The days are dwindling until the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The atmosphere is buzzing with excitement as we prepare to root for our favorite Olympians. Knowing how busy travel can be for such an event, we’ve gathered a few tips for anyone lucky enough to attend the games.
Weather9: Sochi’s unique location between the Black Sea and Caucasus mountain range makes it one of the few parts of Russia that is a subtropical climatic zone. Much of the city that lines the coast receives little to no snow but as you move towards the mountains, the snow conditions in February and March are ideal for winter sports.
Money Matters4: As a general travel rule of thumb, carry cash in the local currency wherever you go. The Russian ruble (RUB) is the only currency officially accepted in Sochi. If you don’t exchange money before landing in Russia, all it takes is a passport at an official money exchange location such as a bank. You can also exchange money at the airport but exchange rates are typically better at banks outside of airports or other transportation locations.
Although many locations accept credit cards, remember that some smaller shops, restaurants, or hotels may not.
Due to the influx of people during the games, it is highly likely that the roads in Sochi are going to be extremely busy. The U.S. Embassy recommends that tourists use Sochi’s public transportation such as the subway and city buses. Also, be cautious when crossing roads and intersections, as many drivers in Russia may not stop for or yield to pedestrians.
Travel to Sochi
Packing2,6: Weather can change drastically anytime so when packing clothes, think about dressing in layers. Because of Sochi’s subtropical climate due to its geographical location between the Caucasus mountain range and Black sea, the average temperature in winter during the day is about 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
Besides clothing, another helpful thing to pack would be a Russian phrasebook. Sochi is a very diverse city, representing over 100 different ethnic groups, with Russian as the predominant language. It is possible that you may be unable to use English at times, so a phrasebook with key sentences to get around might come in handy.
And don’t forget to pack along a travel insurance plan provided by Travel Guard. Travel Guard can assist you in times of need, such as delayed or lost luggage, missing travel documents, or even medical emergencies.
Travel Documents3,4,8,9: Anyone traveling on a U.S. passport to Russia will definitely need a visa for entry and getting a head start on this can make travel simpler. In order to receive a visa from Russia, an application including the invitation issued by the hotel or accommodation location will need to be processed through the proper local Russian consulate. There are five Russian consulates located in the U.S., each presiding over their own areas, so ensure that visa applications are sent to the correct consulate.
The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington DC has placed the following message on their website for any foreign visitors that will be spectators in the game. Please check back often for any updates.
“With the upcoming XXII Olympic and XI Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi the simplification of visa formalities for foreign citizen-spectators of the Games are established.
Starting with December 1, 2013, spectators of the Games will be issued tourist visas for up to one month (including same-day processing), based on copies of tourist confirmation letters (electronic or facsimile copies of confirmations of reception of the foreign tourist), subject to presenting of the ticket for Olympic events or electronic confirmation of purchase obtained from the Organizing Committee “Sochi 2014” or its official ticket agents abroad, or registration card.
In order to create the most favorable conditions for visa services for foreign citizen-spectators of the Games at the Consular Division of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the USA and Russian visa application centers special “Olympic windows” are opened.”
Upon Arrival to Russia 4: Note that even after entry in to Russia, there are a few items that need to be done in order to complete the visa process. Foreign visitors to Russia must register within three days of their arrival at their hotel at which time the hotel will stamp the immigration form in your passport, completing the registration process. However, if a change in hotel occurs, registration to that hotel and a new stamp will need to be provided.
Additional Assistance in Sochi
The U.S. Department of State 2014 Winter Olympics page provides helpful information as final pre-travel checks and resources in the case you need assistance while abroad. During the games in Sochi, the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) unit will have an office to assist U.S. citizens with routine as well as emergency services5.
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