Useful facts about Russia: electricity, holidays, photography, guides

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 05 Jan 2010)
That's the kind of information you think you don't need until you realize that your notebook cannot be charged or the time on your ticket actually meant 5 o'clock in the morning, not in the evening. So here's some of that useful information.


Electricity. Everywhere in Russia 220 Volt and 50 Hz AC current supplies are used. Most of the sockets are standard European-size for double round-pin plugs, the same as in France or Germany. Appliances from the US, Canada, Britain will need adaptors (it's better to buy them in your own country, as it's very hard to find them in Russia).
Power cuts and not very common, but the electricity current is not as quality as in Europe (power surges), so if you have a sensitive device it's better to get a stabilizer for it, especially if you are traveling.
Most trains have electricity sockets where you can change your mobile telephones or plug in a shaver, but it is not recommended to use them for sensitive devices (such as laptops) without a stabilizer.


National Holidays.

31st of December- 1 of January - New Year's Day, which is the main holiday in Russia, everybody’s happy because people wait for the great new life in the new year and give each other the presents. There’s no Father Christmas, there’s Father Frost in Russia. He comes on new year’s eve and gives presents. Traditionally people gather with family or friends.
7th and 8th of January - Orthodox Christmas. In Russia, contrary to many western countries, Christmas is being celebrated not on 25th December but on 7th January, because it’s orthodox’ Christmas. And the New Year is much more celebrated than christmas.
8th of March - Women's Day. Flowers are sold for doubled prices, and men suddenly realize the importance of women.
1st and 2nd of May - May Day & the Day of Spring. In the Soviet times they called it The Day of Labor, but it was a holiday for all. Now it’s just May Day - another free day to meet friends.
9th of May - Victory Day. The day of victory in World War II
12th of June - Independence Day Still not everybody knows exactly why this date was chosen, but we reckon that this is sthe day when the first president of the Russian Federation was selected. .
7th of November - Day of Reconciliation and Harmony. After 1917 until 1992 that was the Day of the Great October Revolution (1917). It’s a wise decision to rename the day when the civil war began to the Day of harmony of the whole society.
12th of December - Constitution Day.


Photography.

The Films.
The 35mm photo films are readily available everywhere in Russia, especially Kodak Gold (100, 200, 400) brands. If you need a professional or a slide film, either bring it with you, or buy them in Moscow or St. Petersburg (the price is usually the same as in other countries). See Practicalities section in city guides on our site for professional photo shops addresses.
Processing. The film processing labs can be found everywhere - even in the smallest provincial towns and it usually costs about $0.3 to develop a film and $0.1 for one 10x15 photo and takes 24 hours.
There are also digital photo labs in major cities.
If you're after good quality, it's better to develop your films at a professional photo lab either in Moscow or St. Petersburg (the price is around $0.8-$1 for a film and $0.2 for a 10x15 photo).
Taking the pictures. No, it's not forbidden to take pictures at the Red Square, but it's forbidden to do it in some museums (using a flash) and they don't tolerate it in churches. People at the streets are OK if you take their picture, just be careful not to "shoot" a mafia guy, a cop or a politician.
You can also ask people if they agree to have their photo taken, but most likely they will refuse (because Russians are very humble :). You can try to push your way by proposing to send the photo by post later.

The Lonely Planet vs. the Russian KGB

I don't know if it is true, but I was told this story by a guy who worked a bit for the Lonely Planet. So, once the Lonely Planet writer was going along the Trans-Siberian railway through Siberia writing the guide to Russia. He came out of his train at one of the smaller stops to take a picture of a weird Soviet style building he saw through the window of his compartment. He made a few shots and was just about to go back to his train (which was leaving) when two policemen suddendly appeared out of nowhere and asked him to stay with them. The train left with all his stuff, and he was brought to a local FSB (former KGB) headquaters, detained for a few hours, and asked a lot of questions. Basically the police thought he was a spy and the building he was taking the photos of was actually the local FSB building. Nobody knows what would have happened if the LP writer had not had the telephone number of some high rank Moscow tourism department minister. He gave this number to FSB to prove that he was not a spy. The officers contacted the minister, learned that the guy is quite an important person, and were told to be nice and to help him board his train .
In the best Soviet traditions the FSB office contacted the train (which was already somewhere near Irkutsk) and ordered it to stop and wait as long as it takes to deliver this very important person (the LP writer) back to his compartment. At the same time, the local FSB offices in Irkutsk got in the stopped train, took everybody out of the LP guy's compartment and very carefully checked if all his stuff were at place, cleaned the cabin, and prepared everything for his comfortable stay. It took a few days to get the guy delivered back to the train (well, we're talking about a few thousand kilometers), and finally he got back to his compartment and the train was allowed to continue its way.
So, the moral of the story is to never take photos in Russia if you are not sure about the consequences. (just joking)

 


