You will need 7-15 days to explore most visited sights in Russia. I am sharing the Moscow-Saint Petersburg itinerary for a week which covers all major places.
Best time to visit- May- September, where temperature varies between 23 degrees Celsius to 9 degrees Celsius.
Download the itinerary in PDF at the end of the page.
Moscow- Day 1
- Arrive at your hotel– Choose a location which is close to the city center so that it’s convenient for you to travel to all touristy spots within 30-40 mins of journey. Use of metro is recommended on your first day.
- Arbat street (Арбат ул) (spend 2 hours).
- Cathedral of Christ the Savior (Храм Христа Спасителя) (20 mins from Arbat street).
- Pushkin Museum (Музей Пушкина) (6 mins from Christ the Saviour church)
- Back to the hotel.
Moscow- Day 2
- Red Square
All locations are easily accessible so you need not to worry about the time. Take a whole day to visit all the places below.
- State Historical Museum (must see) (Государственный исторический музей)-Wed-Mon: 11am-7pm; closed on Tuesdays.
- GUM Department Store (must see) (ГУМ Универмаг)
- St. Basil’s Cathedral (must see) – (Собор Василия Блаженного)- Daily: 10am-7pm.
- Kazan Cathedral (must see)- (Казанский собор)- Daily: 8am-8pm.
- Cathedral Square (Соборная площадь)
- Tsar-Cannon (Царь-пушка)
- Tsar-Bell (Царь-колокол)
- Diamond fund (must see) (Алмазный фонд)
3. Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center(Охотный Ряд, Торговый Центр).
Moscow- Day 3
- Lenin’s Mausoleum (must see) Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat: 10am-1pm (the earlier you get there, the shorter the queue (Мавзолей ленина)
- Gorky Park- (Мавзолей ленина-Парк Горького)- 30 mins (take taxi)
- Boating (гребля)– This is optional.
- Moscow City tour- Visit the downtown areas Or leverage time for shopping.
Next day, travel from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.
Saint Petersburg- Day 4
- Arrive at your hotel. (Try to book a hotel at Nevsky Avenue, ideal location to easily cover all nearby places and touristy landmarks.)
- Explore Nevsky avenue on your own.
Saint Petersburg- Day 5
- State Hermitage Museum & Palace square– (Дворцовая площадь) 16 mins by metro.
- State Hermitage museum- Bronze Horseman-(Государственный Эрмитаж – Медный всадник) 1 km- 12 mins by walk.
- Bronze Horseman-St. Isaac’s Cathedral-(Медный всадник – Исаакиевский собор) 450 to- 6 mins by walk.
Saint Petersburg- Day 6
- Savior on the Spilled Blood- (Невский- Спас на Крови) 1 km from Nevsky avenue
- Savior on the Spilled Blood- Kazan Cathedral-(Спас на Крови – Казанский Собор)-650 m- 10 mins by walk.
- Kazan Cathedral –Peterhof– (Кольцевая Автомобильная дор)–31 km- 45 mins by taxi.
Saint Petersburg- Day 7
- Nevsky Avenue- Peter and Paul Fortress (Пётр анд Пауль Фортрэсс)– 4.3 km- 23 mins by Metro
- Peter and Paul Fortress- Galleria Shopping Mall– (Петропавловская крепость – торговый центр Galleria) -35 mins by Metro.
Saint Petersburg- Day 8
Cruise along Neva river in Saint Petersburg which costs around 1000 rubles, and other activities like shopping, etc.
Data Card- As you land at the airport you will find many shops offering weekly plans at around 1000 rubles or even more but as you move ahead approaching the price will begin to get down to 500-600 rubles. I chose Beeline for 600 rubles. Show your passport and get the number activated. I had 10 Days plan for 600 rubles. I must that you must explore the airport to get the best deal. I would recommend having the data card at the airport.
Beeline has a good network coverage however, I observed connectivity and speed issue in some areas. You need not worry much because for the rest of the time I had a good speed and it worked flawlessly while making video calls. You can choose this over Megafone as it is slightly expensive.
Top three service providers are:
Food/Beverages/Liquor and Daily Needs– All the supermarkets have an adequate amount of liquor, vegetables, processed food, and other daily essentials. You will find a lot of variations in the prices depending upon the quality of the product you are choosing. I have also observed that different shops have different prices for the same product however, it will not bother you much.
Cosmetics are good however I have not seen much diversity in products after exploring many shops. Many supermarkets have cafes so you can also consider stepping in and have meals especially if you are traveling alone.
Cigarettes- Cigarettes are cheaper and they cost between 150-165 rubles. Prices may vary between the range.
Beer- You can try all imported brands starting 50-100 rubles.
Water Bottle- Water bottles range between 28- 70 rubles. They have a wide variety of sparkling water.
Fruits– Fruits are expensive because they are generally imported. You should also consider buying from streets vendors if you can spot one.
Flavored milk & Munchies-Quality of milk is good. Price ranging between 170-220 rubles.
