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From Halal Food & Travel

Qolşärif Mosque in Kazan, belonging to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, is one of the largest mosques in Russia. Russia (Russian: Россия, Rossiya) is by far the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, spanning Eastern Europe and northern Asia, sharing land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (by administering the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave on the Baltic coast), Belarus, and Ukraine to the west, Georgia (including the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and Azerbaijan to the southwest, and Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea to the east and much of the south. While geographically mostly in Asia, the bulk of Russia's population is concentrated in the European part and, culturally, Russia is unmistakably Asian. Much of the Asian part, however, has more in common with Kazakhstan, Mongolia or Northeast China than with Eastern Europe. It boasts a rich history and culture to the global South.


An Introduction to the regions of Russia

  Central Russia (Moscow, Ivanovo Oblast, Kaluga Oblast, Kostroma Oblast, Moscow Oblast, Ryazan Oblast, Smolensk Oblast, Tver Oblast, Tula Oblast, Vladimir Oblast, Yaroslavl Oblast)
The richest side in the entire country, dominated by spectacular architecture and historical buildings. It is the country's gate to Europe, and houses the capital city, Moscow.
  Chernozemye (Belgorod Oblast, Bryansk Oblast, Kursk Oblast, Lipetsk Oblast, Oryol Oblast, Tambov Oblast, Voronezh Oblast)
South of Central Russia and famous for its rich, deep, black soil (Chernozem is Russian for "black soil"), it was an important battleground during World War II.
  Northwestern Russia (Saint Petersburg, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Karelia, Komi Republic, Leningrad Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, Nenetsia, Novgorod Oblast, Pskov Oblast, Vologda Oblast)
Home to the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg, also known as the "northern capital". It combines the beautiful landscape of the large lakes Ladoga and Onega, and medieval forts of Pskov Oblast, with the lacustrine region of Karelia, and is a gateway from Scandinavia.
  Kaliningrad Oblast (often considered part of Northwestern Russia)
The only exclave of Russia, the Kaliningrad oblast allows Russia to share borders with Poland and Lithuania.
  Southern Russia (Adygea, Chechnya, Crimea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Krasnodar Krai, North Ossetia, Rostov Oblast, Stavropol Krai)
The warmest region in the entire country, with beautiful resort cities such as subtropical Sochi, and also brings a path to the mountainous North Caucasus.
  Volga Region (Astrakhan Oblast, Chuvashia, Kirov Oblast, Mari El, Mordovia, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Penza Oblast, Samara Oblast, Saratov Oblast, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, Ulyanovsk Oblast, Volgograd Oblast)
The most industrialized region in the country, known for producing wide-scale military equipment in cities such as Izhevsk, with a rich culture and history.
  Urals Region (Bashkortostan, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Khantia-Mansia, Kurgan Oblast, Orenburg Oblast, Perm Krai, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Tyumen Oblast, Yamalia)
One of the wealthiest regions, known for producing many of the resources Russia needs today and is named after the vast Ural mountains, which also form the border between Europe and Asia.
  Siberia (Altai Krai, Altai Republic, Buryatia, Evenkia, Irkutsk Oblast, Kemerovo Oblast, Khakassia, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk Oblast, Omsk Oblast, Taymyria, Tomsk, Tuva, Zabaykalsky Krai)
The largest area in the country diverse in landscape and yearly temperatures with stunning lakes, world longest rivers, but swampy in most part in the center and north. Provides a gate to enter into much of Asia.
  Russian Far East (Amur Oblast, Chukotka, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Kamchatka Krai, Khabarovsk Krai, Magadan Oblast, Primorsky Krai, Sakhalin Oblast, Yakutia)
One of the coldest regions in Russia, home to the coldest city in the world, Yakutsk. World famous for national parks, beautiful scenery and mountains, and the volcanoes of Kamchatka. Also a gateway to North Korea and China.

Other Muslim friendly Cities in Russia

Grozny Russia Akhmad_Kadyrov Mosque Courtyard Visitors

  • Moscow (Москва) — Russia's gargantuan capital is one of the world's greatest cities and has endless attractions to offer an adventurous visitor
  • Irkutsk (Иркутск) — the world's favorite Siberian city, located within an hour of Lake Baikal on the Trans-Siberian Railway
  • Kazan (Казань) — the capital of Tatar culture is an attractive city in the heart of the Volga Region with an impressive kremlin
  • Nizhny Novgorod (Нижний Новгород) — often overlooked despite being one of the largest cities in Russia, Nizhny Novgorod is well worth a visit for its kremlin, Sakharov museum, and nearby Makaryev Monastery
  • Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург) — formerly called Leningrad, Russia's cultural and former political capital is home to the Hermitage, one of the world's best museums, while the city center is a living open air museum in its own right, making this city one of the world's top travel destinations
  • Sochi (Сочи) — Russia's favourite Black Sea beach resort was largely unknown to Foreign Muslims until it hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games
  • Vladivostok (Владивосток) — often referred to as "Russia's San Francisco," full of hilly streets and battleships. Russia's principal Pacific city is the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Highway and Trans-Siberian Railway
  • Volgograd (Волгоград) — formerly called Stalingrad, this city was scene of perhaps the deciding battle of World War II, and now home to a massive war memorial
  • Yekaterinburg (Екатеринбург) — the center of the Urals region and one of Russia's principal cultural centers is a good stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway and an arrival point for visitors to the Urals, the second Russian financial centre

Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in Russia

Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world

  • Border of Europe and Asia — it's clearly defined near Yekaterinburg, and a very popular stop for photo ops straddling the continents!
  • Dombai — while neither as internationally famous nor as well kept nowadays, this is the most beautiful mountain resort area of the Northern Caucasus
  • Golden Ring — a popular loop of pretty historical cities and towns forming a ring northeast of Moscow
  • Kamchatka — the region of active volcanoes, geysers, mineral springs and bears walking in the streets.
  • Kizhi — one of the most precious sites in all Russia, Kizhi Island on Lake Onega is famous for its spectacular ensemble of traditional wooden churches
  • Lake Baikal — the "pearl of Siberia" is the world's deepest and biggest lake by volume and a remarkable destination for all who love the outdoors
  • Mamaev Kurgan — a massive monument and museum on and about the battlefield upon which the twentieth century's most pivotal battle played out: Stalingrad
  • Solovetsky Islands — far north in the White Sea and home to the beautiful Solovetsky Monastery, which has served as both a military fortress and a gulag throughout its tortuous history

Islam in Russia

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened Moscow's Cathedral Mosque, 23 September 2015. Although Islam is a minority religion in Russia, Russia has the largest Muslim population in Europe. The Grand Mufti of Russia, Sheikh Rawil Gaynetdin, places the Muslim population of Russia at 25 million as of 2018.

