One of the biggest challenges I face every time I travel to a new destination is to get to know the country I visit and its people from scratch. Without being influenced by things I have heard before.Things that most probably are not true, stereotypes or how I like to call them: travel myths. After my trip to Russia, it’s time to blow some age-old travel myths about the two biggest cities of Russia; Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
1. Russia is an expensive country to travel
A few years ago, travelling to Russia was quite expensive and I guess this idea remains up to now. It was the most common question I received from people in social median while I was there. Whether or not it’s expensive in terms of accommodation, food, public transport. However, after the devaluation of the ruble things have changed and it has become more affordable than ever to travel in Russia.
Of course, there are place where coffee costs 20 euros but Russia is much more than that. The choices are numerous and it is up to you how you want to experience the 2 cities.
- Whether you fancy fast food, a traditional meal or an elegant dining it will be difficult to choose from the diverse restaurants, always within your desired price range.
- Public transport was a pleasant surprise for me. You’d expect that in vast cities such as Moscow and St Pete transport would be complex and expensive. But it was rather the opposite. Apart from the extensive metro network that can get you literally everywhere with 0,60-0,68euros per ticket, I realized that taxis (taxi companies) are super cheap and efficient as well. Most probably you will get stuck in traffic jam in Moscow but even with that the price is still much lower than in any big European city.
- Accommodation is potentially the most serious expense of your entire trip, considering that plane tickets can be purchased in advance in low prices. I cannot guarantee that accommodation in the 2 big cities is also the cheapest you will find in Europe but it is definitely affordable and with quality. The more in advance you book the merrier the choices are even for the famous hotel chains.
2. The Russians drink only vodka
Stereotype or not everyone more or less has associated vodka with Russia. And while there is definitely a strong link between them, I was excited when I found out about the large coffee culture in both cities.
Small, cozy cafes with beautiful interiors and innovative concepts are popping up in every corner. People are strolling around holding a cup of coffee in their hands. Something else though, caught my attention more than anything. Coffee vans are a big thing, especially in Saint Petersburg and they are literally everywhere. Similar to food trucks, the coffee trucks are large vehicles equipped to prepare and serve coffee. You will find them in almost every street even in the late hours.
3. Moscow and Saint Petersburg are dangerous cities
A phrase I heard many times before my trip and because of that I spent a considerable amount of time researching and reading on line about the crime rates. Some of the things I found made me worry more, however some others were quite encouraging and felt relieved.
According to my experience, after spending 9 days in the country as a tourist, I believe that the truth lies in between.
There is absolutely no reason to feel scared all the time and not enjoy your stay there. Like in every other big European city (Paris, London etc) there are some basic safety rules to follow. For example: avoid wondering around in neighborhoods that you don’t know, keep an eye on your personal items when in crowded placed and of course avoid ‘seedier’ areas of the city during the night. You already knew these, right?
As for me, I didn’t feel intimidated at any point. I used the metro multiple times and would do it again, I walked the streets of St Pete to get back to my hotel during the night, I used the taxi even though the driver didn’t speak English and waited many times in long queues with big crowds.
4. It’s always cold in Russia
Does Siberian cold ring a bell? Well, it definitely does to me since I have heard so many stories from my Russian friends about how cold it can get. Plus, by checking on the map I realised how close to the Arctic cycle Saint Petersburg is. Bearing those things in mind (of course also checking the temperature apps), I prepared myself and my luggage for the trip. Nevertheless, I arrived to Russia to see that the weather was amazing, spring was all around and the sun was shining 8 out of the 9 days I spent there. Especially the first 4 days the temperature was up to 250C.
Needless to say, that I was lucky with the weather but was also really glad to learn from the locals that warm days do exist in Russia and the sun shines quite often even during cold days. If you are visiting the country between May and September there are high chances you get lucky too!