Sunday, April 9, 2017

Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia: 100 Travel Tips

Here I’ve listed down 100 tips to help you make your first trip to Kazan, Russia as enjoyable as possible! 
Kul Sharif Kazan

General Tips in Kazan

1. Kazan is known as the "Third Capital of Russia", so expect the price to be on the higher side (if compared to cities like Kislovodsk, Pyatigorsk or Volgograd.) 
2. Don't confuse it with "Kazakhstan" where Borat come from!
3. It is located between Europe and Asia, so you'll experience a peaceful blend of Muslim and Christian cultures here. 
4. Not everyone living in Kazan is Russian. Kazan has a huge Tatar population. 
5. The official religion in Kazan is Orthodox Christianity and Islam
6. People in Kazan speaks both Tatar and Russian. A lot of youngsters speak English but always treat English like a surprise cookie. 
7. Try to speak some Russian, people will definitely take you more seriously. If you are sure that the person is a Muslim, surprise them with "Salam"! 
8. Download Google Translator on your smartphone if you are really anxious. 
9. Muslims in Kazan don't really avoid alcohol, as far as I know. So don't be offended if they offer you alcohol even though you made yourself clear about being a Muslim.    
10. The Ruble is the currency in Kazan. 
11. Kazan has the typical Russian climate. Winters are cold with lots of snow; July and August are the warmest months.  
12. When entering hostels or someone else's house, take off your shoes and put on house shoes (some hostels provide that). 
13. Russians do not wear outside shoes indoors (including certain tourist attractions) especially during winter and rainy seasons (autumn and spring), so carry some "Bahili" (plastic shoe covers) along. You can buy them for 3 Rubles per pair near the entrance.  

The Airport

14. Yes there is free Wifi in Kazan airport. 
15. There is a tourist information desk at the airport that gives good advice on everything!

Transportation From the Airport 

16. To get to the city center from the airport, take an aeroexpress train. It'll take 30 minutes and cost 40 Ruble per person. However, it only runs once per 2 hours.  
17. There will be taxi drivers waiting for you in the arrival hall and offer to take you for 1000 Rubles. If you would like to ride with them, be sure to persuade them to use the meter. It'll cut down the fare to 500 Rubles only. 
18. The cheapest and most reliable way, in my opinion, is to call an UBER. Here is a free $7 (RM28) for your first ride! 
19. If you are on a shoe-string budget, missed the train and do not want to waste precious time, perhaps you should take a taxi to the nearest metro station, which is Prospekt Pobedi. And then, take the metro to reach the city center. 
20. Or you can take Bus 97 to reach Prospekt Pobedi. However, there is no fixed schedule.  
21. If you are unsure, ask the tourist information desk in the airport. The staffs here speak good English. 

City Transportation

22. The best way to discover a new city is to WALK everywhere. 
23. However, in the winter months, especially in early February, walking is impractical. Hence, I recommend using UBER.  
24. There are hop-on, hop off double-decker buses in Kazan, which are equipped with audio guides. Other languages, for example, English, French, Spanish, German, Turkish, and Chinese are available.
25. Take the public bus! It cost only 25 Ruble per journey.  
26. Use the Metro

The Train Stations 

27. There are 2 train stations. Kazan-1 is the Old Station with red bricks, Kazan-2 is the new one. So don't get confused in case you need to take the train. 
28. Traveling by train to Kazan is easy. The city is a major station stop for several train journeys, including the Southern route of Trans Siberia trains. 
30. Find out how to book a train journey and what it is like traveling on Russian trains HERE.  
Kazan Train


31. The Couchsurfing community in Kazan is quite active. It is a good way to save up and to mingle with the locals.  
32. Although I don't recommend using Airbnb in Russia, it is fine to use it in Kazan. Unlike other cities in Russia, Kazan's Airbnb apartment descriptions are mostly accurate. Here is a free $35 for your stay in Kazan
33. Not all hotels are expensive. Search for deals of the day on here.
34. Giuseppe Hotel is an affordable 4 star hotel, located only 100 m from Kremlin. 
35. If you are a night owl, try to stay near to Bauman Street. Other parts of the city are quite boring at night.  
36. If you need to stay near to the airport terminal, Polyot hotel is a good choice. 

Budget-Friendly hostels in Kazan

37. Compare the best rates on
38. White Hostel is the cheapest option in the city. I stayed here during my visit. 
39. Pushkin hostel is also a good choice as it is relatively cheap and it is only a 1-minute walk away from Bauman Street. 

Things to Do

40. You ought to visit the Kazan Kremlin, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The highlights include Suyumbike Tower, Kul-Sharif Mosque, Annunciation Cathedral and a few museums. 

41. Step inside a time wrap in Soviet Lifestyle Museum
42. Enjoy walking down Bauman Street. This is the best place to people watch. People nicknamed this street the Kazan's Arbat. 
43. Take a walk in one of the city parks: Victory Park or Millenim Park.
44. Visit the Embankment. Ask your hostel receptionist beforehand. If there will be light displays during your stay, visit at night.   
45. If you have the time, attend a show at the Galiaskar Kamal Theatre, Drama Theatre or Opera and Ballet Theatre. 
46. If you are coming with kids, they'll surely be interested in a Puppet show in the Puppet Theatre, located on Ulitsa Peterburgskaya. 
47. Make sure to put the Temple of All Religions into your itinerary.  

