Over the past couple of years it has seemed nearly impossible to get away from the negative press coming out of, or about Russia. Even as someone who has lived in Russia and other former Soviet republics, it is all too easy to get sucked into the narrative that Russia is the enemy of our time. I vividly remember the months leading up the Olympics in Sochi and the constant barrage of news stories questioning if Russia would be ready to host. Then, when it came down to it, the Games were very entertaining.
I mention this, not because I agree with anything Putin or the Russian regime does, but because despite it all, Russia is still an awesome place to visit. It’s a country of nice people, delicious food, and unforgettable experiences. And that is good, because in 2018 Russia will be hosting the World Cup (Чемпионат мира). To answer the question in the title of this post: Should You Go?…the clear answer is YES. Below is what you need to know if you want to venture to Russia for this once in a lifetime sporting event!
If you hold a US, Canadian, or EU passport, you normally have to get a visa. Last year Russia president Vladimir Putin stated that there will be visa-free travel for all people who hold a ticket to a World Cup match and also can show their round trip plane ticket. However, after looking at the official World Cup 2018 website, it appears to be a bit ambiguous about whether those holding Western passports will, indeed, have visa-free travel. Stay tuned for updates.
Getting between Venues:
In general, getting between locations in Russia is not too complicated…it’s just far! Russia has stated that it intends to make transport between venues and host cities far easier by 2018. With that said, air and rail transport in Russia is pretty good. The only problem one may run into is a lack of attendants who can speak English. However, it is a safe assumption that there will be considerable effort put into easing travel between host cities. Stay tuned for future posts with mini-dictionaries of necessary travel words if you’re planning a trip to the tournament.
As of 20 September 2015, there will be 10 host cities where matches will be held, all of which are located in European Russia. Despite the distance between cities being large, if you can plan your trip around two cities, it will be a very manageable amount of travel.
- St. Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург, Петербург, Питер) – What needs to be said about this fantastic city? Located on the Baltic coast, St. Petersburg is the most beautiful metropolis in Russia. Home to FC Zenit, the Zenit Arena will be the host venue in St. Pete.
- Kazan (Казань) – Kazan is the capital of Tartarstan and a culturally and religiously diverse city. Home of FC Rubin Kazan, the Kazan Arean will be the host venue in the Tatar capital.
- Saransk (Саранск) – One of the smaller host cities, Saranask is an historic Russian city located just under 400 miles east of Moscow. Mordovia Arena, which is currently under construction, will be the host venue for 2018 and will be the future home of FC Mordovia Saransk.
- Moscow (Москва) – As the capital of the Russian Federation, Russia has seen countless fantastic sporting events. From the 1980 Summer Olympics to the 2009 Champions League Final, Moscow will be a great host for both group stage matches and the final, which will be held in the historic Luzhniki Stadium.
- Yekaterineburg (Екатеринбург) – One of the largest cities in Russia and located at the foot of the Ural Mountains, Yekaterinburg will host matches in its Central Stadium, which is currently being updated for 2018.
- Kaliningrad (Калининград) – Despite being a Russian exclave surrounded by EU countries and the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad will play host to matches in its new Baltika Arena. Kaliningrad is easily excessable from the EU (Poland and Lithuania). The stadium will be the new home to FC Baltika Kaliningrad.
- Nizhny Novgorod (Нижний Новгород) – Located about 250 miles east of Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod is an ancient Russian town where one can experience Russia’s medieval past. The new stadium, which is currently under construction, will play host to matches in 2018 and will be future home to FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod.
- Rostov-on-Don (Ростов-на-Дону) – More recently known for being a staging ground for Russia’s military intervention into Ukraine, Rostov is a beautiful port city located on the Don river delta. Rostov will host matches in its new Levberdon Stadium in 2018 and also be the home venue for FC Rostov.
- Volgograd (Волгоград) – Formerly known as Stalingrad (Сталинград), Volgograd has a long history. Many people know it from the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the most pivotal battles in WW2. In 2018 Volgograd will be hosting matches in its new Victory Stadium.
- Samara (Самара) – Located in the far Southeast of European Russia, Samara is famous for its production of rocket materials used for the Russian space program. Matches in 2018 will be held at the new Cosmos Stadium, which will also be the future home of FC Krylia Sovetov Samara.
Stay tuned for more information about the 2018 World Cup in the coming months. World Cup Qualifiers start this fall and the cup will be here before you know it!.