Top tips

  • Think seriously about getting a package deal. English is not widely spoken and having someone take care of all your travel and accommodation arrangements can make life much easier.
  • Make sure you take enough cash to cover your entire stay.
  • Take all your ski kit with you. Many of the resorts lack the sort of facilities that might be taken for granted elsewhere.
  • Learn some local phrases. People won’t expect you to speak their language, but they’ll be delighted that you bothered to try. A little effort goes a long way.

getting there

Sochi-Adler is the nearest airport to Krasnaya Poliana, so you'll need to get an internal flight from Moscow. Carriers to Moscow include British Airways (ba.com), Swiss (swiss.com), KLM (klm.com), Transaero (transaero.com) and Aeroflot (aeroflot.co.uk). Aeroflot operate flights from Moscow to Sochi-Adler.

red tape

All visitors to Russia require a visa, which must be registered with the local branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs within three working days of arrival in Russia, though most major hotels will do this automatically. Visa applications are normally processed within 15 working days. In addition, you must fill in a migration card. Note that if your passport has less than six months to run, you may be refused entry to Russia.

health

Comprehensive medical and travel insurance is recommended. British nationals are entitled to free treatment in Russian hospitals. Tap water is not drinkable throughout the country – seek local advice or just stick to bottled water. Note that hospital staff are unlikely to speak much English.

eating

Russia is a vast country with a correspondingly vast range of culinary influences, and there are various ingredients which are not commonly found outside its borders. One example is kvass, a non-alcoholic or mildly alcoholic drink made from the fermentation of various products such as birch sap, berries, fruits, wheat, rye, barley and – most bizarrely – rye bread. Soups have traditionally played an important part in the Russian diet, and there are many different types: fish soups; kvass-based cold soups such as okroshka and botvin'ya; cabbage-based soups such as shchi; thick, salty and sour broths such as the spicy solyanka; grain- and vegetable-based soups and noodle soups with meat, mushrooms and milk. Sturgeon, salmon and freshwater crayfish are frequently used ingredients. Common main dishes include pelmeni (a sort of dumpling containing minced meat), syrniki (fried curd fritters served with sour cream, jam, honey, and/or apple sauce) and katlyeti (small pan-fried meat loaves normally made from pork or beef). A typical Russian breakfast might consist of blini, a type of thin pancake, served with sour cream. Russia's most famous export, vodka, is of course very popular. It's usually drunk neat with meals, and there are several high quality brands that are difficult to come by outside Russia, most notably the delectable and massively popular Standard.

crime & safety

Russia has had some recent terrorist activity.Petty crime occurs in the country, with pickpockets, robbery and mugging being a threat. Pay particular attention in busy railway stations. In Russia, it's not a good idea to leave drinks unattended in case they are spiked. Racially motivated attacks by groups of skinheads are not unheard of, particularly in the larger cities. Those of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent should take extra care. Very few police and local authority officials will speak any English.

language

Russian is the main spoken language in the Russian Federation, and is written using the Cyrillic alphabet – including road signs and other travel information. This means that getting around can be a problem. English is not widely spoken.

getting around

Thanks to the difficulties in reading road signs, getting around can present a whole new set of problems. Getting some sort of package deal with a native speaker to sort out your travel arrangements is by far the easiest option. If driving, note that there's a zero tolerance policy on drink driving in Russia, and you are required to hold an International Driving Licence (IDP). It's also a legal requirement that you carry original vehicle registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers at all times (this also applies to rental cars). In Russia, visiting motorists who have held a driving licence for less than two years must not exceed 70 kph. Beware of traffic police, who are generally corrupt and issue fines on the slightest pretext.

car hire

Most major hire car companies (europcar.com, e-sixt.co.uk, hertz.com) have offices in airports and cities in Russia. Usual age restrictions apply.

public transport

The language barrier (both spoken and written) means that using public transport can be trying. For example, public transport workers may be on the hunt for bribes, while security on internal flights is not high. The metro in Moscow, however, is recommended: it's cheap, simple to navigate and beautiful.

opening hours

Office hours in Russia are 0900-1800, and this includes banks. Shops are open 1000-1900 Monday to Saturday, though in the larger cities they're often open on Sundays too.Drugs are treated very seriously by the authorities in Russia, and there are severe penalties for possession which are strictly enforced. It's not a good idea to take photographs in airports in Russia

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