Real Russia Blog

Real Russia nominated at the 2020 World Travel Awards

Real Russia nominated at the 2020 World Travel Awards

Vote for Real Russia as Russia’s leading Travel Agent and Online Travel agency in 2020

For more than a decade Real Russia have worked to bring Russia to the world, and the world to Russia. Therefore, we are delighted to announce that we have been nominated as both Russia’s Leading Travel Agent and Leading Online Travel Agency at the World Travel Awards. This is a huge honour for everyone within the company and we would love it if you could help us attain this honour. Like the rest of the Travel industry, this year has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the company with the Coronavirus pandemic and its direct impact to the Travel industry and beyond. We are continuing to work hard and improve over the course of the pandemic and would like to ensure all our customers that we are here to stay!

Why vote for Real Russia

The World Travel Awards are very prestigious. They are voted for by professionals within the travel industry and, more importantly, they are voted for by you, the customer. We have won this award a total of five times and although we have been a runner-up the last two years’ we would love to take back the title. Every day our teamwork with partners around the world to share with you the experiences that are available within Russia and the surrounding countries; particularly along the Trans-Siberian railway. As a group, we do not want to just send you on holiday, we want to send you on adventures, in which you can create memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. So please vote Real Russia as your Leading Travel Agent and Online Travel Agency 2020.

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Russia Day 12th June 2020

Russia Day 12th June 2020

One of the most important public holidays in Russia, Russia Day marks a declaration of independence for Russians.

Today marks a very special day in the Russian calendar, ‘Russia day’ (or День России). This public holiday commemorates a declaration of independence for Russians. Traditionally Russia Day celebrates part of the democratic movement for Russia, including the creation of a new position ‘President of the Russian Federation’ and a new Russian constitution, although not all Russian citizens celebrate this national holiday with the same political significance today. Despite this, many Russians still choose to celebrate out of national pride and it is a welcome opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family. Throughout Russia, cities erupt with concerts and festivals, including in the Heart of Moscow and St Petersburg and stages are set up outside major tourist attractions including St Basil’s Cathedral. Many travellers enjoy visiting Russia during this time as the festivals give an insight to the warm-hearted nature of Russian people and it’s an ideal opportunity to experience Russian culture and festivities! Although celebrations for Russia Day 2020 will be less public, the sentiment behind it has never been more unified. We wish you all the best for Russia day 2020 and look forward to a return of the usual festivities in 2021!

Real Russia Blog

Bolshoi: A history of ballet, opera and the arts

Bolshoi: A history of ballet, opera and the arts

Uncover the history of the Bolshoi from its early days under royal patronage, to decline, and eventual recovery, as well as look at some of the best ballet stars to ever step foot on the stage

The Bolshoi Theatre has long been regarded as the pinnacle of Russia’s artistic prowess and is known throughout the world as one of the best places to see ballet and opera. The theatre has entertained visitors for over two centuries and has seen some of the best ballet dancers and musicians in the world grace its stages. Today, we will uncover the history of this magnificent theatre from its early days under royal patronage, to decline, and eventual recovery, as well as look at some of the best ballet stars to ever step foot on the stage.

History of the Bolshoi

Early beginnings

The theatre began as a private theatre under Prince Pyotr Urusov who was granted permission to organise masquerades, balls and other theatre performances by Empress Catherine II in 1776. The theatre’s first building stood on Petrovka Street on the right bank of the Neglinka river, hence the name Petrovsky theatre. This theatre was built in less than six months and was the first public theatre of its size in Moscow, opened in December 1780 to a performance of ‘The Wanderers’ by Alexander Ablesimov and a pantomime ballet ‘The Magic School’ produced by Leopold Paradis with music by Joseph Starzer. By the time of the performance, Prince Urusov had already relinquished rights to his business partner Michael Maddox. The theatre was subsequently transferred between various companies before being transferred back to the Government Loan Office.

Under threat

In 1805, a fire broke out which destroyed the Petrovsky theatre, and so the company performed at different theatres for a short while after until the new Arbat theatre was constructed in 1808. Although this wooden alternative would also be burnt to the ground during the war with Napoleon in 1812. A competition was started shortly after with the aim of finding the perfect architect to build the theatres replacement, eventually, a winner was chosen, however, his design was considered too expensive and so another architect Joseph Bové stepped in to alter the design, improving it in the process. The Petrovsky theatre would be built once again, however, after a successful thirty years, the new theatre would meet the same fate as its predecessor when a fire burnt it to the ground in 1853. After another century or so of uncertainty, from reconstructions, revolutions and repurposing under the Bolsheviks, the building was soon considered dangerously unstable and so emergency repair works were started aided by the demolition of all buildings between the Bolshoi and Kuznetsky Most Street, giving the new theatre the room it so desperately needed for auxiliary buildings. Ultimately the existence of the theatre was called into question once more after a bomb hit the Bolshoi theatre on 22nd October 1941.


