Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin
plugs are standard.
Russian is the official language. Some people speak
English, French or German.
Hotel bills in the large Russian cities include a 10 to 15%
service charge; otherwise 10% is usual. If a service charge hasn't
been added at a restaurant, a 10% tip is expected. City Guides and
their drivers also expect a small tip and tipping in bars and
nightclubs is common.
Travellers are advised against all travel to Chechnya,
Ingushetia and Dagestan because of the security situation in the
North Caucasus, including the regions of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky,
Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kurskoy. Travellers are advised against
all but essential travel to North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and
Kabardino-Balkaria (including the Elbrus area) as terrorism and
kidnapping in these regions persist. Between April and August 2008,
there was a series of explosions in and around Sochi. There is a
high risk of domestic terrorism throughout Russia, particularly in
Moscow and North Caucasus, with suicide bombings and explosions in
public areas and on public transport, and hostage-taking is a
serious threat. Visitors are advised to be vigilant and to watch
out for pickpockets and street crime. There has been an increase in
crime, specifically targeting tourists, in St Petersburg and
visitors are advised to be cautious on the metro and buses, and
should insist on seeing official ID from police officers. Political
protests often end in violence and detention; visitors are advised
to avoid all demonstrations.
Photography of anything to do with the military, strategic
sites, or the airport, is prohibited. It is impolite to refuse
alcohol, food and gifts. In Russian Orthodox churches, women are
advised to wear skirts and cover their heads with a scarf. It is a
legal requirement for visitors to carry passports for
identification; copies are not sufficient.
Russian business is conducted in a fashion similar to Western
countries with subtle differences. Russians are business-minded so
it is not necessary to form personal relations but developing a
good network of resident associates is a good idea. Dress is formal
and conservative and on greeting a good firm handshake and direct
eye contact indicates strength. Business cards are exchanged and
it's advisable to get a Russian translation of your details on the
alternate side. Business hours are generally from 9am to 6pm from
Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Russia is +7. When calling
Russia from abroad, the initial zero on the area code must not be
omitted. The outgoing code is 8 followed by 10 (a second tone
should sound after 8), followed by the relevant country code (e.g.
81044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. 495
for Moscow and 812 for St. Petersburg. Public phones are good for
local and international calls; they take phonecards, which can be
bought at newspaper kiosks and post offices. Phone booths in
airports and major hotels usually take Amex or Visa cards but are
generally much more expensive than street phones. Mobile phones
work in most large towns and cities. There are numerous local
operators using GSM 900/1800 networks, each covering relatively
small areas. Internet access is available at Internet cafes
throughout the major towns and cities.
The following may be imported into Russia without customs duty:
200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
products (over 18 years), 2 litres of alcohol (over 21 years),
perfume for personal use, gifts up to the value of US$10,000.
Tourists must complete a customs declaration form, to be retained
until departure, allowing for the import of articles intended for
personal use (including currency and valuables) which must be
registered on the declaration form. Customs inspections occur. 250g
of caviar per person may be exported, with a receipt proving it was
purchased at a store licensed to sell it to foreigners and a
licence from the Ministry of Economical Development. Any items or
artwork that might have historical value, like icons, maps, coins
or paintings, have to be registerd with the Ministry of Culture
before departure, which usually involves a 100% customs duty