Tips for Travelling in Russia During the FIFA World Cup 2018

The FIFA World Cup, one of the biggest sporting events in the world, is happening this year in Russia. The excitement for these soccer matches is already well underway! If you’re lucky enough to be travelling in Russia for the world’s greatest football (or soccer, if you please) game: First, you need to know we envy you, and second, you don’t want to miss our insider’s guide. It will help you enjoy World Cup 2018 to its fullest.

From the hosts kicking off the tournament and unexpectedly hammering Saudi Arabia 5-0, to Germany’s historic failure: losing to South Korea and not making it past the opening round, World Cup 2018 has been full of surprises and promises many more! Since you don’t want to miss this adventure, here’s what you need to know about traveling in Russia:

World Cup 2018 Guide

Public transportation between cities

Even though the most frequent routes for those travelling in Russia will take them through Moscow and St. Petersburg, the World Cup 2018 games are also held in nine other cities. Russia is huge; it takes a 2-week train ride to get from Moscow to Vladivostok. Thankfully the cities hosting the World Cup will be far easier to get to.

Pay attention, here are three different options for traveling between cities in Russia.

1. Plane
+ Fastest (takes somewhere between 1 to 2 hours depending on the destination city). The perfect option for those in a rush.

+ More expensive than trains, but still quite reasonable. There are several airlines to choose from: Aeroflot (usually the priciest), Rossiya Airlines, S7 Airlines, and Pobeda (on the cheaper side). One of the best websites to buy tickets online is www.aviasales.com

– Getting to airports, which are located on the outskirts of big cities, might take much longer than getting to train stations (situated downtown).

2. Day express train

+ Faster than night trains (usually take 4-5 hours).

+ Departing times are more flexible compared to planes.

+ No need to wait in lines and go through customs.

+ Comfortable and convenient to get to.

+ Are almost never delayed.

– Takes twice as much time as traveling by plane.

3. Overnight sleeper train

+ Departing times are more flexible compared to planes.

+ No need to wait in lines and go through customs.

+ Comfortable and convenient to get to.

+ Are almost never delayed.

+ A great way to get acquainted with Russian culture and its people from the inside (night trains are one of the most popular ways of travelling among locals).

Guide for soccer fans

+ Meet new friends.
Take note: Russian sleeper trains are famous places to make new acquaintances. Talking to strangers on a train and sharing your meal and a beer (or other alcohol) together is not only usual but highly anticipated. Be ready for long intimate conversations (sometimes lasting all night long), Russians are very open people and really enjoy this form of socializing.

+ A great option if you want to save on accommodation.

+ The most affordable option.

A Note on Sleeper Train Types and Pricing

Be careful. The prices here also vary a lot. Keep in mind that there are 3 different types of sleeper trains:

*1st Class (SV) – a private compartment for only two people which contains two lower couches that convert into beds, and a table. These can get quite pricey (sometimes more expensive than travelling by plane). But you get great service and often meals are included in the price.

*2nd Class (coupe) – a private compartment for 4 people each containing two lower and two upper beds.

*3rd Class (Platzkart)an open wagon with no closed compartments or curtains. There are two lower and two upper beds, a small and narrow corridor and another two beds that are located on the opposite side near the window. Remember, even though there’s no privacy whatsoever, you can get a glimpse of real life in Russia. Besides, this option is the cheapest.

More Pros and Cons for Overnight Sleeper Trains

– The slowest way of transportation between cities. For example traveling from Moscow to Kazan on a sleeper train can take 12 hours. And for those truly adventurous there’s a train from St. Petersburg to Sochi that will take 37 hours!

– Not for people who prefer privacy and comfort.

Take a quick look at all the travel options and order your ticket online through the official Russian Railways website RZD.ru.

