So... we’re in! After the Socceroos’ play-off win against Honduras last week, their place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is assured. If you’re a die-hard soccer fan and you’re keen to get your green-and-gold to Russia, here are a few things to think about as you plan your epic adventure to the largest country in the world (that’s right, we’re talking eleven time zones).
Get your event tickets
If you’re hoping to go to one of the games in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, you’ll need to apply for your tickets online from the official FIFA World Cup site. Until 28 November, tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis, marking the end of Sales Phase 1. Don’t panic, because there will be two more opportunities to apply for tickets, and everything you need to know is online. Soccer, football... whatever you call it, this is definitely ‘the World Game’, with 3,496,204 tickets requested as at 12 October 2017. Good luck!
Get yourself there
Flight Centre can help you travel to Russia, no problem. Stay tuned for upcoming tour options and, if you’re ever in doubt about what’s available, talk to one of our Travel Experts instore or by calling 131 600.
Get amongst it
If you’re travelling all the way to Russia, you probably want to see a little of the country, right? Matches will be held in cities all over the country, with several new stadiums purpose-built for the big 2018 event. Here’s a little of what you can expect to find in the 2018 FIFA World Cup host cities:
Volgograd (Volgograd Arena)
Once known as Stalingrad – that’s right, things are about to get interesting – Volgograd is the site of one of the most important battles of World War II. Here, in February 1943, the relentless German advance was met with gritty Russian determination, and eventually turned back for good. In celebration, the Soviets transformed the city into a symbol of success, creating broad boulevards and public buildings – plus one pretty impressive victory monument. The new stadium here is also significant. It is being built on the site of a cherished moment in sport when, back in 1995, local team Rotor Volgograd defeated Manchester United in the UEFA Cup, when David Beckham was a member of the team. Glory days.
Kazan (Kazan Arena)
What the? Yes, you’re in Russia. Kazan is where Europe and Asia intersect, with the population made up of both Slavic Russians and Tatar cultures. It is the capital of the Tatarstan Republic and about 150 years older than Moscow. Super interesting, if you thought you had an idea of what Russia was all about. This is the land of the Volga Tatars, a people often connected to Genghis Khan’s hordes. Fun fact: The Kazan Arena has the largest outside screen in Europe.
Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium and Spartak Stadium)
Football game or not, Moscow is a city that draws a crowd at any time of year. The magnificent and mesmerising St Basil’s Cathedral is the icon of Russia, while the turbulent history of Red Square is almost palpable as you stroll across the cobblestones. There’s so much to see in this city, from monuments and museums to all the events and buzz that will be surrounding the tournament. The match draw is set to take place on 1 December this year at the State Kremlin Palace, while Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium will be the main venue and the heart of the Cup, hosting the opening match, a semi-final and the final, on 15 July 2018.
Ekaterinburg (Ekaterinburg Arena)
Don’t be confused if you also find this city referred to as ‘Yekaterinburg’. The Russian letter ‘E’ is pronounced ‘ye’ and you’ll find both versions popping up everywhere. Russia’s fourth-largest city has some visit-worthy attractions, such as the fanciful Sevastyanov House, with the most notorious being the huge Byzantine-style ‘Church upon the Blood’ where Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and children were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Ekaterinburg Arena will be the venue for four first-round group games in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Saint Petersburg (Saint Petersburg Stadium)
Russia’s imperial capital oozes with palaces, parks, museums and sites that will make any history buff swoon. And right now, it’s gaining a futuristic new landmark. Saint Petersburg’s new, super-modern stadium is being built on the site of the Kirov Stadium on Krestovsky Island. The tender was won by the renowned Japanese architect Kisho Kurosawa, whose vision is “of a spaceship that has landed on the Gulf of Finland”, according to FIFA.
Kaliningrad (Kaliningrad Stadium)
Kaliningrad is probably one of the most unique cities taking part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, mostly because it is not actually connected to Russia in a geographical sense – it lies in the heart of a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea, sandwiched between Poland to the South and Lithuania to the north. Make sure you’re aware of this if you’re booking tickets. The travel time from Moscow to Kaliningrad is about 15 hours by car – a distance of over 1,000 kilometres. That said, you’ll be well rewarded for spending time in Kaliningrad. With its German heritage and fascinating history, it’s something different for a Socceroo-following fan tour.
Nizhny Novgorod (Nizhny Novgorod Stadium)
Make like a Russian from the get-go and start calling this city Nizhny for short. Located where the Volga and Oka rivers meet, Nizhny was originally a merchant’s city and is now known for having the longest flight of stairs on the river Volga. Built during the Soviet era, a walk up the Chkalov stairs is a must-do.
Rostov-On-Don (Rostov Arena)
Southern Russia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, ‘Rostov’ is full of green parks, squares and the occasional cathedral. Better yet, it’s not too far from the Black Sea coast, which is perfect for a day-trip when you need put the Socceroos on hold and enjoy some downtime.
Samara (Samara Arena)
What the port city of Samara lacks in historical significance, it more than makes up for in atmosphere. On sunny days, the riverbanks are packed with locals enjoying the great weather (and possibly a beer), the vibe is good and the restaurants are some of the best in the region.
Saransk (Mordovia Arena)
The capital of the Republic of Mordovia is known today as a centre for craft and trade, although in recent years it has shot to the headlines for another reason. The French actor Gerard Depardieu was personally granted Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin in 2013, after which he was presented with felt boots, the Mordovia national shirt, and offered the post of Minister of Culture. He declined the post, but promised to sing the praises of Mordovia wherever he went.
Sochi (Fisht Stadium)
Host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi is the resort town of Russia, located on the Black Sea. While Sochi doesn’t quite live up to its name as the Russian Riviera, it does have a great climate and seaside vibe. Restaurants in Sochi offer Caucasian, European Russian, Middle Eastern, Caucasian European, Belgian and Russian French cuisine, as well as seafood.
Visiting Russia: What else is there to know?
Will you need a tourist visa to enter Russia? Several sources cite that a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup will replace the Russian entry visa, as well as being your entry pass to events and enabling you to take public transport for free on match days. Keep in mind that it’s your responsibility to ensure that you have valid passports, visas and re-entry permits which meet the requirements of immigration and other government authorities. You should consult the relevant government website or an external visa provider, plus the official 2018 FIFA World Cup website or the FanID site. You can also talk to one of our Travel Experts and they can look into it for you.
Places to stay
Accommodation during the 2018 FIFA World Cup is going to be interesting. While it may already be tough to find somewhere to stay in the centre of Moscow, it’s certainly not the only city to host matches. As the above run-through of host cities shows, your experience of Russia can be as varied as you’d like it to be, and once you push out from the capital you’re going to see a completely different side of Russia anyway. And remember, “Go the Socceroos!” is going to sound brilliant, no matter what stadium you’re in.