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There are no direct flights from South Africa to Russia. You can fly 1-stop to Moscow or St Petersburg. To book a cheap flight to Russia:
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13 Sep 2013 : Draft laws to allow foreigners to enter Russia for 72 hours whilst transitting its airports is expected to boost tourism by 30% to 45%, based on other countries which have set up similar legislation (Ed: it'll also depend on whether the other countries have similar levels of in-transit flyers relative to total tourists). Russia has some experience in this, as they implemented 72 hour visa-free visits for cruise-liners, which resulted in "explosive growth in tourism".
Visa requirements for South African citizens to enter Russia include:
Completed application form
Colour photo glued to application form
Passport valid for at least six months after return date
Tourist voucher and confirmation of acceptance from a Russian tourist country that is accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia. The voucher must display a reference number, names of the applicants, and the dates of entry and departure.
Proof of travel insurance
Copy of return air ticket
For business travelers: an original invitation issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia or the Federal Migration Service of Russia
For the latest up to date requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Russian Federation at 012-362-1337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their physical address in South Africa is 316 Brooks Street, Menlo Park, Pretoria. A consulate is also located in Cape Town (021-418-3656 / email@example.com). Note that the embassy and consulate are closed on Russian public holidays.
Keep these contact details handy in case you lose your passport, or something happens in Russia requiring embassy assistance.
Physical address: Granatny Pereulok 1, Building 9, Moscow
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone number : +7-495-926-11-77
Fly from Johannesburg to Moscow (DME) with Qatar Airways (via Doha), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), Emirates (via Dubai), Etihad (via Abu Dhabi), Egyptair (via Cairo), BA (via London), Lufthansa (via Frankfurt), Virgin/Transaero (via London), KLM (via Amsterdam), Air France (via Paris), Swiss (via Zurich), Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong) or Singapore Airlines (via SIN).
Fly from Johannesburg to St. Petersburg (LED) with Emirates (via Dubai), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul) or KLM (via Amsterdam).
Fly from Cape Town to Moscow (DME) with Qatar Airways (via Doha), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), Emirates (via Dubai), Virgin/Transaero (via London), KLM (via Amsterdam) or Air France (via Paris).
Fly from Cape Town to St. Petersburg (LED) with Emirates (via Dubai).
Fly from Durban to Moscow (DME) with Emirates (via Dubai).
Fly from Durban to St. Petersburg (LED) with Emirates (via Dubai)
Russian is the national language. English is not widely spoken but a lot of young people have a basic speaking ability.
The currency used in Russia is the Rouble.
Places of interest in Russia include:
St. Petersburg is a unique taste of Europe in Russia. Its neoclassical and baroque architecture as well as canals were built by Italian architects, thus lending this sophisticated city European flair. Architecture and opera are traditional pleasures in St. Petersburg but the city also has a healthy contemporary arts scene and excellent restaurants. The city is especially enjoyable in summer when the sun barely sets (dubbed the White Nights).
Lake Baikal is a perfect example of Russia’s wilder side. This massive blue lake is ringed by rocky shores and soaring mountains giving it an almost ghostly feel. It’s also the world’s deepest lake at 1637 m. Cruises are one way to explore but if you visit in March you can take a much more affordable taxi across the lake. It’s also the time of year when the scenery is at its brightest, more pristine white.
The Kaliningrad region is the place to view Russia’s dramatic scenery in an area packed with attractions. Explore the energetic 700-year-old city of Kalingrad, wild beaches, sand dunes, endless marshes, pretty towns, and a variety of wildlife. Kaliningrad also has an intriguingly different flavour from the rest of Russia. Formerly a part of Prussia, the area has a more Westernized feel.
Moscow is an explosive mixture of old and new. Architecture and history fans will enjoy the Kremlin, gorgeous domed buildings, numerous churches and monuments, and reminders of the Soviet regime. Those looking for an extravagant slice of modern Russian society can head into the cutting-edge art galleries, theatres and clubs. Food and drink lovers will have their pick of top sushi restaurants and wine bars plus a diverse and wild bar scene.
Summer is by far the most popular time to visit Russia as the temperatures are warm, though rain is a constant threat. Autumn’s brilliant colours also make it a favourite time to travel to the country. Winter may evoke the Russia brought alive in literature and film though it should be braved only by the hardy.
You may either want to time your visit to Russia to coincide with a public holiday and join in the fun, or avoid the date so as to avoid additional travel costs (and possible crowds):
1-5 January (New Year’s Eve holidays)
7 January (Russian Orthodox Christmas)
23 February (Men’s Day)
8 March (Women’s Day)
1 May (Labour Day)
9 May (Victory Day)
12 June (Russia Day)
3-4 November (National Unity Days)
7 November (National Reconciliation Day)
31 December (Sylvester)
Floating Public Holidays:
Day of Conception
The time finally came for us to board our KLM flight from Amsterdam to St. Petersburg on a long awaited trip to Russia. We flew KLM as we were going to be spending time with family in the Netherlands after our trip to Russia. KLM is also our favourite airline. We find the KLM air crew always very friendly and accommodating and all through the night, they have refreshments, ice-cream, chocolates etc on hand if you are unable to sleep.
