Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Re-cap on Russia for other travellers

Basically, ditto as per my previous post for the Ukraine. Petrol procedure the same; road signs and navigation the same. The TomTom this time didn't even show major roads - nothing; so the compass came in handy again.
I must have run about 7 or 8 red traffic lights. The bloody things are so old and dirty; it is hard to see them (usually hidden behind a bush or sign); they've never been cleaned, so it's hard to tell if they're on or what colour light is showing.
In all the time we were in the ukraine and Russia, we never got stopped by the cops - think that was amazing considering how many people told us to be ready to hand out $5 bills!. I even got a $100 US dollars in $5 bills to be ready - now I can change them for Euros!
I think I found the car drivers in Russia to be extremely polite and biker-aware than any other country we passed through - which was a bonus considering we were using a compass to navigate and wasn't concentrating that much on the traffic, but which way to go!
All the crap you hear about the Russian Mafia is just that! I recon we must have spoken to a few people who couldn't have been anything else - the theme is: you got to worry about the punks in the street; the mafia are into business and don't give a toss about tourists.
Finally, it would be helpfull if you could get a copy (in English) of the customs declaration form you need to bring a bike into the country (and also leave). We were luck to have someone at the border (entering Russia) help us filling the form out (it was all in Russian); but on the way out the customs guy handed us an English form. No real hassles crossing in or out of Russia. customs and border guards were courteous and very helpfull - once they saw we were aussies! And once again the comment - No! it's impossible, you came to see us all the way from Australia - I don't believe it!
All in all - we absolutely loved Russia - fantastic cities and even more fantastic people. Forget the communist/socialist/ political bullshit / or whatever - Russia is awesome. Anyone that is thinking of going, just do it. You'll never regret it; and you might even make some great new friends like we did. You know who you are - thank's heaps guys, we'll try and get back one day.