Living in Russia


 pdfInternational student`s handbook



Thermometer Snowflake

You are still at home, having to think what clothing you want to bring. Here you always have to keep in mind that Tomsk isn’t just Athens, Tomsk is also the Siberian Athens. The Tomsk Region is situated on the southeast part of the WestSiberian plain and located mostly in a taiga zone. The Siberian winter is severe and long, therefore you have to stock very warm clothes, including headgear. The average January temperature is about 19-21C below zero, but sometimes it can be as cold as 30 or 35C below zero. Tomsk is rather snowy, so you’ll need good and warm waterproof boots, with soles that are suited to snowy or icy sidewalks. By the way, waterproof boots, a raincoat, and an umbrella are necessary for autumn and spring too, when it can also be windy and wet. Siberian summer is relatively short and sometimes rainy; the average July temperature is 17-18C, though sometimes it’s 30C and higher. Before leaving the house you should always check the weather outside and the forecast. For example, here:, If you didn’t bring warm clothes with you, you can always buy things you need here in Tomsk. There are a lot of shops and markets where you can find suitable clothes. While the prices in some of the shops may be expensive for students, it’s also possible to buy winter clothing items at the open markets relatively inexpensively, as well as at the many secondhand shops. This may be a more practical approach to having what you actually need (to earmark some money to get things locally, rather than guess ahead of time, spend your money, have to pack it all and then it’s not what you really need).




The main kinds of transport in Tomsk are city public service vehicles (buses, trolleys, and trams) and taxis, which make it possible to reach almost all parts of the city relatively effortlessly. The longest duration of a trip is about an hour. Traffic jams are usually on the main streets (such as Lenina, Elizarovikh, and others) during “rush hours” – from 9 till 10 in the morning and from 5 till 8 in the evening, and on the weekends on the incoming and outgoing streets of the city. In the majority of buses, the stops are not announced, although it is more common now in the central part of the city. There are no announcements in English.





The popular smaller buses, called marshrutki, have the most extensive routes. Each line is numbered and the main stops are usually listed on the outside of the bus, on the curb side (in Russian, of course). The fare is 17 rubles, and drivers will make change for any denomination of ruble bills up to 1,000 (though exact fare or small bills are better). To stop the bus it’s best to raise and hold out your right hand (as you will see others do). Otherwise the bus driver can just pass by, if no one is getting off the bus at this stop. It is necessary to pay your fare during the time just before your stop, but before the bus gets to the stop, so that the driver will know it’s for that stop; if you pay and don’t get off till a later one, the driver or assistant will lose count, and therefore if you pay sooner you should say the stop. (But if your Russian is not fluent it is not likely to be understood.) When the bus is crowded at rush hours, you may be asked to pass forward the fares of other people, or need to ask others to pass your fare forward. The front door is usually the main exit unless someone asks that the back be opened. Transporting large items such as full-size suitcases and furniture is not usually possible on these buses.





 Trams and trolleys don’t need to be waved down. The conductor will collect your fare (14 rubles) soon after you enter. Each passenger receives a ticket, which should be saved up to the end of the trip and be shown to the inspector in case of checking. The trolleybuses have extensive routes but fewer stops than the smaller buses. The tramway routes are not as long, but they do cover many of the main streets, where you can see some picturesque sights. On either, you can get off at any stop, or at the end of the line, and go to the “matching” stop nearby on the other side of the street to travel back to your origin. But such a trip is better to make for the first time with a Tomsk inhabitant to find the way back home. A helpful site for determining bus routes is Although it is in Russian only, with the help of a Russian fellow student or friend you can learn to navigate and find the information you need, including photographic street views of the stops.



CabrioletRedThe one and only night transport in Tomsk is taxi. The minimum fare for a short ride is 90 rubles, the usual fare is 120 rubles, a ride to the far districts costs about 140 rubles, and to the airport or Seversk the cost is from 300-350 to 1,000 rubles (depending on the time and class of auto). Extra fare may be charged for large luggage, extra stops during the trip on your request, or other special requests. Many Tomsk taxi firms can offer you a drive with a taxi meter. Taxis with meters aren’t marked as such, so you need to ask about it. If there is no meter, you should agree in advance with the driver on what the cost will be. You can catch a taxi on the street, but the cost will be about twice as high as that of a car ordered by phone. You have to remember that the level of service in such a taxi is usually lower than in ordered ones and it may be more risky. Therefore it is better to order a taxi and wait a bit, than to go into the dark unfamiliar city, looking for adventures.