Although the damage made by the bomb was considerable, restoration work began on the theatre in Winter 1942 and was opened to the public once again in Autumn 1943 to a production of Glinka’s opera ‘A Life for the Tsar’. Cosmetic repairs were completed on the theatre building annually although the problems with the building’s foundations and space remained a problem. Urgent restoration works finally came in 1987 under government decree, however, the new stage would not be complete and open to the public until 2002 to a debut of Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘The Snow Maiden’.

Bolshoi’s best solo and principal ballet dancers of all time

Natalia Osipova

Natalie Osipova in Don Quixote Natalie Osipova in Don Quixote Nicourse / CC0

Now a principal ballerina at the Royal Ballet in London, Osipova has had one the quickest rises to fame of any ballet star in recent history. She started formal ballet training the age of 9 and was enlisted by the Bolshoi Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet at just 18. After a critically acclaimed performance as Kitri in Don Quixote in 2005, she was made a soloist in 2006. After leaving the Bolshoi she had joined the American ballet as a guest dancer before moving to the Royal Ballet in 2013. What makes Osipova more intriguing is her desire to experiment, combining ballet with modern interpretive dance through her own personal projects, paving the way for a new and exciting future for contemporary ballet.

Ekaterina Krysanova

Ekaterina Krysanova Ekaterina Krysanova Екатерина Владимирова / CC BY-SA (

A highly decorated ballerina in both the principal and duet categories, Ekaterina Krysanova remains one of Bolshoi’s most loved performers. Krysanova started her ballet education in 1995 at the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre in Moscow, later joining the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in 2003. She has since risen to the role of principal dancer in the Bolshoi’s current roster.

Maria Alexandrova

Maria Alexandrova Maria Alexandrova Ирина Лепнёва / CC BY-SA (

Although resigning from the Bolshoi in 2017, Maria Alexandrova has been one of the theatre’s most loved dancers. She has played a title role in most of the theatre’s major productions including Giselle in which she made her Bolshoi debut back in 1997. She is best known for playing two roles concurrently in Don Quixote, one as a street dancer in act 1 and the other as a soloist in the third act.

Denis Rodkin

Denis Rodkin Denis Rodkin / CC BY (

A rising star on the ballet scene, Denis Rodkin has become one of the most memorable male principal dancers of the last decade. Voted the best dancer of the year in 2016 by Danza Danza magazine, Rodkin continues to impress at the Bolshoi and has starred in many of theatre’s most successful ballets including Swan Lake, Ivan the Terrible and Spartacus. At the age of 29, you can expect to see a lot more from Rodkin over the coming years.

Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova in 1912 Anna Pavlova in 1912

A world-renowned ballet dancer that was so successful that she even had a dessert named after her! Anna Pavlova was a prima ballerina of the 19th and 20th centuries, and although she was part of the Imperial Russian Ballet, her role as the dying swan at the Bolshoi was known as one of her best performances. Although said to have a limited technique compared to later ballet performers, pavlova surpassed skill with charismatic charm and style to become one of the most memorable of all time.

Vladimir Vasiliev

Vladimir Vasilyev in the Nutcracker Vladimir Vasilyev in the Nutcracker RIA Novosti archive, image #709789 / Alexander Makarov / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Dubbed the hero of Soviet ballet, Vladimir Vasiliev was renowned for his death-defying leaps and multiple pirouettes. He is best known for the role of Spartacus, in which he excelled at conveying the passion and drama of the story. He graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet in 1958 and would later join them as a soloist.

Visiting the Bolshoi

Although temporarily closed due to Coronavirus, the Bolshoi is set to reopen its doors from 30th June. We recommend booking your tickets for performances in advance as they can sell out quickly. Since you are already heading to Moscow, why not check out the rest of what the Russian capital has to offer? Moscow is a city of rich history and culture; with no less than 3 UNESCO world heritage sites including the famous Kremlin and Red Square. Learn more about this magnificent city on our Moscow destinations page.

Real Russia Blog

Eurasian city-breaks: 48 hours in Moscow, Russia

Eurasian city-breaks: 48 hours in Moscow, Russia

The final instalment in our Eurasian city-break series. A 48-hour guide to Moscow exploring top attractions such as the Kremlin and Red Square

The heart of the Russian Federation, Moscow is the capital and largest city in Russia with over 12 million inhabitants – over double the size of St Petersburg and almost a third larger than the total population of New York. This huge cosmopolitan city is a testament to the spirit of its people, enduring brutal civil wars, schisms and invasion from some of the largest empires in the world from the Mongols to armies of Napoleon. Nowadays, the city is a beacon for Russian tourism with three UNESCO world heritage sites, as well as a plethora of museums, art galleries and restaurants displaying the best of Muscovite and modern Russian culture. The final part of our 6-part city-break series will take you through a 48-hour journey of the Russian Capital, Moscow. Exploring top attractions such as the Kremlin and Red Square and taking in the city’s spectacular cultural heritage.

