The Village Guide to Mother Russia Tourist tips and a guide to World Cup’s 11 host-cities.
The final stage of the 21st FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia from June 14th to July 15. This is the first mundial hosted in Russia and Eastern Europe. The Cup will take place at 12 venues in 11 Russian cities. Apart from Moscow and St. Petersburg football fans will visit Kaliningrad, Kazan, Samara, Ekaterinburg, Sochi, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, and Saransk. Some of the cities have never hosted an event of this scale, so the welcome party might be a little unpredictable.
The Village has created a comprehensive guide to World Cup’s cities in English and Russian and collected the tips on housing, transportation, avoiding fraud, street fights, and police issues.
Explore Stalin-era skyscrapers, noisy parks, craft-spirit bars and ancient monasteries — all found in the Russian capital
Moscow is the heart of Russia. Explore where to go and what to watch, except the Kremlin and the Red Square.
DOWNLOAD offline route around Moscow for MAPS.ME
Palaces, islands, cathedrals, bar-hopping areas and bridges — in Russia’s northern capital.
St. Petersburg is the furthest northern million-plus city in the world and a city proud of its cultural and architectural heritage.
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A Russian resort with the recent Olympic past
Stretching over an area of 146 km along the Northeastern coast of the Black Sea, Sochi is one of the world’s longest cities, second only to Mexico.
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The industrial capital with a rich cultural background
Yekaterinburg (sometimes alternatively romanized as Ekaterinburg) is the home city of Russian Federation’s first President, Boris Yeltsin, and an important industrial center.
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A city with a thousand year history, incredible national character, eastern flavor and top bars
Kazan combines multiple cultures — Russian, Muslim and Asian. It's a port and a popular tourist spot at the same time. You can walk the historic center that has most of the city landmarks in half a day.
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Express trams, wide avenues, and tragic memory of the past
Volgograd was called Tsaritsyn in the imperial times and then Stalingrad before the Thaw period. This city is significant for Russian people as the site of the pivotal battle of World War II with in a total toll of about one million on both sides.
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The hedonistic capital of Russia
Despite its temperate climate, Samara is a self-proclaimed resort. The city stretches along the Volga bank and wisely occupies every centimeter of the coastline.
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The Southern Capital of Russia: wines, Russian fish soup (ukha), crawfish and Cossacks
The Southern Russian city with a million-plus population, Rostov is the native soil for the Don Cossacks and the brutal Russian hip-hop music.
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The cozy capital city of Mordovia
Saransk is one of the smallest cities in Russia hosting the FIFA World Cup: there are just over 300,000 people living here.
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Basic expressions, useful for travelling across Russia
Russian language is admittedly a difficult language, but for everyday communication focus on a few important words and basic phrases. Especially since few people speak English in the Russian regions.
Things to Bring back
Apart from clichéd caviar and vodka
Balalaikas, Russian dolls, vodka, and caviar are not bad per se, however, you can bring something more interesting from Russia, like clothes with Cyrillic prints, local gastronomic treats and other heartwarming trifles. Read on our guide and find out where to get some offbeat Russian clothing brands, pins, and other cool souvenirs.
DOWNLOAD offline route around Moscow's souvenirs for MAPS.ME
Russia has plenty of rental scam
Stay away from unverified intermediaries. The safest option is to book your apartments via Airbnb and Booking.com since these platforms offer risk assessment and payment security. Still there is no such thing as over-caution, (especially when it comes to renting in Sochi), so check the way your prospective apartment looks on Google Street View.
Bargaining is legit. For the World Cup, the prices went up to 10 times higher but it is quite possible to knock them down a little. Remember that beyond the Championship craze common daily rent in Russian cities rarely exceeds 5 thousand rubles.
Refrain from using unlicensed taxi services
Avoid waving down random cars and never take a taxi you haven’t ordered — especially next to the airports, railway stations and nightclubs (hell no!). First, random taxi-drivers may charge you 10 times more than the taxi application services. Second, it may indeed be sketchy. Instead, use Uber, Yandex Taxi, CityMobil and Gett.
