How To Say Goodbye In Russian | Pronunciation and Options!

There are several ways to say goodbye in Russian. First, the most common and usual way to say goodbye in Russian:

Google Translate got this one absolutely right! (Google, however, did get “hello” in Russian (mostly) wrong!).

To say goodbye in Russian, you say “до свидания” (Pronounced “dasvidaniya”).

Now listen to the pronunciation of goodbye in Russian:

If this is your first day in Russia, and it seems difficult, I will teach you a little secret my friends and I used in the 90’s during my first trip to Russia. FULL DISCLOSURE: This is incredibly juvenile. We would say “dogspeedonya”. Our Russian friends would look mildly confused, but catch the meaning and reply “до свидания”!.

Visas to Russia, the Easy Way

You’ve made a new Russian friend. But do you know which way to say “goodbye”?

As with most things Russian, you will be loved and approved as a foreigner if you learn just this one phrase (“dasvidaniya”), but you will be a champion if you learn a few more situational phrases:

  • The informal goodbye: Пока (pronounced “pahkah”) is the simplest departure phrase. It is to be used with friends when you will see them again in a reasonably short period of time. The most obvious English parallel phrase would be “see you later”. If you are in expectionally mirthful spirits you can also do a bubbly “Пока, пока!”. It’s sort of like the English “bye-bye!”.
  • The forever goodbye: Прощай (pronounced “proshchai”) is useful at funerals or how you say goodbye to your Russian girlfriend if you are having an exceptionally dramatic breakup. I suppose if your Russian friend was immenently embarking on a round-the-world trip on a rowboat, this departure phrase could also be useful. Otherwise, be careful of this one. 🙂
  • The courteous goodbye: “Всего доброго!” (pronounced “vsevo dobrovo”) or “всего хорошего!” (pronounced “vsevo horoshevo”). This is what I use to say goodbye to taxi drivers when getting out of the car. Seems to be the Russian goodbye of choice after a friendly chat with someone you aren’t closely acquainted with. Also, often goes like this: Всего доброго! До свидания!”.

There are more ways to say goodbye in Russian, “До встречи”, for example.

What other ways do you know to say goodbye in Russian, and in which situations should they be used, or not used? Comment below!

How To Say Hello In Russian | Correct Pronunciation

One of the first words you will want to learn when starting to learn Russian, or before traveling to Russia is how to say “Hello” in Russian.

This post will teach you how to say “Hello” in Russian, and also teach you some other common Russian greetings, and also provide guidance on the cultural nuance surrounding each word.

How To Say Hello In Russian

The Russian word for Hello is “Здравствуйте”. It is pronounced “zdravstvuyte“. Now this might seem intimidating at first (four consonants in a row!?!), but please give me a chance to teach, and give yourself a chance to learn!

It is important to learn this form of the word “hello” in Russian if you will be in any kind of formal contact with any Russians. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s listen to how to pronounce “Hello” in Russian:

It is too bad that the Russian language can be discouraging at “hello”. But I guarantee that if you have fun with this tongue-twisting greeting on repeat, you will most certainly delight and impress the Russian-speaking people that you meet. This might sound strange, but you need to practice so that you can begin to “feel the sound in your mouth”. And you will be encouraged that even if you don’t pronounce exactly right, they will still be impressed at your effort, and over time you can drop a Russian “Hello” like the Russian mafia boss that you are.

One common mistake that I hear particularly with English speakers when they first start pronouncing the word Hello in Russian is actually the final syllable. It is “Tye”, and it is one syllable (not “tee-ye”, just “tye”). For some reason, when I first learned this word I would say something like “Zdrastvuche”. And I started noticing that this was a common mistake. Now again, your Russian-speaking friends will be very kind to you about this, but make a particular effort to enunciate the “T” at the end and not switch it out with a a “ch” sound.

Visas to Russia, the Easy Way

FUN FACT: The Russian word for “Hello”, “Здравствуйте”, literally means “Be healthy!”. Now, of course, on most days Russians aren’t thinking about this deep meaning when they’re greeting each other. But sometimes your Russian friend might say “Hello” to you a bit more slowly with meaning in their eyes, and you can tell they aren’t just saying “hi”, they are wishing you health and that’s a very special moment for sure.