Why visit Moscow?

As the Capital of Russia, Moscow has a diverse and extensive history and unique cultural heritage. It is Russia’s most popular tourist destination alongside former capital St Petersburg and is the starting point for Europe’s longest train journey, the Trans-Siberian Railway. Best known for the UNESCO world heritage site, the Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow also has many museums, art galleries, bars and world-class restaurants that are sure to entertain no matter the traveller!

Arriving in Moscow

Where to stay in Moscow

Moscow has more hotels and hostels than almost any other city in Russia, so tourists will have plenty of options to choose from that suit any budget. All hotels in the city centre are easily accessible via public transport or car transfer; most luxury hotels are located North of Red Square and around the Bolshoi Theatre, while hostels are just a short walk East of the Bolshoi and North of St Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Map of Moscow City Centre Map of Moscow City Centre

Day one:


There is plenty to do and see in Moscow and where better to start than Red Square, the largest and most famous square in Russia. The square had a long history of its own, however it is also the focal point for many of the major tourist destinations within the city and you can see the Kremlin, Nikolskaya Tower, State Historical Museum, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the magnificent St Basils Cathedral. We recommend taking the time to visit the Cathedral, Mausoleum before taking a break to go shopping and heading for spot of lunch. A short walk west of Red Square towards the Pamyatnik Marshalu will take you to an area with multiple restaurants, a short distance away from the Kremlin. You will find a variety of restaurants including Mu-Mu which is an inexpensive Russian fast food restaurant/ café.


Moscow Kremlin and Cathedrals
Moscow Kremlin and Cathedrals

After a morning exploring Red Square, head over to the Kremlin where you will find out more about the tumultuous history and extravagance of the Russian aristocracy. We recommend booking a tour around the Armoury Chamber which is home to the famous Faberge eggs – this is often the best way to get around the Kremlin and you will learn far more about Russian history and its people in the process.


For those interested in the arts, watching a performance at the Bolshoi is a must when visiting Moscow. The theatre has a splendid repertoire of classic Russian ballets, opera and concerts to choose from that take place most evenings throughout the week. You can find out more about the Bolshoi performance schedule in advance by visiting their website. Going for an early pre-performance evening meal is the norm due to the length of performances, however most restaurants around the area are open until late in the evening whether you are after a light meal or extravagant dining experience.

Day two:


Exhibiting the best of Moscow and Russia, the VDNKH (Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy) is a permanent trade show and amusement park to the North of Moscow city centre. The park functions as an open-air museum and exhibition space with numerous museums, restaurants and parks for tourists to explore. Space buffs can also visit the nearby museum of Cosmonautics, commemorating Russian space exploration. The museum includes various exhibits and models that explore the history of flight, technology and the arts holding over 85,000 objects. The museum focuses around the triumphs of the Soviet space program including the likes of Sputnik and Gagarin. VDNKH has plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from, although one of the more popular restaurants is Ararat, serving some of the best Armenian cuisine in the city.


Russian Vodka
Russian Vodka

An alternative to the famous Kremlin, the Izmailovo Kremlin is a short trip to the East on the Metro from the city centre and is a great choice for those interested in shopping and unique experiences. Tourists will find plenty to entertain themselves from sprawling parklands, costumed street performers and a grand market. The market is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir and is far cheaper than the shops around Arbat street. Those looking for something wholly unique to Moscow can visit the famed Vodka museum. Visitors to the museum will find out all about the history of Vodka and why Russians have come to love it, you can even try some yourself! The museum is open from 10:00am until 20:00pm every day of the week and often later on Saturdays.


After an action-packed few days visiting some of Moscow’s many sites, it may be time to wind down and enjoy some of the finer things the city has to offer. One of the fanciest places to eat in Moscow is Café Pushkin, this Baroque-style restaurant includes 4 distinct areas, two of which are spectacular dining rooms: The Mezzanine and the Library. The rooms are connected by highly decorative halls filled with floor-to-ceiling bookcases which add to the charm. If you like Russian and French cuisine, we can highly recommend this restaurant. To continue the evening, you can visit one of Moscow spectacular bars. The city offers something for everyone from bustling nightclubs to ambient cocktail lounges. Mendeleev bar is perhaps one of the city’s better-known bars but also one of the most exclusive. This speak-easy style lounge offers some of the best cocktails in the city as well as live piano and Jazz music on weekdays. It is a perfect, relaxing end to your trip to Moscow!