Time & Open Hours.
The Time in the European part of Russia is 3 hours more than Greenwich meridian time or two hours more than central European part. (+3 GMT or +2 CET). During summer daylight saving time, Russia's time is + 4 hours to Greenwich.
So if in London it’s 10.00 in Moscow it’s 13.00 (in Russia the 24-hour system is used).
Every year the clock goes 1 hour forward in the last Sunday of March and back 1 hour in the last Sunday of October.
There are 11 time zones in Russia - so when it’s evening in Moscow, it’s morning of the next day in Vladivostok (a Russian port on the Pacific Ocean).
Open Hours. One great thing about Russia is that all shops are opened even on Sunday. The food shops are usually opened from 8.00 to 20.00 except on sundays from 8.00 to 18.00, however many of them are opened 24 hours a day, even in small villages.
Big department stores, clothing stores, supermarkets are opened all week long from 9.00-10.00 to 9.00-10.00.
State institutions, offices, companies are usually opened from 9.00 or 10.00 to 18.00 or 19.00 and do not work on Saturday, Sundays and public holidays.
Most banks are opened 9.00 to 17.00 Monday to Friday, some are opened on Saturday as well. The major banks, such as Sberbank, AlfaBank, Guta Bank are opened Monday to Friday 9.00 to 20.00, and 10.00 to 18.00 on Saturdays. Self-service ATMs operate 24 hours a day usually.
There are many currency exchange offices in the big cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg) working until late night and sometimes 24 hours a day.
On public holidays all banks, offices, museums and some shops are closed. However big department stores, food stoes, supermarkets are all opened.


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Travel Guides to Russia: Printed Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Russia
Price: 16.99£
Issued: April, 2004 
Lonely Planet: Russia, Ukraine & Belarus
The only printed travel guide that covers the whole Russia: from Kaliningrad region to Far East. The information in this guides is quite reliable, however some parts are outdated already, especially for Moscow and St. Petersburg.
There are many area and city maps, and interesting inserts on various sides of life in Russia.
Although the book is quite thick, they do not provide too much information about "off the beaten track" destinations and places.
Update (2004): a new edition was published recently
Buy this book online for 13.59£ at Amazon UK
 

Price: 12.99£
Issued: June, 2002 
Lonely Planet: Trans-Siberian Railway
The most recent LP guidebook about Russia and Trans-Siberian railway.
Very detailed and practical information about the Trans-Siberian railway, however some of it is taken from the old guidebook to Russia. Interesting inserts on Russian nature, traditions, and stories, related to TransSib.
There are also guides to the main stops along the Trans-Siberian road, however not so much information about more remote places.
Buy this book online for 10.39£ at Amazon UK
 

Price: 13£
Issued: Dec, 2000
  
Trans-Siberian Handbook
Quite popular guide book about the Trans-Siberian provides all the basic information about the route as well as some cultural and historic background.
It's better to buy the new LP guide, as it is more updated, however, if you want as much information as possible, this book might be helpful as well.
Buy this book online for 10.50£ at Amazon UK
 

Price: 10£
Issued:
July, 2000 
The 'Time Out' Guide to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Although this guide is very old already, it seems to be the very interesting.
There's a lot of information about the main sights, as well as accommodation and entertainment in the both cities. Also, there are many inserts on interesting aspects of life in Russia and in the both capitals.
Buy this book online for 7.99£ at Amazon UK


Video & Audio.
Video system. The Russian TV system is Secam, but modern TV-sets work with Pal and NTSC formats as well. Video cassetes (MiniDV, Hi 8, VHS) are available in most shops (supermarkets, music & video stalls), but if you're traveling to the countryside or small towns, it's better to buy a stock in a big city.
Normally, a MiniDV casette costs about $7, and a VHS casette can cost about $2-$3, depending on the brand you buy.
A new DV video camera costs less than in Europe: you can get a good digital one for about $700 in major electronic chains (such as Tehnosila, M-Video, Eldorado) or at a huge market Gorbushka in Moscow (metro Bagrationovskaya).
If your video camera broke down, you can find a service center of almost any producer in Moscow.
Audio casettes. Available everywhere. Price: about $0.7 for one.
CDs & CDRs. Available in bigger cities. Price: about $1 for one.
Minidisks. Available in the big cities. Mostly sold in big department and music stores. Price: about $2.5-$3 for one.


Weights, Measures & Numbers. The Russian system of weights and measures is similar to the one used in Continental Europe. Russians use kilometers, meters and centimeters to measure the length, and kilograms and liters to measure the weight.

1 inch 1 foot 1 yard 1 mile 1 acre 1 pound 1 gallon
2,54 cm 0,304 m 0,914 m 1,609 km 0,405 hectars 0,454 kg 4,546 liters


Also, decimal numbers are separated with a comma, not with a dot (e.g. two thousand two hundred ninety nine is 2,200.99 in the USA, and is 2 200,99 in Russia).
The celsius temperature scale is used in Russia. 0 degrees celsius equals 32 degrees fahrenheit. To calculate the temperature, the following rule can be applied: T(celsius) = 5/9 * [T(farhenheit) - 32] or
T(fahrenheit) = 9/5 * T(celsius) + 32. So, for example, 20 C degrees in Russia equals 9/5 * 20 + 32 = 68 F degrees.



 




 

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