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Travelling to Russia for the Winter Games?


By Rachel Schoutsen
Presenter, Beat the Traffic
@RachelBTT
Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 3:25 PM

If you plan on heading to Sochi you will need to know a thing or two about the roads.

Russia is not exactly the easiest place to drive. Western driving is more careful and cautious than what you may experience in Russia. The mood is generally aggressive and speeds are higher. The legal limit on a highway is anywhere from 90 to 110 km/hour.  You should be a confident driver if you plan to tackle the roads of Russia.

Motorists in Moscow, Russia, definitely know what grid lock looks like. Russian native, Yana Mamotenko mentions that driving in Moscow is similar to sitting in a parking lot! Don’t expect to be getting anywhere too fast.

On average a traffic jam in the capital lasts 2.5 hours. That could eat up a lot of your vacation time! So if you are planning on travelling around the capital, it is best to do so outside of rush hours. The morning rush is normally from 7-9 a.m., and their afternoon rush is lengthier. You can find heavy traffic right into the late evening. 

Rush hour in Moscow (Wikimedia Commons)

Rush hour in Moscow (Wikimedia Commons)

All over Russia road surfaces are mostly poor and potholes are a problem. You will find it especially difficult when outside of major cities, on side roads; whereas major highways, like the M-10, connecting you from Moscow to St. Petersburg, are better maintained.  Most of the highways are free to travel, but be prepared, as some come with tolls.

Tip: All highways in Russia start with the letter "M" and end in a number. 

A major issue for tourists in Russia are the road signs. They are all in Russian! This makes it impossible to even pronounce the street you are looking for. Mamotenko, comments, “A GPS or even a paper map, would certainly help. Locals can be of great assistance when you have an actual map, as this is a great communication tool for them to point you in the right direction. And the men in Russia have great mapping skills.”

If you are keen on driving, Mamotenko also mentions, “Car rentals tend to be confined to the large cities such as Moscow or Saint Petersburg. I would suggest to travel via subway for travelling within the city (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod), and a train or flight for travelling between the cities.”


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Now that we have an overall feel for the roads, let’s narrow in on Sochi where the Olympic Games are being held! The population is relatively small totaling in around 5000 people. To accommodate so many people coming into this area and to provide better travel, they have made some upgrades. The M-27 was introduced to Sochi to allow more vehicles to move through the area.

The railroad was also extended in Sochi, this will allow travelers a stress free commute as they can rely on public transit to get them from A to B. Here is an interactive map of the advancements.

Tip: If you plan on traveling from Sochi to the capital, Moscow, that’s around 2000km!

And what about the weather in Sochi? Well your travels should be comfortable, Sochi has a non-freezing winter. The average high in February is around 9-10 °C. Weather Network meteorologists explained that at times Sochi can feel much cooler because of a northerly wind called the Bora, this cooling wind can linger for a few days. There is a very slight chance of snow, as rain in February is more common. Mamotenko comments that Sochi is similar to Vancouver, mountainous and on the water. But the difference is the coast has more of a tropical feel. Yes, you can find palm trees!


RELATED: Get the current forecast in Sochi


Coast line of Sochi from RIA Novosti archive

Coast line of Sochi from RIA Novosti archive

And last tip from our expert Mamotenko, “Travelers to Sochi may contact the call center at +7 (800) 234-2014. English-speaking representatives will be available to respond to inquiries about medical facilities, financial services, transportation, accommodation, shopping, and other facilities and services available in Sochi. The call center will also have operators available who speak Russian, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.”

All the excitement of the Olympic Games will certainly allow for an unforgettable trip!

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