Closing tips and good-to-knows

  • The fastest and cheapest way across Moscow is by Metro. One trip will cost around 40 roubles (approximately £0.45). It is better to avoid rush hour on weekdays where possible which falls between 8:00 until 10:00am in the morning and 17:00 until 19:00pm in the evening.
  • Taxis are much cheaper in Moscow than in the UK. A trip to Moscow City centre is normally between 500-800 roubles which works out to around £4-7. Drivers usually don’t speak English, so it is perfect to learn a few phrases in Russian before you get there. It is also worth noting that roads will be busy during rush hours so try to avoid using taxis during these times. You may also want to consider taking a private transfer, while more expensive these are often a more secure option.
  • During the summer season (May until around September), there are plenty of options to rent a bike or electro scooter directly from the street. Prices start from 200 rub per hour – 2.5 pounds depending on the type and brand; this can be a great way to get around the city.
  • Many of the city’s restaurants and bars such as Café Pushkin and Mendeleev bar are extremely popular. Therefore, you should book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Book your trip to Moscow with Real Russia!

We really hope you enjoyed the final instalment of our Eurasian city-break series. If you have been inspired and want to visit Moscow, we can help along the way! Real Russia can arrange everything from trains and Russian visas to tours that are personally tailored to you. Check out our new range of Moscow tours for 2020/ 2021! If you missed any of our previous city-break instalments you can see a full list of our previous articles here:


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5 best Russian films to watch in 2020

5 best Russian films to watch in 2020

Real Russia`s top 5 must-see Russian films to watch during lockdown 2020

For many of us, binge-watching our favourite TV series is a new normal that we have all become well accustomed to over the last few months, and with that, many of our favourite TV shows have ended far earlier than planned. As we start to run out of our most popular series, it may be time to look beneath the most popular list, and for those interested in all things Russian, what better way to reignite your passion for Russia than to take advantage of some of the best Russian films our subscription services have to offer? Here are our top 5 recommended Russian movies to watch during the lockdown.


A spectacular biopic of one of Russian’s most prolific journalistic writers of the 20th century, Sergei Dovlatov. Under constant pressure from the Russian authorities who had already succeeded in silencing most of his literary comrades, Dovlatov continues to write free of taboos in a show of spectacular defiance. This compelling true story follows six days in the writer’s turbulent life. Released 26th October 2018, Dovlatov is available to watch on Netflix or for purchase on Amazon.

The Student

Directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, The Student follows the life of a young high school student in modern-day Russia that begins to challenge the views and beliefs of the adults around them. After seeing the world in a new light for the first time, the young student becomes convinced that evil is the only thing to exist in the world. Released 13th May 2016, The Student is currently available on Google Play Movies, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

Sin (Il Peccato)

A Russian take on the life of famous renaissance artist written and directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, Michelangelo Buonarotti, Sin (originally known as Il Peccato), charts the life of the famous artist from his golden era under Pope Julian II to his difficulties in maintaining loyalties to the Medici family and the new papacy following Julian’s death. This gripping tale reflects on the torment and ecstasy of greatness including the struggle to live up to his own moral and artistic failings.


Nominated for the best foreign-language film at the 90th academy awards, Loveless has gained international acclaim for its portrayal of the tensions between an estranged Russian couple going through a brutal divorce with a young child. Both looking to put their past behind them, they are forcibly brought back together following the disappearance of their 12-year old son. Released 9th February 2019, Loveless is currently available on Google Play Movies and Amazon Prime Video


Although not strictly a Russian directed film, Trans-Siberian takes one of Russia’s most emblematic journey’s and adds a sinister twist. Taking a train from Beijing to Moscow, married Christian missionaries Roy and Jessie befriend fellow passengers Carlos and Abby. When Roy fails to return after a stop, Jessie stays behind to wait for her missing companion despite warnings from her new friends that the town is ‘unsafe’. Released 18th July 2008, Trans-Siberian is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and on DVD.


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Meet the team: Alex Locker

Meet the team: Alex Locker

Real Russia Content and Marketing Executive Alex shares his thoughts on travel

We are all about personal experiences from the places you visit to the people you meet along the way, and what better way to help with this than to introduce some of the people that work to make your trip as great as it possibly can be. Today we spoke to Real Russia’s Content and Marketing Executive, Alex Locker, to find out what inspires him to travel.

If you could go anywhere in Russia where would it be?

For as long as I have known about it, I have wanted to go to Kamchatka mainly just to experience what it is like going to such a remote part of the world and see the amazing volcanos and animals that live there. Most destinations require a 4×4, boat or even helicopter to reach which I think adds to the mystery.

