step of the way.

Получение визы в Россию is not an easy process.

First, you will need an приглашение. For students, this will come from a университет or registered school. Tourists usually get invitations from отелей or туристических компаний. Businessmen might receive one from a местной компании. Researchers are usually invited by an учебным заведением или культурной организацией.

Note that the приглашение is not a виза. It’s just the first step in the process of getting one. To get the visa, the invitation will be sent (usually electronically) to the consulate. You will then need to apply with your паспорт, заявление на получение визы, and визовый сбор. Depending on what type of visa you are applying for, you may need other documents. Students must present a отрицательный тест на ВИЧ, for instance.

It is interesting to note that much of the process Americans go through for a Russian visa is modeled on the process that Russians will go through for an American visa. Russia models its visa processes on the assumption that взаимный обмен is fundamental in all relations.

Время оформления визы differ depending on your type of visa. Student visas, for instance, can take as much as three months to fully process, including the приглашение issuance. Once you have your visa (which might arrive at the last minute), you’ll need to get a ПЦР-тест before departing.

Upon arrival in Russia, you are issued a миграционная карта by паспортный контроль. This card, about the size of a passport page, is the official record of your entry to Russia. If you are arriving as a student, you will also need a второй ПЦР-тест, available at the airport, in order to check into the dorms.

At the dorms, you will need your миграционная карта to obtain your регистрация. Everyone in Russia is required to be registered at their address – again, the US technically has this as well, by requiring that everyone maintain a current address on their driver’s license. However, Russia enforces the requirement strongly while the US is lax.

You can only be registered at the place you are living. As an American you are required to have this issued within seven business days. If you travel and are registered at a hotel, you will need renew your registration once back at the dorms. Registration is a computerized system now and every new registration will cancel the previous.

Failure to register can result in fines which you will be required to pay before you can leave the country. Two or more of these infractions can also привести к запрету на получение визы на несколько лет.

Thus, to пребывать легально, you will need to maintain at least four documents: visa, passport, migration card, and registration. These are interdependent on one another and each is important to making sure that your пребывание в стране будет безопасным и приятным.

Airport Arrival to Russia

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

After a traveler получил визу, he/she должен купить авиабилет. Sometimes, it is hard to get an inexpensive airplane ticket to Russia shortly before holidays such as Christmas and New Year. It is cheaper to buy невозвратный билет, but a traveler рискует потерять деньги if his/her plans change.

Most Russian airports have signage and at least some staff that speak English. However, if you check in at a Russian airport, especially one outside of major cities, it can be useful to understand a few phrases which a check-in attendant usually asks, such as “Куда летите?”, “Багаж есть?”, “Есть ручная кладь?” After a passenger показывает паспорт and получает посадочный талон, a passenger can ask the attendant, “Куда идти на посадку” to understand where to proceed to зал убытия. The number is usually printed on the посадочный талон as well.

When a passenger проходит досмотр; his/her ручную кладь могут выборочно проверить. The Russian security folks might ask, “Откройте сумку, пожалуйста” and/or “Включите ноутбук”. After checking, a security usually says, “Проходите”.

Finding your терминал and выход на посадкуis not difficult. Russian airports are very much like the airports in other countries. Further, they generally do not have terminals spread out, with a train connection, such as in JFK or Heathrow airports. However, sometimes an airport can announce, “Выход на посадку был изменен”, and a passenger will have to find the new gate. A notice will likely appear at the first gate as well.

RSL-Side-Bar1While waiting, a traveler can make small talk to a Russian next to him/her. There are many ways to start a conversation, such as,”Вы тоже летите в США?” or “Вы не знаете, это хорошее кафе?” or “Не знаете, в Москве часто такая погода?” Many passengers are ok to chat with a fellow-traveler, especially while waiting.

On a plane, before take-off, passengers hear the following announcement, “Дамы и господа! Мы готовы к взлету! Пожалуйста, убедитесь в том, что ваши ремни безопасности пристегнуты”. Before landing, it is announced, “Дамы и господа, через 5 минут мы приступим к снижению”.

