Russia, or the Russian Federation is a country in northern Eurasia. Covering an area of 17,075,400 square kilometers (6,592,800 sq miles), Russia is the biggest country in the world. With a population of 142 million people, it is also the 9th most populous nation.
Russia occupies the whole of northern Asia and 40% of Europe, spanning time zones and incorporating an enormously diverse spectrum of climates and landforms. It has the world’s largest reserves of mineral and energy resources, the largest forest reserves and one quarter of the world’s fresh water.
Russia was the largest and most powerful constituent of the Soviet Union. The establishment of the Russian Federation followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country spans 8,000 km at its widest, from the boundary with Poland to the Kuril Islands off Hokkaido, Japan. This makes Russia a monumental undertaking for anybody wishing to explore it from end to end. Except for the most hardy travelers, most people concentrate on the main cities of Russia, which I will describe in this guide.
Fast Facts about Russia
- Official Name: Russian Federation
- Capital: Moscow (8,400,000)
- Population of Russia: 145,934,000
- Languages: Russian (official), others
- Currency: Ruble
- Religions: Russian Orthodox, others
- Size: 17,075,400 sq km (6,592,812 sq miles)
- Continents: Europe and Asia
Budget Travel to Russia
Nationals who are not the citizens of the Commonwealth of Indepedent States need a visa before arriving in Russia. Let me warn you in advance that this may be a costly, time-consuming, not to mention often infuriating affair. Preparations should be made at least two months before your departure.
Arriving in Russia
Moscow and St Petersburg are the two main international gateways to Russia, with direct flights from all over the world. Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines are some of the airlines from the United States flying to Russia. The Russian flag carrier Aeroflot flies to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles from Moscow.
Budget travelers can take NIKI from Vienna; Air Berlin from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich and Stuttgart; Germanwings from Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Stuttgart.
Alternatively, you can also take the train to Moscow or St Petersburg from many cities in Europe, and finally, the Trans-Siberian Railway connects Moscow with Beijing and Harbin, as well as with Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.
Budget Travel within Russia
The best way to explore Russia is by train. The roads are pretty bad and driving in Russia can be considered a dangerous sport. There are train services connecting the major cities, and from there, to many of the smaller towns. The trains are surprisingly punctual, and the staff surprisingly courteous – the same cannot be said across Russia.