Food– Diverse range of salads, meat, seafood is available especially in supermarkets. The minimum price is 100-150 rubles per person. If you are dining in malls usually your bill would be approx 700 rubles per person. Dining at Indian restaurants is outrageously expensive 2500 rubles per person.
Transport– Taxi- Uber is known as Yandex taxi in Russia. Get the app installed. A distance of 30 km would cost you 450-500 rubles OR 10-15 km would be 150-200 rubles. Language could be a barrier but whenever I called a taxi it was easy. I installed the Yandex taxi app which is fast and convenient to use. Generally, the taxi would come in 2-3 mins. Most drivers are non-Russians and some of them might ask you to pay extra on the top of the metered bill. Be careful.
Download Yandex taxi app on your phone that works throughout Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Troika card- It is a rechargeable card costs you between 300-400 rubles with 3-4 rides free. This would also include a security deposit of 50 rubles which you can claim at the time of card return. A single journey travel pass is 45 rubles and with card, it is approx. 35 rubles.
There is also a travel pass valid for 3 days and card costs 430 rubles approx with unlimited rides on metro, trams, buses.
Saint Petersburg Metro
The St. Petersburg metro still uses the token system (coins), which can be purchased at the underground ticket offices of each station. You can also opt for Podorozhnik card which is reloadable and works well in all transports. 3 days pass is for 340 rubles and a weekly pass is for 680 rubles.
if you are not using travel cards, then buy coins (tokes)
Money Exchange– I tried to opt for the currency notes and planned to procure rubles worth rupees 25000 but when I spoke to Forex dealers they were offering me 19000 rubles for 25000 rupees or $350. I was a bit skeptical whether I am making a right deal, but later I found that rubles is not a common currency such as Euros or dollars and there is a probability of high commissions. However, as you need some petty cash I decided to buy 5000 rubles for 6700 rupees or $75. I was not at all happy with the deal but keeping a little bit of cash is necessary.
What I would suggest is to use your international debit and credit cards for better conversion rates. They do have a service charge but it’s still better to use them. For instance, I withdrew 1000 rubles at my hotel on the first day using a debit card and there was a charge of Rs.90 (1.25 dollars). If I were to withdraw 500 rubles there would not be any service charge.
Accommodation– Booking hotels is quite an arduous task especially if you are on a budget trip to Russia as you will not get any deal below 2500-300 rupees OR $35-$40 while booking through prominent sites. It would be a different matter if you have wallet cash or some discount codes to apply. If you book through air-bnb you can opt for service apartments starting minimum with 2500 rupees OR $35-$40.
If you are the one looking for hostels you always have cheaper deals regardless of where you travel in the world. The decision is totally at your discretion whether you find hostels safe and hygienically good.
Travel adapter-You can use any universal travel adapter. Moscow has 220 volts so universal adapters will work well without causing any harm to your devices.
Shopping: Shopping For Luxury Brands– Clothes are expensive. Many Chinese outlets are emerging. Quality of cloth is good.
Five Popular shopping malls in Moscow:
1. GUM– For luxury shopping. You will find popular brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, SaintLaurent, Jimmy Choo, Emilio Pucci. It has a 19th century architectural style and looks like a palace. Location: Red Square, Moscow
2. Okhotny Ryad Shopping Center- Moscow near Red square- Quite reasonable for all middle-class shopping experience. Good for budget travelers. Location: Manege Square, 1, Moscow
3. Arbat Street- It is the best shopping street in Moscow famous for cafes, antique and souvenir shops, street artists, live music. Choose an evening time to visit. Location: Arbat Ulitsa, Moscow
4. TSUM- For apparels, cosmetics shopping is one of the best places for shopping. Location: Petrovka Ulitsa, 2, Moskva, Russia
5. Izmailovo Market- For best Souvenirs shopping and handicrafts experience you must visit the places which quite far away from the Moscow city center. Location: 2, Moskva, Russia
Five Popular shopping malls in Saint Petersburg:
1. Galeria Mall- Giant mall with a big food court, a wide variety of brands on apparels and cosmetics, and a big supermarket. Location: Ligovsky ave, 30A, St. Petersburg.
2. Gostiny Dvor- Elegant looking shops selling caviar, ceramics, apparels stores. One of the oldest shopping centers in Saint Petersburg. Location: 35, Nevskiy Prospekt, St. Petersburg
3. Outlet Village Pulkovo- Beautiful shopping complex and quite peaceful. Designed in European village-style this place is a must to visit experience world-class outlets. It is closer to Pulkovo airport. Location: Pulkovskoe highway, 60, building 1
4. Babochka- World-class brands in apparels, shoes, cosmetics such as Brioni, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Loro Piana, Valentino and Berluti and many more. Location: Nevsky avenue 152
5. Europolis- Another big mall in Saint Petersburg. Must explore while being there. Location: Polyustrovskiy Ave., 84A, St. Petersburg