Travel to Russia for the World Cup: Travel Guide For First-Timers
Is Russia on your travel bucket list? Heads up, as 2018 is one of the best years to visit Russia, as the country is hosting the FIFA World Cup 2018 this summer. Slated from June 14 to July 15, 2018, the World Cup happens during summer time, when the climate is generally warmer and better for outdoor activities.
If you are traveling to Russia during the World Cup, chances are you are a soccer fan. It’s also likely that you are making this once-in-a-lifetime trip for the first time. Make this trip a memorable one not only by fulfilling your soccer fan dreams but also by enjoying everything else the country has to offer.
Travel Essentials to Russia
1. Visa requirements for Singapore nationals
Singapore does not have a reciprocal visa agreement with Russia, thus residents are required to secure a visa if they are traveling to the country. In the case of the World Cup, residents will have to apply for a Tourist Visa which grants 30 days of stay.
Visa applications can be done online via a visa service center. Aside from a valid Singaporean passport, applicants must submit a Tourist Confirmation document from an authorized Russian travel agent or hotel, as well as show confirmed air tickets for the trip. Tourist Confirmation documents are issued for a fee. A single entry visa will be issued between 7 to 28 working days. There is an expedited processing time of 4 days for a higher visa fee. Visa processing fees are SGD$ 126 (regular processing), SGD$ 252 (expedited processing) plus SGD$ 42 service fee.
Visitors are also required to get medical and travel insurance prior to their travel to Russia.
2. How to get there – Flights and Airports
From Singapore’s Changi Airport, there is an average of 7 flights a week to the country’s capital Moscow. While there are two airlines that offer direct flights, there are also several airlines including budget ones that offer flights with at least one stopover. Currently, return flights cost between SGD$ 1,400 to 2,200 given that it is closer to the dates of the World Cup.
Travelers who are going to the World Cup can fly to two international airports in Moscow: Sheremetyevo (SVO) and Domodedovo (DME). Sheremetyevo is the closest to Moscow and the most modern of the two. Both airports are serviced by the Aeroexpress which connects to the city’s Metro train service.
3. Where to stay: Hotels, apartments and everything in between
The World Cup 2018 is being held in 11 cities in Russia: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd, and Yekaterinburg. Moscow will host the most number of matches, including the final match, so making Moscow your home base for the World Cup is the best option.
There are several types of accommodation available depending on one’s budget and preference. Moscow is home to big and small hotel chains but apartments and hostels are abundant as well. It is likely that most accommodations are fully booked by now as the event is only days away.
If you are up for a different kind of accommodation experience, you can try staying in an indoor Soccer pitch camp which provides tents, showers, lockers, and even breakfast. There are a few such listings on Airbnb and HomeAway.
4. Transport options when in Russia
If you plan to catch each match or most of the matches in the different host cities, it would be good to know what would be the best way to travel from one venue to another. Because Russia is such a huge country, the distance between venues is large.
The best way to travel between venues is by plane, but it is also the most expensive. Online bookings are possible through aggregator sites but expect that due to the high demand, airfare prices will be high. The next best thing is to travel by train as all of the cities are accessible by train. You can choose between the night trains and the high-speed trains, which are both operated by the Russian RZD Railways.
Buses are the cheapest alternative but expect these to be long trips of between 6 to 12 hours. All cities except for Kaliningrad have direct bus trips from Moscow. One important tip is for you to get the Moscow Troika card which gives you cashless access to public transportation in the city.
Note: If you were lucky enough to get a hold of a FAN ID or Passport, this grants you free use of any public transport to all the venues, whether via train or bus.
4. How’s the weather?
Ditch your winter clothes when you are traveling to Russia during the World Cup. You are in for warmer temperatures, but also take note that this is also the rainy season so an umbrella would be useful.
Temperatures in most of the host cities will range between 24 to 40 degrees Celsius so it may be humid and hot. Moscow will experience a low of 10 degrees Celsius so it is best to bring warmer clothing just in case. Yekaterinburg has an average temperature of 14 degrees Celsius even during summer, so if you are heading here, be prepared.
No Tickets for World Cup? No Worries
Tickets to the matches may be difficult to come by as the event draws near. But World Cup fans need not fret, as your trip will not be in vain. Like the previous World Cup, FAN Fests will be organized in each of the host cities. The Russian government will set up giant TV screens so that fans can watch the matches live. Check out the official World Cup site for details on where these Fan fests will be held. In Moscow, it will take place in Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) near the Luzhniki Stadium.
When In Russia… Things To Do and See
While you are in Russia, which may be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, don’t miss out on what this great country has to offer. If you are staying in Moscow for example, and you do not plan to travel to the other cities to watch the matches, you will have plenty of time in between matches to explore the city. The same goes when you are staying in St. Petersburg.
To help you organize your trip better, here’s a list of sights you should not miss in some of the host cities.
Moscow is the capital of Russia and the largest city in the European continent. Because of its history, the city is known for its amazing architecture and cultural heritage. If you are staying in Moscow for the World Cup, don’t forget to visit the following sights in between matches:
- Red Square: A UNESCO World Heritage site, this famous city square is where one can find several Russian architectural gems, such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, the seat of government. Another point of interest is the Lenin Mausoleum, where Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin’s embalmed body is found.
- State Historical Museum: If you are a history buff, this is the place for you to learn about the history of the country
- Gorky Park: If you want to spend some time outdoors, Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure is quite an experience. You can go biking, boating, rollerblading, among other things. Get a major art fix at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art located inside the park
2. St. Petersburg
This city is the second largest city in the country, next to Moscow. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be Russia’s cultural capital. Much of the city’s old architectural treasures from the 18th and 19th century remain preserved, not having been encroached by modern buildings. You will have more than 200 museums, 45 galleries and exhibition halls, 2,000 libraries, and 80 theatres to choose from.
- State Hermitage Museum: The second largest museum in the world, it houses the largest collection of paintings in the world. Aside from cultural artifacts, you can also marvel at the buildings in the complex, which include the Winter Palace where Russian emperors used to live.
- State Russian Museum: This museum contains the largest collection of Russian fine art, as well as masterpieces of Picasso, Warhol, and others.
- Baroque architecture of Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Menshikov Palace, the Kunstkamera (the first museum established in the country.)
This coastal city on the Black Sea coast is unique because of its subtropical climate, being part of the Caucasian Riviera. It is also famous for its ski resorts.
- Mount Akhun: This is the highest point in the whole city’s area. At its summit, you can climb a Romanesque limestone tower to get spectacular views of the Caucasus mountains.
This modern city is named after Peter the Great’s wife, Yekaterina. It is one of Russia’s important economic centers. It is located near the Ural Mountains and the border of Europe and Asia.
- Cathedral on the Blood: A Russian Orthodox church built on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the last Imperial family lived. It was also the site where they were executed by the Bolsheviks.
- Yekaterinburg Circus: Catch a show by one of the best circuses in the country.
Tick Russia Off Your Travel Bucket List
Fulfill your World Cup dream this year, but don’t forget to enjoy Russia for the great country that it is: filled with so much history, culture, and heritage. And, grab one of the many travels deals at Shopback when you book your flights, hotels and activities.
Featured Image Credit: Valerii Tkachenko | Wikimedia Commons