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Russia’s beautiful, isn’t it?
You’ve heard of country’s stunning architecture, and the colourful domes that make up the Saint Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow). As the largest nation in the world and with natural landscapes that vary from lush forests to sweeping seas, it’s a wonder that so few Singaporeans even think of visiting Russia.
But we know exactly why some of us are apprehensive, too. Aside from how beautiful the country is, you’ve probably also heard of the political situation, and its world war history involving the famous iron curtain.
So is Russia safe for tourists?
You’ll be glad to know that YES! This culture- and history-rich country welcomes visitors, and is generally safe. In particular, Moscow (the capital) and Saint Petersburg (the second largest city) is the most tourist-friendly. Sure, there may be the occasional street-side pickpocket, and there may be dark alley crimes, but no more than is typical anywhere else in Europe. The usual precautions (like being vigilant and keeping your expensive belongings hidden) are advised; keep to them and you should be fine. Here are some additional tips:
- If without a tour or local guide, stay within the city area, especially where there are malls and cinemas. These places usually have guards, who act as a crime deterrent (the petty ones anyway).
- Avoid staying out late (past 10pm), and try not to walk along quiet and dark alleys.
Ready to go? We’ve shortlisted some of the top attractions to visit:
- Saint Basil’s Cathedral
If you didn’t know any better, you might just believe us if we told you that this elaborate building was something from Roald Dahl’s fantasy Willy Wonka series! Featuring bright colours, zigzag patterns, and intricate carvings, this unique architectural masterpiece is a national icon, and perhaps the most well-known building in Russia.
- The Kremlin
The political hub of not just Moscow but the entire country, the Kremlin is a complex situated in the heart of the capital. Consisting of five palaces, four cathedrals, and the Kremlin Wall and Kremlin towers, the fort overlooks beautiful landmarks like the Moskva River, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Red Square, and more.
- Bolshoi Theatre
For a romantic night of arts and performances, head to the Bolshoi Theatre. If your schedule permits, we strongly recommend catching a Russian Ballet! Recently renovated in 2011, the theatre has multiple tiers of circle seating, and stunning, lavish decor.
- State Hermitage Museum
A collection of ancient treasures and artworks, the luxe museum’s extravagant collection was started by Catherine the Great. The five buildings under the hermitage are: Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, and State Hermitage Theatre.
- Church of the Resurrection of Christ (Savior on Spilled Blood)
With a Russian Orthodox exterior and mosaic-decorated interior, this lavish ancient church is one of the most widely visited heritage sites in Russia. The magnificent building gets its alternate name “Savior on Spilled Blood” as a reference to the assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander II (1881).
- Kunstkamera (Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology)
If you’re something of a horror fan, you might appreciate this world-famous collection of ghoulish “artefacts”, as curated by Tsar Peter himself. Meant as an educational showcase to shine light on the superstitious “causes” of freakish mutations, the museum features deformed (think two-headed and the likes) foetuses preserved in glass bottles and more. Yikes!
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Russian Tourist Visa
Before you go, you will need a tourist visa to visit Russia! Here are some useful things to note:
- You will need to obtain and then submit a Letter of Invitation, stating your purpose of visit. This is usually provided by the hotel and/or hostel, and is sometimes chargeable. If you’re uncomfortable booking accommodation before obtaining a visa, you can book a refundable room.
- Visas issued have a stipulated entry and exit date, and these cannot be changed once issued. There can be no extension of visa dates. If you need to prolong your stay, you MUST leave the country and re-enter again.
- You may have read that it is possible to get a visa upon arrival in Russia. That is not wrong. HOWEVER, we strongly recommend settling it before departing! Visas are subject to approval, and it is risky to leave it to the last minute.
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