Information & Chat > Travel Discussion: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Baltics & The Stans

Checklist before you travel to FSU

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This is a work in progress, thanks to many members who have given suggestions and advice.  Use this section of RUA to plan the practical details of your trip: clothing, accessories, gifts, money exchange, cameras/photos, etc.

Members will continue to add to the list and from time to time the Moderators will take ideas from member posts and place them inside the larger 'catagory' lists.

Airline tickets to the FSU:
The best resource of any similiar site is here on RUA.  Compiled by our members who have given their personal recommendations based on experience:

Airline flight services:

- Aeroflot baggage restrictions/limitations:

- British Airways baggage restrictions/limitations:

- Delta baggage restrictions/limitations:

- KLM baggage restrictions/limitations:

- American Airlines baggage restrictions/limitations:

Airport Security/Visas-Passport Control/Customs information

Liquids allowed in hand luggage: Russian Federation 
Water and other drinks, soups, syrups, jam, honey.
Lotions, creams and oils.
Perfume, eau de cologne and eau de toilette Sprays
Gels, including hair and shower gels.
Pressurized containers including shaving foams and other foams and deodorants.
Pastes, including toothpastes
Liquid and solid mixtures
Mascara and any other solutions and items of similar consistency.

The following restrictions apply to the above-listed liquids:
Containers must have the volume no greater than 100ml. Liquids in any containers larger than 100 ml are not allowed, even if the container is only partially filled.
Liquids Must be placed into a transparent resealable bag not exceeding the size of 18x20 cm. The total volume of liquids may not exceed 1 liter.

Passport Control
Visa control is a subject of transport company duties. Passport control checks the allowance of a person to be on Russian territory and doesn’t carry responsibility for allowance to enter any other country.

Non-compliance with the entry/transit requirements (incl. forged documents) results in fines for carrier of 30,000. – per passenger and deportation or indefinite delay for passenger in point of entry (detention costs at carriers expense).

Validity: passports must be valid for the period of intended stay in Russia.

All alien persons entering Russia are to fill in an immigration form to produce one to the passport control. It is strongly recommended to do the form before passport control in block Lain letters. The blanks are available onboard your aircraft. Please ask your airline flight attendant for help to do the form properly. Upon departure, the B section of the immigration form must be produced to the passport control.

Visa requirements
Visa required for all foreign citizens, except for nationals of CIS countries, by exception of Georgia and Turkmenia. An official invitation is required for issuing visa. Visas cannot be granted upon arrival.

1. Visas, excluding multiple, are valid for one trip only and should be used according it’s applicability. Visas and passports with expired date or bearing marks appeared unofficially are considered invalidate.

2. Passenger with tourist visas should have hotel reservation.

3. All foreigners should be registered in Ministry of Internal Affairs or hotels if stay longer than a 3 day period.

4. It’s strongly recommended to have health or tourist insurance, covering all medical expenses.

5. It’s strongly recommended to avoid doubtful registration firms using unofficial ways.

Between Russia and Belarus there is no visa required, HOWEVER for citizens of non-CIS countries it causes Russian transit visa requirements if they fly from the territory of Belarus through Domodedovo airport to third countries (or from third countries through Domodedovo to Belarus). Russian transit visa can be obtained at any Russian Embassy having travel tickets and visa of destination country. Passengers without Russian visa will not be permitted to take connection flight. In such cases, transit visa can be obtained at Domodedovo consular before passport control point (+7-095-9678121). The transit visa will be issued and you will be allowed to pass passport control.

Customs information
The system of Red and Green channels is used in Russian Federation.

Free import in cases:
Total cost of the imported goods is less than 65 thousand rubles and/or total weight is less than 35 kg. and allowances are:
1. Alcoholic beverages (including beer) 2 litres 
2. Tobacco products  50 cigars, 100 cigarillos, 200 cigarettes, 0,25 kg tobacco*
3. Caviar («black») Maximum – 250 gram per person 

In case if only one type of tobacco being imported, 100 cigars, 200 cigarillos, 400 cigarettes and 0.5 kg tobacco allowed.

Taxes are taken in accordance with following rates:
For goods, with total price exceeding 65 thousand rubles and/or if their total weight exceeds 35 kg, but is less than 650 thousand rubles and 200 kg - 30 percent customs duty, but not less than 4 euro per kilogram in the exceeding part.