At паспортный контроль, the agent might ask you, “Какая цель вашего приезда в Россию?” This is important. You might be in Russia for many reasons, but the reason you give the agent should be the same as the purpose of your visa.

Watch for when the passport control agent gives you миграционная карта. They often slide it into your passport without saying anything. You will need to keep it safe for getting your регистрация and for other purposes later!

Nowadays, transfer to the city from any Moscow airport is simple. Many travelers take the new аэроэкспресс. Otherwise, all airports will be serviced by автобусы and такси, with taxi company desks inside airports, right next to the exits. If you take a taxi, make sure to use this desk and not take one of the taxis that will call out to you as exit into the hall. Those may not be official taxi drivers and may likely overcharge you.

Students interested to see what airport arrival looks like specifically for SRAS students in specific locations can see this group of resources.

Lost Luggage

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

There are many potential problems you might experience when traveling, and one of the most common is потерянный багаж. Если багаж потерян, you should обратиться к сотрудникам службы розыска багажа до выхода из зоны прибытия. Вам будет необходимо заполнить специальную форму to begin the поиск потерянного багажа. If you traveled on different airlines on various этапы поездки, you should notify the airline that took you to your пункт назначения.

wheeled-luggage
For packing tips, especially for longer stays in Russia, see our Packing List for Study Abroad.

When filling out the lost luggage form, you will need for a местный адрес where your luggage can be sent. Sometimes you will need to come back to the airport to забрать your suitcase, but you may be asked for a местный адрес, just in case. You will also need to know your номер рейса. In addition, you should have a багажная квитанция on the back of your посадочный талон that you received when you сдал(а) чемодан at your пункт вылета. Airline personnel will need the information on this tag to отслеживать your luggage.

In your discussion with airline personnel, they will ask you to описать your lost baggage. For instance, do you have a чемодан на колесах or a большая спортивная сумка, is your suitcase жесткий или мягкий, and is it тканевый или пластиковый? You should also describe the color, and whether it has any узор, such as в горошек or в полоску. You may also be asked about the приблизительный размер.

Each airline has its own specific policy towards bag searches. With Aeroflot, for example, the search for lost luggage производится в течение 21 дня с момента получения заявления от пассажира. If the luggage is not found within 21 days, пассажир может предъявить перевозчику письменную претензию. Решение о денежной компенсации и ее размерах will be made in accordance to the airline’s policies.

It helps if you have a багажная бирка on your luggage when you travel. This way, you can be sure that no one will случайно take your bag, since the majority of suitcases are black and look very similar.

It’s also possible that you forgot something on board the aircraft when you выходить из самолета, which you didn’t realize until you already left the airplane. In this case, there is usually a phone number you can call for информация о забытых вещах на борту воздушного судна. For Aeroflot, this number is +7 (499) 500-6552. You should be able to find the number for other airlines by checking their site.

Train Travel in Russia

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

Trains are the most popular form of travel in Russia. Due to Russia’s harsh weather, railways are much better developed than the roads, which are more difficult to maintain. While air travel is quickly becoming more developed in Russia, and now competes effectively with train travel in terms of prices, trains are a part of Russian culture and will be for a long time.

Russian train
РЖД (RZD) is the main train company of Russia. For more on train travel, make sure to see our Guide to the Russian Train System.

If you decide to take the train, the first thing you need is покупать билет. If you will be taking a multi-stop journey, you might look at purchasing your tickets from an online service such as this one. However, it’s generally easiest and cheapest to buy a ticket in person at the train station. To do so, first find the train station you need. In Moscow, for instance, there are девять вокзалов. Once inside the train station, find the касса. Keep in mind that there are two sets of ticket offices in every station: one is labeled “пригородные поезда” and the other is “поезда дальнего следования”. Commuter trains allow you to reach destinations up to about an hour from the city.