This brings us to…

How To Say “Hi” In Russian

I was sincerely shocked today when I googled “How to say hello in Russian” and received this result:

Google Translate is normally quite good, but I consider this to be a glaring error. The Russian words for “hi” and “hello” are very much dependent on the situation.

The Russian word for “Hi” is “Привет”. This word is pronounced “Pree-vyet” and is two syllables. This is, of course, considerably more simple than the Russian word for “Hello”, but before we work on the nuance of the pronunciation of the Russian word for “Hi”, allow me to provide some warning.

WARNING: Only say “Hi” in Russian if you are greeting a close friend, someone considerably younger than you, or if you are of a more youthful age, you can use this greeting when meeting someone who is your age.

I have seen foreigners walk into business meetings in Russia. They had found “Zdra-stvu-tye” to be too challenging, so they just went with “Pree-vyet” when greeting their new Russian counterparts. They were immediately and permanently banished to Siberia as a result. Kidding, of course, the Russians are always kind in these situations, BUT the foreigners started the meeting by demonstrating an ignorance to Russian cultural code. Which perhaps is not the best kickoff into the Motherland.

The two best ways to show that you are new to Russia are: 1) Wearing a hat like this. 2) Using the wrong form of greeting.

The most common mistake I hear (and again the same mistake I made early on) in saying “Hi” in Russian is turning it into three syllables. What I often hear is “Pree-vee-yet”. That is incorrect. Instead, work on making it two syllables: “Pree-vyet”. Again, repetition will help you “feel” it better as you speak.

Here’s an interesting tutorial on the pronunciation of the Russian “Hi”:

What If You’re Not Sure Which Greeting To Use?

Being unsure of what Russian greeting to use can be a somewhat amusing cultural dilemma, that quite frankly, I still run into from time to time even after living here for 23 years!

So, what do I do?

In situations where I am unsure which Russian greeting to us, I go with:

Good Morning: Dobroe Utro / Доброе утро

Here is the pronunciation:

Good Day: Dobriy Den’ / Добрый день

Listen to the pronunciation:

Good Evening: Dobriy Vecher / Добрый вечер

Pronunciation of “Good Evening” in Russian:


  1. It is important to use good morning strictly until noon, or else you might get a friendly lecture on getting out of bed earlier.
  2. Alternatively, if you start using “Good day” at about 11 a.m., you will be quietly respected for being such an early bird. I don’t understand this, particularly in a nation that starts work quite a bit later than where I grew up in Ohio, but there it is.
  3. Only greet a Russian ONCE per day! If you greet them twice they might give you an abrupt “мы уже сегодня здоровались”. This literally means “we have already greeted each other today”, with the subplot being “did you forget me already?”.

I hope this is helpful and takes away some of the complications of a Russian greeting. I do believe it is important to work on this, because wherever you are in the world, the first impression is a lasting impression. And if you demonstrate a sincere effort to greet your Russian-speaking comrade in their native language, you will have won them over from the get-go.

Now that you’ve learned how to say “Hello” in Russian, take a few minutes to learn how to shake hands in Russia.

Business in Russia | How to have a successful ‘first date’ with your Russian partner

Russians will often want a very quick and frank discussion so that they can understand whether the business relationship is worth their time, shares Andy Frecka, an experienced business negotiator living in Russia.

As an American who has now called Russia home for 19 years, I love negotiating on behalf of Russian businesses with their Western counterparts.



Lately, I’ve taken special notice of the question “Do they have money?” often within 15 minutes of the beginning of the meeting. This question can take different forms such as “Are they ready to sign?” or “Do they understand why we are meeting?” but the point is the same, the Russian businessperson will want to quickly understand whether their Western counterpart is worth their time.

I may not know much, but I am well aware that it’s not usually a good idea to ask a girl to marry you on the first date. With that, I often find myself encouraging my Russian friends to not rush things, but to simply enjoy the process.

Unfortunately, it is often a misunderstanding early on a first date that can spell the end of what could be a fantastic romantic relationship, and the same is true in business.

Based on the first date question “Do they have money?” here’s a pair of paradoxes I have learned while working for Russian businesses:

1. Russians aren’t famous for punctuality, but once the meeting starts, they will want to move forward quickly

Russians will often want a very quick and frank discussion so that they can understand whether the business relationship is worth their time. Americans, on the other hand, will usually show up to the meeting on time, but will want to create a trust building process that will seem bafflingly lengthy to the Russians. The problem is that the Russians will understand this process to be a signal of disinterest by the Western partners.

