Hints and tips for Novosibirsk

First, memorise this universal emergency number 112 – which will direct you to the proper service in any kind of trouble.

Also, remember these quick dial numbers for LANDLINE phones if you will be using it:

01 – Fire brigade,
02 – Militia (local name for police),
03 – Ambulance,
04 – Cooking gas emergency repair service.

To call them via MOBILE you need to add 0 at the end – 010, 020, 030, 040.

The only bad thing is that these emergency services are barely able to understand what you’re saying in English or any other language. However, in an emergency anything might help!

Flying to/from here

Coming here from far away is best done by airplane. There are multiple flights coming in and out from many cities of Russia and abroad. Moscow, Hannover, Frankfurt, Seoul, Tashkent, Dubai just to name a few. And there is a convenient way to check flight route – see the form below.

There is a flights schedule:

Getting through customs

Usually you don’t encounter problems here. Last time we checked the limit on alcohol was 2 litres and on tobacco – 400 pieces. But it is always better to ask a customs officer for advice (that’s their job!). Customs information can also be obtained from the Russian Federation embassy where you apply for your visa.

Money

The dollar is worth about 65 Roubles (nowadays it changes fairly often so for exact rate check banks). Euros are also popular and easy to exchange. Exchanging other currencies can be problematic.

Officially you are not allowed to exchange foreign currency anywhere except of exchange offices. However, some people make their living from providing better rates than banks. They will probably offer you their services when you’re coming too an exchange office. Please be aware that this is illegal. It’s not like you’d go to Gulag for that, but really exchange at the official banks please. You’ll avoid crooks and wouldn’t lose too much in the rate.

ATMs are also available, and many shops/places will accept international cards, typically Visa and MasterCard (other cards can be a problem). But just in case it is better to have some Roubles on you.

Spending money smart

The fact that Novosibirsk is commercial and business capital of Siberia has affected the way some people behave. ‘It is all about money’ for many of them. So, some people who might seem friendly and welcoming at the first glance might have an intention to rip you off by providing overpriced taxi services (especially when picked up at the hotel – just walk couple of blocks from there and you’ll see the difference), translations or whatever.

Be sure to know market rates, which are generally like that: taxi from airport to the city is 10-15 bucks, taxi within the city – 3 dollars short distance, 5 dollars from one part of the city to another, average fast-food lunch – 5 dollars, average restaurant lunch – 15 dollars but can be much more, average hotel room per night – starting from 30 dollars but again can be much more depending on the hotel and its location, DVD when buying on streets (pirated – ok, hope you don’t buy them) 2-5 dollars, legal ones about 10-20, office rental in the centre of the city – 30 dollars per square meter per month (the farther from the city centre, the lower).

As for buying anything else – the competition here is huge, so it is not very wise to buy whatever you liked immediately, you may get the same twice cheaper ‘around the corner’ or in some other place, so explore the options first.

Also some advice on international calls. Doing it from the hotel, or using typical long distance services will cost you fortune. Take advantage of technology trend and just Skype/Viber/WhatsApp etc from some wi-fi location for free or via 3G.

Health issues

Socialism is over, so now people have to pay for medical service or get stuck with State Medical Insurance which is usually provided by employers and will cover only very basic medical needs not to mention lower quality of the service.

Unless you’re officially employed by a Russian entity, you won’t get State Medical Insurance, and you are better off not counting on it anyway. The good side is that high quality medical service in Russia is still very cheap compared to the West. You might also want to get a medical insurance valid in Russia via your travel agent.

If you feel the need to get to a doctor, the best way is to ask somebody who can translate to go with you, not many doctors here understand English (or other languages).

If seriously injured (broken bones, concussion, etc), best thing to do is to call an Ambulance (dial 03) or actually ask somebody Russian-speaking to do it.

Local Fashion / What to wear

While men here usually wear normal casual stuff (with preference for darker colors) or business suits, ladies are known for their ability (and desire) to dress sparklingly everyday. We’re aware that Europe and the States are going in a sort of simplistic/feministic way where ladies don’t seem to care much about their appearance, but that’s certainly not the Russian way – when you’re on a street in Novosibirsk on a sunny June day you might feel as though you were in the middle of a celebrity parade in Cannes. That ‘just-out-of-bed’ image will not serve you well in our city!

