Well, it doesn’t really matter what has happened and how you’ve gotten here, but the state of affairs is simple: you’re in the center of a big Russian city, you’ve left your map in the hotel, your mobile phone is out of battery, and your memory is blank. And since everyone around you only speaks Russian, your situation is getting even worse.


Thus far, this article may appear to be about the advantages of maps and mobile devices for tourists. However, what could be more helpful in such a situation than some skills in asking the way in Russian?


So, let’s try to stop a passer-by, find out how to ask about your destination and how to understand the answer!


Asking the way


You won’t believe it, but short street conversations with regards to directions in Russian are just like those in English and in any other language. Let’s look at the general algorithm and read the descriptions below it:


Step #1: Approaching


First of all, you should begin with Извините or Простите (excuse me). This part is absolutely necessary if you are not fluent in Russian (although native speakers may do without it sometimes).


You can also, optionally, add Пожалуйста (please). If you decide to ask for directions from a teenager or a child, then it would be better to say Извини or Прости, without -те.


Step #2: Polite phrases


If “excuse me” is not enough for you, and you truly want to show your politeness, you should come armed with a few additional and useful phrases, though they are not obligatory.


Below are a few such phrases, separated into those that would be appropriate for beginners and those that would be appropriate for intermediate/advanced learners. Bear in mind that if you don’t intend to learn Russian, you can bypass these.  




  • Вы не знаете… (Do you know...)




  • Вы не могли бы сказать… (Could you please me…)
  • Вы не подскажете… (Would you tell me…)


While using these phrases, remember; don’t smile! If you consider a smile to be an inalienable part of your personality, then you can do it. Just be aware that some people may think that you are laughing at them, that you want to sell them something or that you are simply stupid.


Sometimes, people will think that your smile is pleasant, but it’s difficult to detect who exactly will perceive it in this way. The general rule of behavior in Russia is don’t be hypocritical. Instead of wearing a “smile of obligation,” simply try to make eye contact.


Step #3: The question itself


Let’s proceed to the heart of your question, “How do I get to …?”


There are many ways to ask this. These are listed below again, separated into those that would be appropriate for beginners and those that would be appropriate for intermediate/advanced learners. Each of the phrases is followed by a particular form of your destination.


In this case, those that don’t intend to learn Russian may still want to learn the beginner’s phrase.  




  • Где находится + nominative of the name of your destination, such as you’d find it in the dictionary.


This phrase translates to (Where is…?)




  • Как (я могу) пройти/проехать к + dative
  • Как (я могу) дойти/доехать до + genitive
  • Как (я могу) добраться до + genitive
  • Как (я могу) попасть в/на + accusative


Each of these phrases can be roughly defined as “How (can I) get to…?” or “How (can I) reach…?”.




  • The addition of я могу is optional. You may skip these words, if you want.
  • If you don’t want to think about the verbs of motion (дойти, доехать or perhaps even долететь) in such an extreme situation, then it’s enough to just say добраться. This word can replace all the verbs of motion, although it does imply that your route is likely to be long and hard.
  • Don’t forget about the cases of the nouns! If you don’t intend to learn Russian and don’t know what a case is, then simply use the phrase for beginners and don’t worry about it.
  • If you draw a blank or don’t know Russian very well, feel free to use the simplest phrase “Где находится + nominative.” It is a monolithic unchangeable word-combination, to which you simply add the name of your destination in the nominative case (for example, in the exact form that you will find it in a dictionary).
  • In general, I’d choose to use the variant “Как дойти/доехать до + genitive.” If you are sure that you are near your destination, then “Где находится + nominative” would be the best alternative.


Step #4: Listening to the answer


This is the most difficult part. Making out a stranger’s speech and understanding all the words he will suddenly decide to say is not an easy task. We will come back to this later.


Step #5: Expressing gratitude


As a beginning, a brief спасибо (thank you) is enough.


You can also, optionally, add хорошо, ясно, or понял(а) to say that everything was clear and helpful. Or, you can say большое спасибо (thanks a lot).


At the end of your dialogue you can smile. Note that now there is nothing wrong with doing so: you needed help, and the passer-by did you a favor. It’s clear that you are grateful and willing to express it. There is nothing hypocritical in this sort of smile. On the other hand, if you don’t smile, it is completely fine too.


In conclusion, here are some examples of your question:


  • Простите, вы не подскажете, как проехать к вокзалу?
    • Понял, спасибо.


  • Извините, вы не могли бы сказать, где находится университет?
    • Ясно, большое спасибо.


  • Извините, вы не знаете, как я могу доехать до Красноармейской улицы?
    • Спасибо, ясно.


  • Простите, как я могу попасть на площадь Суворова?
    • Хорошо, спасибо большое.


  • Извините, где находится Петропавловская церковь?
    • Спасибо.  