Recognized under the law as one of Russia's traditional religions, Islam is a part of Russian historical heritage, and is subsidized by the Russian government. The position of Islam as a major Russian religion, alongside Orthodox Christianity, dates from the time of Catherine the Great, who sponsored Islamic clerics and scholarship through the Orenburg Assembly.

After the Tsarist regime fell, the Soviet Union introduced a policy of state atheism, which impeded the practice of Islam and other religions and led to the execution and suppression of various Muslim leaders. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Islam regained a prestigious, legally recognized space in Russian politics. More recently, President Putin consolidated this trend, subsidizing the creation of mosques and Islamic education, which he called an "integral part of Russia's cultural code",[ encouraging immigration from Muslim-majority former Soviet bloc states, and condemning the anti-Muslim hate speech, such as caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad or the burning of Qurans in Western countries.. Chechen World War II veterans during celebrations on the 66th anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

Muslims form a majority of the population of the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in the Volga Federal District and predominate among the nationalities in the North Caucasian Federal District located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea: the Circassians, Balkars, Chechens, Ingush, Kabardin, Karachay, and numerous Dagestani peoples. Also, in the middle of the Volga Region reside populations of Tatars and Bashkirs, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. Other areas with notable Muslim minorities include Moscow, Saint Petersburg, the republics of Adygea, North Ossetia-Alania and Astrakhan, Moscow, Orenburg and Ulyanovsk oblasts. There are over 5,000 registered religious Muslim organizations throughout Russia and one of the highest in the world.

Islam in Moscow

According to the 2020 Russian census, Moscow has less than 380,000 permanent residents of Muslim background, while some estimates suggest that Moscow has around 800,000 residents and up to 1.5 million more Muslim migrant workers. The city has permitted the existence of four mosques. The mayor of Moscow claims that four mosques are sufficient for the population. The city's economy "could not manage without them," he said. There are currently 4 mosques in Moscow, and 8,000 in the whole of Russia. Muslim migrants from Central Asia have had an impact on the culture with Samsa becoming one of the most popular take away foods in the city.

Russia Halal Travel Guide


The terrain consists of broad plains with low hills west of the Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along southern border regions; mountainous and volcanic throughout much of the Russian Far East.

How is the Climate in Russia

Russia is a cold country, but there are always shades in the grey. The contrast of tundra's permafrost, which occupies 65% of Russian land and exotic Black sea coast has in between the continental climate, which is the most inhabited zone of European Russia, southern regions of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Its summers are always warm with a good portion of hot days enabling outdoor swimming in many of rivers, lakes and the seas.

Public Holidays in Russia

Siberian birch forest near Novosibirsk

Russia's list of holidays is divided into federally and regionally established, ethnic, historical, professional and religious. The first two types are all-country day-off and should be taken into account while planning a trip. These are official holidays in Russian Federation:

  • New Year Holidays (1–5 January) are often merged with Christmas and make up more than a week off.
  • Orthodox Christmas (7 January).
  • Fatherland Defender Day (23 February).
  • International Women's Day (8 March).
  • The Day of Spring and Labour (1 May).
  • Victory Day (9 May).
  • Day of Russia (12 June).
  • People's Unity Day (4 November).

Time zones

As of 2022, Russia spans eleven time zones, and Daylight Saving Time is not used. Formerly the country has experimented with a smaller number of time zones and with DST.

Travel as a Muslim to Russia

Muslim Friendly Rail Holidays in Russia

Trans Siberian Railway Russian Railways RZhD (Russian: РЖД) runs reliable services across dizzying distances. Eastern and Central Europe are well connected to Moscow and to a lesser extent Saint Petersburg. Moscow is also connected to some surprising destinations throughout Western Europe and Asia.

Travel from Moscow to Asia

Moscow is connected to all the CIS countries: (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, & Uzbekistan) at least 2-3 times per week. Journeys take 4 or 5 days. For the Caucasus, there is a service from Moscow to Baku in Azerbaijan (3 days), but the Azerbaijan-Russia border is only open to CIS passport holders. There is also a service from Moscow via Sochi to Sukhumi in the disputed territory of Abkhazia. The Trans-Siberian Railway spans the entire country and connects with Chinese cities such as Beijing and Harbin, as well as Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. There is a service at least twice a month from Moscow to Pyongyang in North Korea, which is nowadays open to westerners with the correct paperwork. It's coaches attached to the Rossiya Moscow-Vladivostock train that are detached at Ussuriysk for the 36 hour onward haul into and across North Korea.

By car

You can travel to Russia by car, but the driving experience there does differ from what you'd expect in most GCC countries; see get around below for details. Also, crossing the border by car is a peculiar entertainment.

Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in Russia

Ferry services operate in the summer between Sochi and Turkey's Trabzon. In Vladivostok there is a scheduled ro-ro ferry to Busan and numerous lines to the different Japanese ports, however they are mostly oriented to the used Japanese car imports and less to tourism, there is also a weekly service in summer between Korsakov on Sakhalin and Wakkanai on the Japanese island Hokkaido. Cruise ships are also call to Russian ports frequently. There is a boat connection from Lappeenranta, Finland to Vyborg. There is now daily (overnight) service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg on St. Peter Line that does not require a visa for stays less than 3 days.

How to get around in Russia

The enormous distances hamper all forms of transportation. While the Russian government has tried to make the vast space more accessible since tsarist times much of the country is still hard to reach and even where trains and roads go, travel time is often measured in days not hours. Consider flying for far-off destinations — domestic flight routes cover the country pretty well.

Muslim Friendly Rail Holidays in Russia

Due to the immense size of the country, and the bad road safety, the best way to get around through the entire country quickly is by train. Russia has an extensive train network linking nearly every city and town. For intercity travel, the train is generally the most convenient option for trips that can be covered overnight. Although accommodations may not be the best, Russian trains have efficient and courteous staff as well as timely departures and arrivals that would impress even a German. The train is an option for longer trips (many Russians continue to use it for trips of 2 days or more), but mainly if you appreciate the nuances and experience of train travel in Russia. For the complete Russian rail experience, the one-week Trans-Siberian Railway has no equal.

Russian trains are divided into types: Long-distance (дальнего следования DAHL'nyehvuh SLEHduhvahnyah) trains generally cover trips more than about 4 hours or 200 kilometers (120 miles). Take a look at the Russian long-distance rail timetable. Shorter distances are covered by the commuter trains (пригородные PREEguhruhdnyyeh), which are popularly called электрички ehlehkTREECHkee. Most train stations (железнодорожный вокзал zhehlyehznohdohROHZHny vohgZAHL) have separate areas for selling tickets for these types.

