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Language problem in Russia

Jeanie99

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  • Added on: March 14th, 2013
My husband and I are visiting Moscow and St Petersburg in September independently.
My one concern is how easy is it to travel on the local transport not being able to speak Russian.

We are flying into SP from Budapest for a weeks visit then taking the train to Moscow and flying back to the UK.

Suggestions and tips for visiting Russia would be appreciated.

Jean

seraphim

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  • Added on: March 14th, 2013
Travelling in Russia without any knowledge of the language can be very challenging. Since you have a few months time before you are going, I would highly recommend learning the alphabet at the very least and maybe take a course or get a teach-yourself-Russian book. It is not so hard to just learn the basics and will make your trip A LOT easier.

The Lonely Planet to Russia has a good guide on how to buy train tickets. I found that quite challenging when I just arrived too.
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EMH

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  • Added on: March 14th, 2013
I imagine the issues you'll face are similar to the ones I faced last year in Ukraine (since the language is the same or similar depending on the part of Ukraine). So three tips:

1) If you need help, look for someone under the age of 30. I found most younger people speak decent English and I imagine that's true in Russia as well, particularly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

2) Hopefully at least some of the staff at your hotel/hostel will speak both english and russian. You can have them write information (e.g., directions) for you in russian so that you can take in with you and later show to other people if needed.

3) Ask questions ahead of time on the Couchsurfing Forums. The locals in Ukraine were really helpful to me. I even had people go out of their way and meet me somewhere and walk me where I needed to go.

busman7

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  • Added on: March 14th, 2013
As seraphim advised, at least learn the alphabet, something I kicked myself for not doing prior to my trip. That said, I had no problem in St Petersburg even when buying my ticket to Moscow, there was enough English spoken to make sightseeing not a problem. Same with my 15 hr layover in Moscow waiting for the Trans-Mongolian when I visited Red Square & the Kremlin. My limited Spanish served me well on the Trans-Mongolian though.

It was later on the Trans-Siberian from Ulan-Ude to Vladivostok that it was challenging.
"Being normal? Ugh. I can't imagine how awful that must be" unknown

Wanderled

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  • Added on: March 25th, 2013
It could be very difficult but definitely not impossible. There are a limited amount of translations around, but most of the subway names and stations are written in Latin letters underneath the Cyrillic. So not all hope is lost as long as you know how to pronounce the name of your destination.

Otherwise, more and more young people are learning to speak English well, so I would suggest looking to them for help. Be aware that sometimes there is a "tourist price list," written in English, but the prices generally tend to be higher...

TheTuscan

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  • Added on: March 26th, 2013
I went on a weekend trip to Russia and I found myself almost panicking when I realized I couldn't read a thing.

However, it took me a couple hours to learn and memorize the alphabet while at the hotel.
That made an unexpected huge difference.
Although I don't speak any Slavic language, I found myself able to understand much more than expected.
Some signs are even English words, only you don't realize that until you can read the script. Like for instance this shop sign: "СУШИБАР".
Take a minute to learn the sound of the 7 letters you see above, and you'll know what they sell there! (Actually it's not only English, it's also Japanese . . . )

Learning 31 letters is not that difficult (yeah, I know it's 33, but who cares about the 2 letters without a sound?)

Have fun in Russia! :)
"We must know . . . and we will" (D. Hilbert, 1939)
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