For those of you planning to travel to Russia, or those Russophiles who just like imagining what life is like here, here is a list of things which I keep in my bag at all times when I am out and about that I wouldn’t usually carry in the US:

1. Pocket Russian-English Dictionary. I use it less and less, but it’s still good to have on hand.

2. Small Packet of Tissues. It is true that public toilets do not always have toilet paper.

3. Hand Sanitizer. Public toilets do not always have soap. Also, I work with little kids and those snot-nosed brats got me sick a million times last winter/spring.

3. Plastic Shopping Bag. Bringing your own can save you like five whole rubles at a shop, but additionally, sometimes you wind up buying something from a street vendor or babushka who doesn’t have bags at all. Also, here it looks much more normal to carry a smaller shoulder bag and then a shopping bag for extras rather than a huge-ish backpack like I did in the US.

4. Copy of Passport/Visa. It’s a good idea to have some ID on you, but you don’t want to risk getting your actual passport stolen. In a lot of cases a copy is sufficient because the currency exchange/train ticket agent/whoever only needs to punch your passport number into a computer.

5. Transit Map. I have a fabulous map that shows all the metro stations and bus, tram, trolley and marshrutka routes. It is incredibly helpful when I need to go to a new place on the spur of the moment, or for Public Transportation Adventures.


Small Umbrella. You never know when it’s going to rain. I got a great umbrella that folds up super small for only 100 rubles.

Reading Material. Waiting is a part of Russian life, so kill time productively. Also good for those four-minute Metro escalator rides.

Sunglasses. In the summertime at least. The sun is low in the sky here and can be pretty intense.

This sounds like a lot of stuff, but it all fits in a reasonably-sized, stylish (if I do say so myself) shoulder bag.