What is your favourite Russian city?

As a history and art enthusiast, St Petersburg has to be my top choice here. There is just so much to see in this city you could spend weeks exploring. The highlights for me would definitely be the Hermitage museum and the Peterhof since I love exploring palaces and seeing art. The food is also a massive draw, there are some great restaurants; I had always wanted to try Cococo as the menu was completely different to anything I had seen.

What do you like about Russia?

It’s vastness and diversity. There is just so much to see if Russia and because everything is so far apart you tend to find an interesting mix of cultures, beliefs and alternate histories. For example, life in Moscow is completely different to the towns and cities in Siberia such as Ulan Ude, I guess it is similar to the differences you get between London and the rest of the UK cities, although multiplied.

Which other countries have you visited?

Alex at Noma, Copenhagen Alex at Noma, Copenhagen

I have done quite a bit of travelling across Europe by train and around Africa over the last decade or so. More recently, I travelled to Copenhagen in Denmark and visited Michelin star restaurant Noma, for my birthday which was a fantastic experience which I would love to repeat someday. Aside from that, I did a full country tour North to South (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City) of Vietnam which I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in Asian travel.

Which was your favourite?

As a History graduate, my favourite would have to be Italy since each city has something unique to offer. I think I have been to Rome at least three times, but I have managed to see something I have not seen before each time. I recently went to Florence and the city has a vibrant energy about it; I love Renaissance art so it was great to be able to visit the Uffizi gallery.

What sort of traveller are you?

I have always been a bit of a wanderer and like to take a day to explore at the start of any trip just to get my bearings. I would say that over the last few years my travel style has changed; I value the time to relax and am a little less attraction driven. I remember travelling across Europe by train when I was 19 and visiting around 9 countries in the space of 2 weeks, planning all the connections, hotels etc – while it was nice to see so many countries, the thought of doing that on the same timescale now is crazy.

Aside from travelling what else are you into?

Alex at Goodwood Festival Alex at Goodwood Festival

I have quite a few things I love to do regularly such as gaming and headhunting restaurants, but I am mostly into novelty, so anything I haven’t tried before is a win. Outside of work, I enjoy living a vintage-inspired fantasy with my partner, and we go to most vintage events and large festivals such as Goodwood for the racing and Twinwood for dancing that takes place in the UK throughout the year. I am not much of a gym buff, but I do enjoy swimming and a good walk.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working at Real Russia?

The most rewarding thing about Real Russia is the people that work there. There is a real sense of ‘we are all in this together’, something which I have not experienced at any other company I have worked for. There is a great level of support and we all do our best to help each other. On a personal level, I love creating content and seeing it well-received provides its own rewards.

What is the most challenging?

Without a doubt, the most challenging element of working at Real Russia are people’s perceptions of Russia. Unfortunately, most people, especially in the UK and USA, only see Russia in the light of the media and the negative press that routinely surrounds the Russian government. As part of the marketing team, it is a constant battle to change perceptions and show people that Russia has some amazing destinations that you cannot liken to anything else in the world.

What drew you to the company?

From around the age of 17, you get asked by almost everyone you know ‘what do you want to do when you leave school?’. Like many teenagers, my response was less than sure, but I had always liked the idea of writing for a travel company and exploring the world. I didn’t really know what to expect working for a company that specialises in Russian travel, it probably isn’t the first place you think of when going on holiday, especially in the UK, but I saw that as part of the challenge and am glad I decided to pursue it.


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Trans-Siberian Zoom backgrounds

Trans-Siberian Zoom backgrounds

Call your friends and colleagues from along the Trans-Siberian railway!

Remote conferencing and video calls are more necessary than ever, but many of us do not want every to see inside our homes or offices. Thankfully, both Zoom, and Microsoft Teams allow you to change your background so you can be anywhere from the beach to the moon. We at Real Russia are missing our travel, particularly, and so we decided to do the next best thing, imagine that we are travelling! So, we put together a small selection of Zoom and Microsoft Teams backgrounds and thought we would share them with you guys too. Scroll on for the images and instructions on how to use them!

How to change a Zoom background

All our images have been set to the recommended size for Zoom, so all you need to do to ‘visit’ Russia while on a call, is follow these instructions … Please note: this will change your default image.
  1. Log in to Zoom online here.
  2. Select ‘Room Management’ and then ‘Zoom Rooms’.
  3. Click ‘Account Settings’.
  4. Go to your profile and under ‘Background images for Zoom Rooms’ select ‘Upload New Image’.
  5. Select the image you want as your background and click ‘Open’.
If you would like to change your background image for just one room, floor or location, check out the instructions over on the Zoom website.

