Things to Experience in Russia as a tourist

Experiencing the sites of the Kremlin, Red Square, and St Basil's Cathedral are definitely some must do’s in Russia. However, if you’re only sticking to Moscow’s tourist trail during your visit to Russia you’ll be missing out on the Russian experience!
Things to Experience in Russia

These are some of the things many tourists rarely get to experience during their trip to Russia:

Hang out in a traditional Russian banya

Nothing depicts Russian pride, culture and heritage better than the traditional Russian banyas which are revered all across Eastern Europe. Russian banyas are basically steam rooms built similarly to Finnish saunas, though they offer a more interesting experience.

When you go to a traditional Russian banya, you won’t only experience excruciating heat but "punishment" too. See, a typical ritual of a Russian banya consists of being inside a 90 degree steam room (wearing a hat), while being lashed with small branches of birch.

Believe it or not, being lashed with birch twigs in this fashioned during a steam session actually helps release toxins from your body. After twig lashing, you’re supposed to go outside in the freezing cold and either jump into a freezing lake or have someone pour snow over you! As you can imagine, a banya ritual can be one of the most exuberating things to experience in Russia and it's worth every second of it.

Experience the famous Russian hospitality

Russian’s generous way and friendly attitude of treating strangers in their home is popularly experienced by many traveling to Russia. In fact, staying with a Russian family in a Russian homestays program is very popular among young people looking to advance their Russian-speaking skills and also learn the culture.

However, as a tourist at some point on your travels of Russia you'll be invited by a Russian to their home for dinner. This is actually quite common there and when you do get invited over dinner, be sure not to reject the offer because you’ll be passing up the chance to enjoy a proper Russian homemade dinner!

Also, when you’re invited for dinner make sure to bring a gift for the woman of the house and dress-up smartly…tank tops and flip flops are definitely a no no if you don’t want to offend your hosts.

Board the Trans-Siberian (TransSib)

You can’t really say you’ve experienced Russia if you don’t get to ride the longest train route in the world - the Trans Siberian Railway. The main Trans Siberian route in Russia runs between Moscow and Vladivostok, though there are other Trans-Siberian routes you can do from Russia such as Moscow-Beijing (China), and Moscow-Ulan Bataar (Mongolia).

If you have the opportunity to do all the routes on the Trans-Siberian railway, you should go ahead and do it because the experience is one in a lifetime. You’ll get to experience so much culture (Russian, Siberian, Mongolian, and Chinese), witness spectacular landscapes and scenery through the window of your train, take part in vodka parties, hear extraordinary stories and, generally, mingle with people from all walks of life.

Honestly, the train travel aboard the TransSib is an unrivaled cultural experience that you wouldn't want to miss out for the world!

Spend time in a traditional Russian dacha

There is no doubt that one of the most rewarding things to experience in Russia has to be experiencing first hand Russia’s rural lifestyle. Staying in a dacha gives you an opportunity to experience the modest living of Russians and tale part of every day life in the village.

If you’re coming from the United States, the closest thing to the Russian dacha experience would be staying in an Amish village... because you won't have access to many modern conveniences. By staying in a dacha (they're actually similar to a farmstead), you’ll also get the opportunity to enjoy fun farm activities like fruit picking, cow milking, horse riding and even drive a tractor.

As far as areas to go in Russia, the area around the outskirts of Moscow is a good starting point to experience the traditional life of a Russian village. Places such as “Uncle Pasha's Dacha” near the town of Staritsa and Romanovsky Farmsted in nearby Romanovo are some options...both of these are located about 3 hours drive northwest of Moscow.

Ride the Russian troika

One way to describe a Russian troika would be a Santa Claus-looking sledge being pulled by horses. The Russian troika is basically a horse-drawn sleigh which is a neat way for many Russians to get around. As a tourist you’ll find taking a ride on a troika one of the coolest things to experience in Russia, and the good news is that most city parks in Russia (i.e. Kolomenskoye Park in Moscow) have them readily available.

By the way, horse drawn sleigh rides aren’t the only thing you should consider in Russia; while you’re at it you should also book half-day dog-sledding tour excursions so you get a chance to explore the beautiful natural surroundings of Russia.

“Russian Karelia Trails” (in Karelia), “Sib Tour Guide” (city of Krasnoyarsk), “Baikal Explorer” (city of Irkutsk), and “Baikaler” (city of Irkutsk) are some companies offering sledding tours and other cool excursions of Siberia.

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