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Russia: a country full of contrasts

Russia, as the biggest country in the world, has undoubtedly much to offer for the lovers of travelling. But why its potential isn't used to its fullest? There are many reasons, yet the most plausible one is the social and political destabilisation and a not very well developed tourist infrastructure. It is obvious that Russia is a very interesting and slightly mysterious country famous for rich culture and countless contrasts. It is here where you can see poor villages and sumptuous cities, enjoy modernity and wild nature, or take a stroll around post-state farm towns to later relax in a seaside resort - and all of that in one day. 

How to travel around Russia? Travelling with a rental car is one of the best solutions, even for the simple fact of freedom and the possibility to plan your trip from the beginning to the end. However, you need to summon a lot of patience and stay extra cautious. Russian motorists drive pretty aggressively and they don't pay much attention to the prevailing traffic restrictions. When it comes to car rental, you won't face any major problems - in local car hire companies, you'll find almost all vehicle types and different insurance options. 

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Russia is not only about Moscow and Saint Petersburg

Moscow and Saint Petersburg are among the most popular destinations on Russian map. Even though it doesn't come as a surprise, it's also worth giving a try when it comes to the smaller towns, such as Suzdal, Kostroma, or Sergiyev Posad which can boat interesting landmarks and scenic recesses. 

Another place to see is Mandrogi, which is a 19th-century village reconstructed at the end of the previous century. You'll find there traditional old Russian house chambers, a small zoo, shops, hotels, museums, and even an island. An additional attraction is a picnic combined with the sampling of various meals. 

Owing to its unique architecture and rich history, Vladimir is counted as the so-called Golden Circle. In the city, you'll find a number of characteristic limestone buildings dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Some of them have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Another city belonging to the Golden Circle is Yaroslavl, referred to as the Russian Florence. It is famous for numerous landmarks, including a plethora of Orthodox churches. It's also worth adding that the historic city centre has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Russia / Central Federal District / Moscow / Photo by rperucho on Pixabay
Russia / Central Federal District / Moscow / Photo by joneybrain on Pixabay
Russia / Photo by 12019 on Pixabay
Russia / Northwestern Federal District / Saint Petersburg / Photo by Makalu on Pixabay

In the northern part of the country, you'll find Kizhi, an island that is popular among the tourists. Despite its inconspicuous size (5km2), you'll have the opportunity to admire wooden Orthodox churches, houses, and chapels here. The island is surrounded by around 5 thousand smaller islands. Interestingly, many of these islands aren't larger than 4m2.

Rostov, established in 862, is among the oldest towns in Russia. Its greatest highlights include the Assumption Cathedral along with the bell tower, whose bells rank among the most known in the whole country. The largest weights 71,000 pounds, that is 32,000 kilograms! 

Due to the fact that Russia is a country full of religious edifices, such buildings can be found in Torzhok, located on the Tvertsa River, as well. Its greatest jewel is the Borisoglebsky Monastery erected in 1038. In the town, you'll also find the only chopper museum in the country. 

Your to-see list shouldn't omit Plyos, where trips along the Volga River are available, and Goritsy, where you'll find, among others, the Orthodox Monastery of Resurrection erected at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. 

Road state in Russia

Russian roads aren't ideal. Many of them have damaged road surface and are full of furrows, holes, and irregularities. In fact, everything depends on the region that they are in. Richer regions are characterised by wide and flat streets. In poorer regions, you have to stay extra cautious, especially at night.

Russia / Central Federal District / Moscow / Photo by Evgeny on Pixabay

Driving through congested cities is a nightmare of many motorists. It seems that this problem is even greater in Russia. Swift moving from one place to another verges on the impossible. Traffic jams are something normal in Russia. Adding the bad state of roads and the fact that Russian drivers like to break traffic rules will result in an explosive mix.

Refuelling in Russia

Petrol stations in Russia are usually open round the clock and offer all types of fuel. Some motorists can be surprised at the fact that you need to make a down payment. First, you need to assess the amount of fuel that you need. After you pay for the assessed amount, you receive your petrol. What happens if your assessment is wrong and you pay too much? Of course, you can get a repayment or... some fuel in a canister!

Russia / Northwestern Federal District / Saint Petersburg / Photo by epicantus on Pixabay

It's also worth paying attention to the fact that most petrol stations employ staff who are supposed to attend to motorists. You'll be able to pay with a payment card or cash, yet the first option will be most convenient due to the fact that Russian payment terminals are really likely to go out of order...Note! Try to refuel your car only on authorised petrol stations. Those less known can offer worse-quality fuel which may damage your engine. 

Required documents and car equipment

Foreign motorists driving along the Russian roads should equip themselves with quite a wad of documents. These should include driver's licence (it's advisable to have an official translation into Russian), visa, passport (at least still valid for another half a year), registration document, vehicle technical inspection certificate, authorisation to use the car, and Green Card. 

Russia / Photo by Seregei on Pixabay

Regulations are rather strict in case of obligatory car equipment. Each motorist is supposed to have a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a spare set of bulbs, and a warning triangle. You should also consider caring a reflective vest. 

Russia: road safety

In order for your journey to be safe, it's worth following a number of important guidelines. Whenever possible, try to avoid areas of conflict which mostly span along the Ukrainian borders. It's best to leave your vehicle on guarded car parks. Leaving your car in random places may result in losing your registration plates, and moving without them around public roads is, of course, forbidden. 

Russia / Photo by JohnKopiski on Pixabay

Speed limits that you need to observe are: 60 km/h in built-up areas, 90 km/h in rural areas, and 110 km/h on motorways. The situation changes for rookie motorists who must decrease their speed to 70 km/h both in rural areas and on motorways. In some oblasts (e. g. Kaliningrad Oblast), slightly different rules may apply so you need to watch out. 

Talking on the phone while driving is strictly forbidden, that's why it's worth equipping yourself with a hands-free set. You should expect a fine also in case of drinking and driving. There is zero tolerance for any blood alcohol content. 

Facts for safer driving in Russia

drink drive limit
max speed urban
37 mph
max speed rural
56 mph
max speed highway
68 mph
headlights at daytime
fire extinguisher
seat belts
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