You’ve planned a trip to Russia, but how do you prepare? Do bears and wolves roam the city streets? Does everyone wear fluffy fur hats? Do old men play balalaikas in the metro? While you’ll find almost anything going on in the metro, there are certainly no bears or wolves in the city. The fluffy hat part is true, though. So what should you bring with you when you travel to Russia? Here’s some advice!
1. A purse or document case
Both men and women will want to have some way of carrying their documents with them (including passport, visa, money, id card, etc.) — it’s the law that you carry these on you. Your document case should be concealed and/or very difficult to pickpocket. Men in Russia often carry around a small satchel for this purpose, and women carry a small or medium sized purse. An inside zipped pocket or money belt is also a good place for documents.
Backpacks are not advised, since they can easily be pickpocketed. Note that larger purses or bags will have to be checked in at every museum and theatre you go to, so try to stick to smaller ones so that you don’t have to give them up.
This one should be a given, but NEVER leave your documents away from you!
2. Warm clothes for winter, light clothing for summer
The Russian winter is famously cold and wet. You will definitely want to invest in a warm down or pillowed coat and a nice pair of thick-soled, warm, waterproof boots, in addition to hat, gloves, scarf and long johns.
In the summer, there’s usually a month or two of warmer weather. This is when fashion really comes to the forefront. Women wear heels and knee-length skirts, men wear dress shirts and slacks (no shorts). Both stick to neutral colors. It’s best to hide tattoos and take out piercings, as these are looked on unfavorably (historically, criminals were the only people who had these).
Russian culture is ultra fashion conscious, and it’s practically impossible to be overdressed. You will rarely see someone wear anything more relaxed than business casual attire, so be ready to dress up every day!
3. Toiletries and medication
Medications are completely different in Russia vs America. They can also be of lower quality because of lax regulations, or not always available. If you have to regularly take any medications, stock up for the duration of your trip and bring them with you. Also bring some basic pain/flu medication so that you don’t have to struggle with finding what you need at the pharmacy or apteka (аптека). If you do need to buy medications or toiletries, the pharmacy is where you can get them… grocery stores/supermarkets generally do not sell hygiene products.
Finally, carry a pack of tissues with you at all times! Bathrooms do not always have toilet paper in stock, especially outside of big cities, so come prepared!