“All the real things in Russia are done in the villages.” - Ernest Poole
Are you planning a trip to the Russian Federation and visiting the Kremlin other historic wonders?
The first step to take before you go is to plan your trip by choosing where you’re going to stay. Following the recent Russian World Cup the summer of 2018, Russian accommodation and tourism saw an increase of 35% on the previous year.
So where can you stay when you visit Russia?
In this article, we’re going to have a look at the different types of accommodation you can stay in from hotels to hostels and everything in between.
If you want to travel to Russia, don't forget to get your Russian visa before you book your accommodation! In fact, you need to do both before your departure.
Whether you're travelling to St Petersburg, Red Square, Yekaterinburg, Siberia, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, or the Golden Ring, you'll need to think about where you're going to stay.
Hotels, Classic Accommodation in Russia
77% of tourists in Russia choose to stay in hotels. The good news is that the exchange rate with the ruble is quite favourable and you can get a good quality hotel for relatively little.
Furthermore, hotels in Russia are quite modern and have been since the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Long gone are the days of an old babushka watching the alleys from behind the reception desk that we saw in films during the era of the USSR. Nowadays you can stay in some of the world’s best hotels for a price that you wouldn’t get elsewhere.
The Cosmos Hotel is a 4-star hotel and is one of the 3,200 hotels in Moscow (there are over 24,000 hotels in Russia). The Cosmos Hotel is one of the better hotels in Moscow and offers an old-fashioned vibe. Since it was built in the 1980s, there’s still quite a Soviet feel to this hotel, which is located by the VDNKh subway and Cosmonauts Alley. You can get rooms from around £35 a night.
Of all the famous hotels in Russia, the Izmailovo Hotel Complex takes its name from the market in the east of the city. This hotel can lodge 10,000 guests at once owing to its 7,200 rooms across 30 floors. This is an impressive structure that is focused on those travelling for business rather than pleasure. That said, there are luxury facilities and a spa. You can get rooms from around £30 a night.
You can go shopping and buy souvenirs at the Izmailovo market (accessible from the Partizanskaya metro, blue line). This is a great place to find tonnes of symbolic Russian objects, as long as you have the rubles to buy them.
In short, there are three types of hotels in Russia:
- International hotel chains, like Novotel or Hyatt.
- Russian hotel chains
- Independent Russian hotels
There are also taxes and fees that you may have to pay on arrival. Make sure you keep this in mind when booking your hotel in the largest country in the world.
When you travel to Russia, you should have some knowledge of the language as even 4- and 5-star hotels mightn’t have staff who speak English. Think about learning some essential phrases before you go.
Do you prefer comfort, originality, or authenticity?
Staying in Authentic Russian Airbnbs
The main advantage of Airbnb, especially in Russia, is that you can get comfortable accommodation for reasonable prices. However, be wary of ripoffs. Some Muscovites will increase their rates when renting to foreigners.
180,000 reservations were made on Airbnb during the World Cup, a record for the Russian Federation. You can find Airbnbs in many Russian cities including:
- Saint Petersburg
- Nizhny Novgorod
There’s also LikeHome for reserving accommodation where you can stay with people or get accommodation on your own. Don’t forget about the administrative steps. While hotels usually take care of this, with Airbnb, this is a little more difficult.
This can lead to two problems:
- Getting visas is trickier when staying with private individuals because you’ll have to go see the police. This can be a little stressful, especially if you’re only going for a couple of days.
- Increasing prices. A lot of owners, especially those who can speak English, offer to do this for you for around £200.
Is it worth it?
There are a few benefits to staying in an Airbnb:
- If you travel in a group, you can share the costs.
- On a long journey, this can help limit costs.
- You can check feedback to see how trustworthy your host is.
So are you ready to discover a new Russian town?
Hostels for Meeting Russian Speakers
The best way to really immerse yourself in Russian culture is through staying in a youth hostel. You can’t really expect the same comfort as you’d get in a hotel because you’ll be in a room with 5 or 10 bunk-beds, a shared bathroom on each floor, and you’ll struggle to get luxury services like a spa.
That said, you can’t beat the price. If you check sites like HostelWorld, you’ll see that the average prices for bigger Russian cities are lower than hotels.
Don’t forget that there are also private rooms in hostels and you can get them for under £20 per night.
This is also a great way to meet people if you’re travelling on your own. You can speak with locals, meet other travellers from Russian-speaking regions. It’s probably a good idea to learn important expressions in Russian as English isn’t as widely spoken as you may think!
Unusual Accommodation in Russia
Fancy a change of scenery? Something more authentic? Getting back to nature?
This is great because Russia is a huge country full of unusual places to stay. Here are some of the most reputable:
- A family cottage
- A country house (dacha)
- A cabin on a ranch
- A wooden cabin in the forest
The rates for these types of accommodation will vary hugely according to the facilities and the season. Generally, you’ll also need to rent a car to get to a lot of these places. That said, petrol is incredibly cheap. If you really want to see the real Russia, this is the way to do it.
You could also even rent places in Russia using sites like CIAN (equivalent to craigslist or gumtree) where you can find everything from flats to haunted houses. By renting, you can save up to 20%.
That said, the really weird rents (complete with poltergeists) only really exist in the bigger cities like Moscow.
So are you ready for an adventure?
Find out more about Russia's most popular attractions.
Advice for Seasonal Rents in Russia
To choose where to stay in Russia during your travels, you need to think about:
- Dates of stay
- How long you’ll spend travelling in Russia
- Where you’re staying in the Russian Federation
- Your budget
- Your taste
For example, when you choose your Moscow accommodation, you need to consider travel time, too. The city is really big. For example, if you go from a hotel in the southwest, you could spend several hours on public transport making your way to the city centre. While you might save money staying out of the city centre, if you’re only staying for a couple of days, you might want to spend a little extra to get a better location.
There’s also a lot of administrative steps to consider. For example, if you travel from Russia to the Baltic States and back, you’ll need to register (and pay) each time, even if you're returning to the same accommodation as before.
Make sure you keep this in mind when booking your hotel. In Russia, you need to get your tourist visa and pay your registration fee. You need to provide a document proving where you’re staying and when you’re staying there. While certain types of accommodation, such as hotels, will take care of this, others will leave it up to you. This can add some extra costs.
On average, accommodation in Russia is about half the price of the UK. This is in line with the cost of living in Russia.
Before you go on a trip to Russia, you'll need to send your visa application to either the Russian consulate or the Russian embassy. The application requires that you have accommodation booked at your destination and that your passport is valid for six months after your stay. If you're going on a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway or on a cruise, for example, you'll require a letter from the tour operator with the itinerary of your trip and other details.
Of course, if you need a business visa, this will be a different process...