Posts Tagged ‘Welcome to Russia’

Travelling with a laptop

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The two most important things you need to know about bringing and using your laptop in Russia are your home country customs regulations and the Russian internet networks that appear challenging to some people that travel to Russia.

Your Home Country Regulations

Prior to leaving home you need to find out what regulations on taking a laptop through customs in your home country exist. Although it may seem that taking your own computer back home should not present any difficulty at all, you will be surprised how many computer owners are faced with the necessity to pay a duty on their own laptops trying to bring them back to their home land. Indeed, it is your own responsibility to foresee and prevent such difficulties. When you go on a trip, no-one really cares what you are taking out of the country for your personal use, including the laptop.

Yet, when you come back, most of the time you will be asked to present a proof of prior ownership showing that you had bought your computer prior to leaving your home country. Otherwise, customs officials will assume that you purchased your laptop during your trip abroad and may impose a duty on it as on other goods purchased elsewhere. Therefore, you should either possess some proof of ownership or register your laptop (or any other valuable item, for that matter) with your country’s customs service before your departure. Documents that fully describe the item – for example, sales receipts, insurance policies, or jeweller’s appraisals – are all acceptable forms of proof.
If you travel from the USA, you should fill out the Certificate of Registration (Custom Form CF 4457) that you can get at your nearest US Customs Office (you will also need to take your laptop for inspection there), or consult the US Customs & Border Protection web-site for information how to obtain it (www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/forms/).

Taking Laptop Through the Russian Customs

The good news is that you do not have to worry about paying duty on your laptop when taking it through the Russian customs. Surprising as it may seem, laptops are not dutiable according to Russian customs regulations. It does not mean, however, that you should not declare your laptop when entering Russia – yet doing so will not entail any additional expenditure on your part.

When you are leaving Russia, you may be asked by customs officials to turn on your laptop, so that they make sure you do not take any top secret materials out of Russia. To be honest, not every laptop owner is asked to do this, yet – hypothetically – such a possibility exists. Therefore, you would be well advised not to appear in front of a customs official with a notebook several minutes before your plane is due to leave – unless you want to make Russian customs officials suspicious of you a few minutes before your plane’s departure.

Using Your Laptop in Russia

Some other points are worth mentioning as regards using your laptop while traveling in Russia.
First, it is 220 v AC voltage in Russia. Although most notebooks come with an adaptor, you may want to check whether yours is ready to take in such voltage. Also, you will need a European power plug with two pins. Be sure to get one at home, as you may spend hours trying to find a US-European plug adaptor in Russia.

Second, you will need a phone line adaptor, as many Russian apartments are equipped with outdated phone-line devices unable to connect to your modem’s jack. For that you should get an RJ-11 adaptor for the Russian plug, preferably, with two RJ-11 sockets. This way, you will be able to connect both your modem and the telephone itself to the phone line not having to switch back and forth every time when using internet. Such RJ-11/Russian adaptors you can easily buy at every radio, electric- or home appliances store in Russia.

Internet in Russia

To send emails home you will need to choose your ISP in Russia and not forget to change the SMTP server in your e-mail client program. Internet in Russia is still a luxury and you may have to pay as much as USD99 for unlimited broadband access during one month. As for DSL, cable, and other faster kinds of internet connection, those are still a rarity and will cost you a pretty penny.
Your best bet is to buy an internet card with pre-paid hours of dial-up access. This way you will be able to use your laptop from your hotel room or anywhere there is a phone line. Wi-Fi hot spots are starting to appear in multiple locations around Moscow and St. Petersburg, however, dial-up access is still the preferred method of internet usage in Russia.

You can find numerous internet cards in most Russian cities today that vary in price, quality of connection, and terms of validity. Most of these cards are valid for one month starting from the day of their first use and will expire irrespective of whether you have used up your time or not. There are other longer cards that are valid anywhere from 3 months up to the end of the calendar year, but to get those you would have to travel to their issuing ISP’s office. In case you are traveling to St. Petersburg, we recommend either Webplus (up to 20 pre-paid hours), Sovintel or Peterlink cards.