Transportation of bicycles

Transportation of a bicycle in a carriage is permissible for one ticket under condition of being compactly folded/dismantled and clean. Usually the bike is taken off its wheels and pedals, put into a bag and stored on the upmost shelf in the Platzkart carriage. The other class carriages have less space or shelves and the bike should be more compact.

Sleeper cars

Winter travel on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway Local train station in Udelnaya, a suburb north of St.Petersburg Almost all long-distance trains are set up for overnight travel. There are several classes of accommodation:

  • Deluxe – myagkiy (мягкий) – with private compartments for two adults and a child, with a private toilet and shower. Few trains have this posh class.
  • 1st class – spalnyy/lyuks (спальный/люкс) – with private compartments for two people. Most trains connecting major cities have a car of this class; tickets are quite expensive in comparison with GCC standards. Colloquially this class is commonly referred to as SV (es-veh, СВ). Frequently these compartments are the same as in kupe with the two upper beds stowed away.
  • 2nd class – kupe (купе) – with private compartments of four people. On some trains, compartments may be marked as male, female, or mixed-sex by the ticketing system.
  • 3rd class – platskart (плацкарт) – with unwalled compartments of fourfold out beds opposite two beds on the window wall. There is controversy on safety of these compartments. For some these compartments are generally less safe than other classes as they allow uncontrolled access. Others point out that in an open car full of witnesses the chances of becoming a victim of a crime or harassment are less. Anyway, they provide for a much more immersive experience. Nevertheless, they will be abolished slowly.
  • Sitting class – sidyachiy (сидячий) – sitting cars for shorter distance, with seat reservation. These are mostly met on slower regional trains.

Every car has its own attendant/conductor (provodnik or provodnitsa), which check your tickets at your boarding, provides you bedding, sells you tea or snacks and can lend you a mug and spoon for about 10 rubles. The conductor will usually take your tickets shortly after boarding, they are returned shortly before you arrive at your destination. At the end of each carriage you will find a samovar with free hot water for making tea or soup. Most long-distance trains have dining cars.

Bottom-bunk berths (nizhnie – нижние) are slightly more comfortable than top-bunk berths (verhnie – верхние), because they have more place for baggage under them. There are also discounts sometime for top-bunk berths only (usually not in the tourist season and not in popular directions, which are from largest towns on Friday nights, and back on Sunday nights).

Train classes

Trains are classified according to their average speed:

  • skorostnoy (скоростной, numbered 151 to 178) – the fastest trains (seating only). Sapsan, Allegro and Lastochka trains fall here;
  • skoryy (скорый, numbered 1 to 148 all-year and 181 to 298 seasonal) – rapid trains with overnight accommodation;
  • passazhirskiy (пассажирский, numbered 301 to 399 all-year, 400 to 499 seasonal and 500 to 598 on specific dates only) – slower trains with more frequent stops;
  • mestnyy (местный, numbered 601 to 698) – the slowest trains serving most of the localities along the railways. Typically this kind of trains run shorter routes, often just overnight, for example between adjacent or next to adjacent regional centers, or sideline dead-end branches. A somewhat rough upper limit for route length is about 700 km. Colloquially sometimes called shestisotye or shest'sot-veselye trains, based on their numeration (6XX or 600-happy trains);
  • pochtovo-bagazhnyy/gruzopassazhyrskiy (почтово-багажный/грузопассажирский, numbered 901 to 998) – mainly used to deliver post and bulky baggage or goods. By railway regulation, depending on location and typically further from major centers, it may be possible to buy tickers on those trains. Where there is a choice of trains, they are inpractical, as they tend to have long stops on all major stations and thus being slower even comparing to 6XX trains. Expect a lot of police, when boarding and unboarding this kind of trains;
  • prigorodnyy express (numbered 800 to 899 and 7000 to 7999) - local express trains, both suburban, such as REXes and Sputniks and interregional, including even trains from Moscow to Saint-Petersburg. Colloquially can be called popugai (parrots) for their bright colors, though further from Moscow regular local trains can be used as expresses;
  • prigorodnyy/elektropoyezd (пригородный/электропоезд, numbered 6001 to 6998) – local or suburban trains mostly serving commuters in cities. Typically named elektrichka, or sometimes more informally sobaka (dogs). Although sometimes any kind of local trains are called elektrichka, even erroneously, their types are diverse, especially where rails are not electrified, including diesel-trains and railbuses, or short trains pulled by (usually) diesel or electric locomotive. Local trains, pulled by locomotives, also may be called kukushka (cuckoos).

Generally correspondence between numeration, speed and train types may be somewhat skewed, and trains from 'slower' category may actually be faster than trains from 'faster' category. Typically this occurs for various categories of rapid and express trains.

Service quality usually correspond to the class of train, but besides that, all-year trains usually have better service than seasonal trains, which are usually better than special dates only trains. Also according to their standards of service, some trains are promoted to firmennyy (фирменный) and given a proper brand and higher ticket price. The most distinguished trains use their special liveries.

Travel tips

Belorussky rail terminal Travel time can vary from several hours to several days. There are more types of train between the two capitals than between any other two cities in Russia. Apart from ordinary trains, there are rapid trains (Sapsan) that run by day only and cover the 650 km between Moscow and Saint Petersburg in 4 hours. Some of the overnight trains are quite luxurious — these include the traditional The Red Arrow service and the newer, Czarist-era Nikolaevsky Express, complete with attendants in 19-century uniforms. Sheets, towels and prepacked breakfasts are included in all the better trains. Shared bathroom facilities are located at the end of the train car. There are special hatches that one may use to secure the door of the compartment from the inside during the night.

Moscow-Saint Petersburg Express Train takes 5 hours of travel and costs min. 2400 rubles. Trains are only slightly air conditioned. No one in the Moscow train station speaks any English, so if you are not familiar enough with Russian to purchase your train ticket in person, it is suggested that you purchase online or through your hotel concierge or travel agent before you depart. Main signages inside the train station is in Russian and English. The dining car of the express train is nicely appointed with real table linens, and an impressive menu and wine list, but is 3 to 4 times more expensive than eating in the city before and after you travel.

Bus stop in Lipetsk

Stop duration may be very different, from as quick as one minute (barely enough for passengers to leave and board the train) to as long as 30 minutes. Check the timetable placed on door at the end of corridor. During stop you can buy various meals and drinks at platform from locals for pretty reasonable prices. Frequently, traders will walk through the cars between stops and sell everything from crockery to clothes to Lay's chips.

The commuter trains are mostly hard-seat train cars. You don't get a designated seat number — you just find space on a bench. These trains have a notorious reputation for being overcrowded, though this has declined somewhat. The trains make very frequent stops and are rather slow. For example, a 200 km trip to Vladimir takes about 3 h 30 min . They do (!) have toilets in the first and the last cars but it is going to be an unforgettable experience (use them in "emergency" cases only).