2. Russians are well known for bureaucracy, but are more spontaneous than their Western counterparts

Relating to the previous point, if they understood that the Westerner is not interested in partnership, they will often simply begin looking for other partners, without completing the process. With all that Russia has to offer the world, I think this is incredibly unfortunate. This is why I am spending more and more time working with Russians in better understanding how to relate to Westerners.

So, what can you do if the timing between you and your Russian counterpart is out of sync?  Before judging and walking away after just the first date, consider the following.

Both the Western and Russian points of view are incredibly pragmatic… in their own way

You want transparency, the Russian wants to get to work and make sure they will get paid. Fortunately, these two points do not conflict with each other.

Russians value authority over transparency

You will put them at ease if you start the meeting showing what you are capable of, rather than using “small talk” to get a feel of who they are. “Small talk” can always come later, but it is often confusing to Russians if it is used towards the beginning of the talks. (Alternatively, I teach Russians to relax and enjoy the small talk at the beginning of meetings, if that is the way the Westerner wants to start.)

Explain your company’s process by using stories

I was recently working for a Russian company which was in partnership talks with an American company. The American who had come for the talks did a fantastic job of explaining how his company had worked out a similar arrangement already with a company in China. This gave us an idea of how they viewed the process of partnership formation, showed us that it was already working, and also gave us a good understanding of the length of the process.

Stay engaged with your Russian counterpart as your company goes through its process

If you keep silent, the Russians might understand you are not interested, and look elsewhere for potential partners, and you might lose a fantastic deal.

Russia has much to offer the world, of course, in natural resources, manufacturing, and technology. I have also been intrigued as of late, in how much Russia has to offer in educational systems, the arts, and mind-blowing tourism destinations.

So, don’t miss out on what could be years of mutually beneficial relationship for your business, simply because of a small misunderstanding on your first date.

Andy Frecka was born and raised in the great state of Ohio in the USA, but for the past 19 years is proud to call Russia his home. He is the founder and marketing director of Expat Flat, a Moscow real estate agency, and in recent years has enjoyed working in negotiations between various Russian and Western businesses. Andy also runs the Russian language blog “Amerikanets,”speaks frequently on foreign business relations, and is the author of Matryoshka: Как вести бизнес с иностранцами (How to do business with foreigners).


This post originally appeared in Russia Beyond.  You can check it out here.

Visas to Russia for Americans and Canadians

As an American who has made Russia my home for the past 20 years, I am often asked about how best to get a visa to Russia. Truth be told, I have been here so long that I have lost track of many of the visa requirement changes for newcomers to Russia.

With that, I have found myself frequently recommending the services of Marcus Hudson of Let’s Russia for Americans and Canadians who are looking to get visas to Russia.

I asked Marcus what some of the most frequently asked questions are for folks who are looking to apply for Russian visas and how he would answer. Here they are. Please keep in mind that the Russia visa application process can vary per country, so these questions and answers are at times specific to Americans and Canadians who wish to apply for visas to Russia.

Can I do business on a tourist visa? Can I travel around Russia on a business visa?
Yes and yes. But if you have a tourist visa and you’re doing some business, have intentions to do tourism as well. It’s best if can prove your intentions in the rare case you’re asked by passport control.

Will I be at risk of visa denial or getting arrested in Russia if I have served in the US military?
You will if you are a spy or if you are involved in spy activities. In all other cases, no. Having served in the military does not disqualify you from getting a visa to Russia. In circumstances when you have or had high security clearance to sensitive information or highly-qualified specialist in military technology, the Russian government most likely already knows about you.

I’m going to Russia to start doing business. I understand I need an invitation letter from a Russian organization. How can I get a business invitation letter to Russia if I haven’t establish business contacts in Russia yet?
This is a common question from small businesses, entrepreneurs, self-employed and digital nomads. In order to make business contacts you need to travel to Russia. In order to travel to Russia, you need an invitation from a business contact. And around it goes….
The best option is order a business invitation letter from an intermediary like Let’s Russia because we have contacts in Russia that will legitimately invite you as a potential business partner of theirs. We also assist in drafting the accompanying business letter to reflect actual intentions and plans for your trip. Some Russian consulates have been requiring an explanatory letter from the Russian organization inviting guests.