Money in Russia

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

When you travel to Russia, you must know that ruble is the only legal tender on the entire territory of the Russian Federation. According to Russian laws, it is illegal to pay for goods and services in foreign currency, with the exception of authorized retail establishments. Old and tarnished foreign currency bills and coins will not be accepted at banks and exchange offices – money changers want to deal with pristine banknotes only. Although in major cities there appear more restaurants and shops welcoming credit cards, in some cases you will have to pay in cash. If you are going to travel to smaller Russian cities, make sure you have cash, as credit cards are not widely accepted in Russian provinces.

Travelers’ Checks
If you bring travelers’ checks, you can cash them either at American Express Travel Offices (of which there are only 2 in Russia, by the way) or at a local bank. Beware though that you will be charged a 1% to 3% commission for cashing your checks. Major hotels or American Express Office suggest locations for obtaining cash advances on credit cards. Unfortunately, it is impossible to use travel checks to pay for goods and services and you will need to cash them into rubles. Please do not countersign your checks at the bottom before you get to the exchange office, as your signature must be verified by a certified officer to disburse your money.

American Express Travel Offices in Russia
St. Petersburg
23, Malaya Morskaya St. St Petersburg, Russia 190000
Tel: +7 812 3264500

Moscow
33, Usacheva St., Bld 1. Moscow, Russia 119048
Tel: +7 095 9338400

ATM machines

Automatic Teller Machines or Credit Card Advance machines accept PLUS or Cirrus ATM networks, Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, and American Express. Depending on the bank that maintains a cash machine, you may be charged up to 2% fee in overcharges. Some ATM machines charge as low as 0% commission (for example, Alfabank in St. Petersburg), so you will only pay your own bank’s ATM withdrawal fee.
You can also cash credit cards at most exchange offices without an ATM machine: all you need is your card and a valid passport. A fee of 2% to 3% for this service is standard. Additionally, there is a network of Western Union agents in St. Petersburg that disburse money wired from abroad.

Important: You need to present your passport for any currency operation at exchange offices and banks.

Gratuities
Tipping in Russia is just as in any other country – around 10-15% of the total bill. If you have a private tour guide and driver working for you, tipping is usually done at the end of your tour program. A tip around $10/person per day for the guide and $5/person per day for the driver is standard. For example, if you are travelling in a 2-people group and hired your tour guide and driver for 2 days, the amount of the tip will be $20/day for the guide and $10/day for the driver.

Ruble is the only legal tender on the entire territory of the Russian Federation. According to Russian laws, it is illegal to pay for goods and services in foreign currency, with the exception of authorized retail establishments. Old and tarnished foreign currency bills and coins will not be accepted at banks and exchange offices – money changers want to deal with pristine banknotes only. Although in major cities there appear more restaurants and shops welcoming credit cards, in some cases you will have to pay in cash. If you are going to travel to smaller Russian cities, make sure you have cash, as credit cards are not widely accepted in Russian provinces.

Travelers’ Checks

If you bring travelers’ checks, you can cash them either at American Express Travel Offices (of which there are only 2 in Russia, by the way) or at a local bank. Beware though that you will be charged a 1% to 3% commission for cashing your checks. Major hotels or American Express Office suggest locations for obtaining cash advances on credit cards. Unfortunately, it is impossible to use travel checks to pay for goods and services and you will need to cash them into rubles. Please do not countersign your checks at the bottom before you get to the exchange office, as your signature must be verified by a certified officer to disburse your money.

American Express Travel Offices in Russia

St. Petersburg

23, Malaya Morskaya St. St Petersburg, Russia 190000

Tel: +7 812 3264500

Moscow

33, Usacheva St., Bld 1. Moscow, Russia 119048

Tel: +7 095 9338400

ATM machines

Automatic Teller Machines or Credit Card Advance machines accept PLUS or Cirrus ATM networks, Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, and American Express. Depending on the bank that maintains a cash machine, you may be charged up to 2% fee in overcharges. Some ATM machines charge as low as 0% commission (for example, Alfabank in St. Petersburg), so you will only pay your own bank’s ATM withdrawal fee.

You can also cash credit cards at most exchange offices without an ATM machine: all you need is your card and a valid passport. A fee of 2% to 3% for this service is standard. Additionally, there is a network of Western Union agents in St. Petersburg that disburse money wired from abroad.