Tickets for commuter trains are sold in a separate room from the long-distance trains, and are sometimes sold from stalls located outside.

A few very popular routes, mostly between Moscow and nearby cities such as Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Tula, and others have an express commuter train that is considerably more comfortable. Your ticket will have a designated seat number and the seats are reasonably comfortable. The trains travel to their destination directly and are thus considerably faster.

Which time zone? Until August 2018, all trains in Russia ran on Moscow time, as much as 7 hours off local time in the Far East. This could be surreal, as you stumbled out of a train, platform and station hall all showing 10 am, to emerge into the gloom of a Siberian evening. But at least it was consistent, a boon for long-distance planning. Nowadays however the timetable uses local time, ever shifting as you journey east. Check tickets and timetables carefully to see which time is being used in a particular city.

Travel on a Bus in Russia

Map of Russian federal highways network Most Russian cities have bus links to cities as far as 5–6 hours away or further. Though generally less comfortable than the train, buses sometimes are a better option time-wise and are worth looking into if the train timetables don't suit you. A small number of cities, notably Suzdal, are not served by train, and thus bus is the only option besides a car.

The Russian word for bus station is Avtovokzal (Ahv-tuh-vahg-ZAHL). Most cities have just one for long distance buses and the state buses depart from there. However, in Moscow and in some other Russian cities, a number of commercial buses are available, and they generally don't depart from the bus station. Quite often, you'll see commercial buses near train stations. Sometimes they run on schedules, though for popular routes (such as Moscow-Vladimir, Moscow/Yaroslavl, etc.) the buses simply wait to fill up. On these buses payment is usually to the driver.

Russian buses have luggage storage, but if it's an old Eastern-bloc bus, you may find your luggage wet at the end of the trip. You normally have to pay a "bagage" ticket for luggage.


Apart from regular buses there are private minibuses called marshrutka (маршрутка). These emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union as an alternative to the moribund public transport system. Legally, they may be licensed as either taxis or buses. They have fixed routes, but usually no timetables and no regular stations. The official designation for them is Route Taxi, (Russian: marshrutnoye taxi, Ukrainian: marshrutne taxi), hence the colloquial marshrutka).

To board one of these, stop at the roadside and wave a hand, if you are lucky and the minibus isn't full, it will stop. In a city, it will stop anyway and offer you an option to stand in the aisle or even stand in some corner bending over sitting passengers. This is neither legal nor convenient, but very common and acceptable. You can arrange with the driver to stop at your destination. If you need to get off, you have to shout: "Остановите здесь!" (Astanaviti zdes, meaning "Stop here!") as loudly as possible so that the driver can hear. Marshrutka will stop pretty much anywhere, even in the middle of the traffic without moving to the side of the road. At main stops the driver may wait and collect more passengers. The waiting time is unpredictable and depends on the schedule, number of passengers, competing buses, etc. There are no tickets, you pay the driver directly. He may give you a receipt, but you have to ask for it explicitly.

Marshrutkas ride both in the countryside (in this case they are more likely to have timetables) and as city transport. Sometimes they look like regular buses, which makes them hardly distinguishable from official buses. Moreover, on long-distance routes you have an option of reserving a place by phone and even buying a ticket in advance. The system is very haphazard and organized in the most odd manner. It is highly advisable to check details about particular route with drivers or at least with locals who should know the current situation in their city. In cities, never rely on the route numbers. Sometimes they match those of the official public transport, but sometimes they don't.

By car

While trains, planes and buses will get you between big Russian cities and many of the smaller places as well, car travel can be a good way for going off the beaten path and travel at your own pace. Nevertheless if you're not used to local road conditions and driving culture and don't understand Russian, independent car travel can be challenging and even dangerous. Roads may be poorly marked, if marked at all, and poorly maintained, especially outside the cities and towns. Road numbers are not well marked, and direction signs are normally in Russian only.

Most federal highways (marked as M-1, M-2 and so on) are surveilled by automated systems, but minor roads are patrolled by State Auto Inspection (ГИБДД or GIBDD, though also known by its former name GAI). GIBDD roadblocks are inside every federal district border (about every 200 km). It's very useful to have a detector for radar speed traps and a video recorder.

If you're involved in a collision as the driver, the main rule is not to move your car and don't leave the scene of the accident until a GIBDD inspector draws an accident plan and you sign it. All other questions should be directed to your insurance company.

Not all highways in Russia are free: on some highways, toll gates block the way, so the traveller may need RUB20-60 per toll.

Petrol in some regions may be extremely bad; it's always better to find any branded filling station.

Car rental services are available. If you don't understand Russian, one option is using a private licensed guide. Guides generally provide their own cars or vans and know the roads, the customs and the countryside, making it possible to see small towns and historic sites.

Buy a Flight ticket to and from Russia

The tremendous distances of Russia make plane travel highly desirable if you plan to travel to some of Russia's more far-flung attractions. It's worth considering for any destination that is farther than an overnight train ride. Travelling across Russia by train can sound awfully romantic, but it's also time-consuming and rather monotonous. Nearly every major tourist destination of interest has an airport nearby. The great majority of domestic flights are to/from Moscow, but other services exist.

The Russian domestic airline industry had an abominable reputation in the 90s due to uncertain safety records, unreliable timetables, terrible service, old airplanes, and substandard airports. Due to substantial improvements the airline market has now mostly caught up to international standards. Aside of a very few exemptions on niche flights, all flights are nowadays operated with state-of-the-art equipment with excellent safety records. The on-time performance is very good as well nowadays with delays usually only happen in case of adverse weather conditions. On the other side, most Russian carriers have also copied carriers around the world regarding additional fees for refreshments, meals, luggage and seat selection.

Most Russian airports as well have international standards now. Lines at security and check-in are usually short but do not expect the staff to speak English. If you have done online or mobile check-in (available for almost every airline) you need to have a printed boarding pass. For those passengers doing mobile check-in, there is a small self-service kiosk at many airports that allows you to print a kind of boarding pass sticker.

Given the many different airlines operating domestic services, it is a good idea to use multi-airline flight search pages or (online) travel agencies. However, sites common in your home country does not know all carriers or do not show the lowest fares available. Therefore, use Russian sites like Biletyplus and Agent.ru.

