Are you thinking outside the conventional box for this year’s vacation? Russia is frequently associated with the cold and ice, but the country has far more than that to offer visitors.
Getting the most out of your Russian trip requires a little research and a little planning. Luckily, we’ve done all the work for you, so all you need to do is pack your bag, grab your rubles, and practice your Cyrillic.
This article helps you pick the best time to visit based on weather, expense, and crowd size. We’ll also tip you off to some of Russia’s can’t-miss holidays and festivals.
We’ll also tell you the times to avoid based on your personality and preferences. Whether you’re a cold fan or a summer lover, we’ll help you figure out the best time to book your Russian flight.
Why You Should Visit Russia
Russia is a big, beautiful country, full of art and culture. The massive nation offers visitors a variety of landscapes, ranging from the bucolic countryside to gorgeous cities.
Russia has something for everyone, from art lovers to history enthusiasts. The country’s built on intrigue and mystery; visitors can check out Romanov architecture to appreciate both gorgeous art and a tragic backstory.
The best reason to visit Russia, however, is simply to enjoy the world’s largest country and to witness a nation that helped shape the course of the modern world. Russia is full of natural beauty and man-made wonders.
Overall Best Time to Visit: September
Russia has reasonable temperatures and prices in September. The vast country has plenty of outdoor attractions and history you’ll want to see, and pleasant autumn temperatures will surely encourage you to put on your walking shoes.
Dense crowds thin out in September, allowing you plenty of room to explore without bumping into anyone. However, there is plenty of wiggle room for visitors with limited vacation latitude.
Russia is a huge country, the world’s largest by land mass, and selecting the best time to visit can depend on what part of Russia you’re hoping to see. If you prefer a summer visit, shoot for early June.
The temperatures remain around 70 degrees Fahrenheit in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, two of the country’s biggest cities. Crowds increase as the month progresses, so if you prefer less bustle, arrive early.
However, if you’re coming to Russia looking to party, June 12th is Russia Day, the country’s favorite holiday. Many businesses and attractions shut down for the day, and massive crowds take to the streets to party. Additionally, military parades fill the avenues, stunning spectators.
Some people like the heat, some like the cold, and some prefer that sweet spot between the two. Your personal weather preferences heavily inform the best time of year for you to visit Russia, as many of the activities you’ll enjoy require being outdoors.
If you prefer cool fall weather, September and October are the months for you. Autumn doesn’t last long in Russia and swiftly transitions to winter. The foliage changes, and while the country experiences some rainy periods, the weather is mostly sunny and pleasant.
Even fans of the cold may bulk against winter in Russia. How severe the cold hits varies depending on the part of the country you’re visiting. Though it is a dry cold, Siberia’s winter weather can hit -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
During the winter months, Russia holds these events:
- New Year’s: December 3 through January 2nd
- Russian Orthodox New Year: January 13
- Unity Day: November 4
St. Petersburg, on the other hand, remains just below freezing. If you enjoy the winter weather and can handle the cold, Russia is beautiful, covered in snow and ice. Pack some layers, bundle up, and enjoy the frosted building and snow-covered streets.
Russian springs are temperate and pleasant. March is often pretty moist; the snow and ice begin to melt as the temperatures rise, flooding the streets. April is still a little chilly, reaching about 50 degrees Fahrenheit daily.
However, the flowers begin blooming, covering the country in colorful blossoms. Though the weather is often rainy, spring is a great time to explore Russia’s great outdoors.
Those hoping to enjoy some Russian culture may enjoy these events and festivals:
- Russian Fashion Week: March through April
- Labor Day/Spring Festival: May 1 through 2
- Victory Day: May 9
- International Women’s Day: March 8
- Paskha (Russian Easter): April-May
If you prefer your days a little warmer, May temperatures reach 66 degrees Fahrenheit. The month averages nine days of rain, so you’ll have plenty of optimal outdoor days to check out the country.
Russian summers pack more of a punch than you might anticipate. Temperatures reach up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer Russia may be perfect for you if you enjoy the balmy weather.
Just be warned; very few Russian locations are air-conditioned. You can’t duck into a common space to enjoy a chill if you become overheated by checking out the many gardens and parks.
Summer does have one unique draw—St. Petersburg experiences white nights. White nights are the phenomenon where conditions never reach full dark. The white nights last between June 11th and July 2nd and are a truly unique wonder to behold.
Additionally, a few major Russian festivals occur in the summer months:
- Usadba Jazz Festival: June
- Moscow International Film Festival: June
- Scarlet Sails (Moscow): Last week of June
- Ivan Kupala: July 7
- Navy Day: Last Sunday of July
- Paratroopers’ Day: August 2
- Russian Air Force Day: August 12
Summer is the peak tourist season. If you enjoy bustling crowds, the lively streets will delight you; however, avoid this period if you don’t relish lines and large groups of strangers.
Cheapest Time to Visit: March
March’s unpredictable weather makes it the cheapest time to visit Russia. March is part of Russia’s shoulder season, the period between the peak and low travel times.
Shoulder season is great for travel, as it usually includes lower costs, reasonably good weather, and moderate crowds. Russia is, generally speaking, one of the more cost-effective trips travelers can make.
You’ll need to take the following expenses into account when planning your budget:
- Travel Visa
- Travel through the country
- Admission to landmarks and events
Major cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow run up higher price tags than smaller towns. These cultural centers have more attractions; whether or not they are worth the additional expense depends on what you hope to experience in Russia.
Just getting to the country accrues plenty of expenses. Numerous factors impact the price of plane tickets to Russia, including where you are leaving from. However, tickets to Russia from the United States can be as cheap as 551 dollars for the savvy bargain hunter.
Of course, airfare isn’t the only expense to consider. Russia is an enormous country, and if you intend to see more of it than simply the city centers, you’ll need to arrange some sort of travel.
