Our Top Tips to Survive Russia's Extreme Weather

Winter in Russia can be an incredible experience – if you're prepared for the frigid temperatures. Here's how to plan for winter cold and summer heat waves.

Photo © iStock/Mordolff

Contrary to what you might think, Russia is not simply a vast expanse of land filled with ice and snow, where people walk around wearing fur hats. In fact, the climate in Russia can be quite lovely much of the year. Spring, early summer and fall each bring comfortable temperatures and paint the landscape with color and life. There are certain times of year, however, that do bring temperamental weather which can be dangerous if not properly planned for.

Winter's Frigid Grip

Winter in Russia can be an incredible sight to see. With brilliantly designed buildings blanketed in a sea of white snow, it can be nothing short of breathtaking. But as beautiful as it may be, Russian winters are nothing to mess with. If you plan to visit during the months of December through February, there are several things you should be aware of in order to stay healthy and safe during this chilly season.

Watch for hanging icicles on buildings. These icicles can be enormous and can cause serious injury or even death if they fall on a passerby below. Avoid walking directly under overhangs when you are walking near buildings and always be aware of your surroundings.

Winter in Russia can mean record snowfall. Be sure to come prepared with appropriate clothing to handle snow, like a heavy coat, warm hat, scarf, gloves and thick, weatherproof boots. It's also important that you plan your day-to-day travel accordingly when the forecast calls for snow. You don't want to end up stranded somewhere for most of your trip because you're snowed in. And similar to ice, falling snow is also a threat so watch what you are walking under.

Frigid temperatures can also be a factor during the winter months in Russia. With temps known to drop as low as -32 C (-22F) in some places, frostbite can become a real risk to anyone spending even short periods of time outside. Warm clothes, layered, and a long windproof jacket can do wonders to protect your body from the wind and elements. And here's where the infamous Russian fur hats come into play. Once you feel these icy cold temperatures, you'll probably want to get yourself one to keep your ears and head warm. And, of course, scarves, gloves, wool socks and thick boots should also be in your wardrobe arsenal.

Another thing to watch out for during the Russian winter months is icy roads and sidewalks. Take extra precaution when walking on snow or ice covered paths. One of the most common accidents to befall tourists visiting Russia during winter is simple slip-and-fall accidents due to the conditions. A fall can result in anything from minor injuries like cuts and bruises, to more serious problems like broken bones or even paralysis. Wear boots that have good traction and be extremely careful wherever you walk outside.

Dog Days of Summer

Summertime in Russia can last from June through August (or shorter, depending on the region), and weather during this time can be quite mild and comfortable. It's generally a great time to visit. But while the climate is typically pleasant, there is a risk of temperatures fluctuating greatly and reaching heats that are dangerously high. In fact, recent years have seen unusually hot weather, which can be potentially dangerous to residents and tourists alike.

One of the biggest dangers of a heat wave is the effect it can have on people's health. Exposure to excessive heat and humidity forces the human body to work harder to maintain a healthy temperature. As a result, the body can become dehydrated, experience heat exhaustion, heat stroke or even death. Even the healthiest of people can be overcome by heat if they aren't careful and don't take appropriate precautions. Elderly people, children, and the disabled are even more at risk. The best ways to protect yourself should a heat wave occur while you are visiting Russia is to dress appropriately, avoid strenuous activity, stay hydrated and remain indoors as much as possible.

Another dangerous symptom of a Russian heat wave is the threat of drowning. When the temperatures rise, it's natural for people to gravitate toward water in the hopes of receiving relief from the heat by taking a swim. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of people will also have the same idea and crowded beaches mean an increased risk of drowning. If you plan to visit any of the waterfronts in Russia during the summer months, be extremely cautious and know the risks.

It's also important to mention the risk of wildfires, which have been a serious issue during recent years of extreme heat in Russia. One of the biggest concerns when it comes to wildfires is the smoke that they generate. The health effects that come from exposure to wildfire smoke can include anything from minor eye, throat and respiratory irritation to more serious issues involving decreased lung function, worsening of conditions like bronchitis and asthma and even death. Anyone with lung or heart disease is at an increased risk. In the event that you happen to be visiting Russia and wildfires break out, you should limit outdoor activity and remain indoors as much as possible.

It's a sobering statistic, but true nonetheless that each year dozens of people are either seriously injured or lose their lives in Russia due to some sort of weather related injury. Be it ice and snow in the winter or unbearably hot temperatures in the summer, if you're planning a trip to Russia it's critical that you know what the weather may hold in store when you arrive. Planning ahead and taking the appropriate precautions will help ensure that you remain healthy and safe during your trip and allow you to enjoy all that Russia has to offer in any season.

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