Exported goods for personal use do not come within customs fees or taxes.
Archeological, historical and artistic objects are allowed for export with written permission of Ministry of Cultural Affairs confirming that the exported goods are either not under governmental accounting or are within the statute "import and export of cultural objects". A photograph of the exported object is needed to accompany the written document from Cultural Affairs Ministry.

For all kind of weapons besides declaration, a special permit from Ministry of Internal Affairs is needed. This permit can be obtained at the relevant police authority. For bow-instruments besides declaration a special permit from Ministry of Cultural Affairs is needed. If the instrument is older than 50 years a special permission from Ministry of Cultural Affairs is needed.

Goods - subject for declaring.
Imported goods with total price exceeding 65 000 RUB and/or with total weight exceeds 35 kg. Precious metals and stones, except for personal use, must be declared and are subject to tax.

Plants and animals, their parts, derivatives as well as drawn products from them, which are under the danger of extinction. If you travel with normal domestic animals or carry plants, you have to go through phytocontrol and veterinary control.

Narcotic and psychotropic substances, and their precursors. Drastic and poisonous substances.

Hf and radio-electronic devices except peripherals. Special technical devices designed for obtaining information secretly. Exported materials which contain National Security Information/State secret. Weapons, weapons parts, and ammunition of any sort are prohibited.

Currency information
Import: allowed in equivalent of up to $10.000. Amount exceeding $10.000 is subject to declaration.

Export: if total amount exceeds $3.000 than written declaration required. If total amount exceeds $10.000 than the passenger is obliged to have written import declaration or other documentation confirming import or transferring foreign currencies to Russia on the amount that exceeds $10.000.

Traveler's cheques are allowed within limits of previously imported if complied documentation is presented, without written declaration. Traveler's cheques, purchased in Russia, require written declaration (red channel).

Complete accomodation/translator/guides/ground support services:

- For Russia:  Right here on RUA is perhaps the best list for Russian services on the entire web!  Includes RUA member recommendations!

- For Ukraine:  One of the best lists for Ukraine services on the web is right here at RUA with recommendations from our members!

Winter Travel

- Good boots with bottom tread to walk on icy sidewalks.

- A good coat that covers your ankles below and covers your neck above.  No "v neck" coat in Russia's north. Don't take leather, instead take wool or something which will breathe with your body heat as you go inside and outside with extreme temp changes.

- A scarf to wrap around your neck/throat area.

- An umbrella to ward off some of the wet snow as it falls and a hat "Ushanka" to protect your head and ears will be very important.

- Excellent advice from RUA member Eduard: Thermal underware is great if the weather dipps to -20 C or worse. I would also suggest that you get your "Ushanka" at home before arriving to Moscow. I personally don't remember them being sold near every metro station and by the time you find one you are likely to catch a nasty cold. You can purchase one on Ebay, and the price by the way is likely to be better than in Moscow. You will be shocked by Moscow prices, I  think. Here is the link, $40 with free shipping:

-Boots:  Eduard also suggests UGGS boots lined with real fur (forget synthetic fur, won't work in that weather) I would recommend getting the ones just like mine:

- When you get the boots, make sure that they are at least half a size bigger than what you usually wear so that you can have room for thick socks.

- The same can be said for sweaters, etc.  Likely you will quickly learn to "layer" clothing on top of each other to stay warm, taking off some items when indoors.

- Small flashlight for when the lights goes out in your apartment/also helpful on the train.

- Electric (northern europe) converter so you can charge your camera.

- Take cold/flu medicines.  Traveling from many parts in the West to that far north your body will react to the change.  Think about it: if it's 80 degrees in Los Angeles and -20 in Moscow, the only thing separating your body from a 100 degree temp change is 14 hours on Aeroflot.

- 2 or 3 paperback books to read at airport and other travel delays.  When done leave them for the next passenger who may appreciate practicing their English reading skills.

- Little tissue (kleenex, etc) packets are a godsend: to use for colds, napkins, toilet tissue, etc.  Take a packet for each day in Russia.

- Did we mention an assortment of cold/flu medicines? 

- A notebook/journal to write down important reminders, contacts, travel schedules, etc.

- An extra copy of passport and visa stashed somewhere besides on your person.  Makes it easier to travel back to Moscow if the original disappears and speeds the process for your Embassy to replace.

- Instead of taking a large digital card for your camera, take several smaller cards and change every few days.  If your camera disappears you'll not lose the entire trip because everything was on one card.