For long distance tickets, you should plan to wait in line for about 15-40 minutes (like we said, it’s a popular mode of travel). If you wanted to order one second class ticket to Kiev at Kievskaya Vokzal in Moscow, you would tell the кассир there: “Пожалуйста, мне билет до Киева на 14 апреля, один, купе”. The cashier might reply, “Есть только верхние места”. So long as you are able to climb a short ladder, however, this shouldn’t concern you and you can accept the top bunk. If you ordered a плацкарт ticket, the cashier might say “Есть только боковые места”. The side spaces in third class are very small and it can be very difficult to sleep there. If you will be travelling for any length of time, you will want to take at least a second class ticket.

If you are unhappy with the available seats, you can ask “Есть места на другие поезда?” If there are other trains heading for that same destination (at some other time) that day, the cashier will tell you. On the ticket you bought, you will see your номер поезда, номер вагона and номер места. For more about how to read your ticket, check our Guide to Russia.

The procedure of entering the train is simple: you show the проводница (who is usually female. If male, the title is “проводник”) your ticket and passport. They are very strict about passports, so don’t forget yours. If you don’t have it, you will have about as much chance of getting on the train as if you showed up without a ticket.

After the passengers take their seats, and usually after the train has begun moving, the attendant will collect the tickets. She asks, “Билеты пожалуйста”. Her second question, if you will be travelling overnight, is usually: “Постель будете брать?” As a rule, постель includes two sheets, a pillow case, and a small towel. Renting this комплект will set you back about 50-100 rubles (2-4 US dollars). Blankets are often in the storage compartment above the door of second-class cabins. If not, you can ask the attendant, who resides at the front of your wagon, for a blanket. The attendant also generally has coffee and tea continually available – purchasing a cup costs about 5-10 rubles.

Any problems that you may have on the trip can be taken to the проводница, you can address the начальник поезда, who is usually located in the штабной вагон, which is usually at the very front of the train. There are often security forces on any train as well.

The туалет of the train is small and not very comfortable as it almost never has туалетная бумага and for this reason passengers often carry toilet tissue with them.

If you will be traveling several hours, you will probably want to buy some food at train stops. If you will be getting off the train, you should always ask the attendant “Долго будет стоять?” If the train will be at the station a very short amount of time, you might not want to risk getting off. If you are not on by the time the train leaves, you will be left behind.

Commuter Rail

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

Russian suburban train
Russian suburban train (picture from wikipedia.org)

Commuter trains have several names in Russian. The most common name for one is электричка, but there are also a few slang names, such as элька and собака because электричка, подобно собаке, останавливается у каждого столба.

Russians living near big cities often use the elektrichka to commute to work, to go shopping, or to reach wider entertainment or cultural opportunities. In the Moscow area, some people commute as far as 100-150 kilometers, spending up to six hours on the train in total every day. For these people, поездка в электричке is an integral part of their lives: they often have breakfast and supper during the trip, and even sometimes drink beer or vodka and chat with fellow travellers.

The elektrichka is different from a regular long-distance passenger train. While обычный пассажирский поезд  приводит в движение электровоз, электричку приводят в движение вагоны , которые оборудованы электромоторами. В электричках есть автоматические двери , управляемые с пульта машиниста. Meanwhile, у поездов двери открываются проводниками. An elektrichka has 5-8 or, at most, 12 carriages, while a скорый поезд typically has at least 20 carriages. Also, электричка разгоняется и тормозит значительно быстрее, чем скорый поезд.

Tickets for the elektrichka are sold at пригородные кассы , while tickets for long-distance trains are sold at кассы дальнего следования . Most Russian train stations have both – often in different places in the station, and usually clearly labeled with these names. Цены на билет зависят от расстояния. You must tell the ticket vendor exactly where you plan to go and often on what train you plan to go on.RSL-Side-Bar1

In Moscow, area passengers have to проходить через турникет  to сесть в поезд и выйти из поезда. However, some people find ways to проехать без билета  by пролезать через дыру в заборе or перепрыгивать через турникет . You must use your ticket when entering and when leaving to operate the turnstile.

