Know Before You Go: Although most of the planning and preparation is taken care of for you, there are still a few things you should know and some details you should take care of to ensure your comfort, safety and peace of mind. Please review the following information before your departure to ensure that any surprises along the way will only be pleasant ones.
Passports and Visas: Entry Requirements: US citizens require a passport valid for six months beyond travel dates. Visas are required for Russia
Russian Visas & VSL - US citizens traveling to Russia must obtain a visa prior to leaving home. All information provided here pertains to U.S. passport holders only. Non-U.S. Citizens should check with the appropriate foreign consular representative. Please note: Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line passengers do not need a visa if arranging shore excursions or car service from Royal Caribbean or Holland America, otherwise regular visa rules apply.
Visas services for the Embassy of the Russian Federation are managed by Invisa Logistics Services at their Visa Center, 1680 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. Tel.  (202) 495-3663 Fax (202) 495-3666. All applicants must first complete an online Visa Application Form at https://visa.kdmid.ru/PetitionChoice.aspx and then either appear in person at the Visa Center ($30 fee in addition to the Consular visa fees) or submit their application via a Visa Service. Details are available at https://washington.mid.ru/en/consular-services/citizens-usa/visa-to-russia/tourist-visa/
As part of the visa application process, Russia requires a Visa Support Letter (VSL) from a Russian travel agency. This letter will be obtained for you by Right Travel. Non-U.S. Citizens should check visa requirements with the foreign consular representative. A VSL will be provided in all cases where it is required. Provided your full payment has been received, the VSL is requested 90 days prior to departure. The VSL takes approximately 2-3 weeks to be provided at which time you should complete your Visa Application. This will allow sufficient time for visa processing
Trip Preparation: A little pre-planning can make your trip go a lot smoother. Several weeks before your trip, make a list of what you will need to take with you. Make sure your personal documents (passports, visas, and driver&rsquos license) are in order and that you have enough prescription medications to last through the trip. We suggest that you make photocopies of passports, visas, personal ID and any other important travel documents and pack them separately from the originals. Pack a list of medications including dosage and generic names. If you lose the originals while traveling, youll have copies for easier reporting and replacement. You may consider bringing a small supply of over the counter medications for headaches and/or anti-diarrhea pills (especially when traveling outside of the USA and Western Europe). We recommend that you pack a portable alarm clock. Avoid placing valuables such as cameras in your checked luggage. Airplane pressure can cause similar pressure in your body, most notably in ears, as well as liquid tubes and bottles. Your physician can suggest medication for decongestion. As for the liquid containers, we suggest that you squeeze out excess air from those containers and place into Ziploc bags to catch any leaks.
Cell Phones & Calling Cards: You may wish to carry a cell phone while traveling. Check with your cell phone provider if your phone will work in the destination(s) you are visiting. U.S. service is dominated by the CDMA technology standard, while most of the world uses the incompatible GSM standard. Some U.S. providers do offer GSM, but you may incur high international roaming fees. With GSM, however, you can often choose to have your phone unlocked and then add a local SIM card for lower fees. If you can access the Internet as you travel, you can take advantage of email or a Skype Internet telephone (VOIP) account for the best value. Alternatively, you may investigate renting a cell phone before you leave or buying an inexpensive phone locally.
When calling the U.S. from a foreign country, you may also use a prepaid calling card normally, the only additional charge (besides the prepaid long distance charges) is a local fee of a few cents and possibly a connection fee if you are using your card at your hotel. It is best to check with the hotel&rsquos reception desk prior to making phone calls to avoid unexpected charges.
Making Telephone Calls from One Country to Another: When dialing a number from one country to another, you should proceed as follows: dial your countrys Exit Code + destination Country Code + Phone Number.
For most countries, the exit code is 00. Exceptions include the USA and Canada (011), Hong Kong and Cambodia (001), Australia (0011), and Russia (8 Pause 10*). For Brazil, please consult with the local telephone company. If the international number you wish to call starts with a 0 (zero), you must this starting digit when dialing the number.