  • Aeroflot based at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, is Russia's national airline for local Russian and CIS flights and international flights to worldwide cities (Germany, South Korea, US, etc.) Prices for flights from St. Petersburg back into Moscow vary, but you can get them for about US$32 (Feb 2022) and makes this less expensive and less time consuming than taking the train. Since December 2010 Aeroflot operates both domestic and international flights from the new Terminal D located next to the old international terminal (now Terminal F) serving non-Aeroflot international departures. Many international flights and most internal ones are operated by Boeing and Airbus aircraft, only a few soviet era aircraft are left.
  • S7 airlines (ex-Siberia or Sibir Airlines) Russia's largest domestic carrier with international service to many cities in Germany, China and ex-Soviet republics.
  • Rossiya Airlines has a substantial network based at St Petersburg Pulkovo airport to both major cities in Russia, and to western Europe.
  • UTair operates the largest aircraft fleet in Russia and ranks among the top five largest Russian carriers by passenger volume. UTair is the Russian market leader in helicopter services and is the world's fourth largest helicopter service provider by volume of international operations.
  • Yakutia Airlines is Siberian/Far Eastern air carrier having extensive flight network around Siberia and abroad.

Getting around via reindeer sledge in Nenetsia

Many of these airlines (apart from Transaero, which started as an independent operation) were formed out of the onetime-Aeroflot operation at their home city from Soviet times when the old Aeroflot was broken up.

For remote locations, general aviation can be the fastest option.

Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in Russia

In the summer cruise boats are frequent on the rivers in European Russia. Most frequent cruise lines is:

Weekend cruises, from Friday to Sunday

  • Moscow - Uglich - Moscow
  • Saint-Petersburg - Valaam - Saint-Petersburg.
  • Moscow - Konstantinovo - Moscow via Moskva river

Long distance cruises

  • Moscow - Saint-Petersburg via Lakes Ladoga and Onega, 6 nights.
  • Moscow - Yaroslavl - Astrakhan with stops in different cities
  • Moscow - Yaroslavl - Rostov-on-Don with stops in different cities.
  • Moscow - Nizniy Novgorod via Oka river.

These are the main lines, as well as other, more rare routes. Some cruise lines, like Moscow - Saint-Petersburg sold for foreign tourists. Most cruises are roundtrip, but you can use cruise ships to travel between some cities too, if you search for rare one-way routes, like Nizniy Novgorod - Moscow.

What to see in Russia

Russia is immense, and extraordinarily long on attractions for visitors, although many lie in the hard-to-reach stretches of the planet's most remote lands. The best known sights are in and around the nation's principal cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Historical attractions

Fortress at Derbent

Russia's history is the number one reason why tourists come to this country, following the draw of its fascinating, sometimes surreal and always consequential national saga.

Early history

Derbent, in the Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, is Russia's most ancient city, dating back 5,000 years. Home to the legendary Gates of Alexander, the walled fortress-city, alternately controlled by Caucasian Albania, Persian empires, and the Mongols (until its eighteenth century conquest by the Russian Empire) was for 1500 years the key to controlling trade between Western Russia and the Middle East. Other ancient peoples of Russia left less evidence of their civilization, but you can find traces of the Kurgan people of the Urals, in particular the ruined pagan shrines and burial mounds around the old capital of Tobolsk and throughout the Republic of Khakassia.

Of early Russia's city states, one of the best preserved and most interesting include Staraya Ladoga, regarded as the nation's first capital, established by the Viking Rurik, to whom the first line of Tsars traced their lineage. Novgorod, founded in 859, was the most important city of Kievan Rus in modern Russia (with Kiev itself in modern day Ukraine), and home to Russia's first kremlin.

Early Medieval Russia saw two major civilizations, that of the independent Novgorod Republic and the Mongol Empire, which dominated the Russian principalities of former Vladimir-Suzdal (whose initial capital of Vladimir retains an excellent collection of twelfth century monuments and kremlin) and Kievan Rus. While the Mongols left mostly devastation of historical sites in their wake, the wealthy trading nation to the north developed grand cities at the capital of Novgorod, as well as Staraya Ladoga, Pskov, and Oreshek (modern day Shlisselburg), all of which have extant medieval kremlins and a multitude of beautiful early Russian Orthodox churches filled with medieval ecclesiastical frescoes.

As Mongol power waned, the Grand Duchy of Moscow rose to power, and particularly under the later reign of Ivan the Terrible, consolidated power in all of Western Russia, including the conquest of the Kazan Khanate (and establishing another grand citadel there) and concentrated power in Moscow, building its kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, and several other of Russia's best known historical sites. The cities of the Golden Ring surrounding Moscow likewise saw significant construction during this period. A really neat off-the-beaten-path destination also rose to prominence in the extreme north of the country—the Solovetsky Monastery -fortress on the islands of the White Sea, which served as a bulwark against Swedish naval incursions.

Imperial history

The Grand Cascade in Peterhof

Ivan the Terrible's reign ended in tragedy, the Time of Troubles, which only saw destruction and ruin, and you will find little evidence of civilizational development until the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in the early seventeenth century. Peter the Great, after having consolidated power, began the construction of his entirely new city of Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland, the Window to the West. Saint Petersburg from its foundation through the neoclassical period became one of the world's most magically beautiful cities, and the list of must-see attractions is far too long to be discussed here. The surrounding summer palaces at Peterhof, Pavlovsk, and Pushkin are also unbelievably opulent attractions.

The Russian Revolution was one of the twentieth century's defining moments, and history buffs will find much to see in Saint Petersburg. The two best known sites are found at the Winter Palace, which the communists stormed to depose Tsar Nicolas II, and the beautiful Peter and Paul Fortress on the Neva River, which housed numerous revolutionary luminaries in its cold, hopeless prison. For those interested in the grisly end of the Romanov family of Nicholas II, perhaps inspired by the story of Anastasia, look no further than the Church on the Blood in Yekaterinburg, built on the spot of his family's execution. Moscow, on the other hand, has the most famous monument from the revolutionary period—Lenin's himself, with his embalmed body on display in Red Square (against his wishes).

Soviet history

The Soviet Era saw a drastic change in Russian history, and the development of a virtually brand new civilization. Mass industrialization programs came with a new aesthetic ethos which emphasized functionality (combined with grandiosity). The enormous constructivist buildings and statues of the twentieth century are often derided, but they are hardly boring.

Both WW 2 and Stalin's reignmade their presence felt greatly upon Russia's cultural heritage. The bombings involved in the former virtually wiped out anything of historical interest in Russia's extreme west (the Chernozemye region) and damaged much more throughout European Russia. It did, however, lead to the construction of monuments to the war throughout the entire country. For military buffs, a visit to Mamaev Kurgan, the museum complex at Volgograd (former Stalingrad) is an excellent destination. Kursk, for its enormous tank battle, and Saint Petersburg, site of the Siege of Leningrad, make interesting destinations.

