If you’re one of the visitors preparing to make the journey, consider these tips to make the most of your stay in the winter sports capital.
Get Your Travel Documents in Order
All Americans traveling to Russia require a valid U.S. passport and visa. For Russian authorities to grant your visa, it’s necessary that your passport is valid for at least six months after you’re planning to leave the country.
If you haven’t sorted yours out yet, don’t stress. Olympics spectators can enjoy same-day processing when they present a games ticket or confirmation of ticket purchase. Visit the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.’s website to learn more about obtaining your visa.
Your passport is more than just a stamp collection. All valid passports must have the signature of the passport holder. You should also complete the emergency information page to make sure your contacts are easily notified if you get into trouble abroad.
Your valid games ticket isn’t enough to guarantee your entry into Olympic Park. Visitors must also apply for a spectator pass, which you must present along with your event ticket. You can apply online before you go or get yours from one of five registration centers in Sochi, Moscow, and Krasnodar.
Once you touch down in Russia, make sure you keep your travel documents close. Local police officers can stop travelers and request to see these documents at any time, for any reason. Keeping these documents on your person will make any random checks run more smoothly.
Protect Your Health with Overseas Medical Insurance Coverage
The XXII Olympic Winter Games are the first large-scale event to ever be staged in Sochi, so it’s uncertain how the city’s infrastructure will cope in the case of a medical emergency. Medical care in many parts of Russia also doesn’t meet the standard that Western travelers expect. Getting the right overseas coverage is the best way to make certain you get the best care if your health suffers in Sochi.
The U.S. State Department recommends that travelers to the games take out private medical evacuation and repatriation insurance, as well as standard overseas medical insurance coverage. These policies will offer the protection you need to make sure any health problems don’t become major headaches.
Use a VPN App
A VPN app is one of the most useful apps while traveling abroad. First, it secures your web session by encrypting your internet communications. This is very important when accessing unsecured WiFi networks. When surfing the Internet using a public Wi-Fi connection, you put your sensitive data at risk. Even using a password-protected network offers no security guarantees, as people can intercept your transmissions.
To protect yourself from hackers and cybercriminals while surfing the Internet, install a VPN app such as the Hotspot Shield VPN app before you leave home. This app creates a network-within-a-network, so you can protect your IP address and personal information from hackers. It’ll also protect you from nasty malware and phishing scams which can easily derail your vacation.
The other useful benefit of a VPN for travelers is that it enables you to stream Netflix, HULU, or BBC. By using a VPN service, you can connect to a VPN server in the U.S. or in the U.K. and use your accounts to access these services.
Finally, the app also allows you to bypass Russia’s Internet censorship rules. While the rest of Russia might be forbidden from viewing certain content, you can freely browse Facebook, YouTube, and other flagged sites as easily in Sochi as you can back home.
Join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, will keep you up to date with safety and security information you need to know once you touch down. Registering for this free program will also make it easy for your loved ones to get in touch with you in case of emergency. Remember to select “Moscow” as the Local Embassy or Consulate when you complete your online enrollment.
The free SMART Traveler app is a great companion for this program, as it allows you to manage your STEP account from your mobile device once you arrive in Russia.
Pack the Right Clothes
Sochi enjoys an average February temperature of 47 degrees Fahrenheit, which should make the XXII Winter Olympics one of the warmest winter games ever. However, it’s important that you don’t underestimate the cold. During the same month, Los Angeles enjoys typical temperatures between 68 and 50, and in Houston it tends to range between 67 and 48. That makes Sochi colder in February than many of America’s most populated cities.
Sochi’s temperatures tend to fluctuate, so you’ll feel most comfortable if you dress in layers. This is particularly important if you plan on seeing outdoor events, where the climate isn’t controlled.
American visitors might feel patriotic during the Winter Olympics, but they may want to avoid wearing the traditional red, white, and blue. The U.S. State Department has urged Olympic athletes against wearing their uniforms outside accredited areas to avoid inspiring an attack in this volatile region. It seems smart for American supporters to heed the same advice.
Keep an Eye on the Sochi 2014 Website
Can you imagine traveling all the way to Sochi to see your favorite winter sports, only to miss them? It could happen if you don’t keep your eye on the Sochi 2014 website. Games organizers remind spectators that event times are subject to change. The Sochi 2014 website will always contain the most current Winter Olympics information, so bookmark it and make sure you check it regularly.
Plan Your Travel
Sochi is becoming known as one of the most compact Olympic Winter Games ever, with its 11 venues located within less than 30 miles of each other. A new railway ensures visitors can travel from the Coastal Cluster venues to the Mountain Cluster in less than 30 minutes. However, that doesn’t mean you should be complacent about your travel plans.
To guarantee your games vacation runs smoothly, check the transport routes and plan your journey ahead of time. Ensure you’ve got enough time to travel from one venue to the next, and pass the necessary security checks. This is the best way to make sure you won’t miss any of the action.
With some careful planning and these tips in mind, you can enjoy every minute of your Sochi Winter Olympics trip.