Travel Information on Russia (part 2) – Budget Report

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This is part 2 of a 2-series Country Report on Russia. Here is part 1.

Note:

  • This budget report on East Russia covers our journey from Vladivostok to Ulan Ude, so don’t read this as a report on the whole of Russia.

This page with travel information focuses on the financial side of our trip.

We talk about:

  1. Money Matters
  2. Our Travel Budget
  3. Documentation
  4. Land Cruiser Maintenance
  5. Fuel and Gas Stations
  6. Public Transportation
  7. Sightseeing
  8. Accommodation & Camping
  9. Other Expenditures
  10. A Note on Drinking Water

Read More: Stories about Russia

1. Money Matters – General Issues

  • The Russian currency is rouble (RUB, or ₽).
  • In August 2018 the rate was 77 rouble to a euro.
  • Getting money from ATMs was easy. We mostly used Sberbank (Сбербанк) ATMs, which we found in all towns.
  • In supermarkets and at gas stations we paid cash or with our debit card.
  • Visa cards are widely accepted.

2. Our Travel Budget

  • Total days traveled in Russia: 95
  • When: October 2017 (5 days) / March – June 2018 (90 days)
  • Average distance covered: 79 kms/day
  • Average expenditure: €42 / day (2 persons)

Budget Report on Russia: Pie with different budget sections

Not included: health insurance, electronics, ferry crossing South Korea – Russia.

Notes on budget:

  • We have never had such a high average of kilometers/day. Especially during the first stage, from Vladivostok to Ulan Ude we covered enormous distances (averaging 200 kms/day). However, we slowed down considerably at Lake Baikal, camping a lot.
  • We had some unexpected expenses on the Land Cruiser such as household batteries giving up. For more on this, see #4 – the Land Cruiser.
  • ‘Documents’ ate a big part of the pie, mostly due to visas that need letters of invitations.
  • To get a business visa, we needed to travel to Russia on a tourist visa first. Hence we flew from Seoul to Vladivostok for 5 days. This explains the high costs of public transportation.
  • Food is very affordable (compared to Korea and Japan). Cheap places to eat along the way as well as in cities are the stolovayas, a kind of canteen that serves food from buffets.
  • Russia is a meat & cream eating country and because we don’t eat animal products, we cooked most of our meals ourselves.

Read More: Windshield Views from the Far East

3. Documentation

Visa

We first bought a tourist visa (in order to comply with the business visa regulations) and subsequently a business visa for a year (allowing us to be in the country for two times 90 days over a period of 180 days).

Both times the processing took about 10 days and paid about €65 for the visa and processing charges. However, there are more costs such as getting a letter of invitation.

All costs totaled a whopping €570. This has made Russia our most expensive country in terms of documents.

Because there is so much to say on the topic, I dedicated a separate blog to the topic.

Read More: Organizing your Visa for Russia

Temporary Import Document (TID)

When you get your vehicle off the ferry in Vladivostok, you will get a one-year Temporary Import Document. For details about the ferry crossing, see #6 – Public Transportation.

Yuri is the man you need to get all that organized. You pay for Yuri’s service, of course ($150) but the TID itself is free of charge.

Yuri Melnikov:

Note that the TID is valid for one year and that this includes Kazaksthan and Kyrgyzstan.

Read More: What is a Temporary Import Document

Car insurance

  • A vehicle insurance is mandatory in Russia. We got one with the help of Yuri (see above). Getting a car insurance make take some time, so plan ahead.
  • At the time of writing, Yuri said it was especially a pain in the ass to get insurance for foreign motorcycles so plan even more ahead.
  • We paid $215 for a one-year insurance (RUB 13500). Yuri paid for us and we paid him back in cash. You can get insurance for a shorter period of time but this is relatively more expensive (quote via Yuri: around $175 for 3 months).

4. Land Cruiser Maintenance

Fixing the rear lights once and for all.
We’re so grateful to have the original workshop manuals for our Land Cruiser. So when the speedo cable broke we could fairly easily get a replacement.

Of course, there was the regular oil change maintenance and such, but that costs very little. Actually the first oil change and check up was complimentary by our Instagram friend Roma.