Marcus Hudson of Let’s Russia

How can I get a visa transferred to a new passport if my old one has been damaged or I’ve run out of pages?
You can have a visa transferred in Houston for $69 if the original visa was issued in Houston. Otherwise, you would need to apply for a new visa.

I was adopted from Russia and never had a Russian passport. How can I get a Russian visa?
Typically, you don’t. You have to apply for your Russian passport. This takes awhile because you’ll need to gather proof of your citizenship first. Russian children who are adopted from Russia do not lose their citizenship.

In which situations should an American apply for a 3 year multiple entry visa?
There’s no reason not to apply for the multiple entry visa! Starting March 2019, the consulate fees are all the same price, regardless of visa type or number of entries. With this change, we recommend applying for the multi-entry visa up to 3 years. If you’re passport is expiring before then, you can still apply for a multi-entry visa up to 6 months before your passport expires.

Can members of the same family travel to Russia on different visa types?
Yes. But minors accompanying parents usually need to have the same visa type as their parents.

How do I decide which visa to apply for?
Many people want to travel to Russia for a specific period of time. That’s their priority. They don’t care so much about the purpose of travel. We’ve created a specific tool to help people through this process. Check it out here. This is useful for most passport holders, not just Americans.
This way, you can decide on the type of visa based on the time they want to spend in Russia rather than the other way around, and you are not limited by time based on your purpose of visit.
However, we recommend all our customers that the rule of thumb is that when going through passport control, you need to be prepared to answer, “What’s the purpose of your visit?” You should not get a business visa if you do not intend to do business.

These questions are perhaps just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applying for a visa to Russia. That is why I always recommend using a visa service to take away any stress related to the red tape. I am happy to recommend Marcus and the Let’s Russia team as I have personally seen both their professionalism and patience in answering the many questions that can arise before and during the Russia visa application process. You can begin the visa application process with Let’s Russia by filling out this quick form here.

Russia is open for tourism and business. To simplify the visa process, I recommend a service like Let’s Russia.  Your situation might be unique and it is helpful to have someone working with you and answering your questions as you apply. We look forward to seeing you in the Motherland! 🙂

Couch Potatoes Cheer For Food Delivery In Russia

If you thought the McDonald’s drive-thru was lazy, Russia has brought the art of apathy to a whole new level with automated food delivery service.

There are two main food delivery services in Russia:  Yandex Food and Delivery Club.

Yandex Food is in 24 Russian cities while Delivery Club, is only in Moscow, from what I see.

In the end, Yandex will win… at everything, in Russia.  They are taking over, from taxis to money transfer systems, now real estate, and much more.  If you think of Yandex just as “Russia’s search engine”, you are missing out.  It is much more.

And that now includes swarms of young men with thermos-box backpacks, hustling and bustling through the streets of major Russian cities, rushing steaming victuals to the famished masses, who are too lazy to do anything more than stand up from their couch and open their front door.

These food delivery guys are improving their physical condition, while the rest of the population is rapidly degrading.  If I were into conspiracy theories…


In the event of a zombie apocalypse, these will be the only survivors in Moscow

Not only is pushing buttons on your cell phone easier than brushing your teeth, combing your hair, and changing out of your pajamas… it’s also usually quite a bit cheaper.

A Burger King bacon cheeseburger, 3 Whoppers (w/cheese), 3 medium fries, one order of “village-style” fries and 15 chicken nuggets for 500 rubles.  That’s about $7.69 (USD).  And the best part is, that’s the price only if it’s delivered.  If you made the effort to put on your shoes and coat and walk outside and breathe fresh air, the price would be considerably more.

All the nutrition, without all of the cost and exercise:  Here’s how my wife bought all of that fantastic food, delivered to our home, for our kids, on an evening when she and I were out.  Delivery Club was having a promotional sale:  If you spent 800 rubles or more, they would subtract 300 rubles from the total and give you 15 chicken nuggets.  And yes, the delivery itself is included in the cost.


How did the creators of the movie Wall-E see our future so clearly?

These food delivery services aren’t limited to fast food.  It seems any restaurant that wants to stay in business had better link itself to the service, including even some of the lesser-known establishments, like this small Indian restaurant.  So, whether you fancy sushi, pizza, shish-kabobs, vegan, or a steak, you can just push a few buttons on your iPhone and lay back and wait for the doorbell to ring.