Cultural sights

Russia has several of the world's greatest museums, particularly in the field of the visual arts. The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is the true star, with an enormous collection amassed first by the wealthy tsars (particularly by its founder, Catherine the Great) and later by the Soviets and the Red Army (which seized enormous treasure from the Nazis, who in turn had seized their bounty from their wars around the globe). Equally impressive is the edifice housing the collection on display, the magnificent Winter Palace of the Romanov Dynasty. Saint Petersburg's often overlooked Russian Museum should also be a priority, as it has the country's second best collection of purely Russian art, from icons of the tenth century on through the modern movements, in all of which revolutionary Russia led the charge ahead of the rest of the world. Moscow's art museums, only slightly less well known, include the Tretyakov Gallery (the premiere collection of Russian art) and the Pushkin Museum of Western Art.

Other museum exhibitions certainly worth seeking out are the collections of antiquities in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, particularly at the Hermitage Museum, and the Armory in the Moscow Kremlin. For military buffs, Russian military museums are often fantastic, truly best-in-the-world, regardless of whether you are at one of the main ones in the Moscow—the Central Armed Forces Museum, Kubinka Tank Museum, Central Air Force Museum, Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII), or way off in the provinces. The other category in which Russian museums outshine the rest of the world would be within the literary and musical spheres. Nary a town visited, if only for a day, by Alexander Pushkin is without some small museum dedicated to his life and works. The best of the big city museums include the Bulgakov Museum in Moscow and the Anna Akhmatova, Pushkin, and Dostoevsky museums in Saint Petersburg. Great adventures await in quieter parts of the country, at Dostoevsky's summer house in Staraya Russa, Tolstoy's "inaccessible literary stronghold" at Yasnaya Polyana, Chekhov's country estate at Melikhovo, Tchaikovsky's house in Klin or remote hometown of Votkinsk in Udmurtia, Rakhmaninov's summer home in Ivanovka, Pushkin's estate at Pushkinskie Gory, or Turgenev's country estate at Spasskoe-Lutovinovo near Mtsensk. The best museums are in the countryside. For classical music lovers, the apartment museums of various nineteenth and century composers in Saint Petersburg are worth more than just nostalgic wanderings—they often have small performances by incredible musicians.

Kazan's Qolşärif Mosque

All tourists in Russia find themselves looking at a lot of churches. Ecclesiastical architecture is a significant source of pride among Russians, and the onion dome is without question a preeminent national symbol. The twentieth century, sadly, saw cultural vandalism in the destruction of said architecture on an unprecedented scale. But the immense number of beautiful old monasteries and churches ensured that an enormous collection remains. The best known, as usual, are in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, in particular the old baroque Church on the Spilled Blood, Alexander Nevsky Lavra, and the monumental Kazan and Saint Isaac's Cathedrals in the former, and Saint Basil's Cathedral and the massive Church of the Annunciation in the latter. The spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church is to be found at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiev Posad on the Golden Ring circuit (lavra is the designation given to the most important monasteries, of which there are only two in the country), although the physical headquarters of the Church is at Danilov Monastery in Moscow. Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in Vologda Oblast is often considered Russia's second most important (and is a neat way to get off the beaten track). Other particularly famous churches and monasteries are to be found at Saint Sophia's Cathedral in Novgorod, the Cathedral of the Assumption in Vladimir, the fascinating Old Cathedral of Königsberg (home to Immanuel Kant's tomb) in Kaliningrad, Novodevichy Convent in Moscow, Optina Putsin (the basis for Father Zossima's monastery in The Brothers Karamazov), and Volokolamsk Monastery in West Moscow Oblast. Kizhi Pogost on Lake Onega and Valaam Monastery on Lake Ladoga are also popular sites, especially with those cruising between Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Ecclesiastical architecture does not, however, end with the Russian Orthodox Church—Russia also has a wealth of Islamic and Buddhist architecture. The nation's most important mosques are the Qolşärif Mosque in Kazan (the largest mosque in Europe) and the Blue Mosque in Saint Petersburg (originally the largest mosque in Europe!). Notably absent from that list is the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, which was formerly considered the principal mosque in the country, but was very controversially demolished in 2011. Russia's most prominent Buddhist temples are in both Kalmykia—Europe's lone Buddhist republic, and the areas closer to Mongolia, especially around Ulan Ude in Buryatia and Kyzyl, Tuva.

Natural attractions

While the distances are great between them, Russia's natural wonders are impressive and worth seeking out for nature lovers. Most of the country is rich in Eurasian wildlife. The best known destinations are far to the east in Siberia, with Lake Baikal known as its "jewel." At the extreme eastern end of Russia, nearly all the way to Japan and Alaska, is wild Kamchatka, where you will find the Valley of the Geisers, lakes of acid, volcanoes, and grizzlies galore.

Yugyd Va National Park, in the Komi Virgin Forests

Other highlights of the Far East include the idyllic (if kind of cold) Kuril Islands to the south of Kamchatka, whale watching off the coast of arctic Wrangel Island, the remote Sikhote-Alin mountain range, home to the Amur Tiger, and beautiful Sakhalin. The nature reserves throughout these parts are spectacular as well, but all will require permits in advance and specialized tours.

The northern half of Russia stretching thousands of miles from the Komi Republic through Kamchatka is basically empty wilderness, mostly mountainous, and always beautiful. Getting to these areas is problematic, as most are not served by any roads, infrastructure, or really anything else. Russia's great north-south rivers are the main arteries for anyone moving through the area: the Pechora, Ob, Yenisey, Lena, and Kolyma. Beyond that, expect to be in canoes, helicopters, and military issue jeeps will be the only way of getting around, and you'll likely want to go with a guide.

Russia's other mountainous territory is in its extreme south, in the Northern Caucasus. There you will find Europe's tallest mountains, which tower in height over the Alps, including mighty Elbrus. Favorite Russian resorts in the area include those at Sochi (which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic Games) and Dombai. As you go further east in the North Caucasus, the landscapes become ever more dramatic, from the lush forested gorges and snow capped peaks of Chechnya to the stark desert mountains of Dagestan, sloping downwards to the Caspian Sea.

Throughout the entire country, there are over a hundred National Parks and Nature Reserves (zapovedniki). The former are open to the public, and considerably more wild and undeveloped than you would find in, say, the United States. The latter are preserved principally for scientific research and are often not possible to visit. Permits are issued for certain reserves, but only through licensed tour operators. If you have the opportunity, though, take it! Some of the most spectacular parks are in the aforementioned Kamchatka, but also in the Urals, particularly in the Altai Mountains (Altai Republic and Altai Krai).