How to change a Microsoft Teams background

Changing the background on your Teams account is slightly different to Zoom, but just as easy.
  1. Open File Explorer on your computer.
  2. Copy the following address into File Explorers address bar and press enter: %APPDATA%MicrosoftTeamsBackgrounds for Windows, or ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds on a Mac.
  3. In this folder you will see another called ‘Uploads’.
  4. Drop the photos you would like to use in here, and they will be accessible next time you make a Teams video call.

Trans-Siberian Zoom backgrounds

Now for the reason you are here, some Trans-Siberian backgrounds to help you feel like you can travel across the Trans-Siberian railway at any time! Just click on whichever image you would like as your background to download it and it will be ready to use on Zoom or Teams. It is as simple as that!

Lights along Arbat Street in Moscow

Take a night-time walk through the artistic quarter of Moscow with these beautiful archways. Lights on Arbat Street, Moscow

The walls of the Kremlin in Moscow

Take a trip to the halls of power, the imposing, and beautiful, Kremlin. The walls of the Kremlin, Moscow

A Tartar style village in Kazan

Step back in time to Russia’s past in this recreation of a typical Tartar village. A Tartar style villae, Kazan

The border between Europe and Asia outside Yekaterinburg

Pretend you are calling from two continents at once, Europe and Asia! The border between Europe and Asia, Yekaterinburg

A steam train on the Circum-Baikal railway at Lake Baikal

Relive the golden age of steam by posing with this incredible Soviet steam train. A steam train at Lake Baikal, Russia

A Mongolian train on the border with Russia

Not looking your best? Call alongside this train on the Russian border and pretend you have just been making repairs, so looking a little scruffy is to be expected. A Mongolian train on the border with Russia

Beijing Railway Station

Tell people about the Trans-Siberian journey you definitely didn’t just imagine, while stood on the platform in Beijing. Beijing railway station, Beijing

The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

Get away from it all atop one of the most famous walls in the world, the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu near Beijing

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Real Russia Blog

Real Russia’s guide to exploring Russia on a budget

Real Russia’s guide to exploring Russia on a budget

Our top tips on how to explore Russia on a budget

Travel is a way of life for many of us from relaxing beach holidays to culture-rich city breaks. However, cost remains the main factor when deciding on a holiday and during these uncertain economic times will likely remain a crucial factor for some time to come. The fact is, travel doesn’t always have to be expensive, there are many ways to save money from booking in advance to buying city passes and shopping as the locals do. We have organised our top tips on how you can save money on your next trip to Russia.

Book trains in advance

Booking trains in advance is the easiest way to save money on travel. Not only does this guarantee you a way to your next destination it will also give you more seat or class options. Train ticket costs are often determined by availability, therefore travelling on off-peak trains is always recommend where possible, although you may find that during busy tourist seasons these seats are also hard to come by, especially on the most popular routes such as Moscow – St Petersburg. Take a look at our discounts and coefficients page for Russian trains to find out more about the best times to travel.

Use sleeper trains for longer journeys

Russian Train at Station Russian Train at Station

If you have plenty of time on your hands, choosing a sleeper train over high-speed options can be a great way to save money. Russian sleeper trains are fairly standard in what they offer and so you can be sure you will have a decent bed to sleep in, a place to get food and a place to wash. As you would already be paying for a train ticket, using a sleeper train saves you booking a hotel room for a night which can be expensive in cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg, particularly around the peak holiday season.

Take advantage of discounts and passes

You can get discounts for almost anything if you look hard enough, this is no exception for travel. Take advantage of seasonal promotions on tours where you can and consider travelling out of season to get the most of your money, especially if you don’t mind the weather! City attraction passes can be bought at information kiosks around major cities or online, so if you plan on sticking around, consider purchasing a city pass – these can give you free entry to many attractions but also come with additional benefits such as discounted bus or metro travel. For example, the Moscow city pass includes discounts on restaurants, bars and taxis as well as priority when queuing for major attractions. Many train companies offer a student or elderly pass that entitles you to discounts of around 30% on journeys that are taken off-peak.

Stock up on supplies at local supermarkets

A surprising amount of money is spent on food when travelling and it is often the easiest thing to exploit. Station platforms, airport lounges and transport will almost always have a place for you to buy food and drink – most trains, for example, include a restaurant carriage, although you can guarantee that you will be paying a premium on anything you buy. Taking a bit of time to stock up at a local supermarket or corner shop before getting to a station or airport will save you having to pay a premium on most items.

