Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel to Russia? I always wanted to go but still had this fear deep down that was only heightened by the Visa process and the extremely in-depth application you have to fill out. Thoughts of, “what if my flight is cancelled and my Visa expires?” or “what if I get arrested and end up locked up abroad?”
Yes, those very thoughts and fears were racing through my mind. But when I landed and made it through customs in a breeze and started my exploration of the city, I realized my fears were a result of too many James Bond movies.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are likely the two most well-known Russian cities. Moscow has an “unofficial” population of 22 million people, and 95 percent of the money turnover occurs there making it the business hub of Russia. While Moscow hosts the majority of Russian tradeshows, there are other exhibition centers and shows popping up throughout the entire country. Sochi is even building new centers for the 2014 Olympics.
The majority of shows are in Moscow, so I’ll discuss navigating this particular city and what to expect when exhibiting here. You can choose two different airports to fly into Moscow from the U.S. The newer and more suggested airport is Domodedovo. It is undergoing a bit of construction at the moment but still is easy to navigate.
While in Domodedovo, there are ATM machines as well as cash exchanges for you to obtain the official currency, the Rouble. Today’s exchange rate with the USD is 3 cents for every Rouble.
I highly recommend arranging a car for pick up before you arrive. Your local hotel should be able to assist you with this. Taxis are available, but not in abundance, and the ride into town could be up to 3 hours depending on traffic, so it’s worth having a nice car waiting. You can even have your hotel arrange a taxi for you to and from any location you wish, if you choose not to use the subway.
The subway stations are beautiful, and you can even take guided tours of them. However, the actual train cars are not nearly as nice, but they function and are relatively inexpensive for such a pricey city. They are safe as well.
Doing business in Russia is anything but easy. There is a lot of red tape for both Russians and foreigners to do anything.
When planning for a show, it is recommended to work with a local provider that is close to the exhibition center. Due to the awful traffic situation, it can easily take hours to deliver something that is only 10 miles away. It’s very important to be extremely buttoned up on your details as well. Adding an extra chair or table could take an entire day.
Due to rough roads, they must pack your exhibit items with extra padding and protection to avoid damage, which does mean more money. In the winter, it is so cold that items must be transported in heated vehicles or the paint finish will peel. This also means more money. When shipping anything from outside of Russia, use the show carrier, or it will likely not make it through customs in time for the show.
It is highly recommended to keep projects simple for multiple reasons:
• People work extremely slow.
• The more detailed your stand gets, the more fees that can be added.
• There is an “All Management Fee” that every job must pay, which runs an average of $4 for every square foot. This fee is to check the technical soundness of your stand and the more complex the more you pay.
• Every refrigerator must have a smoke detector purchased through the hall for about $110.
• Exhibitors must pay for an exhibit badge for the crew if they want or need people there on opening day or during the show. Work passes are only allowed on install days.
• Like other parts of the world, no wires are allowed under carpet and a raised floor is mandatory, not optional. The hall then charges a $3 per square foot subfloor fee.
As you can see, there are many random additional charges, which increase the cost of doing a show in Russia. You may also have a random charge on your estimate for grease money.
While business can be difficult at the set up, it can be managed if you are prepared and profitable if you are successful. Remember the breathtaking sightseeing when you are done. There are the must-dos like Red Square, The Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and Gorky Park. However, checking out Sparrow Hill for a beautiful view of the city, a river cruise and attending a Russian Circus are also great adventures.
Then, if you have the time, hop a short flight to St. Petersburg and check out the old capital. It’s breathtaking. Be sure to note baggage restrictions on flights within Russia. Typically, you are only allowed one bag for free.
Now, forget your travel fears from the Cold War days and enjoy yourself in Russia. It’s truly remarkable.