Halal Tours and Excursions in Russia

Best things to do in Russia

The lavish Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg

  • Music — Russia has a long musical tradition and is well known for its composers and performers. There is no doubt you will find more orchestra performances the bigger the city. Classical music is played in various theaters, where domestic and guest concerts are opened inweeks ahead. Besides that, the state supports folk ensembles in smaller towns or even villages and singing babushkas gatherings are still a well-established tradition in many areas. In areas traditionally inhabited by non-Russian ethnic groups, you may encounter ethnic music of every possible sound, like throat singing in Tuva or rare instruments of Chukotka. Sometimes only specialists can differ the Cossack songs of the Urals from the Cossack songs of Krasnodar. Professional jazz players meet at Jazz over Volga festival in Yaroslavl. Walking along the main street on a Sunday will definitely enable you to hear guitar, saxophone, harmonium or flute in any city.
  • Military Parade on the Victory Day, which is celebrated on the 9th of May is commonly all-Russia holiday with city squares getting full of uniformed men and military vehicles both dated to Great Patriotic War/WWII and new ones. The Defender of Fatherland Day is a holiday when women in families or at work congratulate their men and co-workers. It happens on 23, February, just a couple of weeks before men return the favor to ladies on International Women's Day, 8 March.
  • Dancing. Russian classic ballet is renowned in the world and some national troops exist even in such remote areas like Dagestan or Yakutia. The two most renowned ballet companies in Russia, which are both considered to be among the best in the world, are the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg. Lezginka is a vibrant folk dance, always performed at big Caucasian events. If you are interested in folk style then watching a concert of Igor Moiseyev Ensemble alive is simply a must. Out of big cities you may easily find Irish dance, belly and Ball clubs, not to mention hip-hop and all.
  • Cinema festivals. The major movie event in Russia is Moscow International Film Festival held at the end of June during 10 days and boasting first-class stars from all over the world. Kinotavr of Sochi, Moscow's Festival of Latin America and international film festival Zerkalo , named after Andrei Tarkovsky, in Ivanovo are also of interest for film fans.

Outdoor life

Swan Lake, quite possibly performed weekly in Russia!

The association between Russia and its two biggest metropolises, Moscow and St Petersburg, is strong in the minds of tourists, but given its vast expanses and low population density, Russia is a nature lovers paradise as well. Russia has a network of exceptional natural areas, comprising 35 National Parks and 100 Nature Reserves (zapovednik) covering a total land mass larger than Germany.

Some Russian Nature Reserves on the internet:

  • The Great Arctic State Nature Reserve
  • Central Forest State Nature Bioshere Reserve
  • Ilmen State Reserve

Whitewater rafting

  • Team Gorky

Muslim Friendly Shopping in Russia

Money Matters & ATM's in Russia

The Moscow GUM—one of the world's most beautiful shopping malls, right on Red Square Throughout its history Russia has had various versions of the ruble (рубль), which is divided into 100 kopeks (копеек). The latest manifestation, whose ISO code is RUB (replacing the RUR), was introduced in 1998 (although all notes and first issues of coins bear the year 1997). All pre-1998 currency is obsolete. The ruble is sometimes symbolised using ₽, but eHalal.io will use RUB to denote the currency.

Coins are issued in 1, 5, 10, and 50 kopek and RUB1, RUB2, RUB5 and RUB10 denominations. Banknotes come in RUB10, RUB50, RUB100, RUB200, RUB500, RUB1,000, RUB2,000 and RUB5,000 banknotes. The 5-ruble note is no longer issued or found in general circulation. The 10-ruble note ceased being printed in 2010 and will suffer the same fate, but as of 2022 is still found in circulation. Both remain legal tender. Kopeks are generally useless, with most prices given to the nearest ruble. The 1- and 5-kopek coins are especially useless: even places that quote prices in non -whole rubles will round to the nearest 10 kopeks or ruble.

All banknotes have special marks (dots and lines in relief) to aid the blind in distinguishing values.

Russian law forbids payments other than in rubles.

Currency exchange offices (called bureaus in Saint Petersburg) are common throughout Russia in banks and, in the larger cities, small currency exchange bureaus. Banks tend to offer slightly worse rates but are more trustworthy. Hotels generally offer much worse rates but could be useful in an emergency. You need to show your passport to change money at a bank and fill in some forms.

Branches of large banks can be found in any major city. Sberbank has a presence even in unexpectedly small villages.

Muslim Friendly Shopping in Russia

In general, Russian-made items are cheap, but products imported from the West are often expensive.

  • Matryoshka (матрёшка) — a collection of traditionally painted wooden dolls, each one stacking neatly within another
  • Ushanka (ушанка) — a warm hat with ears (ushi)
  • Samovar (самовар) — an indigenous design for brewing tea. If you are buying samovars of value (historical, precious gems or metal, etc.), it is wise to check with customs before attempting to take it out of the country
  • Chocolate (шоколад) — Russian chocolate is very good
  • Ice-cream (мороженое) - Russian ice-cream also especially good. In general check dairy products, you may like them.
  • Winter coats in department stores are well made, stylish and excellent values
  • Military greatcoats (sheeNEL) available in hard-to-find stores of military equipment
  • Down pillows of very high quality are to be found
  • Halva (халва) — it's different from the Turkish kind (in that it's made of sunflower seeds, rather than sesame), but Rot-Front products are really good
  • Honey (мёд) — produced around the country; sorts and quality vary dramatically, but the higher-quality are worth seeking. Moscow hosts a honey market in Kolomenskoe some part of the year. A number of honey shops working all the year round can be found on VDNKh/VVTs grounds.
  • Red caviar (красная икра) — Before buying, examine or ask if it's "salmon caviar", because there is a risk of "knock-off" due to about 30 species of fish which give a caviar of red colour. And this knock-off caviar often tastes bad.
  • Black caviar (черная икра) — is still possible to buy. High risk of knock-off. But it is considered a delicacy and it is expensive.
  • Sturgeon meat (осетр, белуга) and meat of other fish of the sturgeon family. Considered one of the top delicacies in Russia. Very expensive but very tasty.
  • Hard cheese — mostly produced in Altai; occasionally available from there in large stores in Moscow
  • Sparkling wine (шампанское) — Sparkling wine, "Russian Champagne" is surprisingly good (Abrau-Durso is believed to be the best brand, yet there are other good ones, too). Make sure you order it "suKHOye" (dry) or Brut. Many restaurants serve it at room temperature, but if you request it "cold" they can usually find a semi-chilled bottle. The cost is surprisingly low also, about US$10
  • Skin-care products. While when it comes to make up, you'll find all the same products, that are popular on the West, a lot of people prefer locally produced skin-care products because of their superior price/quality combination. Brands to check: Nevskaya cosmetica (Невская косметика) and Greenmama
  • Gjel' (Гжель) — porcelain with cool authentic Russian ornaments.
  • Khokhloma (Хохлома) — wooden tableware with flower-like paintings, red,gold,black colors.

