The FIFA World Cup only comes around every 4 years and this time you’ve made up your mind to go. Whether you’ve managed to get tickets to some of the games or are just going to soak up the atmosphere, there are definitely some things you should know. Moscow is a complicated city and preparation is key to a successful trip.
Should I get a Visa?
You don’t need to go through the formal process of applying for a visa to enter Russia if you are going for the world cup and have tickets. FIFA has stated that so long as you have a FAN ID you can enter the country and stay from 4 June to 25 July.
If you aren’t going to any of the games you will need to obtain a Tourist Visa. This will typically be valid for 30 days, more than enough time to enjoy the tournament. How you apply will depend on your nationality and if you are covered by international travel insurance.
Do I really need travel Insurance?
Having international travel insurance is essential for not only getting into Russia but staying there. Especially since if you’re from an EU member country, the European Health Insurance card (EHIC) won’t be valid.
It’s recommended you select an international travel insurance policy that is flexible and covers you regardless of nationality. It is possible that while in Russia you will be asked to provide evidence of an insurance policy, so ensure you have the certificate on you at all times as emails and cards will not suffice.
Russian authorities are stereotyped as a pretty tough group of people so if you are stopped it is best to comply and show them any documents they might ask for. Have a copy of everything ready, just in case.
How to avoid trouble
In the Euros 2016 in France, football hooliganism was a real problem. While typically these events were isolated between parties looking to start violence, it’s still best to remain vigilant and take some precautions to remain safe so you don’t have to end up in a foreign hospital claiming on your health insurance.
- Stay with friends and people you know. There is a lot of truth in the adage of safety in numbers. Criminals and fraudsters are much more likely to target an individual on their own.
- Keep important documents like passports, insurance documents, FAN ID and money in a safe place on your person. Try to keep them hidden and out of view. Pickpockets are attracted to official documents they can illegally duplicate or sell.
- Don’t smile at everyone. Sounds strange? Well in Rusian culture it’s considered fake and is reserved strictly for friends and family. While you’re unlikely to get into trouble for smiling at someone, this tip might help you blend in with the locals a little bit better. Many Russian people won’t even make eye contact with each other when traveling on the metro.
- Learn some Russian. It doesn’t hurt to have a few handy back up phrases such as ‘do you speak English?’ or ‘help’.
Traveling around the city
If you have a Fan ID you can travel around Moscow for free so long as you register. The train service is providing ticket holders with an easy way to get to and from games. Unfortunately, this service only runs for the football games so if you want to travel around in your own time you’ll have to pay.
The Moscow Metro, or People’s Palace, will be your best bet when seeing the city but be warned it can seem like a confusing place if you don’t speak Russian. The stand marked KACCA is where you can buy tickets. When you get there all you need is to name the place you are traveling to and fingers to say how many tickets you need. Just don’t be upset if someone pushes in front of you, queing is not a well practised part of Russian culture.
One important tip is that you can buy a ticket for 10 trips to share with your friends. You don’t have to purchase a ticket for every individual person in your party. After that, all you need is a map and the ability to count stations.
Buses are also a reasonably efficient way to travel. They are cheap but as a result are often crowded and slightly harder to navigate if you don’t know the city as well.
Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive. Russia not only has poor road safety resulting in numerous deaths every year but is incredibly strict on its driving laws. One beer and a car journey could land you in a Russian jail facing some serious consequences.
What should I eat and drink?
If you’re going to watch the world cup there is a good chance a nice cold beer will be on the agenda at some point. If that’s the case Baltika is a very popular brand in Russia that is sorted by a number, with each one having its own specific style and flavour. They are available at the majority of venues and restaurants in Moscow with the number #9 being famed for its strength.
Probably because Russia is so cold all year round soup is an incredibly popular and traditional food. There is a huge variety to chose from compared with most western countries and are worth trying. Even if you feel like having something more filling a soup such as Solyanka; made with potatoes, carrots and an array of meats will still hit the spot.
If in doubt just stand back and see what is popular with the locals.