When traveling...


Always have bags securely fastened, locked and labeled. Airlines allow passengers between North America and Russia to check two bags per person, with a maximum weight of 32 kilograms (approximately 70 pounds). In addition, a small carry-on bag is allowed. Domestic flights in Russia are quite strict and permit only a maximum of 20 kilograms (approximately 40 pounds) per person.

This is the standard mode of long distance travel for most Russians. Trains are often crowded. There are four passengers per compartment (two above, two below), and it is not a necessary convention to assign passengers of the same sex to a single compartment - you should be prepared! There are also sleeping cars (two passengers per compartment). With all your luggage, the compartment can be crowded. Each passenger is limited to 35 kilograms (approximately 80 pounds) without extra payment. The overnight trip from Moscow to Nizhni Novgorod takes about eight hours (450 m).

Electrical Current

Russia operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz, so that appliances brought from North America require a transformer. Videos operate on the PAL-SECAM system requiring a transcription for an appropriate VCR. Items in this category, including lap-top computers, must be declared as personal-use items and it is questionable whether they are worth bringing along.
See also: page about Voltage Converters.

Custom Procedures

The process of passport control, baggage collection and customs at the Sheremetevo 2 Airport in Moscow is slow and sometimes even chaotic. You should be through the passport lines (there are no lines!) in 30 minutes. Have several $1 bills handy to rent a baggage cart from an attendant. The arrival of your baggage could take from 10 minutes to an hour. If your baggage does not arrive, report it immediately to the lost baggage office located in the area. Do not expect your lost bags to be delivered at a later date; you or a representative must return to the airport to claim them personally and clear them through customs.

When you are ready, take your passport, visa, and the currency declaration form which you filled out on the plane (in duplicate) and proceed to customs. There is a green line (nothing to declare and no more than $50 hard currency) or a red line (something to declare and more than $50 in hard currency). If the green lines are not too long you can usually be cleared very quickly, even if you have more than $50.


If you need to take a taxi, it is wise to be cautious. For the driver, every light is a drag strip opportunity! Take only official cabs as opposed to a "gypsy cab" with a self-employed driver. Expect to pay a negotiated rate in dollars which should be stated in advance; meters are rarely the basis for car fare. Never enter a cab with another person already in it. With increased crime against foreigners, you could readily become a target.


Very few businesses in Nizhni Novgorod accept credit cards. It is best to bring cash in denominations of $20 or less. With the rapid inflation rate, it is best not to cash more than you need. It is wise to bring clean, crisp dollar bills not older than 1988, because each one is checked and if it has a tear, pinhole, writing on it or is crumpled, then often it is not accepted for exchange in Russia.

Trouble Shooting

Life in Russia is very different from life in North America. What is taken for granted as a routine, everyday event can be very time-consuming and frustrating in this country. It is very important to be relaxed about problems that may arise, maybe even philosophical, and just "go with the flow". You should be assured that your Russian hosts are more concerned about it than you are. In the unlikely event that something should go wrong, a list of possible suggestions are given below.

Personal Problems

Discuss it with the director of your program; he/she will be in the best position to find a solution together with a staff member from the International Office. If necessary here are some further steps:

Direct Dialing from Russia

To dial internationally, if you have a direct line, first dial 8 and wait for the dial tone. Following the tone, dial 10, then the country code you are calling. Some common codes are as follows:


Direct Dialing within the C.I.S.

First dial 8, wait for the dial tone, then dial the city code followed by the local number. Some frequently called city codes are:

St. Petersburg812
Nizhni Novgorod8312

Russian National Holidays

January 1-2New Year
January 7Russian Orthodox Christmas
March 8International Women's Day
May 1-2May Day
May 9Victory Day (World War II)
June 12Independence Day

See also: Russian Christmas