How to Pack for a Trip to Russia
What should I pack for Russia?
- Clothes for winter: Layers, thermal underwear, a long coat, hat, scarf and gloves, warm shoes and socks
- Clothes for summer: Breathable clothing, lightweight jacket and jumper, sunglasses and sunhat
- Clothes for going out: Nice shirt and smart trousers for men, smart trousers and top or dress for women
- Personal items: Insect repellent and sun-cream, wet wipes and hand sanitiser, medications, extension cords, earplugs and an eye mask
One of the biggest questions before travelling anywhere, is what to pack. But for those going to Russia, this can be simpler than expected because essentially, Russia only has two seasons, winter and summer. The leaves turn golden for a mere two or three weeks before the temperatures rapidly drop and winter begins, and spring is more of a melting period, with snow and ice seen even as late as May. Learn more about Russian seasons and best time to visit Russia.
Read on to find out what to pack, and how to be comfortable and prepared in every situation.
What clothes to wear in Russia?
Clothes for winter
Russia is spectacularly beautiful in the wintertime. A dusting of snow covers the palaces, churches and museums, and the icy forests truly look like something out of a fairy tale. But regardless of the magical atmosphere, the outside world is generally very cold. In the cities you will most likely be visiting, winter temperatures are in the range of -10 to -20 degrees Celsius, or 14 to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, but can be even lower.
Layers are vital. For maximum comfort (and safety), bring sweatshirts or hoodies, warm long trousers or extra thick tights, and thermal underwear. A long, warm coat is highly recommended. Not only will it keep you insulated from the cold, but if you slip on the ice it will cushion you and protect your clothes. And of course, it goes without saying that you must bring a hat, scarf and gloves. Ideally, very warm gloves, a fur or wool hat which covers your ears, and a scarf which can be wrapped around your face as well.
Even if the outside world is an icy -30, the inside of Russian buildings remain toasty and warm - heating is generated in a centralised location and switched on in September/October, providing automatic and constant heating for all the buildings in the locality and Russians like it very warm indoors. So, make sure to also bring indoor clothes and lighter layers - a suitcase full of only thick jumpers will do you no favours when you’re inside.
One of the most vital items on your list should be a warm pair of waterproof shoes, as Russia’s sidewalks and streets transform into a quagmire of slush and snow during winter. Shoes should have grippy treads as ice is often more problematic than snow, and the pavement can turn into an uneven mountain of black ice. Make sure to bring warm socks, preferably those sold in hiking/outdoor shops.
For those travelling to Siberia, the weather will be significantly colder, so pack accordingly. If you plan on doing activities such as skiing or snowboarding then bring waterproof trousers, and sunglasses are a good idea if you will spend a lot of time outside in the snow.
Clothes for summer
Despite its reputation, Russia isn’t always covered in snow. Summer is the perfect time to explore the country. Take a stroll any time of day or night, appreciate the White Nights in northern Russia, or go on a camping trip. Temperatures are generally in the range of 20 - 30 degrees Celsius, or 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Air conditioning is not a common sight in Russia, and Russian people have an innate fear of drafts so even on public transport in the middle of summer, windows are often kept shut. Lightweight and breathable clothing is your best bet, and a sunhat and sunglasses are essential items.
The weather can still be unpredictable, so bring a lightweight jacket and jumper for cooler evenings, and an umbrella too, especially if you’re visiting St. Petersburg. Russians dress modestly so you may feel uncomfortable in anything very short or low cut. To be respectful when visiting Russia’s churches, bring a scarf to cover your head and shoulders and a bottom layer of modest length.
Clothes for going out
There is a famous saying that ‘good clothes open all doors’ - and it’s safe to say that Russians dress impeccably when going to the theatre, a nice restaurant, or a nightclub. You do not have to bring a tuxedo or an evening gown, as low-key elegance is better than extravagance. For men, a nice shirt, smart trousers and shoes won’t go amiss. And for women, smart trousers and top or an elegant dress, and heels or nice boots. In winter, it is perfectly normal to change shoes at the theatre cloakroom if you don’t want to risk your high heels on the ice. Upmarket Russian nightclubs often have strict ‘face control’ who turn away those who they consider to be badly dressed, so bring a stylish outfit.
TRAVELERS ASK: Can you wear jeans in Russia?
It’s perfectly acceptable to wear jeans in Russia. Denim is enormously popular among Russians and you will be allowed into museums, churches and restaurants wearing jeans. However, Russians love to dress up, so wear smarter clothes for upmarket restaurants, nightclubs or the theatre. Jeans alone are insufficient for the Russian winter, so pack thermal underwear or tights accordingly.
Personal items and toiletries
You should bring insect repellent if visiting during summer, especially when travelling to Siberia - mosquitoes and horseflies have a voracious appetite. And don’t forget your sun cream!
Bring tissues, wet wipes and hand sanitiser. Public toilets are not very hygienic anywhere in Russia.
Russia has plenty of toiletry and cosmetic shops, so you won’t be in trouble if you forget your favourite shampoo or makeup. But make sure to bring any medication that you may need, as you may not be able to get it when you’re in Russia. Also, it’s a good idea to double check that your medication is legal in Russia - see Russian Customs Rules.
Bring a few different bags. A travel belt is the best way to safely carry your money and passports, and a small handbag or daysack will allow you to comfortably explore any Russian town or city. Russia uses two pin plug sockets (same as Europe) so remember your travel adaptors. One of the best tips for travelling abroad is to bring an extension cord from your home country with an adapter. Learn more about voltage in Russia.
For travelling on the Trans-Siberian Express or other long distance trains, a good quality portable charger will prove a lifesaver. Bring sleeping clothes which you would feel comfortable wearing while in a public space, slippers or sandals, and earplugs and an eye mask.
And lastly, don’t forget to pack your favourite book by one of Russia’s great writers. There is absolutely no better place to enjoy Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, or Bulgakov than when you’re in Russia - immersed in their culture and history!