48. I highly recommend everyone to see Kazan's famous sights at night. There is a guided night tour running every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The 2-hours tour cost 650 Rubles per person. (schedule subjected to changes, they update the schedule every 6 months.)
49. If you'd like to join some guided tours during the day, the tourism of Kazan offers walking tours on Bauman Street (400 Rubles), various half day tours (starting from 750 Rubles) and full day tours (starting from 1340 Rubles). 
50. On Saturdays and Sundays, 11-12 hours guided day trips out of Kazan are available. Check to find out more! 
51. You can also take a 2-hours trip across the Volga River on the boat which costs around 450 Rubles.

Kazan Attractions

Festival and Events 

52. February: International opera festival, Men's day
53. March: Maslenitsa (not as happening as other cities), Women's day
54. May: Russian festival of Folklore "Karavon", Russian Victory day.  
55. June: Summer Tatar festival Sabantuy
56. August: International handicraft festival, International jazz music festival.
57. September: International open-air opera festival and Kazan International festival of Muslim cinema.
58. November: Russian National Day.  

Where to Eat in Kazan

59. Dobraya Stolovaya(s) serves Russian style typical food under 100 rubles. They are self-service cafeterias. 
60. Dom chaya (Tea House) is the best place for budget travelers to try Tatarstan specialties.   
61. Syuimbike is a chain of budget 24/7 restaurants. They serve authentic Muslim food bordering the Tatar and Uzbek traditions. 
62. Some say House of Tatar National Cuisine is a Tourist Trap. I personally think it is worth a visit.  
63. Bilyar is highly recommended online, serving inexpensive Tatar cuisine. There are 3 Bilyars in Kazan but the most central one is located behind Hotel Tatarstan. 
64. Do not drink water directly from the tap!  
65. Buy snacks and pies from roadside food Kiosks
66. In warmer months, you can choose to eat in the parks. But remember to clean after yourselves! 
67. The Tatar Native Village (Tugan Avalym) which is next to the Puppet Theatre is a great place to try a variety of national dishes.  
68. No matter you are craving for McNuggets or not, visit the McDonalds on Bauman Street anyway. It is probably one of the most unique McDs I've seen (Architecture vice).   
69. Best place to try Tatar traditional cuisine? Make friends and get invited into your new friend's home!!!
70. Food in Kazan is always halal since Islam is the main religion here. 
Kazan Food

What to Eat

71. Gubaida
72. Elesh
73. Echpochmak
74. Vak-balish/ zur-balish
75. Peremechi 
76. Kystybyi
77. Salad 'makhebet'
78. Tatar version of 'ukha' or creamy fish soup.
79. Crepes 
80. Kystyby
81. Kaklagan kaz
82. Kazy
83. Traditional Meat cuts
84. Lamb Shashlik
85. Chak-chak 
86. Tallish kaleve
Read more: Must eat in Kazan and where to get them

What to Buy Something as Souvenirs?  

87. Tatar national male headwear "Tubeteika".
88. Leather products called "Safyan".
89. Some Chak-chak or Talkish Kaleve. It is most recommended to buy them in “Bahetle” hypermarkets. 
90. Tatar traditional clothes and shoes for the kids and jewelry for women. 
91. Kukmor felt boots with floral prints (“Kukmorskiye valenki”) to keep your feet warm.
92. Kazan Cat figurines from “Bogema” store. 

Day Trip Ideas

93. You can take a cruise ship and travel to any nearby cities on Volga river. 
94. One can visit the Island town, Sviyazhsk via cruise. It was built by Ivan the Terrible as a fortress for the siege of Kazan. Time needed for the day trip: 6 hours. 
95. The city of Bolgar located in the National Park of Bolgar is a sacred place for all Tatars and a pilgrimage spot for Muslims. It is included in the UNESCO list of heritage sites. Time needed for the day trip: 11 hours.
96. Elabuga is located on the shore of the river Kama. The Elabuga mound “Chertovo gorodishe” nearby is a famous sight- the remains of a fortified settlement from the Volga tribes and its stone tower has now become the symbol of Elabuga. Time needed for the day trip: 12 hours.
97. Chistopol town is an open museum, introducing its visitors to the beauty of Russian countrysides. Do not miss the Melnikov House, the grounds of Uspensky Monastery, St. Nicholas Cathedral and Boris Pasternak museum. You can also combine the trip with a visit to (Just outside the town) the remains of Juketau, a trade city during the pre-Mongol period. Time needed for the day trip: 8 hours.
98. The Raifa Bogoroditsky Monastery is located within the Volga-Kama National Park. Here you'll get to see the legendary Georgian Mother of God icon, which is believed to possess magical powers to heal the sick. It is possible to combine your visit with a quick stop at the Temple of All Religion mentioned above. Time needed for the day trip: 4 hours.  

Where after Kazan? 

A post shared by Vivian Dominique Lee (@littlemisshappyfeet) on

99. You may hop onto a return cruise ship going to Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl or Moscow. 
100. A reader, Jesbojesbo suggested me to visit Veliky Novgorod, a small city between St. Petersburg - Moscow. 

Read more: 

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Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my personal experience. 
 If you have a different opinion, feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

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