All you need to know about visiting Russia during the World Cup, in one place. This fan guide to Russia is a basic toolkit for the uninitiated; within it we’ve compiled an overview for each of the host cities, we’ve also got loads of practical advice from money, transport, language to safety.
If you feel our fan guide to Russia has missed something, we’ve included email and Twitter links at the end of the guide, please do get in touch if you need more information!
Getting around cities
Russia has embraced mobile technology and it has become very easy to order taxis within cities. All major World Cup host cities are served by the Yandex and Uber ride hailing apps, both of which are generally preferable to unlicensed taxis. The latter, whilst perfectly safe, often overcharge you, particularly when you are obviously foreign.
Please note that traffic in some Russian cities, especially Moscow and St Petersburg, can often be terrible and it is best to take the metro during peak times. The quality of driving also leaves a lot to be desired: accidents are common.
Six cities hosting the tournament have a metro service: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, and Ekaterinburg. The metro is a cheap alternative to the taxi and often rivals it in terms of speed. During the World Cup, the Moscow Metro will be open 24 hours a day. Buying a ticket is relatively simple, there are ticket machines in English for single journeys, or you can ask at the station kiosks for a ticket for 20 (dva-tsit) or 40 (sorok) journeys. The latter option will save you a lot of time. Both the Moscow and St Petersburg metros are fabulously decorated, as can be seen in the video below.
Travelling between cities
No fan guide to Russia would be complete without tips on getting around such a vast, sprawling landscape. Though the distances are great, there are an array of options that should keep things simple.
For the travel romantic, there is no better way to see Russia than by train. Russia has a special relationship with its railways and journeys are both comfortable and safe. The best guide to railways in Russia can be found at seat61.com.
To book journeys go to tyty.travel or rzd.ru, both are in English and very straightforward. Please note that you will need passport details to book trains. Security at train stations will also be high and you will have to go through a bag check to enter stations.
Free train travel is available for those with a FAN ID – however tickets can only be booked through this link: http://tickets.transport2018.com/.
For long journeys make sure you pack food and drink – note that alcohol is rarely served on Russian night trains. That said, long stops at stations mean that you will have time to wander out onto the platform to buy supplies.
Coaches and BlaBlacar:
These two options can often be quicker and cheaper than the train service, although significantly less comfortable. They’re particularly useful when travelling to cities not directly connected. Infobus is the best place to buy bus tickets online.
Blablacar, the French ride sharing app, is popular in Russia: you might get lucky and find someone heading the same way as you!
Planes and airport transfer:
Flights cut vast swathes off travel time. Journeys such as Moscow to Sochi, which takes around 20 hours by train, are completed in a mere 2hrs 30. This means that flying remains, on balance, the best way to get around the country. That said, flights during the World Cup could be very expensive indeed.
Moscow and Kazan are the only cities to have a reasonably good airport transfer service by train. Moscow’s AeroExpress trains usually run half hourly from every airport, you can download the AeroExpress App, book online or buy tickets at the airport. Those carrying a FAN ID travel free. Kazan’s airport train is less frequent but nonetheless a convenient option if your timings coincide.
In other cities, taxis are probably the best way from the airport to the city centre. You can hail a cab in the airport by going to the taxi desk, order your Uber or Yandex and wait for it to arrive, or pre-book your taxi. Kiwitaxi and LingoTaxi offer the best services. The latter’s drivers all speak English.
While English is spoken quite well by young people in Moscow and St Petersburg, it is generally not a forte of the wider population, especially in regional cities. Many of these places are unaccustomed to tourists and are having to learn very quickly. On the plus side, street signs and the metro are generally in both cyrillic and latin script, and nearly all cash machines are in English.
Omniglot has provided a great list of basic Russian phrases here.
You should also make sure you have the Google Translate app on your phone; if you don’t plan to buy a Russian SIM card, make sure you download the Russian language to use offline. A link to how to do this is here: Android / iPhone.
Russia’s currency is the Ruble. Although match tickets were sold in USD on the FIFA website, for everything else you will need Rubles. Card payment is widespread, though you will find that many restaurants’ card machines are mysteriously broken (they want you to pay in cash so they don’t have to pay tax).
You can take out cash from cash machines everywhere except in Crimea (if you do venture there take lots of cash with you). It’s best to break up larger notes as soon as the opportunity becomes available – the 5000 RUB note (worth around EUR 70) can be particularly difficult to shift. Many cash machines will offer you the option of receiving bank notes in smaller denominations – take it.
If you plan to spend more than a few days here, buy a SIM card. It will make your life immeasurably easier. Russian SIM cards are widely sold and easy to obtain (you need only present your passport and it should cost no more than 500RUB, around EUR 6). It’s incredibly expensive to use your data here so that’s a worthwhile investment. The most well known operators are Beeline, MegaFon and MTS, all of whom have shops in each of the host cities.
Many fans have raised fears about travelling to the World Cup, citing threats as wide ranging as football hooliganism, organised crime and unsafe planes. Jericho has made this guide addressing safety at the 2018 World Cup, and whether you should be worried.
Police / Passport / Visa Registration
Russian police are generally approachable though they can often be sarcastic and unhelpful; specially trained tourist police are on hand for the World Cup.
Keep your passport, as well as your visa or Fan ID on you at all times. You’re required to present your passport for things that might seem inane elsewhere – train ticket purchases, for example. It’s rare that you will be spot-checked for documents by police, but if you are, it’s best not to give them an excuse to fine you.
When arriving in Russia you will be given a white immigration card – do not lose this as you will be unable to get out of the country without it.
You will also read a lot about “registering your visa with the local authorities within 72 hours of arrival”. This sounds far more ominous than it is and most hotels will do this for you automatically.
If you are slumming it and staying with a friend/Couchsurfing, then it is technically your landlord’s responsibility to register you; however this is rarely done in practice (Russians tend to try to avoid contact with the government unless its absolutely necessary) and registration papers are almost never checked. Unlike your passport and white immigration card, you do not need to present any registration papers to leave the country.
In sum, there is no real way of getting in trouble for not registering your visa unless you come into direct contact with the police. Nevertheless, by not registering you are technically breaking what is an extremely confusing and constantly changing law, so if you want to be extra safe, read this guide.
Jericho would be happy to help you with any queries you might have on your trip to Russia. For specific enquires please email firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch on Twitter @JerichoOnline.
More general information can be found by clicking on any of the following links:
For guides to each of the host cities.
For the low down on the best bars in Moscow.
For tips on safety in Russia.
For recent coverage of Russian current affairs visit our coverage on Jericho: http://jerichoonline.com/tag/russia/
Other recommended resources include
The Moscow Times – The first Western daily newspaper to be published in Russia, and still the best resource for those wishing to stay up to date with Russian politics and culture.
The Calvert Journal – culture and photography from countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain. Contains some wonderful photo essays.
The Power Vertical Podcast – Now run by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), Brian Whitmore’s podcast is the weekly authority on goings on in the Russian corridors of power.
We hope you enjoyed our fan guide to Russia and that you have a great World Cup!