Winston Churchill called Russia “… a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…” Well, it’s time to get up close and personal with the country that brought you communism, Kalashnikovs, Smirnoff and Sputnik. Take a tour through magnificent Tsarist palaces and imposing Soviet modernist buildings. Explore colourful Orthodox churches and impressive minarets towering over mosques. Try delicacies like the pearly caviar or get cosy over a plate of homemade potato dumplings. A chance to discover the vibes of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the serene Ural Mountains near Yekaterinburg, and the glittering beaches of Sochi could make this a trip of a lifetime.
Anyone familiar with travelling to Russia knows what a nightmare obtaining a visa can be. It can be a delightfully cumbersome process straight out of the Soviet Union’s handbook. But all this changes during the World Cup when the Russian authorities will welcome you with open arms even if you do not have a visa. All you need is a valid ticket to any World Cup match and a Fan ID, a free official identification that you can apply for here: www.fan-id.
Moscow used to be among the top-five most expensive cities in the world. That, however, has changed due to a sharp depreciation of the Russian rouble against the American dollar, making Moscow and, by extension, other Russian cities far more affordable. While the cost of living in Russia is still higher than in major Indian cities, the rouble-rupee exchange rate of roughly 1.10 keeps Russia well within the reach of the average Indian traveller.
The Russian winter is dreaded but the Russian summer is adored. Head to Saint Petersburg for the famed ‘White Nights’ to enjoy sunlight well into late evening. Inky, fiery twilight hues keep the sky lit until after midnight. Summer solstice (June 21), the longest day of the year, will last 18 hours and 50 minutes with sunrise at 3.35 a.m. and sunset at 10.25 p.m. Luckily, the White Nights period (late May-late July) overlaps the World Cup calendar when Petersburg will host seven matches.
Devoted sports fans will happily take multiple connecting flights to get to the host country. But for those of us who are less bold, there is the comfort of a direct flight. Russian carrier Aeroflot operates non-stop flights between Delhi and Moscow (Sheremetyevo International Airport). Connecting flights are available between other Indian cities to Moscow and other Russian destinations.
To explore more of Russia, see our FIFA World Cup 2018 guide to the country here.
is a travel addict who has been to over 50 countries across 5 continents. When she isn't travelling, she is typically coaxing her two cats off the laptop keyboard so she can get some writing done.
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