Wireless Internet Access: Passengers traveling with Wi-Fi enabled devices (such as a personal computer, smartphone, tablet, or digital audio player) may be able to connect to the internet via a wireless network access point (or hotspot). Wi-Fi access in hotels and/or cruise lines often involves a fee which, in some cases, can be very expensive. Passengers requiring internet access can often locate free WiFi hotspots such as libraries or coffee shops. Hotspots can often be located and planned in advance via an online search. Planning ahead may help avoid unnecessary fees.
Staying Healthy While Traveling: All travelers should familiarize themselves with local conditions, such as high altitude or required immunizations, which could affect their health. We recommend you consult with your personal health-care provider, the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) and/or the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/en/) for their recommendations.
There are several easy steps you can take to stay healthy while traveling which may help prevent contracting an illness while away from home.
Notice on Aircraft Cabin Insecticide Treatment - Please note that some countries may require aircraft cabin insecticide treatment for in-bound foreign flights. A list of such countries is available at: http://www.dot.gov/office-policy/aviation-policy/aircraft-disinsection-requirements
Climate & Clothing: We ask tour members to refrain from wearing colognes, perfumes and/or personal products containing excessive fragrance, in respect for other clients on the tour bus who may be allergic.
United States - The weather in the United States varies according to geographical area. The hottest period is from June to August and the coolest from November to February. Bring comfortable walking shoes, clothes you can layer, and an all-weather jacket. Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses are also recommended.
Russia - Russia is the largest country in the world and temperatures vary greatly according to regional climate and season. Bring comfortable walking shoes, a sweater, clothes you can layer and an all-weather jacket. Some religious sites may require modest dress to enter (no shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless tops).
Airline Seat Assignments: As a courtesy service, airline seat assignments are requested on your behalf and, when available, are displayed in order of Passenger #1, #2 and so on. Assignments reflect the best available seats at the time of booking. Some airlines and/or fare types do not allow for pre-seating and require this be done at airport check-in only in which case the display shows &ldquoN/A&rdquo. Seats are subject to change by your airline(s) including, for example, when there is a schedule change or equipment change after your initial booking this may cause seat assignments to be changed or even cancelled. In the event that you change seat assignments directly with your airline, changes will not be reflected on this display. At the time that Right Travel documents are issued, the currently assigned seats will be listed based on the assignments stored in your airline reservation at that time. Even when seats are pre-assigned, we recommend that you contact your airline directly to reconfirm your seats approximately 72 hours prior to departure. Should you have questions regarding your assignments, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Russia - Seat Assignments - Advance seat assignments are not available for your charter flight to Russia. Seats will be assigned at the airport only.
Luggage: Although luggage sizes are now fairly standard, each airline does have specific requirements based upon the route and aircraft size. Please visit Right Travel Luggage Rules for general luggage guidelines, and contact your airline for specific requirements.
Right Travel land tour packages allow for one piece of luggage per person plus a carry-on bag. Right Travel is not responsible for loss or damage to luggage and personal belongings. Therefore you must report any loss or damage immediately at the time of the incident and obtain a written report from the local authority for submission to your insurance provider. Avoid placing valuables in your checked luggage. If your luggage is lost or damaged by the airlines, a baggage claim form must be filed with the carrier before leaving the airport. Any cost to retrieve luggage will be your responsibility and you should retain receipts to submit to your insurance provider. See http://www.righttravel.info/page/luggage-9.html for Important Baggage Information for U.S. Travelers.
Airline Flights: Please check in at least three hours prior to the scheduled departure time for international flights and two hours prior for domestic flights. Many airlines do not permit check-in less than one hour prior to the scheduled departure time.
Passengers connecting from another point within the USA should check their luggage through to their final destination. Although problems with lost luggage have been minimal, it is a possibility. Certain carriers do not allow baggage &ldquointerlining,&rdquo and luggage must be checked separately for each flight. When you check your luggage, please verify where your luggage is being sent. If you are connecting from a domestic flight which is delayed for any reason, causing you to miss your international flight, ask the airline for assistance in getting you to your destination. Since all airline tickets are issued on special fares which carry restrictions and penalties if changed, you must have the airlines responsible make alternate arrangements on your behalf as Right Travel has no authority or control over airline activities and policies. Do not leave the airline check-in desk until an alternative itinerary has been confirmed.