And because these food delivery systems are incredibly efficient and convenient, they are also very disruptive.  It will be very interesting to see how it affects the restaurant business, and over time real estate value, particularly for restaurant locations.

And the other night when my wife and I were out and our kids were devouring Burger King at home?  Well, she and I were sitting with some friends in Vokrug Sveta, which I sort of refer to as a “trendy international food court”, and watching the food delivery guys rush past, with their thermos boxes.

And that’s when we got a fantastic Moscow money-saving idea:  why not walk into a busy Moscow food court, sit down at a table, and then order delivery from the restaurant of your choice to your table.  Pretty sure it would work, you would save money, and maybe some time.  And why embark on that arduous expedition to the cash register when you can just sit in a chair and look at your cell phone?

If you try that genius idea, please be sure to let me know how it goes.  As for now, I’m feeling hungry, and if I were to go into the kitchen, I might need to put food into the microwave to warm it up and then put my plate in the dishwasher.  Seems pretty complicated.  I might as well just pick up my phone and see what sales Delivery Club is offering today…




How To Say “Happy New Year” In Russian (It Depends!!!)

So, you are wanting to wish a Russian friend a “Happy New Year” and you go onto the internet for some help.

This should be a straightforward task, and Google Translate is indeed rapidly improving, but unfortunately you will most likely make a situational error in congratulating your Russian friends on their nation’s most important holiday.

Now to be sure, Google Translate is correct:  The Russian version of Happy New Year” is “S Novim Godom”(С Новым Годом).  This literally means “with the new year” and the “I congratulate you” is implied (I always wondered why Happy Birthday in Russian was “With your birthday”).

But here is a Russian congratulation nuance:  You will only be absolutely correct to say “S Novim Godom!” on New Year’s Day, starting at midnight.

But at any moment before or after New Year’s Day you are to use different phrases in Russian.

Before New Year’s Day, including December 31st (!), you are to congratulate with the coming New Year.  This is an awkward phrase in English to be sure, but shows the importance of not only understanding a language, but also the situations that its culture presents.

“With the coming New Year” in Russian is “S Nastupayushchim Novim Godom” (С наступающим Новым Годом).  Or you can simply say “With the Coming!” (“S nastuypayushchim!”).  And if you think that’s difficult to say, try to pronounce this short Russian word.

Снимок экрана 2019-01-01 в 10.17.28.png

It’s interesting that Google translates “With the coming New Year” as simply “Happy New Year”, which is only situationally correct for the English language.

After New Year’s Day you can congratulate “With the New Year’s that has come”, which in Russian is “S Nastupivshim Novim Godom” (С наступившим Новым Голом).  Or simply “S nastupivshim”.

Now, if you’ve made it this far in this blog post and really want to show off to your Russian friends, Orthodox Christmas is on January 7th.  That means you can say “S nastupivshim i s nastupayushchim!”.  That means “With that which has come (implied New Year) and that which is to come (implying Christmas)”.

As with most simple social interactions like saying hello or shaking hands, if you do it the simple way (in this case “S Novym Godom!” regardless of the day you are congratulating), your Russian friends will simply appreciate your effort to speak their language and show you that you are impressed.  But with just a bit more resolution (maybe New Year’s resolution?) to not only speak Russian well, but understand it’s many nuances you will knock your Russian friend’s socks off.

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Because Grandfather Frost and Santa Claus are two very different personalities and the way we celebrate holidays in Russia, including New Year’s Day are different.  So, let’s enjoy the fine points of the holiday diversity together.

And if nothing else, isn’t it great to know that human intellect hasn’t been entirely replaced (just yet) by Google?

Happy New Year, my friends!

Top Ten Russia New Year Lifehacks

It’s about to happen.  When it comes to the Russia New Year festivities, you won’t be able to defeat them, so just join them.  Joining Russia for the frivolities will become nearly painless with these Russia New Year Lifehacks.

