Travel to Russia

Travel to Russia

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Travel to Russia

For most travellers the thought of entering Russia as a tourist is a daunting prospect. It need not be. Whilst there are some visa and other documentation hurdles to get over, travel to Russia is no different than to many parts of the world. Russia is becoming more open to tourists as time goes on.

Where are Russian Ski Resorts, Cat & Heli Skiing?

Russia is the largest country in the world………… by a very long margin! The vastness of Russia can be gauged by the distance between some of its most popular ski areas. From the premier Russian ski resorts in the western Caucasus near Sochi to the far-east adventure destination of Kamchatka is around 7800km, or almost a third of the way around the northern hemisphere! The distances dictate that flying is the only viable travel option to reach the various destinations.

Sochi and its associated ski resorts are in the western Caucasus, close to Georgia and 1400km south of Moscow. Istanbul in Turkey is closer, only 950km away! The ski resorts of Rosa Khutor, Gazprom Mountain Resort and Gorky Gorod are a mere 46km north of the Sochi (AER) airport.

Elbrus ski resorts are a paltry 200km east of Sochi as the crow flies but is a hellish 12hr drive if one has the spirit to attempt it. Realistically, flying is the only option - see below for detail.

The growing Arkhyz ski resort is midway between Sochi and Elbrus. But just like Elbrus the roads and mountainous terrain dictate an approach from the north. The best access for both is via the airport at Mineralnye Vody (MRV), a 3hr drive from Elbrus and Arkhyz.

Kamchatka is in the far east of Russia, effectively in Asia. The peninsula is north of Japan, 6700km east of Moscow and 2230km north of Vladivostok. Los Angeles in the USA is actually closer to Kamchatka than Moscow!

The Pri Freeride Company provides catskiing in the remote heart of Siberia from the tiny village of Priiskovy (or Priiskovoye or Priiskovoy!). Located near the Kuznetskiy Alatau mountains (& nature reserve), Priiskovy is a paltry 3,200km east of Moscow & 2,600km northwest of Beijing! Nearest major city is Krasnoyarsk, 6hr drive to the northeast.

Sochi Heliski runs tours across Russia. In addition to the previously mentioned Kamchatka, the majority of its operations are in Abkhazia, a short drive east of Sochi/Adler, but across another border! It also has locations south of Lake Baikal only 420km north of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar - exotic indeed. The main city in the Baikal region, Irkutsk is 4200km from Moscow. Sochi Heliski's Siberia location is across the range from Pri Freeride cat skiing & close to the city of Novokuznetsk.

Flights to Russian Ski Resorts, Cat-skiing & Heli-skiing

Regardless of where you ski in Russia, flights into the country will generally be via Moscow. Moscow has two airports and, depending on the final destination, one may need to use both. The main international airport, Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) is north of Moscow, with the more regionally focussed Domodedovo Moscow Airport (DME) a I hr drive to the south on the other side of the capital. Moscow is worthy of at least two days exploration and Russia acclimatisation.

Search & book all Moscow Hotel Accommodation here.

From some European origins, St Petersburg Airport (LED) provides a convenient entry to Russia. Most Russian destinations are available from St Petersburg, thus avoiding Moscow.

Gateway airports for Russian ski areas are as varied as the landscape. The Sochi International Airport (AER) services Rosa Khutor, Gazprom and Gorky Gorod. It can be reached directly via Moscow and Istanbul (IST). The airport isn’t actually in Sochi but in a city called Adler 30km to the south east. Thankfully, Adler is closer to the ski resorts than Sochi.

The Mineralnye Vody Airport (MRV) is best for the Elbrus and Arkhyz ski resorts. Both resort areas are a 3hr drive south(ish) of Mineralnye Vody , but on different roads.

For Kamchatka, the classically Russian named city of Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky has an airport ( only 60km north of the main heliskiing area, Snow Valley. Ensure not to mix up the Kamchatka airport at Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky (PKC) with the one in Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan (PPK). It would suck to land in Kazakhstan if you were intent on heliskiing in Kamchatka! Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky (PKC) can be reached via Vladivostok (VVO) and the other far east city of Khabarovsk Novy (KHV). In turn, Vladivostok can be reached via Moscow (of course), Seoul (ICN), Shanghai (2 airports) or Hong Kong (HKG).

For cat ski adventures in Siberia with Pri Freeride, numerous daily flights from Moscow go to the Krasnoyarsk (a.k.a. Yemelyanovo) Airport (KJA), where you will be picked up & transferred to Priiskovoy.

Heli-ski adventures in Siberia with Sochi Heliski are on the opposite side of the mountains & utilise the airport at Novokuznetsk (NOZ). Direct flights from Moscow take 4.5hr.

Heli-skiing in the Lake Baikal region requires an internal flight to Irkutsk Airport (IKT). Direct flights are possible from Moscow & take nearly 6hr- phew!

To search for a great deal on a flight to Moscow or other Russian airport, use our recommended flight search engine.

Airport & Hotel Transfers

Most visits to Russia will part of an organised tour. Tour operators will usually include all transfers & ground transport during the tour.

For independent travellers, private, shared & group transfers are available to/from all airports and hotels to/from all ski resorts. Book your transfer here.

Visas & Other Entry Requirements for Russia

Tourists entering Russia require several documents. Prior to entry, a visa and ‘letter of invitation’ are essential. Citizens of nations requiring visas includes most European nations, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, NZ. A standard visa will only last 30 days and can take some time to arrive. The letter of invitation is usually obtained from a hotel that you propose to stay in. Both a visa and ‘letter of invitation’ will cost up to several hundred dollars, depending on your country of origin.

Once in Russia, it is mandatory to complete a registration process. This will usually occur at your hotel, but the onus is on the traveller to do it.

A helpful site that goes through the step by step process for getting the correct documents and other issues is here.

Bringing Items into Russia

Note that GPS systems need to be declared on entry and items like satellite phones need prior approval to be brought into Russia. Also, certain commonly obtained over the counter medicines may not be brought into Russia. These include medicines containing codeine etc. Check before you go.