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Packing for normal-length vacations is a stressful event. Packing for four months or longer is almost unbearable (keep dreaming about that destination!). I packed and repacked three times before settling on what I would take with me to study abroad in Russia. Some things I got right, and others were a drag, literally — unnecessary weight is a drag. Please, someone, explain to me why Past Kendal found it absolutely necessary to lug nearly ten pounds of extra electronic cables half way across the world? Avoid excess baggage fees with this Russia packing guide, which includes what I’m glad I packed, what I wished I packed, and what I wished I hadn’t packed for my Spring study abroad semester.
1 winter coat. Make sure it is heavy and suitable for rain, snow, and sleet. My Land’s End parka kept me comfortably warm day and night. I swear by it!
1 light coat. The first thing I regret not bringing. Once May hit, the weather heated up. It was too cold to only wear a long-sleeve, but too warm to wear my parka.
14 underwear. I did two loads of laundry every two weeks to save time to explore.
10 thick socks. My boots were awesome, but with a thicker-than-normal pair of socks my feet never suffered. Skip the super thick socks.
4 regular socks. For those warmer, yet still cold, days.
3 bras. I recommend bringing two pairs you regularly wear plus a convertible or strapless bra.
1 formal outfit. I packed a green almost-knee-length dress with black stockings, but you can pack what you’re comfortable with. It should be formal enough to wear to ballets, theaters, and other formal events.
2 going-out outfits. I usually wore black leggings and a nice shirt because I like to be comfortable at all times. Russian girls usually dress up though. Think gold dresses and heels.
3 pairs of jeans. Due to the harsh weather, your jeans will withstand a lot. Pack two pairs of regular and one pair of black jeans.
7 sleep shirts. You can wear sleepwear multiple times….you will be okay.
4 sleep pants. See above!
10 long-sleeved shirts. Leave your heavy sweaters and hoodies at home and instead dress in layers. You will walk a lot, warming up your body.
4 short-sleeved shirts. For those unusual warm days or for lounging around.
1 cardigan. I rarely wore my cardigan, but it was extremely useful when I did! I mostly wore long-sleeved shirts with my parka, but occasionally I would wear a short-sleeved shirt, my cardigan, and my parka. Sometimes buildings aren’t heated to U.S. standards, so the cardigan is useful to carry around just in case.
1 bathing suit. For the water park or while traveling.
Accessories & Shoes
1 pair of flip flops. A pair of flip flops are good for protecting your feet from dirty hostel floors. Even if the floor is clean, it’s dirty.
1 pair of all-weather boots. If my feet are cold, I’m miserable. These bad boys kept my toes toasty no matter what. At one point the zipper wouldn’t zip due to a misalignment, but I took it to a cobbler and with a single swing of the hammer all was well again. Make sure your boots have some tread to prevent slipping on ice.
1 pair of flats or heels. To wear with your formal and going-out attire. I prefer flats because walking over ice in heels sounds deadly, but many Russian females walk in heels without a stumble.
1 pair of gloves. Prepare for chapped hands if you do without. Heavy gloves aren’t necessary, but they should have a little thickness or lining. A couple friends had Land’s End leather gloves, which worked great for them.
1 winter hat. Past Kendal worried too much about her electronics dying instead of having cold ears. Big mistake. Thankfully a friend had a beanie I could borrow, which I quickly fell in love with and eventually bought.
1 backpack. For day trips and class. I like my Travelon backpack because I always know my electronics and debit cards are safe. I cannot recommend Travelon highly enough!
2 purses. I recommend bringing a casual and nicer-looking purse. Sometimes you don’t want to bring your camera along, so having a purse is nice. A small clutch or small purse works well for formal events and going out.
1 blanket scarf. Absolutely necessary. Walking on Nevsky at night is like walking through a wind tunnel. Blanket scarves are also good for covering your shoulders and back for chilly rooms.
Watch. Watches are just convenient and nice to look at.
Necklace. On the rare occasion I wore jewelry, I was happy to have a necklace.
Umbrella. Bring a compact umbrella to keep in your purse or backpack in case it rains on your walk home.