The Land Cruiser, however, was in for a bit of a rough start. One of the household batteries gave up, which means we had to replace both (24-volt system). They were expensive AGM batteries that we bought only 2,5 years earlier, so this got us annoyed a lot, to say the least. In Ulan Ude we replaced them with a slightly smaller Chinese version for a total of €225.

The second issue was that the box holding those household batteries (under the bodywork behind the driver’s seat) almost crashed on the ground. It had been bolted to the wheel arch. Fortunately, we had heard of the Nomados 4×4 group in Ulan Ude and one of the guys was kind enough to cut us a plate of steel that we glued on it with Sikaflex. Thank you NOMADOS!

The Nomados 4×4 have a clubhouse full of tools and materials. Some members are volunteers and their hobby is to tool around their cars. Here they help us with some basic repairs.

However, the third issue couldn’t be solved by these guys as it was too much work, and they work on their cars only as a hobby – they don’t have a commercial workshop. Nonetheless, it was thanks to one of them, Bantor, to get us introduced to the Hyundai Dealership.

What does a Land Cruiser do there, you may ask? Well, they have a workshop and the mechanics can weld. That was all we needed to get the serious problem fixed: the crossbar of the chassis on the right-front side had totally rusted away. The repairs cost €150.

Read More: Stories on Car Maintenance & Workshops

5. Fuel & Gas Stations

Useful to know:

  • Gas stations are all over the place. The tricky part is that you have to specify how much fuel you want to buy (either an amount an volume) and pay before you fill up. If you ask the cashier to get a full tank, it is not unlikely to they want to see that you can pay for it before they release any fuel. So either overestimate and get reimbursed, or leave a large deposit and run outside to fill up your vehicle.
  • Don’t expect toilets there. If they have one, it’s probably an overflowing, stinking hole in the ground in a shed that is about to fall apart. The forest is your friend! (but watch out for ticks, see more on this in part 1 of the country report).
  • Prices for diesel varied around 44-46 rouble per liter (€0,61).
  • In winter you may see a price with * in front of it (see feature image). This is winterized diesel to prevent gelling.
  • Everything related to road conditions, road maps and such is covered in the Travel Information Page Part 1.

Read More: Travel Information on Russia (part 1)

6. Public Transportation

These costs totaled €334 and that is mostly because we flew from Seoul to Vladivostok on our tourist visa so we could apply for a business visa.

Shipping fees for the ferry are not included here, see more on that in our blog post on the subject.

Read More: The Ferry Crossing from South Korea to Russia

Train Station in Vladivostok – endpoint for the Trans Siberian Express.

7. Tickets Sightseeing

While we spent next to nothing on sightseeing, that doesn’t mean we didn’t see anything. We greatly enjoyed the downtown areas of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk with some amazing architecture, massive war monuments, and beautiful Orthodox Churches.

Totally surprising where the Buddhist monasteries in the Republic of Buryatia (read here).

Read More: Sightseeing in Vladivostok

War Monument in Khabarovsk

Buddhist Monasteries in the Republic of Buryatia (©Coen Wubbels)
Old Car Museum in Vladivostok
Reminders of the Soviet Era.

8. Accommodation & Camping

We stayed with local people using Couchsurfing (find us under ‘Coen Wubbels) and rough camped a lot.

We shared all this and more, including GPS Waypoints and a map, in a separate blog post.

Or, if you prefer staying at a paid accommodation, find one here.

Read More: Accommodation & Camping in Russia

Staying with a wonderful family in Khabarovsk.

9. Other Expenditures

Our total expenditures minus the above-mentioned things under #2 – #7 is what we call Other Expenditures. This can be groceries, books, and, in this case, a 20-hour private course to learn a bit of Russian.

Read More: Country Reports (on numerous destinations)

Buying food along the road.
borsh, beet soup

10. A Note on Drinking Water

  • While water may be safe to drink from the tap for bacterial reasons, the pipes are often old and water may contain too many minerals and heavy metals, especially the water from the hot-water pipes. Some people have a filter system in their home.
  • Outside city centers, a lot of people don’t have access to running water. You will see them walking in the street with water containers. Sometimes they take it from wells, sometimes there is a delivery station in the village where you pay a few cents to fill up on water. Those were the places we filled our water tank as well.

I hope you found this useful. Do you have any questions? Fire away in the comment section below.

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