Flights to Russia - Flights to Russia are provided by charter flight from Miami on a licensed charter carrier. Passengers are responsible to secure transportation to and from Miami. Due to early morning charter flight departures, arrival to Miami is one day prior. For the return flight, the charter is scheduled to depart Havana at 11 am arriving Miami at 12 noon. Due to the nature of charter flights from Russia, there is no guarantee that the charter flight schedule will not change. It is strongly recommended that domestic flights are booked later than 4:30PM on the return date in order to account for any flight delays and to clear customs in Miami. Any flight schedule change is at the discretion of the airline and Right Travel is not responsible for delays or cancellations (including weather) which may impact arrival into or departure from Miami
The Transportation and Safety Administration: The (TSA) has increased security measures drastically since September 11, 2001. Plan to arrive no fewer than two hours prior to a domestic flight and three hours prior to an international flight. Check the TSA website www.tsa.gov. to find out the current list of acceptable items you may bring on a plane before packing.
Foreign Domestic Flights: If your tour program includes foreign domestic flights, and those tickets are not included together with the e-ticket itinerary in these documents, a separate voucher(s) confirming those services will be included. You will receive those tickets at your destination from a Right Travel representative.
Avoiding Jet Lag: In order to minimize fatigue and general restlessness caused by jet lag, there are a few steps you may take including switching to your destination time zone when you board the plane, by sleeping and eating according to the new schedule, avoiding heavy eating, caffeine or alcoholic beverages before or during your flight, and by drinking plenty of water and/or fruit juice while flying. Try to sleep on overnight flights and then, upon arrival, avoid the temptation to nap until nighttime.
About your Itinerary: Russia - Consistent with the requirements of the OFAC People-to-People license, this program features a full-time schedule of cultural exchange between Discovery Tours participants and your Russian hosts. There will be little or no free time on most days, except perhaps during a free evening when youre welcome to seek a local restaurant for dinner. The itinerary is subject to change. If any activities do change, they will be replaced by other up-close, people-to-people activities.
Currency: We suggest getting a small amount of currency for the first country youre visiting before you leave the U.S. It is a good idea to carry a chart with you to help you convert U.S. dollars to the local currency. Its also a good idea not to carry too much money. Many countries have ATM machines that accept most U.S. ATM cards, but be sure you know your ATM password in numbers-the keypads on foreign ATMs dont always have letters. ATM machines will only dispense cash in local currency. Check with respective consulates to learn current currency allowances and requirements. Use your credit card whenever possible. Should you decide to carry cash or travelers checks, exchange them at banks where the rate is more favorable than at hotels or exchange bureaus. Please note that many banks and most vendors will not accept or exchange $100 bills. We suggest to carry $20 bills or smaller. In many destinations (except Western Europe), we suggest to bring between $50 to $100 in $1 bills which may be used to pay gratuities. Russia - The Ruble is the currency of Russia.
Shopping: Most people enjoy bringing home at least one souvenir from the countries they visit. However, some find any amount of shopping to be too much while others never find enough opportunities.
We have built into our Escorted itineraries a few shopping stops at recommended spots. These stops are designed to enhance your experience by providing an opportunity to see first-hand quality locally-crafted merchandise which you may not be able to find alone. Shops are checked to ensure the quality and authenticity of the products they offer, and we limit guides from visiting other locations. In some cases, we plan these stops to provide an opportunity to use clean bathrooms and to stretch your legs.
While shopping independently, we advise you to exercise care and common sense when making any purchase. Always get a formal receipt. And remember that, just like in this country, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is
About Tax-Free Shopping: Tax-Free Shopping (TFS) allows shoppers to reclaim the VAT (Value-Added Tax) or GST (Goods and Services Tax) they have paid on their shopping in some foreign countries. Currently, about 50 countries allow foreign visitors to have their taxes reimbursed. TFS is subject to national regulations such as minimum spend and restrictions on the types of products on which it can be claimed. TSF is currently available in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Eligible countries and their specific regulations are subject to change at any time including the of VAT which is reclaimable and the minimum purchase amount restriction. When planning to shop in a country with Tax-Free Shopping and to reclaim VAT/GST taxes, we recommend that you check the current regulations prior to completing your purchase. In many cases, stores will display signage such as &ldquoVAT Refunds for Tourists.&rdquo Normally, you will need to present your passport and receive a VAT Refund Application form(s) from the store along with an explanation of how to claim your refund. Sometimes this is completed at the airport upon departure or later via mail from your home. Service fees may apply. Alternatively, you may choose to work with a fee-based VAT Refund Service.
