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Think tall cathedrals, ballet dancers and Swan Lake, elaborate circus performances we’ve read about in books and watched in old movies. Think beautiful rivers with colourful houses and fancy lamp posts. White nights, with 24 hours of sunlight for a month; architecture and buildings unlike any other in the world. From the iconic Bolshoi Theatre to a cathedral that inspired Alladin’s castle- Russia embodies art, architecture, theatre and culture unlike any other place in the world. Here’s why 2016 is the best time to visit this stunning country:

  1. Tickets are cheap:IMG_7721

    Until last year, few carriers operated from India to Russia. With tourism to Russia suddenly taking a boost, a number of carriers have started flights to Russia. Though only Aeroflot flies directly (without a halt) to Moscow, these flights usually a little expensive during peak season. If your travel dates are flexible, you might end up finding flights as low as 29,000 INR on Etihad! Other low cost carriers include Fly Dubai, Uzbekistan Airways and Air Arabia. Air India flies to Moscow as well, though completely unreliable, with changing schedules and last minute cancellations.

  2. You will pay in Rupees:

    Due to heavy currency fluctuation over the past two years, the local currency of Russia- the Rouble, is now at par with the rupee. 1 Rouble= 1 Rupee at the moment, which means you will pretty much end up enjoying Europe while paying as if you were still in India. Hotels aren’t expensive, local transport is cheap and getting a meal in Russia is equivalent to getting one in India (in monetary value).

  3.  It’s Europe!

    Everyone wants to visit Europe for the landscape, the cathedrals and architecture, the cobbled streets and the countryside. All of that and more is available in Russia, and while it may not be part of the Schengan countries, but it’s still located in the European continent. Russia is the cheapest way to experience Europe this year!

  4. Visa is not a problem anymore:b8899954-3026-48a6-8cfa-5a3ef55c187c

    Russia opened it’s doors to tourism fairly recently, and up until last year the visa issue was a big hurdle to cross. The reason is the invitation letter required from hotels for visa submissions. A part of the visa requirements, was this invitation letter from every single hotel you would be staying at- in hard copy. Given the language barrier and courier charges, this was a tedious process. Most leading travel companies now offer the invitation letter on behalf of the hotels if you book a holiday package with them. Otherwise also, you can now write to the hotels after booking with them, and they will send you a form to fill out. Within 24 hours of filling the form, you’ll receive a soft copy of the invitation letter. All you need after that is your passport, a visa form and 2 photographs!

  5. It’s safe for women and solo travelers:

    The Russia Mafia was a big deal once upon a time, though that isn’t the case anymore. While traveling solo one must be a little cautious in general, there’s little to worry about. While St. Petersburg isn’t very active at night, that isn’t the case with Moscow. You can party till dawn or step out in the dark should it please you, without worrying about safety.

  6. There’s something for everyone:her

    This is one country that has something to offer for anyone. Unlike Paris or the Maldives, there isn’t any specific demographic that Russia caters to. From adventure junkies, to lovebirds on honeymoon and families to a group of friends looking for a good time, this country has plenty to offer. Here are 12 Things You Must Do in Moscow

  7. You can visit in the winter too!

    Russia is well-equipped too deal with the snow. They’ve been doing it for centuries! Before you wake up, the streets would be completely clear and the only signs of snowfall would be the patches of snow collected on the pavements. Everything is centrally heated, including buses. There’s nothing you will miss out because of the cold. Russia is a lot more fun in the winter, specially during the winter holidays. There’s a massive Christmas tree at the main Kremlin Square in Moscow, a huge skating rink, and sledging with snow dogs on the outskirts of the city. While winter in Russia might seem like an intimidating idea, it turns into a completely different experience altogether.

Nikita Butalia is a solo 20-something traveler who documents her experiences around India and the rest of the world in witty narratives and travel tales that are best read curling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate on a winter evening.

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