- Take a good pair of warm slippers.  You'll be given a pair in each home you enter, and you should wear them, whether or not they fit.  I like my own and it's perfectly acceptable to bring them along.  If they compliment your slippers, be certain, in fact insist that you leave them there when you return home.  A nice pair of slippers makes a good gift too.

Very good advice from RUA member and RW OlgaM:
-Winter travel: very oily facial creeme \ milk, to protect your face skin from the freezing air, wind, snow, etc. NOTE: it has to be made in a country which actually has a winter (Sweden - "Oriflame", "Neutrogena"; Germany - "Nivea"). If you can find some specific creme for skiers - that's even better. Same applies to a transparent lipstick.

Summer Travel

Summer is probably the best time for a first-time traveler to Russia/Ukraine.  It is so much easier to travel and to see things in the summer months. 

- Walking shoes...your new best friend.  Don't buy these, invest in them.  Your feet will thank you.

- Since it rains every few days in summer, take a small umbrella and thin raincoat which can be tucked away into a daypack.

- Don't underdress.  Smart casual is how Mendeleyev travels.  I don't even own shorts or sandals in Russia.  Shorts mark you as a foreigner immediately and most Russians view sandals as the sign of a very poor person who can't afford decent shoes.

- A jacket, dress shirt and tie are good accessories.  RW like to dress up for special dinners or visits to extended family.  If you don't dress up a little too, the unspoken message will be that you don't think it's important enough to dress nicely for her/her relatives/your romantic outing, etc.

- Electricity throughout the FSU is 220 volt. The plug is 2 pin, North European standard.

- Russian has much of the same wildlife as in the West, but the severe cold helps control insects.  Except for mosquitoes. At night mosquitoes can be quite irritating; if you are sensitive to them, take an anti-repellent with a nice smell.

- The more connections you make flying over, the more chances of losing or delaying your luggage.  Take a carryon with at least 1 day change of clothing.

- Take a small pocket sized battery operated fan from a store such as Walmart, etc.  Sometimes you'll be in a place, such as an overnight train, where the air is stifling and the fan can move it around for you.

- Take a small compact flashlight, too.

- Extra batteries for your camera, fan, and flashlight.

OlgaM, one of our RW members has this tip:
- Train \ summer travels: some (maybe alcohol-containing) facial lotion to wipe off the dust and train soot off your face (if you can't use the train toilet because you woke up 5 minutes before arrival and\or if you're afraid the contact of the train water with your skin will lead to spots you weren't having since your teenage years...).

2 Tall Bill has these great tips:
Take care of your Feet !!!

I usually walk 5 + miles per day while in the FSU. If you are good
to your feet then they will be good to you. Basketball shoes are excellent
for playing basketball in. The are made to make quick starts, stops and changes in

They are horrible for walking long distances  over pot hole filled concrete
and asphalt. They do not let your feet breath properly and they make a negative
fashion statement in the FSU. Don't bring your church shoes that give you a blister
if you attend a long service. Fashion is nice but quality and comfort are more important.

Blisters, foot rot, bloody socks, stinky feet rarely attract the cutest RW. Walk 7 miles a day
for a week in a pair of Nike Airs and you will have many if not all of the above RW repellent 

1. Buy a couple of pairs of high quality fashionable dress shoes and or boots that are comfortable and durable.

2. Break your shoes in before bringing them to the FSU or the shoes will break in your feet
it's your choice. Wear them for three days not in a row to your office. Then Polish them
up nicely or have a pro do it.

3. A little bit of baby powder will keep your feet cool and dry in the summer and warm and
dry in the winter. A dry foot is a happy foot!

4. Cut your toe nails. It will cause the shoe to fit properly on your foot and cause less stress
on your toes and feet, it will keep your socks from looking like Oliver Twist's socks and besides mens feet look bad enough, properly cut toe nails is proper hygiene especially in the FSU. For best results go to a nail place and get a proper manicure and pedicure.

5. In the winter a good pair of boots will keep you warm comfortable and not feeling like you
are wearing roller skates on an escalator during snowy days. If you prevent just one slip and
fall on an icy sidewalk you will be infinitely happier.

6. Alternate your shoes. Don't wear the same pair each day. It will give your feet and your shoes
a break. Change your socks frequently, and don't buy the thinest socks. A slightly thicker sock gives your feet some additional cushion and is more absorbent.

7. I bring a small polish kit and touch up my shoes especially on rainy / snowy days. Your shoes
will last longer, repel water better, be more comfortable and look sharper.

