Before Travel to Russia
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
- Electric plugs
- Cell phones and Internet
- Suggested reading
Money and 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.
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.
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.
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.
You should bring comfortable shoes for shore excursions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.