Don’t hang around the main tourist areas

Tourists in Red Square, Moscow Tourists in Red Square, Moscow

As tourists, attractions are what we come to see. Visiting Moscow without a trip to the Kremlin is unlikely right? Unfortunately, while places of great public interest, they are also hotspots for retailers wanting to make the most of passing trade. While you should never sacrifice enjoyment for expense (I mean you are on holiday after all!) a lot can be said for stepping away from the bustling tourist areas once in a while. You will often find great local restaurants, souvenir shops and bars just a few streets away and they are usually working at a fraction of the price. Student districts can be found in most major cities and are fully catered to travellers on a budget – we recommend taking a bit of time to check up on the student-friendly areas before you visit as this can be a fantastic way to not only meet like-minded explorers but also avoid the hefty charges on the tourist frontlines.

Use public transport or walk where possible

Moscow Station with Row of Taxis Moscow Station with Row of Taxis

Public transport is usually cheap, and most hotels and attractions should be within walking distance. Unlike train stations, airports are located a bit further out of the city centre and can be anything from 20 minutes to an hour away by car. Private taxi companies are reliable and easy to book in advance – especially for groups when you can split the cost, although this can prove expensive if you are a solo traveller. Taxi ranks are present at every airport although you MUST always agree on the fare before taking one of these taxis otherwise you may incur surprise charges, aside from this, these will usually work out cheaper. An alternative often cheaper option than a taxi is to use public services. Regular bus and train links go from airports to city centres although you can expect these to take slightly longer than other options because of stops along the way. This may also be a bit more uncomfortable during busy commuter times when stuck in traffic.

Buy a travel sim

Buying a travel sim is a great way to save money on network charges. Many networks will charge extortionate fees for international calls or data usage while away so this can be a great way of keeping roaming fees under control. You can find out more about the travel sim packages we have available on our website.


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8 amazing animals found in Siberia

8 amazing animals found in Siberia

Learn more about Siberia`s most interesting animals from Siberian Huskies to the elusive Amur Tiger!

Siberia is the largest region in Russia covering a staggering 13,100,000km2 (over 75% of the entire country!). Yet, despite its size, it has around half the total population of the UK. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the largely uninhabited lands of Siberia have long been the home to some of the world’s most spectacular animals dating from the Woolly mammoths of the prehistoric age to the magnificent Amur Siberia tigers that still roam its forests. This post will reveal 8 of Siberia’s most intriguing animals that you should keep an eye out for if heading out on your own Siberian adventure!

Amur tiger

Amur Tiger Amur Tiger

The king of Siberian wildlife, the Amur tiger is a solitary animal hidden deep within the woodlands and birch forests of the Siberian heartlands. Amur tigers have been hunted near to extinction on several occasions, with only 40 reported to remain in the 1940s. In the last few decades measures have been taken to protect these majestic animals and Russia has since granted the species full protection which has seen numbers rise considerably. Amur tigers have been known to grow up to 10 feet in length and can weigh up to an impressive 300kg.

Eurasian Lynx

Eurasian Lynx Eurasian Lynx

A majestic and capable predator said to wander the forest-steppes, the Eurasian lynx is renowned for its ability to adapt to its surroundings. This lynx has been known to subtly change it colourings from a short reddish-brown coat is temperate climates to a long silky greyish coat during the Winter. Hunting had almost driven the lynx to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries across many areas of Europe and Scandinavia, however the Eurasian lynx is now considered to be one of the few large cats in the world to have a stable population with around 10,000 said to exist.

East Siberian Brown bear

East Siberian Brown Bear East Siberian Brown Bear Кирилл Уютнов / CC BY-SA (

One of many species of brown bear that inhabit Siberia and its neighbouring regions, the East Siberian brown bear can be distinguished by two characteristics: the size of its skull and its disinterest in honey. This bear is known for being bolder than its counterparts (Eurasian and Kamchatka brown bears) and is said to hunt anything from mountain hares to moose.

Amur leopard

Amur Leopard Amur Leopard

The most endangered of all large cats in Russia and perhaps the world with only around 100 remaining in the wild, the Amur leopard is now a rare sight even in its native Siberia. They can be distinguished from other subspecies of leopard since they have a much larger body size, thicker coats to deal with Winter climates and unique thicker patterning. Amur leopards are solitary creatures and efficient nocturnal predators. Efforts are being taken by the WWF and other Russian organisations to protect the Amur leopard. You can find out more about how you can help by visiting their website.

Siberian husky

Siberian Huskies Siberian Huskies

Now a popular pet all across the world, the Siberian husky is instantly recognisable for its thick fur, wolf-like features and distinct markings. Siberian huskies originated in the North East of Russia and have been bred by the Chukchi people for sled-pulling which is now a major tourist attraction in the region. They thrive in the harshest Winter climates, making stellar work-dogs and terrific companions.

