Area : The Ural Mountains cover an area of 694,983 mi². km2
Population : There are 12 million inhabitants in the region. inhabitants
Jet Lag : The UK is 6 hours behind in winter and 5 hours behind in summer.
There are no direct flights from the UK. The journey takes around 10 hours depending on the stopover (usually in Moscow).
Koltsovo Airport is the main international gateway to the Urals. There are regular flights to other cities in the region and Moscow, the capital of the country.
Petty crime is quite prevalent in the remote areas of Russia. There is a thriving arms trade, and local mafias sometimes control the streets.
There are many pickpockets in the city, who usually operate in crowded places, such as markets, tourist areas, and on public transport (on the underground, in train stations, on night trains, etc). Guard your valuables (jewellery, camcorders, cameras, etc) and never leave luggage on show in your car. There is no need to be paranoid, but stay vigilant.
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 (for Russia) + the city code (343 for Yekaterinburg) + the seven digit number you wish to call. To call the UK from Russia, dial: 8 and wait for the dial tone, then dial 10 + 44 (for the UK) + the number you wish to call (without the first 0). It costs between 10 and 20 rubles per minute to call the UK from 'European' Russia. The further you go, the more it will cost.
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