Here are some tips I have for anyone who is interested in traveling to Russia. Some of these things I already knew before I went there and other things I had to learn the hard way.
Learn the Russian alphabet before arriving
In Saint Petersburg, most restaurants have an English menu, and most people speak English, but if you are planning to visit another city besides Saint Petersburg, you must know the alphabet so you will feel a little less lost. Even in Moscow, people don’t speak English in most places. In Moscow, I was only able to speak English in my hotel reception, and I found very few restaurants with English menu.
Watch out for pickpockets at the subway. If you’re wearing a backpack, it’s best to keep it in front of you. Also, avoid walking alone late at night especially at parks.
Always carry your passport
Don’t leave your hotel without taking your passport with you. Police can ask to see your passport at any time. I have seen this many times while I was in Moscow.
Be prepared to use a squat toilet
In Russia, most of the toilets are sitting toilets, but you may encounter one or two squat toilets especially if you are in the rural areas. I was surprised when I had to use one of these at a gas station, and I had to ask how to use it.
Bring a nice outfit
Some places have a restrict dress code and don’t allow sportswear. You may not be able to enter a nightclub or a fancy restaurant wearing sneakers and jeans. In Moscow, my husband and I missed the opportunity to go to the Café Pushkin because we were not dressed appropriately.
Don’t expect a friendly smile everywhere you go. Most people in Russia don’t smile at strangers even if they work in the tourism industry.
Russians tend to be pushy in crowds, and you may have to defend your place in line. Lines are not very organized either, so you will have to be super patient here.
In the metro, give your sit to older women. Babushkas sometimes tell off young men who don’t stand up for them. Of course, you will not understand a word, but it’s always good to avoid being yelled at.