Important: You need to present your passport for any currency operation at exchange offices and banks.

Gratuities

Tipping in Russia is just as in any other country – around 10-15% of the total bill. If you have a private tour guide and driver working for you, tipping is usually done at the end of your tour program. A tip around $10/person per day for the guide and $5/person per day for the driver is standard. For example, if you are travelling in a 2-people group and hired your tour guide and driver for 2 days, the amount of the tip will be $20/day for the guide and $10/day for the driver.

Best things to bring, when you travel to Russia

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

When you travel to Russia it is advisable to take the following items with you. Otherwise, you may have to spend extra time trying to locate these items in an unknown country. These few items are your best bet in making your trip to Russia enjoyable and worry-free.

 

Toiletries and pharmaceuticals

 

Suitable boots or shoes

 

Travel alarm clock with a spare set of batteries

 

Clean and crisp bills (new banknotes are best if you can get them)

 

Travel money holder/concealer (belt-type)

 

Photocopy of passport and visa

 

Spare film and battery for your camera

 

Heavy locks for luggage

 

A power converter and adaptor. Russian standard is 220 Volts AC, 50 Hertz.

 

RJ-11 adaptor for European plug, preferably with two RJ-11 sockets

Travel to Russia: Shopping for Missing Items

If you need to buy any item that you either forgot to bring from home and which got lost while you were travelling, visit our Shopping in Russia section for a list of recommended department stores and specialty retailer in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Before Travel to Russia

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Before you go by Firmata Travel tour packages in Russia, you should know some necessary information, which can help you during your travel to Russia.

  • Money, cash & credit cards
  • Clothing
  • Electric plugs
  • Cell phones and Internet
  • Medicine
  • Suggested reading

Money and credit cards

Credit cards

You will be able to pay for wine and optional tours with your credit card on the ship. You can open the tab once you board and close it when you disembark from the ship. Please note, they do not accept American Express in Russia, so make sure that you have a Visa or Master Card with you. Even though your credit card will be accepted on the ship, please do not expect it to be accepted everywhere on the ground. If you want to buy souvenirs when your ship docks in one of the smaller towns along the way you will probably need cash for that. And don’t expect that there will be any ATMs along the river.

ATMs

There are many ATMs and banks in large cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg and you can use your debit card to withdraw cash in US dollars, Russian rubles or Euros. We recommend making withdrawals in Russian rubles so you won’t need to worry about exchanging currency. ATMs offer an an exchange rate that is very close to the official rate.

Cash

It’s a good idea to have some cash with you in case if you need to take a cab or to make a small purchase. The rate of Russian ruble today (July 20, 2011) is   28 rubles for 1 US dollar and   39 rubles for 1 euro. This translates into 2,800 rubles for $100 and 3900 rubles for € 100. We recommend that you have from 2,000 to 10,000 you at any given moment. Anything more is not really justified as prices are not so high. Even if you decide to go to an expensive restaurant you can use your credit/debit card to pay for it. Most restaurants accept credit cards, but we recommend that you ask them in advance to avoid surprises. You don’t have to exchange dollars to rubles as dollars are widely circulated in Russia. If you prefer to pay with Russian rubles, just ask your cruise director or guide about arranging a currency exchange for you. Important: please call your bank before your departure and let them know that you will be traveling to Russia, so they do not block your cards while you are in Russia (not all banks do this, but we recommend that you look into this). We also recommend that you bring more than one card (but not all) in case if one of the cards gets locked. And, if you do encounter a situation when all your cards are blocked, please contact our emergency number and we will organize cash delivery for you.

Clothing

Russian cruises sail from May to September, which is the warmest part of the year in Russia. The weather is still a bit chilly in May (it is similar to weather in Washington DC in April), so we recommend that you bring a light jacket if you are traveling during this time. You may need it in the evenings. Same applies to September. This is when the temperature starts to decline and it rains more often. Even if you are traveling during the “official summer” from June to August, you should still pack a sweater just in case. If you plan to attend an opera or ballet, we recommend that men bring a jacket and dark shoes and women bring attire that they usually wear for public events. There is no need to overdress and you can leave your night gowns and smoking suites at home. The welcome reception and the concert at the end of the cruise do not require any special attire.