We had opted for a tour (9 days) offered by Flight Centre of St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Moscow after reading all sorts of stories about it not being safe to travel on ones own in Russia – which we can now quite happily say in this regard – “don’t believe everything you read”. We would definitely travel on our own to Russia next time as we found it to be quite safe although we did heed the warning signs regarding pickpockets etc).
We arrived at Pulkovo Airport, St. Petersburg at 17h30 on a grey, rainy day not knowing what to expect and wondering if our transfer to the hotel, arranged by the tour company, would be there as we had arrived 2 days before the tour was scheduled to begin. But there he was, standing in front with our names on the board. As soon as we introduced ourselves he called the tour company and they welcomed us over the phone and said that if we need anything at all before the tour begins 2 days later to just let them know. Really impressive service and we were very grateful. Our driver, Dennis, was so great. He explained a lot about St. Petersburg to us, particularly how to use the Metro and how the ticket system worked. The process was so easy, that from his explanation we were able to find our own way around. St. Petersburg has all their Metro station signage in English and Russian as opposed to Moscow where they are only in Russian.
Over the next 5 days, we explored St. Petersburg – known as “The Venice of the North”, both on our own and with our tour group. St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703, is the second largest city in Russia and was the imperial capital of Russia until 1918 when it was moved to Moscow.
Nevskiy Prospekt, the heart of the city, and the main street in St. Petersburg (4,5 km long), is like a journey through time – from old buildings from the days of the Tsars to the cafes and modern boutiques of today. Most of the sights are in walking distance and a very easy city to get to know.
The Winter Palace (first picture) which stands on Palace Square and which you often see on our News channels as President Vladimir Putin often makes speeches from this Square, was breathtaking. Palace Square was the setting for the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1905. The Winter Palace houses The Hermitage, which has one of the world’s greatest art collections.
Another famous church is the Church on Spilled blood (see pic below) which was built on the site where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. It was opened to the public in 1997 after 20 years of restoration. It has over 7000 square metres of mosaics covering its interior and exterior. The exterior of the church is made up of panels depicting scenes from the New Testament.
After spending 5 – 6 amazing days in St. Petersburg and eating some real Russian food, eg. Beef Stroganoff, Pelmeni (which is like our Ravioli but not as nice!) and of course, having a few tastes of Vodka, we took a bus to Novgorod.
Novgorod is one of the oldest cities in Russia and one of the most important historical cities and lies 640km outside of Moscow towards St. Petersburg. It lies on the Volkov River. Novgorod was founded in the 800s and was the capital of Russia until 862 when it was transferred to Kiev. Inside the Kremlin walls are cathedrals and medieval monuments. One of the most outstanding cathedrals that I have ever seen is the St. Sophia Cathedral built in 1050.
Opposite our hotel was a unique museum of wooden architecture showing how the churches were built in those days. The most remarkable thing about it to me was that no nails were used in the construction of the buildings as the wood was cut to fit into each other.
We spent the rest of the day walking around Novgorod and along the Volkov River. A very restful place with an old town and what seemed to be a newer town.
That evening we boarded an overnight train to Moscow, arriving the next morning at 05h30. The train journey was an interesting one as we slept in open carriages – i.e. no doors on the carriages. Our experience wasn’t too great as we had someone snoring very loudly the whole night and we couldn’t sleep but the bedding was spotless and the train was very clean and it arrived at exactly 05h30 the next morning in Moscow. I asked our guide whether the trains run late in winter due to snow and she said they are never late – come rain, snow or shine!
Moscow is known as one of the most expensive cities in the world and yes, we can confirm that. We paid up to R60 for a cup of tea or coffee at some places. We explored Red Square on our first day – it was very special to be there as I remember as a child seeing pictures of thousands of soldiers marching on Red Square. On Red Square is a very upmarket shopping centre call GUM – one of Moscow’s major landmarks. It was built in the late 19th Century on a site where market stalls had existed since the 15th Century. It has a glass roof and around 200 high-end boutiques, cafes and fool stores.
We visited the Kremlin, which has been a dream of mine ever since I can remember. The Kremlin (meaning fortress), houses the Russian Parliament and many cathedrals, museum and the palace. The 2 cathedrals in the picture below are the Dormition Cathedral and the Archangel Cathedral.
One of the main highlights in Moscow was a tour of the Metro stations, some of them considered to be the most beautiful in the world. What struck us was the absolute cleanliness of the Metro stations. It was almost as if they had just washed and polished the floors. It was opened in 1935 as part of the government’s plan to transform Moscow into the world’s capital of Communism. Today it is considered a working museum of Communist design. The system carried 7 million passengers a day and currently has 186 stations on 12 lines.
The only drawback when travelling on your own in Moscow is that most of the signage is in Russian only and because the words are usually very long, it is quite difficult to remember. Particularly the Metro Station names. We did however, find the Russians very helpful and many could speak basic English.
Some other aspects that struck us that we were not expecting, based on things we had read and heard was that it seemed very safe to travel around. The service at restaurants, our hotel and shops was super-fast. The trains, buses and general public transport were very punctual and we never waited for more than 2 minutes for a train.
Overall an amazing trip and one that we would like to do again – and we would definitely feel comfortable doing it on our own.