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A Russian River Cruise – Departure 18/07/2018
Post: #1
My name is Caroline and I will be the Just You Tour Manager for the “Russian River Cruise” cruising on board the MS Lev Tolstoy from St Petersburg to Moscow on the 18th July 2018.

I would like to say “Hello” to those of you travelling with me on this holiday.  Hopefully everyone has navigated their way through the Russian Visa process and are now looking forward to their cruise.

This is a truly lovely cruise with an amazing itinerary.  I am sure you will return home having seen some amazing sights, made some new friends and and with some beautiful memories.

I thought I would share some of my packing and travel tips for this holiday.


The currency on board the ship is the Russian Ruble. You will be provided with a ship’s card to charge on board expenses to.  You will then settle your account at the end of the cruise using either rubles or a Visa/Mastercard.

Credit and bank cards are now widely accepted in large shops and most restaurants (including fast-food outlets). Visa and Mastercard are accepted almost everywhere.  Some banks may need to be notified of your travel plans, otherwise they may block your card automatically after the first time you use it in Russia, whether to make a payment or withdraw cash.

Cash can be obtained at ATMs.  There is not an ATM on the ship. ATMs can be found in the lobbies of most hotels, in metro stations and, of course, next to banks. The flat-rate charges are generally small, and exchange rates are normally reasonable.

Buying rubles can be difficult, and exchange rates, at least for dollars and euro, can be more competitive in St. Petersburg. If you want to carry cash to exchange, then bring it in one of those currencies. Whatever currency you bring make sure it is in pristine condition. Banks and money exchanges do not accept old, dirty bills with rips or tears. A passport must be shown when changing money.  

One ruble is 100 kopeks, and denominations are as follows: Notes - 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 rubles; Coins - 1, 5, 10 and 50 kopeks, 1, 2, 5 and 10 rubles. Some 10-ruble notes are still in circulation, but rarely seen in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

It is illegal to charge for goods or services in any currency other than rubles.


As a Tour Manager I use packing cubes which I find very convenient in separating out types of clothing and keeping my suitcase in order!

Always try to keep your luggage weight a few kilos below your allowed limit in case you want to pick up some souvenirs.

The weather can be quite hot at this time of year so make sure that you pack a hat and some sunscreen. 

You are likely to be doing quite a lot of walking so a good comfortable pair of walking shoes will be useful.

Dress on board the ship is generally casual, but you might want to pack something special for the Captain’s Dinner or if you want to do one of the optional excursions to the ballet.

During visits to Orthodox Churches and monasteries you are requested to cover up, long trousers for men, and long trousers or skirts and headscarves for women.

It is always a good idea to make sure that you pack a raincoat, or umbrella. 

For up to date information check the weather forecast on the internet before you leave.


Please make sure that you bring an adapter with you so that you can charge up your camera, phone, ipad etc.

Russia uses the two pin European style plugs.

There is a 200V shaving socket in the bathroom of your cabin and 220-volt sockets in the rest of the cabin.


There are a number of included excursions.

Optional excursions can only be booked once you are on board the ship.  A full list of available optional excursions will be available once you board the ship.

Food and Drink

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included. If you have any allergies are dietary needs please let me know during the transfer to the ship or when you meet me at the airport.


Please ensure that you bring enough medication for your stay.

You can normally bring prescription and over the counter medication into Russia for personal use. However, if your medication contains narcotic or psychoactive substances (details available on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website in Russian), you must carry a prescription in your name which has been translated into Russian and then notarised. Notarisation services in the UK are available from a Notary Public.

If you’re unsure whether you need to provide a prescription and notarised translation to bring your medicines into Russia, check with the Russian Embassy in London before you travel.

The below link provides access to the Government website providing foreign travel advice for travelling to Russia.

112 is the single number for any emergency service in Russia.

Insect repellent is also a good idea as we will be on the water.


Tipping is common practice in most holiday destinations. If you feel you have received good service in a hotel, bar or restaurant or from a driver or local guide, you might want to say thank you by leaving a tip. How much you leave is entirely up to you, but as a guide £2-£3 per person per day is suggested by Just You in your holiday paperwork. Tipping is also customary on cruise ships, gratuities are often collected in an envelope (and placed in a tipping box) at the end of the cruise this is then shared out between all members of the ship’s crew, this way it is possible to reward those unseen members of the crew.


Toilets in Russia and in some parts of Eastern Europe are a bit different from what you'd expect in the Western Europe. While serviceable public toilets are becoming more easily found, especially in well-populated areas, you may still encounter some old-style public toilets in Russia and former Soviet countries. 

Public toilets, such as those in train stations or large shopping centres, may require a small fee for their use. The fee is usually prominently displayed. So keep a few spare coins handy.

Public toilets often do not equip each toilet stall with toilet paper in Russia. Sometimes toilet paper is available outside the stalls. Sometimes there is none to be had. You can purchase small, travel-sized rolls from hygiene-product travel sections in supermarkets or convenience stores. Travel packages of tissues may substitute in a pinch as well.

Some toilets in Eastern Europe will flush the way you're  used to - there will be a lever on one side of the tank. Other Russian toilets will have a ball or a button on the of the tank. Pull or press to flush the toilet. Some toilets will not have enough power to flush toilet paper - there may be a sign over a trash basket asking that no toilet paper be flushed.

Other Tips

It is always a good idea to keep a copy of your Passport.  Bring copies of your travel insurance.  If you're bringing prescription medications with you, remember to pack the prescription slip or a note from your doctor (translated into Russian), this can be used in the event that customs officials question you about the nature of the medicine.

To make a telephone call from Russia to United Kingdom, dial 001 44, followed by the phone number (dropping the first 0). Calls can be expensive.  Check with your mobile provider to see if they offer any special packages.

I look forward to meeting you at the airport at Check In or in the departure lounge. If I don’t see you at check in or in the lounge, please wait for me at the baggage carousel when we arrive in St Petersburg.

I look forward to meeting you and wish you all a holiday to remember and a trip that will bring you wonderful memories and many new friends.

Best Wishes

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Post: #2
Great tips, thanks Caroline.
See you on 18th.
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