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Would you go to Russia on your gap year?

Monday 5th March 2012

Ever thought about travelling in Russia? Putin’s latest victory puts the country in a difficult position - but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. Vladimir Putin has just won his third election to cement another six years at the helm of the Russian government, so we’re going to look at whether visiting Russia would be a good or bad thing in this awkward time for the country. In his victory speech, Putin claimed he had won ‘an open and honest battle,’ yet even before the announcement there were rumours of cheating and rigging in parts of the massive country. But despite all this, what’s there for you, the gap year traveller, and is it worth visiting?

According to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, you need to check with them before travelling to popular destinations such as Moscow and St Petersburg. The FCO advises against all travel to the southern parts of the Russian Federation including those areas bordering Georgia and Azerbaijan (the North Caucasus). Large-scale protests may take place in Moscow after the election, but whether these come to fruition is yet to be seen. It has been reported that an extra six thousand police have been put on duty in the capital, Moscow, so if you do decide to go it would be best to wait a while for the situation to have died down. When there aren’t threats of protests and police on every corner, Moscow is quite a popular city for tourists. Steeped in a deep and fruitful history, the city has masses of sights such as St. Basil’s cathedral in Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre that attract visitors from around the globe. You are sure to find homage to the Second World War in and around the city, as well as in the many famous museums that are dotted around the city. There are also two major circuses that operate in Moscow, the State Circus and the Nikulin Circus, both of which are world-renown and tour the world each year - but there’s nothing quite like seeing the circus when it’s in its home, going all out. There is certainly plenty to keep you busy, and remember that’s just one of many cities in one of the biggest countries in the world.

Another massive tourist attraction of Russia is the Trans-Siberian Railway, that runs across the most of Russia from Moscow to Vladivostok. The epic journey on the world’s longest railway is something of a popular attraction amongst gap year travellers, and holds some historical and cultural importance with several films being set on the railway. As for working opportunities in Russia, getting a visa can be tricky enough, let alone a work permit, but if you look hard enough you could find a volunteering placement. There are many charities and organisations, such as homeless shelters and youth care groups, that will accept volunteer workers from abroad. However, it won’t be as straight forward as it would if you went through an organisation, as you might end up having to do a lot of the leg work yourself, i.e. visa arrangements, flights, etc. Whether you choose to do that, or simply visit Russia as a tourist after funding your gap year in the UK, you are sure to have a fantastic time as there is so much to do - you might just have to wait a while and keep yourself updated on the situation in the country before you head off.