Area : The federal district of North Caucasus covers an area measuring 66,550 mi². km2
Population : The population of the federal district of North Caucasus was 9,254,940 in 2009. inhabitants
Jet Lag : UTC +4h. North Caucasus is 3 hours ahead of the UK in the summer and 4 hours ahead of the UK in the winter.
When flying to North Caucasus, travellers must catch a connecting flight at one of the two airports in Moscow, both of which are located approximately 800 miles away from Pyatigorsk, the district's administrative centre. A number of low-cost airline companies, including Lufthansa, Transaero, Aeroflot and Rossiya, offer reasonably priced tickets to Mineralnye Vody Airport. Lufthansa also flies to Vladikavkaz, though this involves an additional stopover in Frankfurt, while Aeroflot also offers flights to Stavropol. The journey takes around 5h 30m, including stopovers.
The four airports in the North Caucasus District are located in Stavropol, Mineralnye Vody, Nalchik and Vladikavkaz.
North Caucasus has been part of Russia since the 19th century, when it was conquered during the Caucasian War. Since then, this region has seen numerous wars, genocides and exoduses due to the diversity of its peoples, its different religions and according to some, its rebellious nature. Some tour guides even advise against visiting this region.
The most important thing is to know the right places to go in North Caucasus. Although the area in Stavropol Krai known as 'KMV' and home to many spas is very popular with tourists, the east of the region, including Chechnya in particular, is not as safe. Dagestan and the Caspian Sea Coast are up-and-coming tourist destinations, but it is nevertheless important to find out plenty of information about these destinations before your trip.
North Caucasus is a region where corruption is not uncommon, meaning the country's laws are not always respected by the its inhabitants. Getting assistance can also prove difficult in the area. Finally, some may find the road border crossings rather intimidating and unnerving.
It's therefore best to find out as much information as possible before your visit and to favour organised trips and excursions.
Russian is the official language. English is not yet widely spoken but it is nonetheless developing.
Valid passport and visa are needed. For the tourist visa, valid for three months, you must drop off a file at the consulate including your passport, three ID photos (size 3 by 4 cm), a form already filled in, dated and signed, a document from a registered insurance company covering medical and repatriation costs, a receipt from your travel agency indicating the name of the hotel you booked (with the dates of arrival and departure plus the reference number of the Russian tourist agency, in charge of the services in the country). Allow a week (two weeks for groups) for delivery.
Since February 2002, the procedure is less strict for stays of less than 72 hours. In this particular case, the visa is delivered upon arrival at the airport, at the counter where they check passports, provided you have purchased an organised trip or booked a hotel room through a Russian travel agency or through a registered hotel, at least 48 hours before the departure date.
The Muscovites are mostly Orthodox Christians. Few are from minority groups - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim.
The currency is the ruble (RUB), which used to consist of 100 Kopecks, though these are no longer in circulation. 1 ruble = 0.02 pound Sterling. The main credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted by most shops, hotels, restaurants, and airline companies and can be used to withdraw cash in banks and at cash machines. Travellers cheques, however, are used very little. If possible, bring cash in US dollars, preferably in small denominations and in excellent condition. There are many foreign exchange offices, so you can compare the rates to get the best deal. Avoid black market currency exchange in the street, even if they offer tempting rates, because you are likely to be ripped off. Banks are open from 9:30am to 4:00pm, Monday to Friday, while foreign exchange offices stay open until 7:00pm, even on Saturdays.
Any cash you are bringing into the country must be declared on the customs form when you arrive.
Bus, trolleybus, tramway, underground train and boats, there are many different means of public transport in Moscow. Most are cheap, the main difficulty being to find your bearings in this rather messy web. The complex network is far from easy to understand for a foreigner.
Buses - It is advisable to ask someone which line is the right one before boarding the bus. You have to buy your ticket (?off the stub') from the driver and stamp it in the machine by the window. You can also buy a pass, valid on all public transport, from the booths of the underground train.
Underground train - Fast, clean and cheap, the underground train is definitely the simplest way to travel on the condition that you have a bilingual map on you to help you decipher the station names. The train runs from 5:30 am to 1:30 am and there are peak times - in the morning around 9:00 am and in the evening around 6:00 pm. You can buy a token for each trip or use a rechargeable magnetic card, or else a monthly pass. The underground also links up avenues together and shelters many kiosks and peddlers. The decoration of the underground stations (statues, frescoes, stained-glass windows), either in the proletarian or in the Russian imperial style, is so spectacular that it is worth going down just for the visit.
Omni boats - They sail on the Moskva. The piers are spread out all along the banks. The fares are low and it is the ideal way to get a quick overview of the main tourist attractions. Some big hotels organize river cruises with dinner and show on board.
Taxis - Many official taxis (yellow) and unofficial (?tchastniks') drive around the capital city. You just have to hail one at random by raising your hand (they are available when the small green light is on, near the rear-view mirror). There are not any set fares and the vehicles are not equipped with a metre. This is why you have to negotiate the fare before leaving, knowing that they usually cost £3-6. Many private vehicles become occasional taxis, to make ends meet. It is common practise so do not hesitate to use them, their fares often being very competitive. You can call a taxi by telephone on this number: 927 00 00.
Driving - It is possible to rent a car, chauffeur-driven or not, for a very reasonable price, which varies according to the category of the car. We recommend to hire a chauffeur for comfort as well as for safety. You will find rental agencies (Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Intourtrans, Aerotour) everywhere in town and at the airport.
No particular vaccine is required, but it is recommended to be up to date with the following: typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, hepatitis A and B. Visitors wishing to stay in Russia more than three months must show an HIV-negative certificate. Tap water is not recommended. Despite city water carts that clean the streets energetically every morning, the hygiene conditions are often poor, in particular in public toilets. Most medicines are available without prescription in pharmacies and at metro kiosks. In case of an emergency, contact the European medical centre (Tel: 251 60 99). Insurance covering medical and repatriation expenses is mandatory.
Russia welcomed 20.2 million visitors in 2006.
Taxes and services are usually included in hotel and restaurant prices. It is customary to leave a tip for luggage porters in hotels, waiters in restaurants and taxi drivers.
To call Russia from the UK, dial: 00 7 + the area code of the town or city + the number you are trying to reach.
To call the UK from Russia, dial: 8 10 44 + the number without the initial 0.
To reach the emergency services in Russia, dial: 01 for the fire brigade and rescue services, 02 for the police (militsiya) or 03 for an ambulance.
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens
Tel: +44 207 229 2666
Fax: +44 207 229 5804
Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10
Moscow 12 1099
Tel: (7) (495) 956 7200
Fax: (7) (495) 956 7201
Intourist (The official agency for the organization of holidays and cruises.)
Tel: 292 44 03