5 Important Tips to Know Before Moving to Russia
Moving to a different country can be very difficult and frightening! However, many people have overcome those difficulties and moved to Russia to study. I asked a few international friends at ITMO what they wished they knew before moving here. Here are the five most commonly repeated tips they shared, starting from the most common one.
1. Don't buy anything in the airport. At the airport the prices are extremely inflated. Especially, when converting your currency and buying rubles, the airport will rip you off and overcharge far above the actual price. Similarly, in the center of St. Petersburg, everything is more expensive. Wait until you get to the dormitory to buy necessities at nearby stores; everything will be much much cheaper.
2. Be careful with taxis. This mostly applies to taking a taxi from the airport to your dormitory. Taxi drivers might try and scam a foreigner traveling alone. If it costs more than 2000 rubles for a taxi from the airport, they’re scamming you. For example, it usually costs from 800 to 1500 rubles from the airport to the dorm at Vyazemskiy. I would highly recommend downloading an app like Yandex.Taxi. It’s very convenient for ordering taxis without getting scammed as the price is provided in advance. In addition, if you end up getting a taxi without an app, it's possible to negotiate the price. I was not used to negotiating prices when I first arrived here, but I found it's not uncommon in Russia, for example in a farmers' market or at some types of stores.
3. Don’t forget to bring travel adaptors. One of my Colombian friends couldn't charge his phone or laptop at the airport when he first arrived here because he didn't have an adaptor. It's possible to buy adaptors later, but better safe than sorry. It’s smart to pack a power strip from your home country so you can charge several of your devices at the same time with just one adaptor.
4. Remember there are cultural differences. You might be prepared for the obvious ones, but there are a few that can cause difficulties. For example, in Russia, people are more reserved, tend to avoid personal questions and, in general, act less friendly than in other countries. This doesn't mean they don't like you though! If you feel someone is yelling at you, maybe it's simply the way they speak. Also, be prepared, the food can be VERY different. Many foreigners tremendously miss their native food. Finally, there are many people in Russia who don't speak English well. It's extremely helpful to learn useful Russian phrases ahead of time.
5. Keep your important documents safe. This one is pretty obvious and self-explanatory. Don't lose your migration card — this is extremely important! It is handy to keep your documents on you at all times, just in case an emergency happens. Remember — misplacing or losing your important documents can cause a lot of stress! It is very difficult to replace them.
Ultimately, as long as you are careful, pay attention to your surroundings, and try your best, you will succeed in any country you move to. ITMO provides help and services such as the buddy system to help foreigners adjust to student life here. Don't hesitate to ask your professors any questions you might have, as everyone is very helpful and understanding. Remember, there are many other foreigners who have been here longer who can help you. Most importantly, enjoy your time here! Experience new things, have fun, study and grow!