This section is specific for students who work out daily or almost daily and are committed to keeping this routine abroad.
I brought cold-weather running attire with me and never used it. When the temperature is cold, there is either snow or ice, which I avoid running in. By the time the temperature was warm enough to run outside, there wasn’t much time left in the semester and I spent my entire day exploring.
Sports bras. For all the workout gear I listed, you can rinse in a sink and hang to dry to extend usage. I recommend bringing 5-7 pairs.
Tanks. Or whatever workout top you prefer. I recommend bringing 5-7.
Running or yoga leggings. You can wear this to the gym, in addition to your parka and leg warmers, without needing to change and shower at the gym. I recommend bringing 5-7.
2 leg warmers. These will be very comfortable to have while walking to and from the gym in the bitter cold.
10 socks. Don’t rewash these. Once you’ve worn them all, it’s time for laundry.
1 pair of athletic shoes. Be sure they are comfortable during all workouts you enjoy.
1 bath towel. Bring one to have for once you arrive. Towels are inexpensive to purchase if you need more.
1 bottle contact solution. Available in Russia for purchase once you run out.
1 month contact lens supply. Russia has contact lens vending machines. Don’t worry about stocking up beforehand and purchase them abroad. Be sure to know your prescription.
Tweezers & nail clippers. Hopefully this is obvious.
Menstrual cup. In my opinion, European feminine products are awful. Stocking up on these necessities takes up too much room. I recommend purchasing a menstrual cup. They are very convenient, eco-friendly, and money-saving. Plus they save packing space! I use the DivaCup and wash and travel wipes as well.
Sunglasses. The sun rarely shines in Russia, but when it does sunglasses are useful. I recommend Diff Eyewear because of their high-quality design and philanthropic values. Email me for a $10 discount on your first purchase.
Brush & hair bands.
Glasses & case.
Lotion. Bring body and face lotion. The cold air will get to your skin.
Mini shampoo & conditioner & body soap. Many Western brands are available in Russia for the same or cheaper prices. Bring enough to last you for a couple days. I recommend bringing refillable containers so you can bring some with you while traveling.
Dental hygiene products. Don’t forget your floss! I recommend bringing an electric toothbrush, if you don’t already have one, and asking your dentist for prescription-grade toothpaste to use in addition to your regular toothpaste. I came back from Russia with shockingly poor dental hygiene, despite my best efforts while abroad. Different water treating systems, etc. could be the cause. Better safe than sorry!
Deodorant. Don’t be the smelly American…please.
Hand sanitizer. Russia culture requires washing your hands after riding public transportation. In case you’re feeling lazy, one bottle of travel-sized hand sanitizer will prove handy.
Vitamins & herbs. Lots of dramatic physical and mental changes occur while studying abroad. Protect your health and take a small supply of vitamins for when you’re feeling something coming on.
Prescriptions. Most doctors require an appointment when asking for multiple months supply of a prescription. Plan ahead.
Guidebook. Lonely Planet’s Russia guidebook is awesome.
Phone + charger. Purchase a Russian SIM card a day or two after arriving. The provider should help you set this up. I went with Tele2 and the unlimited data plan was around 300RUB per month.
Laptop + charger. You’ll have some papers to write.
Earbuds. For listening to music on the metro.
Adaptor & converter. All of my electronics converted to 220V, so a converter wasn’t necessary for me. I did bring an adaptor for my electronics.
Gift for host family. Something small and thoughtful works!
Journal. Try journaling every day. You’ll appreciate it in a few years.
Language dictionary. Necessary for your Russian language course.
Travel documents. Perhaps the most important items on this list are your visa, passport, and flight information.
Leave At Home
University or greek branded attire. University attire will make you stand out as a tourist and although Russians are generally friendly towards Americans, it’s best to not draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Sororities and fraternities are considered cults in Russia, therefore it’s punishable to wear greek attire. Leave your letters at home.
Slippers. Russian culture mandates wearing slippers in the house. If you plan on living in a homestay, your host family will lend you a pair of Russian slippers. Leave yours at home.
Is there anything you think I missed? Share in the comments below!