Russian 101 for Tourists - Russian language tips

More information about Russia travel in Russia.

When traveling to Russia if you do not speak the language, it is helpful to take the time to familiarize yourself with some of the common Russian words or phrases that you may encounter during your trip.

Not only so that you don’t accidentally order the wrong thing in a restaurant or ask for directions to the wrong landmark, but also so that you can communicate more easily with taxi drivers, hotel clerks and ship stewards on a Russian river cruise.

Most locals appreciate the efforts of tourists to speak the native language. After all, we can’t expect everyone to speak our language when we are visiting their country.

There are various ways of commuting around the cities in Russia. Taking a bus (aftoboos) or tram (tramvai) is a reliable option and Moscow’s metro (meetro) is a web of underground connections that can take you to all the different parts of the city. Knowing some Russian words and phrases will facilitate your travel around the cities and help you get to your destinations quicker and with a minimum of frustration.

For example, you need to know how to ask a taxi driver to take you to your hotel (gastinitsa) or to a restaurant (ristoran) and nearly everyone visiting Moscow wants to see The Red Square (na krasnuyu ploshad). In addition, most tourists will certainly want to know how to ask “how to get to?” (Kak popast?) and “where to buy?” (Gde mozhno kupit?).

When visiting Russia, you will probably want to try some of Russia’s culinary specialties. Traditional Russian cuisine is delicious and, in some restaurants, the menu will be written in both Russian and English and the servers will be able to speak some English. In many small Russian restaurants and cafes, dishes are displayed behind a glass window. In this case, customers can choose different foods according to their appearance and can point to what they would like to order.

However, in some restaurants and buffets, you may need to communicate with the staff in Russian. First, it would be a good idea to learn the various courses so you will know where to look on the menu for the items you want; it’s always helpful if you know which section of the menu is for the main dish (piervoye) and which is for dessert (sladkoye). And, if you would like to try the popular Russian drink, you will need to know how to say “I’ll have vodka” (ya hachu vodku)!

While being in Russia, don’t be shy about practicing your skills in Russian with native speakers. Many locals will appreciate your effort and may even ask you to teach them a few English words in return.

In particular, cafes are really great places to try out your Russian. You can practice the language, see how easy (or hard) it is for you to communicate with Russians in real-life situations and get to try local culinary specialties at the same time.

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