Here are my Top Ten Russia New Year Lifehacks:

  1. Don’t go anywhere in the week leading up to New Year’s Day.  The traffic will be of Biblical proportions.  And the check-out line at Auchan will be even worse.  I remember in past years a 6 and a half hour traffic jam and a 90-minute checkout line.  Instead, if someone suggests meeting, simply say that it would be best to meet “after the holidays”.  They will understand.  And since, at least in Moscow, you can get literally anything delivered to your home, just do that.
  2. If you make the mistake of going outside, be sure to congratulate everyone.  But it is a rookie mistake to say “Happy New Year” at any moment before midnight on New Year’s.  Instead, you must say “With the Coming New Year”.  Be sure to say this to the taxi driver, cashier, literally everyone you cross paths with.  Saying “Happy New Year” or “With The New Year” is reserved for roughly 15 minutes of the year and is almost immediately followed by a phrase that goes something like “With The New Year That Has Now Arrived”.  (I swear I’m not making this up).
  3. If someone asks you what your New Year’s plans are, they might be inviting you somewhere.  If you prefer to stay at home, make something up about your plans.  Like Bali or Dubai.  But if you accept the invitation, do not try to understand what you are witnessing, just observe… and enjoy.
  4. In Russia, the New Year’s party really starts at midnight.  Anything you see or experience before then is simply a warm-up procedure.
  5. It’s worth going to the city center (of any Russian city) ONCE in your lifetime (and once only) for the fireworks display and general frivolities.


    New Year’s Fireworks over the Kremlin

  6. There can never be too much mandarin orange or mayonnaise consumption in one sitting.  Grated beets over salted herring… with mayonnaise, is a thing.  It’s fantastic.
  7. Don’t try to do anything productive until after the Russian Old New Year.  Yes, that’s also a thing.  Engaging in commerce or any productive activity really during the first two weeks of January in Russia is not.  Driving long-distance, however, is a thing.  Because there will be no traffic.
  8. Find out which museums during the holidays are free of charge in your city.  Feel super cultural/super budget-friendly by visiting them.  This web-site that I know nothing about, provides a list of free museums for Moscow and St. Petersburg during the 2019 holidays (use the translate feature of your web browser).
  9. Plan a wallet-friendly short getaway to a more obscure Russian city that is not too close and not too far.  If you are in St. Petersburg, I recommend going to Vyborg, and if you are in Moscow, I recommend Kostroma.
  10. There might be a movie about a man who mixes up his Moscow apartment with an apartment in St. Petersburg.  This clever premise is followed by a painfully slowly escalating series of events.  If you are feeling reckless, suggest to your friends that you watch the modern sequel instead (it escalates more quickly).

TOP TEN Differences Between Grandfather Frost And Santa Claus

BONUS CONTENT:  I recently congratulated the subscribers of my Russian video blog from a Russian dacha.  Enjoy… and click the CC button at the bottom right of the screen for English subtitles!  And depending on when you read this, I congratulate you with the upcoming/New Year/Arrived New Year.

Three Types of Banks In Russia

Once you have made the decision to move to Russia, you will be faced with a long list of questions such as where to live, where your children will go to school, or even how to use the local supermarket.

Some foreigners in Russia want to immediately open a local bank account upon arrival, and others think they can get by without it.  If you have a bank card from your home country, and are not in Russia long term, it might not be worth opening a local bank account.  But having a local account is, of course, important if you are employed locally, and makes a whole list of everyday tasks simpler such as paying for your cellphone service and other bills. – Learn Russian with Free Podcasts

With that, many folks simply choose a bank brand name that they recognize and trust.  For example, many Europeans choose Raiffeisen Bank.  As an American, I had the thought of going to Citibank some years ago, but found that opening an account there was more complicated than at a Russian bank.  It’s worth mentioning here that although choosing a Western brand bank might lead to a more Western-style  customer experience, technically speaking, regardless of the bank name, you are dealing with a local Russian bank.

Other expats simply choose the bank that was recommended by their Russian employer.

But understanding the types of banks in Russia, can help you choose which one is the best fit for your personal banking needs.