Shoes

You should bring comfortable shoes for shore excursions.

Bags

You can bring a regular wheeled Samsonite-like suitcase to carry your things. If you plan to carry more than can fit in your pockets, you should bring a backpack for land excursions.

Shampoo

We recommend that you bring shampoo with you. Shampoo may or may not be available in your cabin and its best to bring it with you, just in case.

Electricity

Voltage

Russia uses 220 volt electric plugs. Most of electric devices these days support from 110 to 240 volts and you can easily confirm this by looking at the electric adapter of your electronic device. If your device only supports 110 volts you will need to buy a special adapter. If it supports 220 volts then you just need an outlet adapter.

Outlets

Russia uses European outlets with two round pins. You can find an adapter at any electronics and even pharmacy store in US or online. Tip: there are no hair dryers on the cruises and if you bring your own, you should make sure that it supports Russian voltage and that you have an outlet adapter.

Cell phones

Russian cruise ships do not offer internet access and there will be no internet cafes along the way. Cell phone reception will also be limited while en route. You can use your cell phone while in Moscow and St. Petersburg, however. And you can use one of numerous internet cafes too.

Activating your cell phone for international roaming

You can use your cell phone in Russia, but then you need to contact your cell phone service provider before your departure to Russia and ask them to activate “international roaming.” Please note, it could be quite expensive, up to 3 dollars a minute. To unlock your phone you will need to call your service provider and to receive the special unlocking code and instructions how to apply it to your phone.Tip: if you buy a local sim card you can save money on calls in Russia. International calls will cost about the same as calls made in roaming ($2-3 a minute). Ask your cruise director if you want to purchase a local sim card

Medicine

You do not need any special vaccination before visiting Russia – it is a civilized European country that is safe. If you are taking any prescription medicine, we recommend that you bring enough of it with you to last for the entire trip. You can buy most of medicines in Russia, but often times it comes under different brand names that are tailored to the Russian/European market. Besides, you may need a prescription from a Russian doctor. You won’t have time for this, so you should just make sure that you bring all the medicine that you may need with you. In case if you do forget some vital medicine, please contact your cruise director and request an appointment with a doctor at American Clinic in Moscow or St. Petersburg. For more advise regarding medical emergencies, please refer to next section of tips (While in Russia), but a general rule is always to contact the cruise director our our emergency number that will be provide on your boarding pass.

Travel with Firmata Travel

Monday, July 18th, 2011

During our 15 years working in travel industry and having success experience, we can offer our comprehensive  service for business and incentives, tourists group and individuals.

We offer a customized travel package with accommodation and comfort prices.

OUR MOTTE:  “TO BE SENSITIVE TO  YOUR WISHES &
BE ABLE TO PROVIDE YOUR REQUIREMENTS”
OUR SERVICES:
  • Meeting and Greeting, transferring to your choice hotel
  • Carefully selected a hotel for accommodation
  • Help in making the individual itinerary and arrangment program
  • Special parking & entry passes
  • Assistance at the airport & trains: VIP arrival / departure service
  • Tickets arrangemants
  • Interpreter & Guide service in all European languages
  • Visa support

We offer:

For more details & information, please contact with:

Ekaterina Yagodina

Tel. +7 (812) 309 5778/ international tel. +46 70 579 1580

e- mail: firmata@tele2.se

Skype:  firmata22

Travel to Russia easy and comfortably with Firmata Travel!

Welcome to Russia

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

FIRMATA Travel is working more 15 years in tourist business and during all these years we arranged many interesting travels programs in Russia as for groups and as for individuals.

Welcome to Russia

Welcome to Russia – great magic place with endless winters and long summer days, and with the country’s turbulent political history is still evident in the impressive and colourful architecture and public spaces. Discover the modern-day culture of Moscow and admire the palace- lined waterways in St.Petersburg. View the scenic contrasts as you travel on one of the most legendary train journeys in the world, Travel The Trans Siberian Railway observed the vast landscape comprising of hundreds of kilometres of birch forest, rolling grasslands, barren windswept plains and remote villages. The enigma that is Russia awaits you… your dream holiday destination.