You may opt to fly between local airports. However, Russia offers several train options that allow you to see and enjoy the country up close and personally.
The rail between Moscow and St Petersburg is particularly popular and connects you to two major Russian cities. You can choose an express trip, executed in four hours, or if you’re not in a hurry, the overnight trip allows you to savor the landscape.
Plan in advance and your wallet will thank you. Booking ahead of time cuts costs considerably. The train tickets range from 60 to 130 dollars, and sleeping accommodations run from 25 to 110 dollars.
Russia has plenty of cost-effective boarding for the economic traveler. Precisely how high your price tag climbs depends on the kind of accommodations you pursue:
- Hotels. Russia has many comfortable, luxury hotels available to travelers. The country also has rooms in older, less well-maintained buildings if you prefer unique ambiance. Nice hotel rooms run between 50 and 100 dollars nightly. If you want to splurge on something more glamorous, a luxury room costs about 400 dollars nightly.
- Hostels. Hostels are a great option if you don’t plan to spend much time in your room. The establishments are inexpensive, ranging from 5 to 10 dollars nightly. However, you will be sharing space and enjoying bare minimum accommodations. Stay near city hubs; this will put you near public transit and reduce the risk of stumbling into a shady establishment.
- Airbnb. Airbnbs exist mostly within denser, urban areas. These are good options if you want to feel a little more at home and plan to spend some time hanging out in your room. Airbnb’s prices run comparably to a cost-effective hotel room.
We’ve all got to eat, right? If you’re spending time in Russia, chances are you want to experience the country’s culture and cuisine. However, if you’re pinching your pennies, Russia offers fast food restaurants and street vendors that sell full meals from 5 to 10 dollars.
Buffet restaurants are similarly cheap and allow you to carbo load for your big day of sightseeing. A meal in an authentic Russian restaurant costs about 25 dollars per meal.
This may be a bit more cost-prohibitive for larger groups; however, it is worthwhile for the full Russian experience.
Seeing the Sights
Russia provides free access to plenty of beautiful churches and cathedrals. However, visitors prepared to loosen their purse strings have plenty of inexpensive options to enjoy.
Catherine’s Palace was the Romanov’s summer place. The palatial estate is a beautiful piece of history, well worth the 13-dollar ticket cost. The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is the world’s largest art museum.
You’ll fill your entire day exploring the gallery space for only 8 dollars a ticket. Russia is full of historically significant buildings, art galleries, and churches. You can enjoy these sites for as little as 10 dollars per visitor daily.
Least Busy Time to Visit: November through March
Winter is Russia’s quietest time. Tourists tend to avoid the country during the coldest months. While Russian winters are undeniably frosty, they’re not as brutal as the popular conception of them.
A prepared tourist can easily endure the cold by layering up. The country is beautiful during the season, covered in snow and ice. Those who enjoy unique and unusual experiences can learn to make ice art.
Local artists show visitors how to create sculptures by throwing hot water into cold air. If you don’t mind the cold, pull on your thermal underwear, wrap a scarf around your neck and venture out to explore.
You can check out the country on a bike or snowmobile to truly experience all the magic of a Russian winter.
While winter is largely a quiet time in Russia, the first week in January is absolutely hopping, not from outsider tourism, but from the Russian people. January 1st through 10th is a national holiday, and the Russian people party hard.
Worst Time to Visit: Winter
The worst time to visit Russia is in winter. The cold makes enjoying the outdoors a bit less pleasant for many. There isn’t a bad time to visit Russia; however, the worst time ultimately depends on your plans and personal preferences.
Russian holiday periods are more expensive and busier. If you’re hoping to avoid running up a high bill or passing through bustling streets, avoid these times:
- March 23-29
- May 1-10
- June 11-14
- October 26-November 2
- December 30-January 13
Summer, from June to August, is Russia’s peak tourism period, which means travel will be more expensive. The country is also busier during this season, so if cost is your biggest consideration, summer is the worst time to visit.
Things to Consider
Visiting any other country is a huge consideration that requires lots of planning and preparation. You’ll need to take several factors into account before boarding that plane, including:
- Getting a visa. Russia requires travelers from all countries that weren’t part of the Soviet Union to have a visa. Begin pursuing it about a month before your trip.
- All writing is in Cyrillic. Most signs and menus are written in the Cyrillic alphabet. If you don’t know how to read the language, that may complicate your visit. Doing some research ahead of time helps you select restaurants with translated menus. Additionally, keeping a little cheat sheet with key phrases may help in your travels.
- English is not widely spoken. Learning a few helpful Russian phrases may ease your trip.
- Where to get your rubles. You’ll need money, so find a reputable place to exchange your currency.
- Drink bottled water. Russian tap water is dubious at best. Stick to bottled to avoid an upset stomach.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will my cell phone work in Russia?
Yes, your cell phone will work in Russia, provided you’ve turned on international roaming. Contact your service provider before traveling to make sure Russia is included in the roaming package.
Is Russia friendly to tourists?
Russia’s largest cities are safe and welcoming to tourists. Avoid the Ukraine border, the North Caucus, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.
Does Russia have any beaches?
Yes! Russia has many beautiful beaches; some are white sand, some are rocky, and some even have snow.
Can you flush toilet paper in Russia?
Mostly, yes. However, toilets without the flushing capacity to manage toilet paper will tell you ahead of time.
Is tipping rude in Russia?
Not at all. However, Russian tipping is generally a little lower than western tipping. A 10 percent tip is considered standard.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Russia?
Russia has a perfect season for every visitor. Prefer warming, walking-around weather? Stick to spring. Want to avoid the crowds and not freeze your face off? Autumn is the time of year for you. Whatever your preferences, this guide will help you plan the perfect Russian vacation!