Let’s start off with some basic understanding of banking in Russia:

  • The Russia Central Bank is cleaning up the banking system, and since the beginning of 2015, more than 300 banks have been closed, according to
  •  Most of those banks are relatively small. The chances that you would find and then choose a bank that would then be liquidated is slim, but it happened to this blogger some years ago so it could happen to you.  If it does happen, you are automatically insured by the government for up to 1.4 million rubles in your account. This is why some folks hold accounts in multiple banks.
  • Also, in the unlikely event that your bank is closed, you will receive your money two weeks later.  In my case, I was quite relieved to have no issues recovering my money.
  • To open a bank account in Russia, you will need your passport, visa, visa registration, and most likely a notarized passport translation.  In most cases, this is enough to open an account.
  • Make sure that the bank has great online banking features and a good banking app for your phone.  Nearly all Russian banks do, and the great thing is that, in most cases, with a good banking app, you will rarely every need to wait in line at the bank ever again, after opening the account.
  • The Russian Central Bank has made a list of “banks of systemic significance”.  In other words, these are banks that they will save at all costs.  If you expect to hold large amounts of money in your account, it might be worth checking that your bank is on that list.

Visas to Russia for Canadians and Americans

With those points, in mind, it is also helpful to understand that there are three main types of banks in Russia.  Understanding these categories, might also help you in choosing the best bank for your personal needs.


There is a high chance that you will end up at Sberbank, but it is good to know all of your banking options in Russia.

The Three Main Types of Banks In Russia:

  1. State-Owned Banks:  These include the likes of Sberbank, VTB, and Rosselkhozbank.  And let’s be honest here, Sberbank is the uncontested king of Russian banking, and there is a very high chance you will end up there.  In my experience, Sberbank has a great online banking system.  Also, since they are used by such a high percentage of the Russian population, you can easily send money to your Russian friends with no attached commission, if that is a situation you foresee.  If you haven’t been to Russia in the past 10 or 15 years, you will be blown away at how Sberbank has changed.  At the same time, there are three things that perennially bewilder me about Sberbank:  1) Perpetually long ATM lines.  2) The length of time it takes them to make some bank cards and other bank documents on demand.  3) The fact that Sberbank is broken up or divided among the Russian regions and if you are in a different province and have a serious question about your account, they often can’t help you.  Having said that… if you are not in a major Russian city, Sberbank is most likely the (only) way to go.
  2. Commercial Banks:  These include the likes of Raiffeisen, Alfa Bank, and Otkritie.  As mentioned earlier, Raiffeisen is used by a lot of expats, and most of them report a customer-friendly experience.  Otkritie is an example of a “systemic significant” bank that ran into trouble and was bailed out.  I personally use Alfa-Bank.  I find the online banking easy to use.  If I have a question, they quickly answer in chat via my phone app (in Russian), and even quickly answer the phone.  I helped a fellow expat open an account in Alfa some months ago, and we walked out 20 minutes after arriving.  She already had her bank card, with her name on it, in her hand.
  3. Online Banks:  Banks without any physical retail locations are becoming increasingly popular in Russia.  These include the likes of Tinkoff and Rocketbank.  In most cases, you can fill out your account application online and, if necessary, the bank manager will visit you.  You will find that folks that use online banks in Russia, are a lot like vegans.  They will love telling you about their experience.

Often the most hotly contested discussions in Russia expat forums are around which banks are the best.  Often, our opinion of a bank will be based on a single customer-service experience or two.  With that in mind, the level of customer service in Russian banks is astronomically higher than it was some years ago.  And I hope that understanding the background of the  banking system and the types of banks will help point you in the right direction as you make your choice for local banking in Russia.

What bank did you choose in Russia?  Any great customer-service stories?  How about nightmarish tales?  Comment below.

Could You Pass A Russian Driver’s License Exam?

Maybe your life journey took a left turn, and now you’re googling “how to get a driver’s license in Russia”.

But happily, in most cases (if you are here “temporarily”, i.e. on a visa), you won’t need to get a Russian driver’s license, just getting a notarized translation of your foreign license will be enough.  That’s great news, because, if you’re like me and are now living on a residency permit, you need to get a Russian driver’s license.

In my case, I had already been living on a visa in Russia for 10 years, and had thus simply been using my American driver’s license.

But to obtain the Russian driver’s license, I first had to go through driver’s ed.  I scoffed at the idea at first.  I mean, I had a lot of driving experience, and had been driving in Russia for 10 years.  But I quickly learned that Russian driving school is no laughing matter.  Because Russian driver’s ed prepares you for an exam of 20 random questions (chosen out of 800 total questions that you must know the answers to), and any more than two mistakes on the 20 questions (in Russian, of course) would be a fail and require going through the examination process again.