US Customs & Shopping: Russia - The only items you are permitted to bring into the U.S. are items categorized as art (such as handicrafts and handmade clothing), music or books. You will not be allowed to bring popular Russian-produced items including cigars, coffee, and rum even if purchased at a duty-free shop in the airport.
Your Safety is Very Important: Prior to your trip, if you are traveling overseas, we strongly recommend that you visit the website of the U.S. Department of State at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html, specifically the section which addresses International Travel. You should read the tips for foreign travel and travel warnings for the country or countries that you plan to visit.
It is also important that you do not allow your common sense to take a vacation while on your trip. Here are several tips which, if followed, will save much potential hardship:
If youve purchased an escorted tour program, your travel documents will include telephone numbers of local Right Travel representatives who will do their utmost to assist you in the event of an emergency. The numbers are printed on your Right Travel vouchers. Please copy the numbers. Once you relinquish the voucher, you will not have this information. Passengers traveling independently should employ the services of hotel concierges and local authorities.
Tourist Street Scams: Pickpockets and thieves can destroy an otherwise wonderful holiday. Be mindful of these precautions to help avoid being scammed or robbed:
Local Emergency Phone Numbers
&bull Ambulance: 03
&bull Fire: 01
&bull Police: 02
Russia - Russian is the local language. Limited English is generally spoken in tourist areas.
Electricity: Please note: The U.S. uses 120 volts and you can purchase a converter and transformer at most hardware stores for your 120V appliances.
Russia - The voltage used is 220 volts.
Code of Conduct: Russia is a country rich in traditions that differ from those of Western Europe. Russians tend to be proud of these differences and strong advocates of their culture. Shaking hands is the standard greeting. Standard courtesies should be observed. Style of dress reflects respect, and conservative casual clothing is appropriate.
Gratuities: Tipping is always a matter of personal discretion. For your convenience, please use the summary below as a guideline for recommended gratuity amounts. Gratuities may be paid in U.S. Dollars or local currency equivalent. Please be aware that tipping is considered by many locals to be a part of their normal remuneration and some may approach you for additional compensation. There is no need to be intimidated by the request, nor should you feel pressured to pay more than recommended. If you become uncomfortable by any behavior you encounter, please advise your tour manager or phone our local office. Numbers are provided in your documents for your convenience.
Suggested Tipping: Russia
Tour Manager (Coordinator may or may not act as a guide): $7 per person per day
Driver (Provides chauffeur services and limited assistance with luggage) : $3 per person per day, $2 per half day
Local Guide (Offers in-depth information at specific locations. There may be one or many guides along a tour program): $3 per person per day of sightseeing, $2 per half day
Housekeeping: $3 per room per day
Hotel porters and wait staff: Included
Russia - Gratuities are appreciated and expected for good service in restaurants and other places that cater to tourists.
Food and Meals: As specified in each itinerary. Meals are based on the hotels or restaurants buffet or set menu. In general, beverages are not included, unless specifically stated. Although Right Travel cannot make guarantees, every effort will be made to honor special dietary requests submitted in writing at least 72 hours prior to departure to righttravel.info
Russia - Russian cuisine is largely limited by the lack of resources available. The primary staples of Russian cuisine are rice, beans, chicken, pork, fish, plantains and root vegetables. Restaurants don&rsquot always have as much of a ion as in the US and menu choices can be limited, but there will always be another option for vegetarians. Unfortunately we are unable to entertain any significant dietary demands including but not limited to gluten-free, Kosher, Vegan, Muslim
It is best to drink bottled water while in Russia. Water is purified in the hotels and restaurants, and it is okay to drink beverages with ice at restaurants included on your tour. It is also not necessary to use bottled water to brush your teeth, as the tap water has also been purified.
Holidays &ndash Russia