Is it cheap to vacation in Russia?

Christian Charisius/Global Look Press
Thinking about visiting the largest country in the world but not sure about your money situation? Here are some figures that can help you calculate your budget and make a decision!

International travel and visa

Every traveler knows that the most significant part of the budget usually gets spent on actually reaching your holiday destination. If you live halfway across the world from Russia it’ll most likely mean spending a considerable amount of your savings on flights. For instance, if one looks at the prices right now, a return flight from New York to Moscow for March 2019 can cost as much as $600-700, while coming from London will set you back $300-400.

On top of this you’ll also most likely need a visa if you’re coming from the West: U.S. citizens need to pay $90 for a single-entry tourist visa while UK citizens are required to fork out £70 ($91), plus an additional service charge of 38.40 GBP ($50). Too bad Fan IDs won’t work next year. Spare a thought for us poor Russians - we also need to pay to enter the U.S. and UK.

Local travel

Once you’ve landed, getting around is unlikely to eat much of your budget. A one-way ticket from one of the Moscow’s airports to the city center via Aeroexpress trains costs 500 rubles ($8) and even less (420 rubles or $6.4) if you buy it online in advance. Hopping on and off the Moscow metro won’t break the bank either: a Troika card requires 50 rubles ($0.76) as a deposit and will cut your travel costs to just 36 rubles ($0.55) per ride. Taxis can be pricey, but only if you stop them on the street. Uber, Yandex, and similar taxi hire apps are far cheaper.

One thing that should be arranged in advance is traveling between cities. A one-way express train economy ticket from Moscow to the country’s cultural capital St. Petersburg, for instance, may set you back 3,500 rubles ($53) while a flight to Olympic host city Sochi can be as little as $39 (Pobeda for March 2019) if you’re organized and book ahead. Want to see Kamchatka? Expect to pay  $300 (Moscow to Vladivostok one-way flight, S7 for March 2019).

Accommodation

Probably one of the most frustrating things is booking suitable accommodation. There are hundreds of low-budget hostels, as well as hotels for every need, so here everything is up to you. Cheap options can be found in hostels away from the city center ($10-40 per night) but if you want to soak up life in the center be prepared to part with $100-200 upwards, depending on the location of the hotel and its rating. For instance, a two-night stay in a decent hotel not far from the Tretyakov Gallery can burn a $150 hole in your pocket.

One of the rooms at the

But if you have spend and want live like the celebrities and sheiks, the Four Seasons Hotel Moscow is an excellent choice. This is probably the city’s most expensive luxury hotel and the closest to the Kremlin - get ready to break with $500 for a night.

Food

As with hotels, the cost of dining out is down to you. Grabbing a coffee might cost 120-400 rubles ($2-6), lunch in an average cafe might set you back 400-600 rubles ($6-10), and a fancy dinner in a good restaurant - anywhere between 700-2,500 rubles ($11-38) per person depending on your taste. Dining at the famous White Rabbit restaurant, considered among the world's top 50 restaurants, will mean spending at the very least $40 per head.

White Rabbit

Sightseeing and entertainment

A holiday is a time to enjoy oneself and in Russia there are plenty of things to do - from plunging into the country’s history and culture, visiting museums and ballet, to enjoying the vibrant nightlife in one of the many clubs and bars in the cities you visit.

Considering going to the famous Bolshoi Theater? A ticket to the opera or ballet might cost anywhere from 3,500 ($53) to 15,000 rubles ($230). Want to visit the museums and galleries? The entry fee can range from 100 rubles ($1.5) in smaller museums to 700 rubles ($11) in bigger ones, but on average be prepared to part with 400-500 rubles ($6-8).

Entry to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, for instance, is 400 rubles ($6) and the ticket to the main museum complex of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg is 700 rubles ($11). This not taking into account guided tours or audio guides - prices for these vary but are generally around 200-300 rubles ($3-5) for renting an audio guide and 400 rubles ($6) for joining a group with a guide.  

River cruises and bus tours can also range in price, but quite affordable ones can be found for no higher than 400 rubles ($6) for cruises and around 1,500-2,000 rubles ($23-30) for bus tours. Private guides are also available and can set you back about 500-700 rubles ($7-10) per hour in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Bars and clubs - if you fancy winding down after a busy day sightseeing you can find dirt cheap speakeasies and high-end bars to have fun in(prices start at about 200 rubles, that’s $3, for a drink). In some places the entry might be free while in posher joints it can cost 500 rubles ($7.6). During concerts and special events the fee might be higher.

Souvenirs

Shopping for a traditional Russian matryoshka doll or ushanka hat probably won’t leave you short on cash, unless you crave something really exclusive like an authentic Russian kokoshnik tiara (check out these $2,500 masterpieces).

An original Orenburg shawl costs between 1,300 and 4,200 rubles ($22-71) depending on its size, while on the street you’ll find poor quality shawls for a fraction of that price. A pair of real reindeer fur boots from Siberia also don’t come cheap - around $300. On the other hand, if you’re not prepared to spend a fortune on souvenirs, but want something special, visit the Izmailovo market in Moscow.

Average total costs

While it’s difficult to predict how much each particular person would need to make a trip to Russia a memorable experience, experts have found that tourists tend to spend around 144,000 rubles ($2,203) on average for a seven to eight days in the country (according to the Analytical Center for the government of Russian Federation). The largest share of this sum goes on arranging international travel (24 percent), accommodation (23 percent), food (19 percent), and travel within the country (9 percent).

Check out our list of 11 hacks to help you journey around the world’s biggest country on a shoestring.

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