Now to illustrate some of the Russia driver’s license examination questions…

I have taken care to choose sample exam questions that support the view that Americans are simplistic and Russians are complicated.  I also hope, in the spirit of nearly all my blog posts, that the chosen sample questions will create more questions than answers.

As examples for this no-holds-barred standoff, I have used the driver’s exam from the nation of Russia and the State of Ohio.  In America, each state has its own driving rules- which to my Russian friends is absolutely bizarre.

VISAS TO RUSSIA:  A Simple Process, Starting Here…

I was recently standing in a line, just as I do for much of my life in Russia.  This particular line was a two-hour line to register and pay for the privilege of proving to a doctor that I’m not a drug addict.  I started chatting with some of my fellow queue occupants, and we began discussing the American driver’s license vs. the Russian driver’s license.  They could not understand why I couldn’t just trade in my American license for a Russian license without going to driver’s ed and going through the examination procedure.  I explained that the driving rules in America are completely different than in Russia.  “For example,” I said, “in America there is no such thing as the main road.” This was a shocking epiphany for my fellow queue comrades, and they immediately asked the obvious question: “Well then, how do you know who has the right of way?”  To which, I replied, “There are signs at all intersections.”  They then looked at each other in awe and repeated, “In America, there are signs at all intersections”.

So, without further ado, I present:

The Russian Driver’s License Exam vs. The American Driver’s License Exam:

How Many Questions And How What Constitutes A Pass Or Fail:

In Russia, you must learn the answer to 800 questions.  These questions are broken into 40 different possible exams of 20 questions each.  You will be given one of these exams of 20 questions.  Answering more than 2 wrong is a FAIL.

In Ohio, I don’t know the total number of possible questions, but you will also be also asked a total of 20 questions.  If you answer more than 5 wrong you are a FAILURE.

Can You Take The Test In A Foreign Language?:

In America, yes you can.

In Russia, you also can take the test in a foreign language, as long as for you Russian is a foreign language.

Round 1:  “Not Being Blind vs. Reinforcing Stereotypes”


Please remember, if you get this question wrong, you only get four more mistakes. I am reminded of a few years back when I had to take the Ohio driver’s license test and there was a teenage girl taking the test next to me.  She was clearly distraught and kept on moaning while saying over and over, “I just don’t know…”.


Are you required to turn on your left hand turn signal in this situation?  Yes or no?  Ok, ok, I mainly chose this question because it included a picture of some goats.

Round 2: “Which Headlights To Use vs. How To Yield”

If you got this one wrong, you only get three more wrong answers.

You are planning to continue driving straight.  Who should you yield the road to?  a) Only the car. b)Only the bus and the car.  c) All other vehicles.

“C” is marked as the answer and it is the wrong answer.  You only get one more mistake out of 20.

Round 3:  “Avoiding Blindness vs. Understanding the Policeman’s Signal”.

Congratulations.  If you answered this question correctly, you have avoided a temporary sight impairment.

Which direction are you permitted to continue driving?  a) Only straight.  b) Only straight and to the right. c) Only straight, to the left and a u-turn.  d) In any direction.

I couldn’t be more delighted to inform you that the correct answer is “a”.

Round 4:  “Exiting.”

In Russia, #2 is socially acceptable.

In which direction can you can continue driving from the middle lane?  a) Left or a u-turn.  b) Straight or to the left.  c) Only to the left.

I think the right answer is “a”, but I deleted numerous mental files after completing my Russian driver’s ed program and passing the test with no mistakes.

Round 5:  “Avoiding Death vs. Helping Others Avoid Death”.

May I once again remind you that if you got this one wrong, you still get a few more chances?  I mean, if you don’t die.

What should you do first to administer aid to an accident victim who is lying on the ground without visible injuries, but in an unconscious state?  a) Put some cotton dipped in ammonia under their nose, lift their head and allow them to sniff.  b) Put some material under their legs and urgently call an ambulance.  c) Tilt their had back, open their mouth, if necessary clear their mouth of any foreign objects, check their pulse and breathing, urgently call an ambulance.

I do love the fact that the Russian driving test almost always has first aid questions.  It really makes sense, and could be particularly helpful if you are sharing the road with an American that got the answer wrong on their question in Round 5.

Did you keep score?  

Who won?  Whose Driver’s License Exam should be the world standard?  Whose drivers would you be more afraid to share the road with?  Do you see why Americans driving in Russia should learn the rules?