The most popular taxi-service numbers: 90-00-00 – “Maxim”, 44-55-44, 40-80-40 – “Pilot”. 081, 90-90-90 – “Russian” 20-55-05 – “Student”

You can get acquainted with the full list here: This is in Russian only. Someone who does not speak fluent Russian will not be able to call a taxi company and arrange a trip, it just won’t work. For people whose Russian isn’t that fluent, it would be helpful 1) ask someone who is there with you to make the arrangement—your friend, the staff at the restaurant or store, or other, makes the call and then tells you which car to look for and how much it will cost, and the driver knows for sure where to go 2) find a taxi in the street, have your address or the location you want to go to written down in Russian, and ask the driver to write down what the fare will be. Then, if you find a company that seems to work well for you, maybe you can find a way to communicate with them yourself when they “know” you.



LocationYou can use Google Maps, Yandex Maps or one of the most popular sites in Tomsk - There you can find a telephone directory, a map, and the names of the bus stops, and plan your way, whether as a pedestrian or not.

If you have decided to go to the country or to another city, the Tomsk railroad station, intercity bus terminal, and international airport are at your disposal. The Tomsk airport, Bogashevo, is recently expanded and situated 14 kilometers from the city and almost 5 kilometers from the railway station Bogashevo. You can reach the airport by small bus 119 or by commuter bus number 119. The route begins at Lenin Square, with travel time of nearly an hour on the larger bus. Frequency of the bus is about 30-40 minutes, beginning in the early morning. However, most if not all people use a taxi to reach the airport (fare is 350+ rubles). Recently Bogashevo Airport was awarded the status of international airport. Now scheduled flights to China and Kazakhstan, and charter flights to Thailand, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, and Turkey are available. Air transportation to Europe is according to the route Tomsk to Frankfurt (Germany). A much wider choice is available in the adjacent city Novosibirsk, with its Tolmachevo Airport, which is 4 hours by bus from Tomsk (special buses to the airport are available).

For extra information about air communication visit

Site of the coach terminal:

You can book train ticket and check for updates in railway service on those sites: and



PolicemanIn Siberia bears walk along the streets, don’t they? We doubt whether you can meet a bear on the street, but it goes without saying that you should take care of your safety. Public security is provided by state security forces and the local law enforcement department (the police, in short). Police respond to Russian and foreign citizens’ safety throughout the region and the country.

Special security is provided to international students. All university buildings and dormitories are guarded by the University’s security department or by private protection agencies. Being a resident of the Russian Federation, a foreign national should always carry his or her passport, migration card, and local residence registration. To make your visit safe and to leave a good impression after it, you should observe the law, respect Russian customs and traditions, and observe the rules of personal security. There will be a university official at your arrival whose duty is to instruct you on some of basic rules in Russia, accepted standards of conduct, and security measures. Anyone in distress connected with personal security can contact a policeman, whose job and professional duty is the facilitation of personal safety.



peopleIt is worth saying a few words about the Siberian character, formed by historical factors during the development of Siberia when it was settled by Russians. Serfdom did not exist in Siberia: those who came there were looking for liberty. The chief motivation to negotiate the hardships of the long road, which sometimes led the pathbreakers along the knife’s edge between life and death, was striving for freedom, which wasn’t even known in other parts of Russia. The settlers brought a dream of having their own homestead, building a house and settling their families, sowing the grain for bread, and bringing up children. To people with such goals, conflicts, internal divisions, and the division of wealth were not necessary. The severe Siberian climate threw out people who were not patient, calm, strong, and friendly. So in spite of the fact that Siberians live in severe conditions, in general they are frank and kind. Tomsk is a city of students and it’s easier to find an English speaker here than in other cities—it’s not uncommon at all now to meet people who speak English, and many others who are trying to learn it. Also there are people who speak German, French, and Italian fluently, and you can try to meet people who speak other languages from around the world. In recent years, travel abroad has become much more accessible, and you are likely to meet Tomsk residents who have visited countries in Europe or Southeast Asia, and for some, Great Britain or the United States. If you are going to live and study in Russia (of which Siberia is of course a part), it’s helpful have a minimal notion about some distinctive cultural features. For example, Russians usually avoid speaking about their job. As another example, Russians may often criticize themselves and their country, but if you witness or are involved in such a conversation, it’s better not to express your position. It would be even better to try disproving the critic, so as not to offend the critic by seeming to agree. Such contradictions are natural for the Russian character. Also, some visitors from other countries have a first impression of people in the street as lacking in smiles, indicative of restraint. But this is not the case about Russians. Kindness is a distinctive feature of the Russian character, along with hospitality, sympathy, and mercifulness. Yet the friendliness is hidden until you get to know each other better, as Russians usually have two personas, one for public and another for private contacts. However, people on the street can be kind and helpful in a way that is warm and friendly in many situations. People do tend to speak and act in public in a way that appears more restrained than in some other countries and cultures.