Listening to the answer


And now for the most challenging part...


When you ask for directions in Russia, people will answer you in whatever way they consider most appropriate. Not all of the people in the streets are Russian teachers, so not all of them will try to pick the easiest words and grammatical constructions. However, you should remember at least a few keywords, which are likely to be used by your average passer-by:


(You have to) go there and there


  • Идите (go on foot)
    • The imperative of this verb is Идти / идите.


  • Ехать (go with transport)
    • the colloquial imperative of this verb is едьте / езжайте.


Here are some examples of words that can follow the statement “You have to go…”:


  • Туда (there).
    • used alongside a gesture.
  • Прямо (directly).
  • По этой улице / вдоль этой улицы (along this street).
  • До того высокого здания (as far as that high building).
    • genitive
  • К тому высокому зданию (towards that high building).
    • dative
  • Через мост / парк (over the bridge / through the park).


(You have to) turn to the left


  • Повернитe … (turn…).
    • imperative




  • Вам нужно повернуть … (you have to turn…).


Here is a list of words and phrases that can be used along with the above:


  • Налево (to the left).
  • Направо (to the right).
  • В ту сторону (to that side).
    • used alongside a gesture.
  • На первом (втором, третьем) повороте (at the first turn-off).
  • На перекрёстке (at the crossroads).


(You have to) cross the road


  • Перейдите улицу … (cross the road).
    • imperative




  • Вам нужно перейти улицу … (you have to cross the road).


(You have to) take the bus number X


  • Сядьте в автобус номер … (take the bus number…).
    • imperative


  • Вам нужно сесть в автобус номер … (You have to take the bus number…).


Here is a list of words and phrases that can be used with the above:


  • Автобус (bus)
  • Троллейбус (trolleybus)
  • Трамвай (tram)
  • Метро (metro)
  • Поезд (train)


Your hotel will be near a tall red building


  • Там вы увидите гостиницу (You will see the hotel there).
  • Ваша гостиница будет … (Your hotel will be… ).


The latter, following будет, can be combined with variants such as the following:


  • Там (There).
  • Впереди / слева / справа  (ahead / on the left / on the right).
  • Рядом с высоким красным зданием (near a tall red building).
    • instrumental
  • Около / возле высокого красного здания (near a tall red building).
    • genitive
  • Напротив высокого красного здания (opposite a tall red building).
    • genitive
  • Перед высоким красным зданием (in front of a tall red building).
    • instrumental
  • За высоким красным зданием (behind a tall red building).
    • instrumental
  • Между высоким красным зданием и вокзалом (between a tall red building and the railway station).
    • instrumental
  • На углу улицы / перекрёстка (on the corner of the street / of the crossroads).


Have you understood?


  • Понятно? (Is it clear?)
  • Вы поняли? (Have you understood?)
  • Вы запомнили? (Have you remembered?)


Each of these can be answered with the following phrases:


  • Да, конечно, спасибо (Yes, sure, thank you).
  • Нет, простите… (No, I’m sorry…).
  • Кажется, нет... Вы могли бы повторить ещё раз? (It seems not. Could you repeat it once more?)


I don’t know


And now, the most universal passer-by’s answer to any of your questions:


  • Я не знаю (I don’t know).
  • Я не местный (I’m not from here).


Some practice as a conclusion


Now that you already know everything (or rather, now that you know something) about asking the way, let's do some practice.


Let’s look at the picture as well as two dialogues in Russian. Just read them and “go” along your way.


The red route:


  • Простите, вы не подскажете, как я могу доехать до гостиницы?
    • Идите по этой улице, затем поверните налево, а потом сразу направо. На перекрёстке поверните налево и идите прямо. Затем вам нужно идти через мост, потом на главном перекрёстке идите прямо, а затем поверните направо, на маленькую улицу. Там вы увидите гостиницу. Понятно?


  • Да… Спасибо большое…


The blue route:


  • Извините, вы не знаете, как я могу попасть на вокзал?
    • Вам нужно идти по этой улице, затем на перекрёстке повернуть налево. Потом идите до главной улицы и поверните направо. На кольце вам нужно повернуть налево, а потом идти прямо, до аптеки. После аптеки поверните направо, а потом на первом перекрёстке налево. Впереди будет вокзал. Вы запомнили?


  • Кажется, нет. Извините… Вы не могли бы повторить ещё раз?


And now look at the same picture and make four more dialogues on your own:


  1. From point №1 to Церковь
  2. From point №2 to Ресторан
  3. From point №3 to Школа
  4. From point №4 to Автозаправка



Were you able to do it? Alright! When you are in a Russian street, even if you forget 90% of this information, the other 10% will hopefully save you from wandering around the city lost for five hours.


Have a good time there!


Image Sources


Hero Image by AdamKR (CC BY-SA 2.0)