WHEN TO COME TO RUSSIA? If you want to come to Russia, your main consideration might be the weather, because there's always something happening in cities, multitude of outdoor activities for any time of the year and there are not so many tourists yet, so don't worry about tourist crowds. Here's when it's better to come, depending on your needs.
Going out. The best place to come is Moscow (better) or St. Petersburg (also nice). The best time to come is May, June and September. People are still (or already) in the cities, many things are happening, everybody is happy (May, June - the summer is starting; September - all the locals come back in the big cities from the vacations and they are happy and nice). At this time many things are happening in the clubs: famous Russian and foreign musicians and djs are invited, theater season is opened, there are many outdoor festivals and activities.
Going out during the hot weather. The best place is again, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The best time is July and August, when it's really hot, nobody wants to work and people just go out. There are also the most tourists at that time in the two cities. The theaters are closed until September, but all museums are opened, the clubs are roaring, the cafes are full: people go out.
Nature. Any time of the year, except that it'll be too cold to camp from mid-October to mid-April.
Small Russian towns. Anytime is good, but go to some remote village areas.
Depression. The month of November: the time of first cold, when you just don't understand why it's so cold and there's even no snow! It's cold, the sky is clouded, it's wet and boring, so that you might have no wish to go outside of your house. But it can be interesting if you want to know why some people here are addictive to vodka:
Something really different. Russian winter (December, January, especially the second half of January and February). Try to see as many places as possible: walk around Moscow, go to some remote area, and snowboard in Khibiny mountains.
DOCUMENTS. To travel to Russia you need your passport and a visa. Visa can be made only if you have an invitation and a voucher from some hotel / hostel you stay in or from a travel company.
Security. When travelling it's good to have the copies of all your documents and all emergency numbers written down somewhere, just in case.
WHAT TO PACK? It's worth taking only the things you really need - there's nothing worst carrying your heavy backpack, sweating, tired and knowing that you carry so much crap you don't really need.
Don't forget documents, money, good shoes, a raincoat, a sweater, a towel, and a sleeping bag or bedsheets (for sleeping in the trains / dirty hotels / outside). It might be useful and money-saving to take a tent (to camp), cooking facilities, matches, a knife (to protect oneself :-), and a dish with a spoon (to eat things from the shops).
Soaps, shampoos, deos, sanitry towels, condoms are available everywhere in Russia, but there might be problems with good condoms and some brands of sanitary towels / tampons in small remote towns, and in the nighttime.
If you're going to moskitoes areas, like St. Petersburg, Novgorod region, Northern Russia (Karelia), it's nice to have a moscitoe net and something against them.
Besides, it might be quite cold (check weather info above). If you came in Winter, it'll be minus 10, snowy, so you will need a warm hat, trousers, a sweater, a really warm coat and good warm shoes that won't get wet.
CUSTOMS. Don't bring drugs, weapons, and other stuff you can get here.
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO.
The Films. The films are readily available everywhere in Russia, especially Kodak Gold (100, 200, 400) brands. If you need some special type of film, either bring it with you, or buy them in Moscow or St. Petersburg (the price is usually the same as in other countries).
TIME. Time in the European part of Russia is 3 hours more than Greenwich meridian time or two hours more than central European part. (+3 GMT or +2 CET). So if in London it's 10.00 in Moscow it's 13.00 (in Russia 24-hour system is used).
Every year clock goes 1 hour forward in the last Sunday of March and back 1 hour in the last Sunday of October.
There are 11 time zones in Russia - so when it's evening in Moscow, it's morning in Vladivostok (Russian port on the Pacific Ocean).
OPEN HOURS. State institutions, offices, companies are usually opened from 9.00 or 10.00 to 18.00 or 19.00 and do not work on Saturday, Sundays and public holidays. The food stores are usually opened from 8.00 to 20.00 except on sundays from 8.00 to 18.00. Big department stores, clothing stores, supermarkets are opened all week long from 9.00-10.00 to 9.00-10.00. There are many currency exchange offices in the big cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg) working until late night and sometimes 24 hours a day.
On public holidays all banks, offices, museums and some shops are closed. However big department stores, food stoes, supermarkets are all opened.
ELECTRICITY & PHONES. In Russia the electricity of 220 volts and 50 hertz is used. The electricity is quite cheap, so people don't care about sparing it. The power sockets are same to French ones, but are different from the American ones, so consider buying an adapter - it's very cheap.
The phones use the pulse dialing and the quality of the connection is not good. The sockets are different too. There's only small fixed monthly fee for local phonecalls (in Moscow & St. Pete), but if you make international calls it's very expensive.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES . Metric system is used in Russia.
Dealing with the police. The laws in Russia are not very different from the European or American ones. It's just that the fines are lower. Police is Militsia (Милиция - Militsia) in Russia. Policemen are bad paid, so if you do something illegal you can always come to an agreement with them. Also try to be very nice to policemen, it's important for your safety. At the same time if they want to rob you because of some made-up reason (like registration), just show you're not going to pay, so they'll understand they won't make money on you and they'll get off.
If you get stopped on the street. Here all the people must have a passport (not ID or a driving license) with them, carrying it all the time. Of course, almost nobody does.
You can carry a copy of the passport, but it's better to have original. If you don't have passport with you, militsia may take you to the police station for up to 3 hours to find out who you are. Foreigners must have a passport and a registration with them. If stayed in Russia for less than 3 days instead of the registration papers you should show them a ticket which you used to enter the country.
If you forgot your passport you can try to show them id or something, pretending you don't understand them and if they don't let you go you can try to give them money - bribe. Be prepared that when they realize you're a foreigner they'll try to take as much money as they can. The usual price for small infringement is 100 roubles (4$). If you don't have a registration it's 100-200 roubles (4-8$).
If you're at the police station for an infringement, they must notify the embassy of your native country. Do not forget that if you are in the police station you have the right to call to your embassy and not to talk or sign anything before you have a lawyer. But don't be very pushy with police.