Antarctica & Arctic
Russia, the world's largest country, is brimming with culture, history, natural beauty and more just waiting to be explored. The Baltic States showcase medieval architecture and romantic fairytale-style castles, as well as wildlife-rich forests.
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Visit the imperial city of St Petersburg, imbued with romance and history; explore Moscow, the cosmopolitan capital, famed for the fairytale domes of St Basil's Cathedral; traverse the vast landscapes as you ride the rails on one of the world's greatest train journeys, the Trans-Siberian; and marvel at the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal. Russia is a country waiting to be explored in depth. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania, wiith their distinct and different languages, culture and traditions, have an abundance wildlife-rich areas to discover and romantic old towns only found in fairytales.
Wander the cobblestone streets of Tallin's old town in winter for picturesque, snow-capped buildings and atmospheric Christmas markets. There are plenty of activities to get you into the great outdoors during the summer months in Russia and the Baltic States, and February and March (winter Trans Siberian Railway trips) and May to September are popular months to experience the region.
During any season, any hour of day, Moscow thrills visitors with its artistry, history and majesty. From the grandeur of the Kremlin and the iconic Red Square and the St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow will not disappoint.
For sheer distance, intrigue and, on completion, the tremendous sense of real personal satisfaction, no other train journey comes anywhere near the Trans-Siberian and the Trans Mongolian railways.
Few natural sights can surpass the beauty and grandeur of Lake Baikal and is a major highlight on our Trans-Mongolian journey.
Visit pristine wilderness regions, see gothic castles and quaint villages
Yekaterinburg is known as the Great Divide, the Ural Mountains create the natural border between Europe and Asia.
Discover the unique wildlife of the pristine woodland landscapes
Local languages include, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian. Most people also speak English, although this may vary as you move away from the cities.
Shops generally open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, with reduced hours on Saturdays and Sundays in major shopping centres. Some supermarkets may open seven days a week until 11pm. Local specialities include woollen knitwear, handmade ceramics, glassware and silver jewellery. There are plenty of souvenir opportunities to be found in Russia. In Moscow's Red Square, the iconic GUM shopping mall offers hundreds of fancy stores and restaurants in a spectacular building dating back to the 1890s. In Irkutsk, located near Lake Baikal, the authentic and well-maintained central food market is a highlight. In St. Petersburg, Imperial Porcelain dates back to the mid-18th century and used to make tea sets for the Russian royal family. There is also the Bolshoy Gostiny Dvor, one of the world's first indoor shopping malls. There are plenty of shops and markets dedicated to Soviet-era souvenirs and more.
Tips are not expected across Russia and the Baltics since service charges are included in the bill. However, locals generally leave around 5-10% of the bill if they were satisfied with the service quality. In Lithuania, it is customary to tip 10% of the total bill. Tipping is customary in restaurants and cafes, but not expected elsewhere. In general, expect to tip hotel staff and tour guides approximately 10%
Official travel advice regarding visas is available by calling 04 439 8000 or visiting their website www.safetravel.govt.nz
Emergency Services: 112. This number will reach emergency services in all of the countries listed above. The emergency services may not always have English speaking staff.
Russians are quite formal and there are certains etiquettes which should be followed when visiting. Women should cover their heads and bare shoulders when entering a church. In some monasteries and churches women are also required to wear a skirt – wraps are usually available at the door. Men should remove their hats in church and not wear shorts. Vodka toasts are common at shared meals and it is considered rude not to join in. Upon entering a house, you should remove your coat and shoes.
Electrical Plug type: European, two round pins.
Voltage: 220-240 volts
Getting around Russia and the Baltic States are easy, with car travel the most common mode of transport for visitors. The road systems are extensive and easy to navigate with most major highways paved. Several airlines provide domestic and international flights to neighbouring countries. Travellers should always be sure to drive carefully and monitor weather forecasts, particularly in winter. Drivers are often erratic and dangerous in Russia, with poor road conditions in rural areas and snow and ice in winter making conditions difficult. In the cities, only use official taxis which can be booked by phone at major hotels or inside airlines. Don't share taxis with strangers, book your taxi in advance and do not hail them on the street. Always negotiate and confirm the fare before you get in.
Please consult a medical practitioner or contact The Travel Doctor for your specific risk to these preventable diseases and the appropriate avoidance measures. New Zealanders travelling to Russia or the Baltics should also ensure that they have adequate travel insurance to cover the length of their stay. For further information please visit www.safetravel.govt.nz
Russian, Estonian, Latvian
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