It’s really enormous, with 22 republics, 46 oblasts (provinces), and a bunch of districts and territories spread over 11 different time zones. To wrap your mind around that, you’ll need all the help – and the travelling tech – you can get.
Good news for South Africans: you no longer need to apply for a visa if you’re visiting for 90 days or less. That’ll make things a lot easier – especially when you consider how daunting Russia can be for a foreign visitor. Because the country is so vast, most of the World Cup matches have been scheduled to take place on the western/European side of the country. A 2 500km trip from Sochi in the far south to St Petersburg in the north is pretty taxing – but at least it’s not as exhausting as the 10 000km road trip from Sochi to faraway Vladivostok on the distant east coast.
Download these apps to make your trip easier:
Yandex.Metro – With metro maps for both St Petersburg and Moscow (which has about 200 stations), this app is a real life-saver, helping you negotiate the complex local transport network with suggested routes and expected travel times. Thankfully it works offline, so it won’t die when you’re underground. Free on Android and iOS.
Russian Railways – One of the best ways to experience Russia is by train, with the famous Trans-Siberian Railway being both a bucket-list item and a convenient way of getting around. This handy app helps you buy tickets, change tickets and check for delays. Free on Android and iOS.
Toptriptip Russia – An interactive guidebook for your mobile device, this app gives you maps, travel tips and weather forecasts, with location searches built in. Free on Android and iOS.
Google Translate – The Russian language is written in Cyrillic, which can make things tough for non-native readers – so be sure to load a translation app onto your mobile device. Google Translate is the granddaddy of them all. Free on Android and iOS.
FIFA Official App – For match schedules, tournament updates, news and scores, the official FIFA app is vital during any World Cup. Free on Android and iOS.
DStv Now – Want to watch matches on the go? Connect this app to your DStv subscription account, and you’ll be able to stream all those SuperSport channels – making sure you don’t miss a second of the action. Free on Android and iOS.
Between Moscow’s Kremlin and Red Square, St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum and Sochi’s mighty Caucasus range, Russia has a wealth of beautiful sights, which you’ll want to photograph. For super-sharp images, you’ll need one of these…
1. Nikon D3400 twin lens bundle
It’s sold as an entry-level DSLR, but don’t let that fool you. With Full HD 1080P video and 5 frame/second shooting, this little beauty punches way above its weight. Compact, quiet and with huge battery life, it’s super easy to use – whether you’re an expert or a beginner. R7 499
2. Canon EOS 750D DARE twin lens kit
A powerful model that lets you get creative, giving you the advanced features (such as 24.2MP sensor, 1080p Full HD video and DIGIC 6 Processor) that you’d normally find only in higher-end DSLR cameras. Grab the twin lens kit for even more options. R9 999
3. Sony H300 digital still camera
One of the star players in the Cyber-shot H Series, this compact unit has the body and most of the functionality of an SLR, but an entry-level price tag. With the 35x optical zoom range and optical SteadyShot image stabilisation, you’ll get right up close to the action. R3 399
4. Nikon B700 Bridge camera
Bridge cameras fill the niche between single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) and basic point-and shoots.
The B700 does that job perfectly, giving you great range and outstanding image quality, thanks to its 60x optical zoom and 20.3MP BSI CMOS sensor, which delivers brilliant results, even in low light. R6 499
5. Canon EOS M100
This mirrorless camera ticks all the boxes (like touchscreen LCD, built-in Wi-Fi, Full HD 1080P video). The 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor works with a smart DIGIC 7 processor to deliver amazing image quality, and great low-light (or latenight) performance up to ISO 25600. R5 999
Where’s the action happening?
During the 2018 World Cup, 11 Russian cities will host matches – here’s the lay of the land.
Moscow – Venue of the opening match and the final (15 July: save the date), Moscow is home to two 2018 World Cup stadia, the vast Luzhniki Stadium and the smaller Otkritie Arena. It’s also the nation’s capital.
Saint Petersburg – This beautiful northern city is the country’s cultural capital, with its historic centre designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The local Krestovsky Stadium will host seven World Cup matches, including one semi-final.
Kazan – Russia’s ‘third capital’ styles itself as the country’s sporting hub. It promises six World Cup matches, which includes a quarter-final.
Sochi – You’ll remember this Black Sea resort city as the 2014 Winter Olympics destination. Its subtropical climate (rare for Russia) makes it one of the warmer World Cup cities.
Kaliningrad – Located outside of mainland Russia, in an enclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad will host the England vs Belgium first-round clash.
Samara – Set at the confluence of the Samara and Volga rivers, Samara boasts a gorgeous embankment and magnificent river views.
Nizhny Novgorod – The city formerly known as Gorky is located 400km east of Moscow, at the spot where the Oka River meets the mighty Volga. It’ll be the location of six World Cup matches, including a quarter-final.
Volgograd – Site of one of World War II’s bloodiest sieges, the city formerly known as Stalingrad spreads itself along the Volga River. Its Volgograd Arena will be hosting the intriguing Nigeria vs Iceland first-round match.
Saransk – The capital of Mordovia lies in the Volga basin, and will hold four World Cup matches, including Peru vs Denmark.
Rostov-on-Don – One of Russia’s biggest cities, Rostovon-Don – situated, as you’ve guessed, on the Don River Delta – is in the country’s far south-west.
Yekaterinburg – Russia’s fourth-largest city is smackbang in the centre of the Eurasian continent, with its enormous skyscrapers towering over the Iset River. It’s the venue for the Mexico-Sweden first round match.
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