8. Tip for shining shoes, take a little extra time, bring a little plastic bag to keep polish off
of your fingers. You don't want to look like you just overhauled your Harley.

2 Tall Bill says:
Foot powder or baby powder makes those ten miles more comfortable.

Small Flashlight, I have never been to the FSU without the power going off at least once.

Chap Stick to keep your lips from getting dry and works for hang nails too

I-pod / CD player

Gum, for when you eat out and can't brush

Digital camera

Electric converters and adapters

Some coffee table picture books of your area

I bring a Swiss army knife in my packed luggage. I have used the little scissors and the screwdriver feature on every single trip at least once.

A full size American fluffy bath towel, the ones in the apartments are always small and thread bare.

Many men recommend some melatonin (how do you spell this?) to help regulate sleep patterns. Nothing works for me but it works for others.

ATMs-Banks/Currency Exchange

RUA member Donhollio reminds us:
- Have the contact number for your embassy.

- Let your bank know you will be travelling.

RUA member Leftshoe says:
- I worry about loosing money , credit cards and the problems with replacing these. So I separate in to three places.  I carry cash on me with identification. and a debit card. I leave a credit card and a debit card in the room with additional  identification.

- Before the trip I send my self money through western union and memorize the transaction mumber.

RUA member TwoBitBandit suggests:
- Make sure your dollar/euro bills are clean and crisp.  Bills with missing corners, tears, staple holes, ink of any kind, excessively worn in the middle, etc won't be accepted for exchange.  On my first trip to Russia, I didn't realize this and almost half of my bills could not be exchanged.

This good idea from BCKev:
- Take enough cash to last a day or two until you're oriented to ATM locations.

Excellent links to calculate currency exchange rates:

In Ukraine

The monetary unit of the present-day Ukraine is hryvnia. Money can be exchanged at banks, exchange desks at hotels, shops or licensed exchange windows. Passport is not required for exchange operations. Exchange rate might differ from the official National Bank of Ukraine rate.  Average 2008 daily exchange: 1 dollar = 4.84 hryvnia.

USD and EURO are the most popular currencies in exchange booths. Other currencies are more difficult to exchange and have lower rates due to minor circulation in Ukraine.

VISA, MasterCard / EuroCard are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, casinos, stores, ATM's.

Insurance: Medical, Luggage, Trip delays
- Just google "trip insurance" and you will find companies like these:

Most of these type companies insure your luggage, insure you from missed flights/delays, and provide emergency evacuation if you need to be transported home for medical reasons.  Some also provide a short-term health insurance benefit to cover doctor or hospital emergencies during the trip.

If you choose to take their health insurance (and if traveling to Russia you definitely should), choose a plan which guarantees payment--in other words they pay the hospital directly so that you are free to leave the country on schedule.  Some plans only reimburse you, sometimes months after you've had to fork over cash during your travel.

Your American health insurance provider WILL NOT COVER YOU WHILE IN RUSSIA or UKRAINE unless your travel is work related and you have insurance benefits thru your employer!

- To obtain a Russian visa you must certify that you will have a health policy in place for your travel.  It's easy to get a temporary travel policy on the Internet from good companies.

- You can purchase a Ukrainian health card for coverage upon arrival in Ukraine.

Travel in Moscow; or from Moscow to another city

Moderator Manny suggests this link for a taxi in Moscow:
- Take a look at Uncle Pasha's page here: - there are a few on there.

- Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport:

- Moscow's Domodedovo airport:

RUA member Chivo offers this link to the elevated train from SVO to other Moscow destinations:

From member MBS01...
High Speed Trains:
Some regions have high speed trains between the major cities.

These are very modern much like what we have in North America or Western Europe.  Coaches are either open aisle or with compartments for 3 or 6 passengers.  Attendants stroll the aisles with sandwiches and snacks.  TV's are in evey coach and/or compartment showing old movies and videos.

These trains run during the daytime, thus no sleeper compartments as on the older overnight trains many of us have travelled on. Washrooms are modern and equipped for those with disabilities.  Also very clean and spacious by comparison to the older models too. This is a great way to ride between major cities and they are very comfortable and speedy by local rail standards. 

From member OlgaMouse, here are the schedules between Moscow and St Petersburg:
#024 "Youth" 12:30 - 19:22
#160 "Aurora" 16:30 - 22:00
#166 "Nevsky Express" 18:30 - 23:00


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