Public Transport, Taxis, and Pricing

Fortunately, as far as public transportation goes, it is free for all spectators from the World Cup carrying a FAN ID. Spectators also get free public transport on match days during the World Cup. But if you prefer more privacy, you can always get a taxi. The cheapest and safest is to use an authorized service. Download UBER (the cheapest), YANDEX TAXI or GETT (more pricey, but has the best service) applications on your phone and you won’t need to worry about paying by cash or being cheated on the price.

Guide to world cup in Russia

Accommodations

Unfortunately, one of the toughest things to find during the World Cup in Russia may be the accommodations, especially outside Moscow and St. Petersburg where options are much more limited. Follow these 5 simple tips and you won’t have problems finding a place to sleep even before the final game.

  1. Check the usual hotel booking websites first. Confirmation from a reputable service like Booking.com is a guarantee. If something happens and you won’t be able to check in, Booking will find another for you free of charge.
  2. Don’t overlook AirBnb. But be careful! Pay attention to the ratings and the date the listing was placed. It’s always tricky to deal with hosts with no rating. They are not that trustworthy and may jack up the price, so with verified listings.
  3. It’s possible that everything will be booked in a smaller city like Saransk or Volgograd right before the game. If that’s the case, consider looking for accommodation in neighboring cities. They will have more options and won’t be that overpriced. Driving 2-3 hours to get there won’t cost you more than $30-60 (especially when you share taxi fare with a group). Going through the extra trouble is worth it when you can save $2000 – $3000.
  4. Spend a night on a sleeper train! It’s a great way to avoid looking for accommodation. Too bad it only works if you’re on a day trip.
  5. Consider renting a car in Moscow and driving it to your next destination. Of course, not the most convenient, but you can rest overnight there if you need to.

Food

Russia may be one of the largest countries in the world, but its cuisine is relatively under-represented on the global food scene. In 2018, Russian cuisine is making its mark and those attending World Cup have a great opportunity to try authentic traditional food firsthand.

There are plenty of cafes, delis and restaurants for any budget no matter where you go. Detailed menus come in 2 languages and usually include mouthwatering images of the dishes making travelers’ lives much easier.

Don’t get disappointed when you first see the plate with your order. Remember, portion sizes in Russia are much smaller than those we’re used to in the US. Russians typically have a three course meal, so don’t rely on one dish to become your whole dinner. Besides, this should encourage you to try more local food which is not a bad thing, right?

Most Russian cities offer all the food you can imagine (and more!). Fast food, sushi, burger places and pizza are a street food staple like anywhere in the world. You can easily find familiar spots like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Dunkin’ Donuts, or Starbucks. Because food standards are different in Russia than in the US, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the food and service quality.

Guide to world cup for soccer fans

  • Local Foods to Try

– Сrepes (Blinis) with fillings from sweet (honey or jam) to savory (sour cream and caviar).
– Shawarma – middle eastern type of sandwich that comes with meat and veggies wrapped in pita bread.
– Chebureki – a deep-fried turnover filled with ground meat and onions.

Most importantly, if you decide to buy food on the street, make sure the place doesn’t look sketchy. Locals buying from the same vendor is usually a good indication of the quality.

When it comes to good restaurants, innovative, Michelin-starred chefs are now just as at home in Moscow as they are in Paris, New York, or Barcelona. There’s no lack of expensive restaurants anywhere in Russia, and the approach of the local restaurateurs to their menus, food presentation and venue design is truly admirable.

As you can see, the devil is not so black as he is painted. Traveling to Russia during the World Cup is neither scary nor dangerous. Quite the opposite! If you follow this guide and use your common sense, you will fully enjoy your World Cup adventure and avoid situations that can leave a bad taste in your mouth about Russians or Russia.

Ready for Travelling in Russia to World Cup 2018?

– Cheer up your favorite team or your friends who are soccer fans by sending flowers to Russia.

– Keep on reading to learn about Russian culture in Maslenitsa: How to Make Traditional Russian Pancakes.

– Make sure your friends know how to travel to Russia in style. Share the article!

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