A passenger can frequently see толпы «зайцев» бегут по вагону от контролеров . Ticket collectors, mainly женщины предпенсионного возраста , enter the train, requesting, “Ваш билет” or “Предъявите билет”,  and then компостировать билеты . They can also обилечивать to those who do not have a ticket and are ready to pay. If someone says to a ticket collector, “У меня нет билета”,  that person will either have to buy a ticket or conductors can высаживать зайцев . However, it also happens that many conductors will accept some small payment in return for not making a заяц buy a ticket or leave the train. For this reason, the work of a ticket collector is considered to be денежная .

It is hard to rest on the elektrichka, because the seats are not so comfortable, the trains are often crowded, and торговцы  громко рекламируют свой товар : “Пиво, сухарики, фисташки!”. They sell many different items, from toys to food to books, and enter the carriage every few minutes. Also, попрошайки bother passengers by asking for money, saying, for example  “меня обокрали/ ограбили”, and “помогите собрать деньги на билет на Украину”.

There are many types of people who use the elektrichka – студенты, работяги, дачники, работники офиса , and even гопники.

There are many jokes about the elektrichka, such as: “Прежде чем ехать на электричке, необходимо убедиться в том, что конечного пункта нельзя достичь на каком-либо другом виде транспорта. Только осознание этого факта может являться достаточным основанием для поездки в пригородных электропоездах.”

Another joke is related to the fact that the elektricka is often very crowded: “Если вам удалось сесть, то необходимо заранее настроиться на то, что стоячие пассажиры будут смотреть на вас, как на личного врага. Людям с чувствительной нервной системой или обостренным чувством социальной справедливости ехать в электричке сидя не рекомендуется. ПОМНИТЕ: сидячих мест в вагоне значительно меньше чем стоячих, поэтому кому-то все равно стоять придется!”

Marshrutka (Shared Taxi)

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

The marshrutka is often used to travel to locations just outside of major cities. The word маршрутка is a shortened form of маршрутное такси. These are minivans or minibuses that usually duplicate routes used by public buses – and usually display the same numbers.

Marshrutka Moscow
Most marshrutki in Russia are white and display their route numbers in red numbers in the front and sides.

In smaller towns, a маршрутка is often самый распространенный общественный транспорт because buses run until 9 or 10 pm, while маршрутки usually run later. Everywhere in Russia, маршрутки are popular because they can маневрировать better in traffic and are thus faster than busses, trams, or trolleys.

Some маршрутки are very convenient for travelers, allowing them to выйти там, где удобно пассажиру. A passenger should заранее предупредить водителя о необходимости выйти, by saying, for example, “В конце дома остановите”, or “После перекрестка остановите”. A passenger should state his/her остановка по требованию громким голосом, but не кричать ; you must make sure that the driver can hear you but try not to disturb (or frighten!) the other passengers as that is considered rude. A more vernacular way to request a stop is to say, “Тормозни у конца дома” or, one can also use shortened forms such as simply “на остановке” and the driver will understand.

If one is unsure what маршрутка to take, one can try asking other people waiting at the bus stop a question like “Как добраться до Волгоградского проспекта дом 168?” and the answer will usually be a маршрутка number and a bus stop to ask for. Or, one can ask the driver of the маршрутка a question like “До Волгоградского проспекта дом 168, проедет?” If one is unsure where that is, if the driver answers that question in the affirmative, one can ask in advance, for instance, “На остановке остановите, пожалуйста.”.

Самое важное место in a маршрутка is right behind the driver; the passenger sitting there will have to передавать деньги за проезд . Other passengers pass money to him/her, asking their neighbors, “Передайте, пожалуйста”. If one does not have the exact amount, he/she clarifies, “Передайте за один/два”. If a passenger has a large bill, such as a 1,000 ruble-note, he/she can ask the driver first, “Сдача будет?”

Sometimes the маршрутка is crowded, and to make sure that there is a seat left, one can ask the passengers or the driver before entering, “Места еще есть?”. If all the seats are taken, one can ask the driver, “Можно стоя?” A маршрутка should be equipped with handrails to accommodate standing passengers. If there are no handrails, the driver may ask you to step out and wait for the next маршрутка.