Why you choose the Firmata Travel

Firmata Travel is the chosen tour operator for educational, non-profit and special interest organizations across the country and have an extensive list of satisfied travellers. Our tour managers are professional, personable, native to the lands in which they guide and have university degrees in art history, architecture, geology or ethnography. This first-hand knowledge of the destinations sets us apart from other tour operators.

Travel programs and services

Firmata Travel provides a wide range of service: to business  FIT’s and groups of travellers. Most of our service designed for travel professionals.

Our destinations: programs in  Russia, Ukraine, combine program Russia with the Baltic states, Finland and Sweden.

We offer  the following service:

If you would like to arrange your own tourist itinerary for your trip, you are always welcome to contact with us!

Firmata Travel provides individual design of incentive tours in Russia, which include entertaining on-site programs, team-building, city tours and excursions, conferences, banquets, extreme and theme programs in all countries. Incentive include organizational support to seminars. Our specialists have experience in organizing complex international seminars with participation of leaders of countries and hundreds of guests, including implementation of the last minute transportation and accommodation requirements, and complete event logistics.

Travel to Russia with Firmata Travel!

Travel Insurance

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Travel Insurance is strongly recommended. Conditions apply.

You can check if the home insurance covering your travel or contact with insurance company in your country!

Russian custom regulations

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Russian customs regulations are complicated and highly discretionary. 30% duty is required to export personal item(s) worth over US $10,000. Moreover, additional export duties apply to any items determined by customs officials to be of commercial use. Certain items, such as caviar, medications, jewelry, precious or semi-precious stones, or metals and fuel may be exported duty-free in limited amounts. As computers’ hard-drives may be scanned by customs officials, it is recommended to present your laptops to customs at least 1,5 hours prior to you departure. The same goes for recordable storage media such as CDs, DVD-RWs, etc.

Buying and Exporting Antiques

All items which are of historical or cultural value – icons, antiques, paintings, coins, etc. – may be taken out of Russia only with prior written approval of the Ministry of Culture and payment of 100% duty. The process of getting the official approval may last from one to several weeks. When you are purchasing an antique item be sure to enquire from the retailer about the export status of your purchase. In all cases get an official receipt proving the fact of purchase and clearly indicating price, date and place of purchase. This receipt will later be handy when dealing with the customs official. Bear in mind that payment of the duty does not automatically make your goods eligible for export, and in most cases antique pieces may either be confiscated at the border or you may be asked to return them to your accompanying person. It is best to ask someone you know in Russia to accompany you to the airport. This way should your antique items not be allowed to be taken out of Russia you will be able to leave them with someone you know. This person may later try to get a refund from the unscrupulous retailer.

Taking Money out of Russia

You can bring as much money as you want to Russia. However, taking it out of the country can be tricky. You can take home only US $3,000 (or equivalent in other currencies) without any permission. For any amount over US $3,000 a special export permission is required. It can be obtained at any official currency exchange office unless you had the amount declared when entering Russia and can present your original signed declaration to the customs officer. A convenient way for taking money home is purchasing travelers’ checks (like American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, etc.).

Russian Customs Declaration

When first entering Russia be sure to fill out a customs declaration form. You will need to declare the amount of currency you are bringing into the country, as well as all valuable items you carry (jewelry, icons, art collections, laptops, cell phones, etc.). Make sure that the declaration is officially stamped and signed by a customs officer on entry to prevent difficulties when taking your currency and valuables after your travel to Russia is over. Remember that a signature by a customs official is not sufficient – you need to get a stamp on your declaration for it to be valid. Otherwise you will not be able to prove that you possessed that diamond ring or a cellular phone prior to your visit. Keep your stamped customs declaration for the entire duration of your stay in Russia – you will need it to prove how much money and what valuables you had with you when arriving in Russia.

Additional Information

For additional advice on Russian customs regulations, visit our Travel in Russia: Frequently Asked Questions section. Official website of the Russian Federal Customs Service: www.customs.ru

Travel tips

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

If you want to have a comfortable and unforgattable travel to Russia, you should discover some useful travel tips about Russia customs regulations, money in Russia and best things to bring with yourself when you travel in Russia.

Best things to bring, when you travel to Russia

Money in Russia

Travelling with a laptop

Russian custom regulations

Travel to Russia easy and comfortably with Firmata Travel!