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Don't forget to remove your coat indoors: It's considered rude not to. And make a note of which cloak room you've left your belongings in when attending a concert or ballet or visiting a large museum. There are often many, scattered over several floors.

Don't be surprised at the amount of pushing, shoving and elbowing in subway stations and in other crowded places.

Do take along a gift of wine or flowers when invited to someone's home - but make sure there are an odd number of flowers (a Russian superstition).

Do be prepared to remove your shoes when invited to a Russian home (you'll probably be furnished with slippers).

Do dress appropriately when visiting religious sites. A woman should cover her head with a scarf and wear a long dress or skirt; a man should wear long pants and a shirt with sleeves.

Don't neglect to declare all electronic equipment on your customs form when entering the country. Simple consumer electronics like laptop computers are usually allowed in without problems, but more sophisticated equipment may be subject to restrictions or more detailed documentation. Inspectors may seize equipment if all the appropriate paperwork is not in order. Contact a Russian embassy for more information.

Electricity
Electricity throughout Russia is 220 volt/50 Hz. The plug is the two-pin thin European standard. Be sure to bring your own converter as most places in Russia do not carry them.

Currency
All prices are generally quoted in rubles. Currency can be freely converted at banks, hotels or kiosks. Traveler's checks are hard to cash. Credit cards are accepted in most places that work with foreign tourists. Some may turn down American Express. Visa and MasterCard are known, hence - more widely honored. ATM machines are widely available in major cities, but note: they do not have letters on the key pad, so if your PIN includes letters, do remember them as digits!

Telephones
Despite the recent rapid improvements in the telecommunications infrastructure, telephoning in Russia can be difficult and expensive. Best bet is to use the phone at your hotel or use AT&T, Sprint or MCI's USA direct services. Tokens or calling cards are required for street pay phones, which can be purchased at newsstands, in some stores, and many kiosks.

Time
Time is GMT +3 for both Moscow & St. Petersburg.

Medical Care
Remember to bring any medications you may need. Check with your health insurer before you depart to ascertain your coverage in the event of emergency. Many insurance providers offer specialized riders which can cover emergency evacuation. We do recommend buying a travel insurance.

Water
Water quality varies widely in Russia. Your best bet is to drink and brush your teeth only with bottled water which is widely available in supermarkets. Be careful to avoid ice and raw foods and vegetables.

Crime
Crime situation has considerably improved in Russia over the past couple of years. Moscow and St. Petersburg are a lot safer than many American cities. Precautions include not flaunting valuables, or walking alone at night through city outskirts or parks.

Taxis
In Russia, taxi fees are usually negotiated with the driver ahead of time. Do not use gypsy cabs or accept rides in cabs that already have a rider. We shall be glad to provide you with airport transfers by our company car.

Tipping
Tipping is increasingly expected at restaurants. Tip 10-15% depending on service. It is typical to round up the amount due to the next round figure.

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