One should be aware that some маршрутка now have автоматические двери. These occur, as a rule, in foreign-made vehicles. In Russian minibuses, people close and open the doors by hand. The person sitting nearest the door should make an effort to open it for departing passengers.

There are many jokes about водители маршруток  who must have a unique ability to multitask – водят, собирают плату за проезд, и дают сдачу . Also, there are many Russian jokes on the Internet about people making phone calls in маршрутка and revealing intimate details of their lives. Long or loud phone calls are also against common etiquette in a маршрутка – although many will still have them.

Housing and Registration in Russia

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

You should make sure that any housing option you chose in Russia will be able to register you upon arrival. Americans are required to register thier visas within seven business days of arrival. Hotels can be expected to do this automatically. Hostels and Airbnb locations will sometimes do it automatically, sometimes for an additional charge, and sometimes will refuse to do it (although they are legally obligated to do register any tenant renting housing from them).

Not registering can incur fines and bar you from obtaining future Russian visas, so always ask if У меня будет регистрация? If they seem confused, tell them the full nume of the process: Регистрация иностранных граждан по месту жительства.

Because of registration issues, if you will be staying in Russia for only a few days, желательно останавливаться в гостинице. Finding and reserving an affordable hotel room has been made quite easy with the advent of rental sites like booking.com, which is Russia’s most used booking service.

If you’ll be staying longer, especially as a researcher or student, or if you are just determined to use Airbnb, we recommend that you read this resource on our sister site, GeoHistory. It will explain the legalities of renting and registration in Russia in greater detail.

If you have to переночевать in a Russian provincial town, you might stay in гостиница в советском стиле. As a rule, it is a многоэтажное здание, constructed sometime between 1950-1980,c огромными площадями, with тяжелые деревянные двери and гранитный пол. Inside there is минимальный комфорт: Номер оборудован кроватью, столом, стулом и зачастую раковиной. There is an общий туалет, and the санузел is often в плохом состоянии. Sometimes вход ночью запрещен to the hotel.

While some of these museum piece hotels still exist, there are also many hotels that have been purchased and updated by private entrepreneurs – both in major cities and outside of them. Booking.com will make it fairly easy to see what you will be renting in advance.

Looking at thigns historically, in the Soviet epoch, provincial hotels были предназначены для обслуживания командированные  or артисты, but in the depths of the country, there were not many such travelers, and provincial hotels often пустовали. Meanwhile, the hotels in bigger cities always had табличка «Мест нет»  on the reception desk.

A frequent compaint about hotels in Russia, especially smaller ones, is that it can sometimes be hard дозвониться до гостиницы . However, service is not always bad. Often, the staff in a provincial hotel can give you a hand and explain the directions, as well as to help settle some problems you might have in a new place.

Many popular туристические места also haveчастные гостиницы  which provide удобства и лучшее обслуживание .

Here are some basic phrases for checking in and staying in a hotel in Russia:

Checking in:

У вас есть свободные номера?Russian Far East

Сколько стоит номер в сутки?

У вас есть что-нибудь подешевле?

Я заказывал двухместный номер.

На каком этаже моя комната?

Во сколько я должен выселиться?

Making a reservation:

Я бы хотел забронировать номер на __ суток.

Я бы хотел заселиться __ числа, а выехать __ числа

Staying over: 

Подскажите, где я могу поесть?

У меня в номере не работает телевизор.

Не могли бы разбудить меня утром в…. часов?

В моем номере нет полотенца. Дайте, пожалуйста, полотенце.

Не подскажете, как вызвать такси? Мне нужно ехать в…

Можно я оставлю вещи до вечера?

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About the author

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov has reported on political and social issues for the Russian press as well as American outlets such as Russian Life, Worldpress.org, and Triangle Free Press. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the "real Russia" which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and went on to study TESOL and teach Russian at West Virginia University. He is currently working on an PhD from West Virginia University in Political Science. Andrei contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS site, and is an overall linguistics and research resource.

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Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad Programs

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View all posts by: Josh Wilson