Hi everyone! I’m Huei Min from NTU Maritime Studies! I did my exchange in Oslo, Norway! I will be sharing about travel experience in the world’s largest nation – RUSSIA! I spent a total of 7 days over there so basically I will be sharing according to my actual itinerary which you guys can consider following
My first city was at St.Petersburg and I was so blown away by how bright and bustling the city is at night! Any hint of insecurity I held previously about Russia was gone immediately.
But first some travelling tips!1.Visa Application – Yes, this cost a bomb but considering the low living expenses, this is worth it. We took approximately 10 working days to complete the application and collection of the Visa. In fact, it was a close
shave for us because we got it 2/3 days before leaving Singapore (Please do not attempt procrastination on this issue, friends )
2. Tourist Registration with hotel/hostel – Most hostels/hotels will request for this paperwork after you have reached your accomodation and is charged. We got ours done at Missis Hudson Hostel in SPB which cost us 300 rubs (SGD7).
However, throughout our 1 week stay, we never meet any identity checks other than the time when we purchase liquors lah
3. SIM CARD – they sell really cheap mobile data deals. We got 10GB worth of data usage at the cost of SGD6 only! We bought ours from the Pulkovo Airport. The only 7 days you get to stream internet like nobody’s business
4. Metro Token – their only ticket is in coin form! Each trip cost around 40rubs (SGD0.90) and you drop the token you purchased from the self-help machines into the gate like taking a kid’s ride in Singapore
EB Takeover Day 2 – St. Petersburg, Russia ??
I was really impressed by how their churches are all decorated with real wall paintings at every corner instead of fake wallpapers. They are so vivid but yet not overwhelming. Church of the Spilled Blood has the best testimony to it while St. Isaac Cathedral took interior art to a more lavish level with all the gold furnishings. We also visited the opening of night bridges at 01:25 A.M. (yeah, no regards given to “don’t stay out too late in Russia” kind of advice because we felt really safe ) But please do not zone out while waiting in the cold because it opens so slowly that we barely noticed it and almost missed it epically
Also, I believe food is important EVERYWHERE . A must try in SPB – oldest traditional Donut shop, Pyshechnaya! (5th photo) The queue was super long when we got there but thankfully it moved rather fast too. The donut tasted like 油条/chinese fried dough back at home and it was really cheap like SGD 0.30 per donut! But of course, it is more petite in size as compared to the norms so you get to indulge in more than one hehe
Another favorite and highly recommended dish is the Borsch soup that can be found in almost every restaurant in Russia. It’s their local soup (red in colour) which consists of beetroots, carrots, other vegetables and beef – tasted so much like ABC soup from home!! ?? btw, this table of breakfast spread only cost SGD15 in total for 5 people!
Lastly, I also love their casual Russian home-made cuisines like Herring Dish and Mashed Potatoes with Beef from Zoom Café – a themed café near Winter Palace! Their warm alcoholic drinks were worth trying too and VODKA. Yes please, they say you never really visit Russia without Vodka
Ps ❗Please remember to bring your ISIC card to all attractions if you have because there is student price for us
We visited both Red Square + Kremlin within one day but I will share about Kremlin for today! (: Apparently they offer several types of tour but they all cost money and ISIC card is not entitled to any
discount for this So we had to pick wisely according to our budget and we chose CATHEDRAL SQUARE which cost around SGD12 (500 rubles). But I will say it’s worthy because we got to enter several
cathedrals – The Cathedral of Annunciation and Archangel. In fact, the latter is a burial vault for the Russian Princes and we were greeted by so many dark bronze coffins upon entrance. I accidentally kicked into one while walking and felt so guilty/scared until my friend told me the actual ones are 5m deep underground. I’m still so sorry though However, most of them do not allow photography inside the Cathedrals
Fun fact! If the Kremlin Senate (the only yellow building in Kremlin) has the Russia flag flying high – it means President Putin is in the country! But nope, we weren’t lucky enough to spot him (I doubt anyone can though)
Dinner plan near Kremlin – what to do if you want a cheap dinner in Moscow? Look for the Detskiy Mir – Children’s Department Store! The top floor has a big food court providing huge variety of food choices from fast food to Japanese and Western, just to name a few. Yes, we ate KFC because it is super cheap over there! Remember to order ala carte chicken instead of the meal because we did the math and it is cheaper that way One thing though, because of the huge language barrier, I had to order food using photos most of the time. So you might want to consider learning their language before the visit because they barely know English But I supposed it got to do with their sovereignty – they are so self- sufficient that there is little incentive for them to learn other countries’ languages?? However, despite being known for their poker face, they are friendly in general when you try to ask them for help – so no worries!!! (but whether you can understand is another thing lah )
RED SQUARE! No doubt this is my favorite place in Moscow because of all the iconic architecture gathered side by side! Not even kidding about the crowd there too but thankfully for the clear weather that makes everything much more enjoyable! (The photos are nicer too ) Apparently, at the entrance of the Red Square (photo 3), there is a plaque that marks the middle point of Moscow – legend has it that if you can throw a ruble coin backwards and land it within the circle, YOU HAVE TO RE-VISIT RUSSIA!! Nope, too poor to attempt it While we watch the other tourists giving it a shot, something ridiculously unbelievable happened. There was an elderly man picking up all the coins people were throwing away He just held a bag and went rounds for them (because by right, you cannot have your coins back).
