All of us like to travel in order to get to know different cultures, meet new people and discover amazing places; what could be more interesting? When we arrive in a new country, we most certainly want to learn some of the most common phrases in the local language.


One could confront this urge by asking “why should I learn phrases in the local language?” After all, there is always the option of English, which is understood throughout the world and can often be used in a pinch.


However, the truth is, in countries such as Russia, not all residents speak English. Therefore, learning the most popular phrases in Russian will greatly enhance your experience in the country.


I have attempted to make the content of this article easy for you by avoiding cumbersome and lengthy explanations. I hope that you find it helpful!


В САМОЛЁТЕ / In an airplane


If you’ll be traveling on board a Russian airline, then there will be a meal service during the flight. Ordinarily, the menu does not include a great deal of variety, with chicken, meat or fish being your main options.


You will typically be asked:


  • Что жела́ете? Ку́рицу или ры́бу? / Мя́со или ры́бу?: What would you like, chicken or fish? / Meat or fish?
  • Мя́со, пожа́луйста: Meat, please.
  • Чай или ко́фе?: Tea or coffee?
  • Чай с лимо́ном, е́сли мо́жно: Tea with lemon, if possible


You can also order вино́ (wine), минера́льную воду (mineral water) or сок (juice). You will often have a choice of juice, such as тома́тный (tomato), апельси́новый (orange), я́блочный (apple), анана́совый (pineapple) or вишнёвый (cherry).


During the flight you can:


  • почита́ть кни́гу и́ли газе́ту: read book or newspaper.
  • посмотре́ть фильм на ноутбу́ке: watch a film on a laptop.
  • поспа́ть: sleep.
  • поговори́ть с сосе́дом: talk to your neighbor.


Note: The prefix ПО is used with verbs when you are going to be doing something for a short time; it refers to your intent to do something.


ЛО́ВИМ ТАКСИ́ / Getting a taxi


You have exited the airport building and now you need to get to the city center. It’s more convenient to take a taxi, but as you know, taxi services at airports are very expensive. Therefore, it's best to book a taxi in advance by calling a special service.


A basic conversation between a taxi driver and passenger could go like this:


  • Куда́ е́дем?: Where do you need to go?
  • В центр, Тверска́я, 25: To the center, Tverskaya St, 25


Interesting fact: the full name of the street is “Tverskaya Street.” However, Russians never use the word “street” when speaking colloquially. Instead, they simply say “Tverskaya.” The driver will assume “street.”


ГДЕ МО́ЖНО ПОМЕНЯ́ТЬ ДЕ́НЬГИ? / Where can I exchange money?

So, you've arrived at the address and now you want to change your money into the Russian currency. This currency is known as the РУБЛЬ (ruble).


Currently, Russia is going through some difficult economic times. As a result, the exchange rate between the dollar and the ruble is $1 = 75RUB, while the rate between the euro and the ruble is about 1EUR = 81 rubles. Therefore, the exchange rates for the dollar and the euro are very favorable!


Now, before we learn some useful phrases, let’s look at the system of counting in Russian. Different numbers use different endings and they are grouped in a way that may be unusual to some learners. For example:


  • рубль; до́ллар; е́вро are used with one (один), twenty-one (два́дцать оди́н) and thirty-one (тридцать один).
  • рубля́; до́ллара; е́вро are used with two (два), three (три), four (четыре), twenty-two (два́дцать два), twenty-three (два́дцать три), and twenty-four (два́дцать четы́ре).
  • рубле́й; до́лларов; е́вро are used with five (пять), six (шесть), seven (семь), eight (во́семь), nine (де́вять), ten (де́сять), eleven (оди́ннадцать), twelve (двена́дцать) ... nineteen (девятна́дцать), twenty (два́дцать), twenty-five (два́дцать пять), twenty-six (два́дцать шесть), twenty-seven (два́дцать семь), twenty-eight (два́дцать восемь), twenty-nine (два́дцать девять) and thirty (три́дцать).


Now, let’s look at a typical dialogue in a money exchange office:


  • Я бы хоте́л(а) поменя́ть до́ллары на рубли́: I would like to exchange dollars for rubles.
  • Ско́лько бу́дете меня́ть?: How much would you like to exchange?
  • Две́сти до́лларов, пожа́луйста: Two hundred dollars, please.


So, now that you have some Russian currency, it's time to go to the hotel.


В ГОСТИ́НИЦЕ / В ОТЕ́ЛЕ / At the hotel


The main expressions that you will need to know are:


  • Имя: Name
  • Фами́лия: Surname
  • Гражда́нство: Nationality
  • Но́мер па́спорта: Passport Number
  • Да́та рожде́ния: Date of Birth
  • Да́та прибы́тия: Date of arrival
  • Да́та отбы́тия: Date of departure
  • Вид опла́ты: Payment type
  • Креди́тная ка́рта: Credit card
  • Нали́чные де́ньги (нали́чные): Cash
  • Всего́ су́ток: Total number of nights
  • Да́та: Date
  • По́дпись: Signature


Типы номеров: Types of rooms:

  • Одноме́стный номер (одна кровать): Single room (one bed)
  • Двухме́стный номер (одна кровать): Double room (one bed)
  • Двухме́стный  номер (две кровати): Twin room (two beds)


However, from my own travel experience, I can say that renting an apartment is much cheaper than reserving a hotel room.


В МЕТРО / In the Metro


There are seven cities in Russia that have a metros: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Yekaterinburg and Kazan. Many people who live in Moscow prefer to travel by subway, and I try to buy a ticket in advance to avoid standing in a queue.


You don’t have to say too much at the ticket counter. Instead, you only need to place the required fare in the box and state the number of trips:


  • на одну́ пое́здку, пожалуйста: One trip, please.
  • на две пое́здки, пожалуйста: Two trips, please.
  • на пять пое́здок, пожалуйста: Five trips, please.
  • проездно́й на ме́сяц, пожалуйста: A monthly pass, please.


It is advisable to say спасибо (have a good day), as it often brings a smile to the face of cashiers!


В КАФЕ́ / В РЕСТОРА́НЕ / В БА́РЕ / In a cafe / In a restaurant / In a bar

In Russia, if the waiter does not approach the table, you can call them over using Де́вушка! (Miss) or Молодо́й челове́к! (young man!). Some people say Официа́нт!, but be careful because it sounds a little bit rude.


The most popular phrases for such places are:


  • Бу́дьте добры́…: I’d like…
  • У вас есть…?: Do you have…?
  • Могу́ я вам помо́чь?: Can I help you?
  • Что-нибудь ещё?: Anything else?
  • Что бу́дете зака́зывать?: What would you like to order?
  • Вы гото́вы сде́лать зака́з?: Are you ready to order?
  • Что бу́дете пить?: What would you like to drink?
  • Счёт, пожа́луйста!: Can I have the bill, please!
  • Здесь или с собо́й?: For here or to take away?


I hope this short article has helped you to learn some of the phrases that you'll need for everyday life in Russia. If you liked this format, please let me know! I'll be happy to write some more information on interesting topics.


Image Sources

Hero Image by Andrey (CC BY 2.0)