Now talking about the seasons – summer (June, July and early August) is warm, and sometimes really hot. Normal summer clothing should do just fine. Our springs and autumns are much colder than those of Europe, so your usual winter wear (up to heavy coats as winter approaches) should cope with that, while raincoats and umbrellas will help when closer to summer.

Winter (mid-November to mid-March) is a killer here. With balls-freezing temperatures of -18 C on average and reaching sometimes -45 C you’d better have some heavy polar stuff with you. The other good thing is that people here wear a lot of furs in winter, and they’re available at some reasonable prices. So if you like to wear furs and you enjoy the ‘King (or Queen) of the Wilderness’ feeling – visit Novosibirsk in winter.

If you go in winter, two tips about boots and layering. If you enter somebody’s home or business it is of course warm! After all, this is civilised place. This means you should dress in multiple layers so you can remove several of them when you get indoors for long – say shopping in a mall.

About boots: It is obligatory tradition here to remove footwear on entering homes which is caused by simple fact that average street in Novosibirsk or most Russian cities is much more dusty or dirty that the average street say in London, so keeping your shoes on at home will make home dirty. So you’re expected to remove your shoes after entering someone’s place unless the owner allows you to keep them on, and this is not expected to be done to normal guests.

Some cultural things

Generally people in Russia and in Novosibirsk are friendly to foreigners, so in most cases you won’t have any problems, instead, most people are glad to assist you. Take proper advantage of this and don’t hesitate to ask for help or advice.

Unfortunately, the recent twist in the world politics started with George Bullsh and continued with the rest have caused the general decrease of public friendliness towards specifically US/UK citizens (during the Serbia War some bars even were banning off US/UK customers). So, of course it is not a crime to be from US, but please don’t overexpose yourself and try not to argue on sensitive matters such as Chechnya, Serbia/Kosovo/Iraq/Syria, NATO, Yeltsin, Putin, politics etc.

The years of Big Brother watching us still influence how people behave and interact. You will find that some people (especially older) are not open and friendly to ‘strangers’, so it might take some time for them to develop trust and be more open.

People also have a tendency to behave in a ‘stronger’ way – you’ll hear ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ much less often than in the West. Also smiles are not very common on the streets. Don’t be surprised if you get a stony look from a supermarket cashier. This is just local thing, we actually hate that and we love smiles, but well, Russia is changing slowly on that.

And the last bit on volume of voice. You will notice that local people try to speak less loudly in public places comparing to the West. This is sort of habit of respecting the others who is not interested in your conversation and general preference to quietness than to noise. General rule – the closer is the distance between people, the lower the volume should be. So don’t talk with full volume on while in a bus, metro, eating place etc.

Getting around

Using taxis

Novosibirsk is quite large city, so using taxis might be expensive. The good thing is that you’re not limited to official taxis and you can also just wave your hand standing on the road and some driver with ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ will pick you up shortly, or most of such drivers usually sit in their cars around popular spots. General guidelines for bargaining with drivers – short distances (equal to 20 minutes walk or one-two stations by underground) – 100-150 Roubles. Longer distance – 150-250 Roubles. From/to airport – 500-800 Roubles. This all depends on the car, drivers mood and availability of other options.

Using metro (underground, subway, tube)

This is probably the best mean of public transport here – fast, reliable, inexpensive (40 cents a ride) and you will not freeze while using it or waiting for it in winter (comparing to on-ground public transport). The only drawback is that the metro can’t take you anywhere in the city, and it is covering only main streets (central area and a bit around).

Using buses/trolley buses/trams/marshrutkas

These are very developed public transports, their net covers all the city and you can get to virtually anywhere on these (using connecting routes). Among them there is something we can’t even have English equivalent for – in Russian it is called ‘marshrutnoye taxi’ or ‘marshrutka’ – in fact it is a passenger van turned bus – like any bus it has designated route and bus stops, but moves much faster than real bus and sometimes is quite convenient.

Public transport is very cheap here comparing to West, but there is a variety of new and old vehicles, so quality of your trip may vary a lot.