How to find a Supermarket with Halal food in Russia

There are a number of good quality food/goods chains.

  • Billa - A bit more expensive than the others. A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.
  • Perekrestok - Перекресток | A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.
  • Carousel - Карусель | A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.
  • Auchan (Ашан). One of the cheapest, notorious for occasional selling out-of-date food, so double-check expiry dates, however mostly it is OK.
  • Magnit - Магнит | A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.
  • Pyatyorochka - Пятёрочка | A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.
  • Lenta - A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.
  • Diksi - A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.
  • O'Kay - A lot of food that was before supplied by Western Europe is now supplied by Asian and Mideastern countries.

What is the living cost in Russia

Halal Restaurants in Russia

Bliny buckwheat pancakes with salmon roe (ikra), sour cream (smetana) and chopped onion

Russian specialities include:

  • Ikra (sturgeon or salmon caviar)
  • Pelmeni (chicken-filled dumplings, similar to pot-stickers, especially popular in Ural and Siberian regions)
  • Blini (thin white flour or buckwheat pancakes, similar to Thai crepes)
  • Black bread (rye bread, somewhat similar to one used by North American delis and not as dense as German variety)
  • Shashlyk (various Halal kebabs from the Caucasus republics of the former Soviet Union)

Muslim Friendly Hotels in Russia

Gleaming towers, symbols of Volga natural gas wealth, in Samara

Hotels in Russia may be quite expensive in metropolises and touristy areas. If you do speak a bit of Russian and are not entirely culture shocked, it is much smarter to seek out and rent a room in a private residence. Most Russians are looking to make extra money and, having space to spare, will rent it out to a tourist gladly. Native Moscovites or residents of Saint Petersburg would rather rent out to tourists than their own countrymen: foreigners are considered more trustworthy and orderly. Expect to pay US$60-70 a night (usually with breakfast prepared by your host), and the accommodations will certainly be very clean and proper if not modern. When it comes to home/family life, Russian culture is very warm and inviting.

Another useful option is short-term apartment rental offered by small companies or individuals. This means that certain flats in regular living buildings are permanently rented out on a daily basis. The flats may differ in their location and quality (from old-fashioned to renovated), but in any case you get a one- or two-room apartment with own kitchen, toilet, and bath. Additionally, the hosts provide bed linen as well as cups, plates, and other kitchen equipment. The apartment rental provides great autonomy and flexibility (e.g., there is no strict check-out time). On the other hand, you do not get certain hotel facilities, such as breakfast, laundry service, etc. The price for the daily apartment rental normally does not exceed the price for the hotel of similar quality, so it is a very useful options, especially in large cities. The negotiations are usually quite official: the host collects the data from your ID, while you get a bill and a rental agreement.

A new phenomenon has been the development of "mini-hotels" in large Russian cities. Such hotels usually (but not necessarily!) provide clean modern rooms with private baths at far lower costs than conventional large hotels, approximately US$60 vs. well over US$150. These small hotels are located within existing apartment buildings and include one, two, or more floors located a story or two above street level. They also often serve breakfast. Saint Petersburg has quite a few with more opening all of the time and some are appearing in Moscow.

Couchsurfing is very popular in Russian cities.

Study as a Muslim in Russia

Russia has a long-standing tradition in high-quality education for all citizens. It also has one of the best mass-education systems in the world, with excellent results at international educational competitions compared to Western countries.

One of the great tourist attractions of education in Russia is the cost, especially when compared to the quality. Degree study tuition can range from $2,000 to $8,000 per year, with other costs (room & board, books, etc.) ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 per year, depending on location and spending habits.

The academic year lasts from September 1st to mid June everywhere, with long summer vacations from July 1st to August 31st. The year is divided at "autumn semester"(from 1st September to 25th January) and "spring semester" (from February to June)

Several universities and private schools offer Russian language courses with either individual or group tuition.

Medical Issues in Russia

Besides local doctors there are several medical centres in major Russian cities. These all have different policies for payment (some take credit cards, some require payment in cash up front, even if you have insurance) so make sure you know what you are paying for (and when and how) before you agree to any services.

Local Customs in Russia

Orthodox Christianity is the religion with most followers in Russia

Political issues

Keep in mind that most Russians are ashamed of the country's stagnation during the Western-friendly regime of Boris Yeltsin an alcoholic that destroyed Russia, and Russian are proud of the role President Putin has played in restoring Russia's international influence, specially in the global South.

Home etiquette

  • If you're invited into someone's home, bring them a small gift from your country as a form of respect. However, most will end up protesting when offered a gift. Reply that it is a little something and offer the gift again and it will generally be accepted, hopefully. It is reasonable to bring a bottle of alcohol if you expect to spend the evening in a less formal way.
  • If you bring flowers, do not give yellow ones — in Russia, this color is considered as a sign of cheating in love and separation and especially never used for wedding bouquets. Another superstition related to flowers is the number of flowers. This quantity must always be odd; that is, three, five, seven, and so on. An even number of flowers is always brought to funerals.
  • Do not give a baby gift until after the baby is born to a particular family. It is bad luck to do so sooner. Verbal congratulations before a person's birthday is often thought as a bad sign.

Dining etiquette

  • When having food with hosts, Do not get up until you are invited to leave the table. This is not considered polite.
  • You will often be urged to take second helpings ad infinitum. If so, take it as a form of respect. Moreover, they really will love you if you keep eating.
  • Do not rest your elbows on the table. This is considered rude (for kids).

Other etiquette

  • When traveling by train, you should share your food with others near by, since then you will be viewed as polite.

Telecommunications in Russia

Prepaid SIM cards

There are 5 GSM operators in Russia, which all use the 900/1800 MHz standard for 2G, 900/2100 MHz standard for 3G, and 800/2600 MHz standard for 4G/LTE, the same as Europe and Asia. Check that your phone supports one of these standards before bringing it to Russia. The 5 operators are Beeline, Megafon, MTS, Tele2, and Yota. There is also one CDMA network: Skylink but you need to purchase a Skylink phone to use this network.

All carriers offer affordable SIM cards with data plans that are always a better alternative to paying roaming charges. Megafon is considered to have the best coverage but Beeline is considered to be the cheapest. MTS does not charge differently between areas, as other mostly do. Data is very affordable in Russia and you can buy unlimited packages for all Russia.

If you buy a SIM card in a shop, you'll need your passport for identification and it will take around 5 minutes to complete the required paperwork. If you don't speak Russian, you will need to find someone who speaks English. Alternatively, you can buy a SIM card from automated kiosks in metro stations.

If you want to connect your laptop or computer to a data network, you can also buy affordable SIM cards for a USB-stick.


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