Blakiston’s fish owl

Blakiston's Fish Owl Blakiston’s Fish Owl Robert tdc / CC BY-SA

A secretive species found only in Japan and the Russian Far East, Blakiston’s fish owl is thought to be one of the most vulnerable owls in existence with only 1000 pairs being recorded in the wild. The owl was named after English naturalist Thomas Blakiston, who recorded the first specimen in Hakodate on Hokkaidō, Japan in 1883. This owl is thought to be the heaviest owl in the world weighing around 3-3.5kg on average, as well as one of the largest along with the Eurasian Eagle-Owl and the Great Grey Owl, also found in Siberia.

Siberian chipmunk

Siberian Chipmunk Siberian Chipmunk

Arguably the cutest animal to roam Siberia, the Siberian chipmunk is the only known species of chipmunk to exist outside of North America and is a native to East Asia. Typically, Siberian chipmunks have 4 white stripes and 5 dark stripes along the back. They are smaller than the average squirrel at around 18–25 cm long, a third of which is the tail.

Musk deer

Siberian Musk Deer Siberian Musk Deer ErikAdamsson / CC0

Musk deer are perhaps the world’s most unusual species of deer but also the most prized. Unlike other male deer, Musk deer have tusks rather than horns or antlers which are used to warn off other males during mating season. The gland from male musk deer are often used in fragrances, cosmetics and medicines around the world. They average around 3ft in length and weigh around 10kg.


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Russia with Simon Reeve episode 1: A Real Russia review

Russia with Simon Reeve episode 1: A Real Russia review

Our review of Russia with Simon Reeve, series 1, episode 1

Russia with Simon Reeve is a BBC documentary created in 2017 that explores some of Russia’s most remote locations from Kamchatka in the far east of the country to Siberia and ending in St Petersburg. This three-part series investigates each of these areas to really understand the real Russia, interviewing local people, scientists and marginalised communities along the way. Here, we share our thoughts on episode one and provide details on how you can follow in Simon’s footsteps and start planning your own journey with Real Russia!

Local life on the Kamchatka peninsula

Simon begins his journey on the remote Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s far east. As the episode unfolds, we learn more about the struggles of the local communities that live in Kamchatka from surviving temperatures well below freezing to the livelihoods of the reindeer herders living at the whim of climate change. What is clear is that, for the people who inhabit Russia’s most remote areas, there is a distinct lack of opportunity and a sense of isolation from the rest of Russia, in particular, more popular cities such as St Petersburg or Moscow. However, what struck me the most about these remote communities such as the one visited in Esso, was their determination to continue life as normal in the face of such extreme conditions and limited support. While we learn more about the challenges of people living here, more could have been made of the captivating landscapes or wildlife Kamchatka is renowned for.

Vladivostok as the gateway to Asia

Bridge in Vladivostok Bridge in Vladivostok

From the desolate tundra’s of Kamchatka, we are taken to the commercial port-city of Vladivostok which offered a rare insight into Russia’s future plans to create a business hub in order to capitalise on the growth of the Asian business market. While offering an interesting contrast to the rural areas surrounding Vladivostok, the documentary focused heavily on the seedy underbelly and so it was hard to really get to grips with what the city was about. Similarly, the most interesting parts of the city such as the Vladivostok military history museum, the spectacular nature reserves found on Russky Island to the south, or the city being the start or endpoint (depending on which way you travel) of the Trans-Siberian Railway were condensed into a passing mention (thankfully alluding to the overall friendliness of the Russian people) if at all while other scenes focused around the Russian authorities were given more airtime. It is important to say here that the average tourist will not have any problems with the Russian authorities whatsoever.

Amur Tiger in Siberia Amur Tiger in Siberia

After moving away from the city, we are taken to the Siberian outback where the elusive Siberian tigers are found to roam. You cannot help but be amazed at the size of these awe-inspiring animals and the expertise of the guides in tracking these magnificent creatures is second to none.

The caves of Yakutsk

Ice Crystals Ice Crystals

North of Vladivostok and West of Kamchatka, Yakutsk is a major city that cannot be accessed by road. Although we see little of the city itself, being able to see the permafrost caves up close was nothing short of amazing and I will certainly make the effort to see this on my next visit to Russia.

Concluding thoughts

Overall the episode provided a well-rounded introduction to some of the lesser-known areas of Russia. It is worth emphasising that while this does provide a good introduction to certain areas of Russia, the places visited offer far more than seen to those interested in visiting them. However, it is still well worth a watch if you are just getting to grips with this vast country. All 3 episodes of Russia with Simon Reeve are available on BBC iPlayer until March 2021.

Planning your own journey to Kamchatka

If you were inspired by Simon Reeve’s Kamchatka adventures why not create your own? We can help arrange your tours, visas, hotels and transport to most destinations in Russia, including Kamchatka on request. Contact our travel team to start planning your journey! You can learn more about each of the places visited by Simon Reeve in this first instalment by visiting our destinations pages listed below:


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