Who's afraid of traveling in Russia

I love traveling! I am perfectly acquainted with living out of a suitcase, stuffing sample-size shampoos into clear quart format plastic bags and having more than four different currencies in my wallet. But who doesn’t love traveling? Every other social network page indicates travel as one of its user’s interests and nearly everyone claims to be interested in other cultures.

But of course there are different traveler types. There is the 5-star-hotel beach holiday traveler, well protected from the local culture by walls. Semi-individual tourists that dare to tiptoe a little further into culture and might even communicate with strangers, but usually stick to well-known metropoles and capitals. And then there are backpackers and real cultural sensitive travellers that try to blend in with the local culture and a subset of these are the wannabes, trying to blend in buying funny hats that they belive locals are wearing.

Photos by Evy Hua.
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 When it comes to Russia, many people tend to refer to few places they want to visit or which they visited before. I often hear things like: “I really want to see Moscow, maybe also Petersburg,” or: “Flying with a Russian airline between cities? Do they still use old Russian planes?” And of course some people are even giving up in dealing with issues like visa and the “Invitation.” People see it as something impossible to get, if not going with a tour group. I have friends that travel around Europe and the US with backpacks and tents, or do couchsurfing, but when it comes to Russia they slow down.

But why? There are several reputable agencies that provide invitations for only about 30 dollars. The visa itself is done by the consulate and then you just board a plane to Russia. With a minimum effort of getting a Russian visa, you gets the chance to visit an entire continent of diverse nature and culture, extending over (now) nine time zones. But realistically, many visitors seem to be satisfied with a quick Moscow visit, and well, maybe St. Petersburg.

During my time here in Russia I have been lucky enough to travel around a little. Weekend trips to Tver, Valdai lake and Veliky Novgorod in the north, Rostov on Don and Taganrog in the south, Pereslavl za Lesky, a day trip to Sergeev Pozad, a weekend dacha trip in Moscow region and, of course, my favorite trip to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal in Siberia. There is more to see of this beautiful country and I recommend that everyone taking a trip outside Moscow.

For those who are a little afraid of such a trip, in my next post, I will give you some tips to help you out.

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