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The Peculiar Task of Packing for a Backpack Trip to Russia
For many, the idea of backpacking through Europe is the perfect vacation. For the more adventurous, backpacking through Russia sounds a bit more compelling.
Russia is a huge country. I should know. I lived there for a year. In truth, the country is so large that describing "Russians" is a bit of a misnomer. The people in the far eastern city of Vladivostok are nothing like the people in the far western city of St Petersburg. It would be akin to introducing a person from San Francisco to a person from Boston. Heck, they might not understand each other!
Regardless, a trip to Russia is an experience you will never forget. If you are going to be backpacking, there are some things you need to know about what to take. First and foremost, the large cities in the west such as Moscow or St Petersburg have everything you would find in your home city. The rest of the country does not, so make sure you have the basics. Let's cover a few.
Are you ready for the ultimate tip? If you are traveling to central or eastern Russia, you are going to wish you had one thing that is nearly impossible to find. That thing? A bathtub drain stopper. I kid you not. Russians tend to take showers in the bathtub as is typical in much of Europe. You know, the bathtub fixtures include a showerhead. That being said, taking an actual bath can be a problem. One out of every two places you stay will not have a drain stopper. After a day of walking everywhere, you will want to take a bath. Make sure to bring the rubber stoppers.
An experience backpacker will only bring one pair of jeans with them on a long trip. I suggest you bring two if you are in Russia. Why? They are insanely expensive in many areas of Russia. If you destroy one pair, you either pay out the nose or buy Chinese rip-offs called "Levvys" or some such thing. You can imagine how long they last!
As you might expect, Aspirin should definitely be on your list of things to bring. A large bottle would be a good idea. Whatever you have heard about Russians drinking vodka is wrong. They drink far more. It is part of the culture and refusing to drink a toast is considered very rude. If you are going during winter, it is also necessary to relieve the throbbing elbows and knees you can get when you wipe out on ice.
Finally, bring a phrase book with you. I know this takes a lot of the adventure out of the game, but it can get you out of tight spots. You need a phrase book with the Russian equivalent written in it for whatever phrases you are trying to use. The Russian language is based on the Cyrillic alphabet, so it is really hard to wing it. A "Y" symbol is often pronounced as "ch" just to give you an idea of what you are getting into. If you get in a bind, pointing at a phrase will usually solve the problem.
If you are planning to backpack Russia, I am envious. It is a great time. Just watch the vodka consumption!
About the Author
Rick Chapo is with Nomad Journals - makers of travel journals to preserve your travel experiences.
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