Winston Churchill once said “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” and no truer words were ever spoken. Russia has long been a country of great fascination and intrigue for many enthralled by the her three hundred year Romanov dynasty, communist past and emerging democracy. As the world’s largest country, Russia occupies two continents, eleven timezones and its rich culture is a unique blend of European and Asian.

Everyone should visit Russia at least once in their lifetime and here are some tips to make your trip a safe and happy one:

* A visa is essential for entry into Russia, This must be arranged prior to your arrival and the fee is cheaper when ordered well in advance. Some people make the mistake of visiting one of the nearby countries e.g. the Ukraine or the Baltic States, thinking they can simply cross the border and enter Russia at whim but you cannot. A last minute visa request can cost over $400.

* Travellers require an invitation to visit Russia for a visa to be granted. This is usually issued by the hotel you will be staying at. Your travel agent can organise all this on your behalf.

* The terms of the visa are quite strict. You must enter and leave Russia on the dates stated otherwise you could land yourself in a lot of trouble.  If you lose the visa you will not be able to leave Russia and hotels will be breaking the law by letting you stay! 

* Hotels in the centre of Moscow are extremely expensive, so be aware if you are looking for budget accommodation you will only find it once you are at least 5km out of the city centre.  

* Exercise common sense while travelling. Don’t flaunt your valuables and don’t walk alone at night.

* Be aware that in Russia there is often one price for locals and another for foreigners. So if you are in a bar ordering a drink, don’t be surprised that the Russian guy sitting next to you paid less for his than you did.

* When hiring a car, make sure to ask for one with seat belts. This may sound crazy but Russia is still developing her health and safety standards.

*Try to blend in where ever possible. Don’t speak English too loudly in public, unfortunately it does identify you as a tourist and attracts thieves. The majority of Russians wear black leather shoes so if you are out in public wearing white trainers, you will stand out, once again identifying yourself as a tourist. 

Must see places in St. Petersburg

* The Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace)

* The Catherine Palace (Summer Palace)

* Peterhov Palace 

* Peter and Paul Fortress (famous historical prison) 

* Tikhivin Cemetery in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery  (Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Pyotr Tchaikovsky are buried here)

* Peter and Paul Cathedral (The Romanov family are buried here) 

Must see places in Moscow

* The Kremlin

* St. Basil’s Cathedral 

* Red Square

 * Leo Tolstoy’s home in Yasnaya Polyana (it is now a museum) 

* Novodevichy Cemetery (burial place of writer Anton Chekhov)