Public transport in Russia is rare after 23:00, but the metro usually runs until 1 am. Real-time public transit applications are available for all of the World Cup cities; they can help planning the route and tracking the transport. In Moscow and St. Petersburg use Yandex.Transport and Citymapper.
Choosing a restaurant
Russia has way more to offer than dumplings, pancakes, and borsch (the latter, in fact, is a signature dish of the Ukrainian cuisine). Avoid classic touristy places. These can be easily identified by kokoshnik-wearing waitresses, traditional costumes for guests, or emphatically sovietised interior. The Village has selected restaurants worth visiting to explore traditional food, its modern interpretations, and local specialties. For your convenience, Moscow and St. Petersburg restaurants are covered in separate guides equipped with maps.
DOWNLOAD offline route around Moscow's restaurants for MAPS.ME
DOWNLOAD offline route around St. Petersburg's restaurants for MAPS.ME
Don’t be rude
Usually foreign tourists don’t have police issues in Russia, but we recommend carrying your ID at all times and communicating with the officials in the politest possible manner. If you are about to be detained, then clarify the policeman’s name, rank, and the reason for detention. Try to inform your relatives or friends — you have your lawful right to make a phone call. You will necessarily need a phone number of a local who can be contacted in case this kind of incident occurs.
Use the applications
You can use Tinder or just meet new people at bars. Yet if you believe that Russian girls are only waiting for a foreign prince you’ll be disappointed. Don’t expect getting laid just after telling her that she is beautiful and buying her a couple of drinks. Be polite, funny and remember that “no” means “no.”
If you are gay use Hornet. All other methods are too dangerous, even if you are at a gay bar.
If you are just looking for a company of locals to help you get around the city, announce it by posting on Instagram or Facebook. Most likely it will work. Russians are friendly and curious to meet foreigners.
Avoid sketchy places and scam
Big cities are full of fraud. Apart from classic confidence tricks like a shell gambling game, there are a few more schemes commonly used to take advantage of foreign tourists.
Don’t pick up anything in the street. If you pick up a lost wallet or someone’s money you risk shortly facing the wallet’s owner. They might claim that an amount of cash is missing and you will be accused of theft. The situation always escalates and easily turns into a fight.
Street Tricks: Pull-up bar and Bicycle
A guy offers you some cash if you manage hang at the pull-up bar in the street for just 2 minutes. The trick is that the bar is spinning, which makes the challenge. Another popular trick is “Ride a bike — get your prize”: the bike has its handlebar and wheel purposefully distorted. These tricks are mostly practiced in the regions.
A nice-looking person offers taking a photo with a pigeon or some other animal for a nominal fee. Shortly after the picture is taken they demand 10 times more than what was announced initially. Bird owners are rowdy and persist in getting the sum — don’t fall for this and keep your money.
How to download route from our guide to MAPS.ME
1. Download MAPS.ME App
2. Click Download a route
Click "Download Route" above and open the file with MAPS.ME. On iPhone and iPad devices, we recommend Safari browser for downloading routes.If a route does not open on an Android device, save the file and use any file manager (preferably Total Commander). Find the file in it and select "open the kmz file in MAPS.ME".
3. Open MAPS.ME: On the map screen, touch the stars icon at the bottom.
4. Select a city: Find a downloaded city and touch it: you will get all its bookmarks with photos.
editor of the English version:
Lev Levchenko, Lena Konchalovskaya, Inal Marzoev, Peter Birger, Sasha Iordanov, Yulia Galkina, Polina Nakraynikova, Lena Babushkina, Maria Goncharova, Lyubov Saranina, Arina Mushtakova
Ksenia Kuzmina, Daria Levina, Katerina Romanenko, Olga Chernysheva, Anya Agaltsova, Vera Pogrebnyak, Rita Kalashnikova, Alexander Ovchinnikov, Anton Derbenev
Dasha Skrabtsova, Anahit Ohanyan
Natasha Shlyahovaya, Nastya Pozhidaeva, Lusia Chizhova