After entering the Red Square, St. Basil Cathedral caught my attention right away because of the strong distinctive vibe! I really love how beautiful and humble the building looked all together. But this unique architecture entails a tragic myth – the Architect Postnik Yakovlev was blinded by Ivan The Terrible after completion of the building to prevent him from duplicating this beauty elsewhere But I really adore the intricate hand-painted floral details everywhere – it is so fine and antique. Huge respect for their devotions and perseverance – can you imagine they draw up all these without any help of digital tools when I can barely draw a house with Paint
Recommendation: the affordable 50 rubles ice cream which can be identified by the queue that is hard to be missed upon entrance. Good thing is that the queue moves really fast because the ice cream is pre-scooped which can be a turn off for some ice cream lovers but I think it’s still worth a try for everyone!!
Tip: It is much more charming if you visit Red Square in Winter (Dec – Feb) !!! However, it is also important that you take into account of the extreme temperatures that can fetch as low as -15 degrees!
This place looks like it is straight out of an old fairytale story book but guess what, it’s actually a market –Izmaylovo (pronounced like “it’s my lover”) The place was bursting with energy because of the live band performances and locals who were there to celebrate family day!! However, the flea market located further inside wasn’t packed to the extent that you will find it annoying to make your way through Many winter products (knits, leather and fur) can be found inside along with the affordable souvenirs youcan never miss in Russia – Matryoshka.
MATRYOSHKA – Traditional Russian Nesting/Stacking dolls
Apparently the first doll is the Mother and all the smaller dolls inside her are the children! They are usually hand painted in studios (especially for the first generation – as pictured) while the more cheaper ones are factory products which hold less resemblance to the original Matryoshkas. It was disappointing that we saw more replicas instead of the first generations in the Market. But when we finally spotted the latter, it was much cheaper than SPB where I bought my first set of 5 dolls at 1150 rubles – they sell around 900 rubles. But my advice for Matryoshka is – love at first sight, buy at first sight too. Reason being, there are no exact same set of dolls because they are all handcrafted. Hence, if you missed it, it will be impossible to find back the same one again!!
Gorky Park, a national youth park. Living up to its name, the place was flooded with local teenagers and few tourists when we reached there. The golden gate is seriously an overstatement for a community park but I love the sunset there!! Surprisingly, there are water fountain shows to make up for the disappointment we had after realizing the roller coaster ride in the park was removed in 2009 I would say this is a really nice place spend your evening chilling with your friends or family
It is well-known that Russia has the most beautiful metro system in the world. But I was impressed by how every metro station is themed so differently. I felt like I was having a museum tour instead because of all the paintings, chandeliers, stained glass and bronze decorations in the metro stations. My personal favorite
is at Mayakovskaya because of the defined symmetry in the architecture When we were metro- touring, I also realized that most of the stations were flocked with tourists and this got me wonder if the Russians ever get displeased??
Nonetheless, Russia has the safest and most efficient metro system in my opinion. Most of the metro stations are built as a bomb shelter which explain why they are deep underground. As a result, their escalator rides are really long. We timed our ride at the Admiralteyskaya Station in Saint Petersburg and it was 3 minutes and 10 seconds long – one of the longest ride in Russia. More than enough time for you to decide what is for dinner
However, it is not easy to take photos at the metro stations because of the inevitable crowd. But I would say setting one day aside just to experience all the metro sightings is a must because they have so much to tell! Tip: please make sure you did all your research before starting the tour – download offline maps and google translate if you can because the signal underground is really weak I also suggest downloading YANDEX – a metro map app that helped us a lot during our Moscow Metro Tour
The last takeover post shall be about my first impression of Russia prior to minutes before landing in Pulkovo Airport. I recalled seeing a bright city shimmering like a million fireflies from a bird’s eye view on the plane and it instantly escalated my excitemen for the countryt! Indeed, Russia really didn’t disappoint at all!! Look at how beautiful everywhere is at night
Summing-up, Russia really isn’t as dangerous or unfriendly as what people think of. In fact, the only problem we faced was the language. The prices of the groceries are super budget-friendly keep a lookout for Pyaterochka Supermarket that has a big logo resembling 5! The metro is also very well- connected with short waiting intervals and cost similar to that of Singapore’s. Most importantly, they have the most inimitable architecture and long-standing history.
However, a heads up about this short drama that happened to us right after we left Russia. Our Russia Vodka – Beluga bottle got confiscated at the Brussels Airport, Belgium, during the transit because the DFS did not give us the duty-free sealed bag Please do not repeat the same mistake as us. Maybe it was an act of goodwill to prevent us from drinking too much
Last but not least, I really hope that my sharings did help you to understand Russia slightly more! I strongly recommend this country to all the exchange students because it is so different from all the European countries and you get to learn a lot more in a new and challenging environment. Big thank you to every audience for the support over the past one week and @exchangebuddy for the opportunity to take part in this! Signing off, hueimin