Sochi

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Olympic rings.png
Host City for
Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Olympic Park
Coastal Cluster


Sochi
Olympics [1] · Sochi 2014 [2]



View on Sochi from the Black Sea

Sochi (Russian: Cо́чи, SO-chee) is one of the southernmost places of Russia and the second-largest city of Krasnodar Krai, with a population of 415,000. Located along the Black Sea coast, it is about 1,600 km south of Moscow.

Sochi became world-known in 2007, when it won the bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games [3].

Contents

Map

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Understand

Sochi is often called the unofficial 'Summer Capital' of Russia, or the Black Sea Pearl. This is the country's biggest and busiest summer sea resort, attracting more than 4 million visitors annually with its amazing mountainous coastline, endless shingle beaches, warm sunny days, and bustling nightlife. From May to September Sochi's population at least doubles with tourists, including celebrities and political elite of the country.

Strangely, only 3 percent of this visitors' crowd are international travellers, and even the frontier location of the city doesn't help to change the situation. Maybe the most famous non-politician foreign visitor of Sochi was Bono, who was invited to spend some time at President Medvedev's residence in 2010. But in general the city remains a very domestic destination, somewhat lacking in appropriate international infrastructure and having the same language barrier most regional centers of Russia do.

Another paradox of Sochi is that the city, always associated in national mentality with south, palms and hot climate, won the 2014 Winter Olympic bid. This phenomenon will be probably never understood by Russians completely: every place in the country has a real winter, but Sochi? The answers are absence of harsh frost and the very promising Alpine resort of Krasnaya Polyana in the city area. A less pragmatic explanation is the lucky destiny of Sochi. The most famous Russian saying about the city is "If I could read the cards, I would live in Sochi" ("Знал бы прикуп - жил бы в Сочи"). Initially coming from the Preference card game, this saying shows the association of Sochi and its inhabitants with luck, moreover, with an accidental and unpredictable fortune.

Well, perhaps such an Olympic luck will help the city to reach beyond the national borders and to become a truly global site. Sochi has many attractions to offer for anyone who loves nature, sports, history, and sunny beach leisure. This Black Sea Pearl is still waiting to be discovered.

History

The territory of today's Sochi was inhabited for thousands of years, populated by Caucasian mountainous tribes and being under the influence and dominion of ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Abkhazian and Ottoman civilizations. A few landmarks of antecedent civilizations remained, including the bronze age table-stones and medieval Byzantine temples.

The Russian Empire approached these lands in the beginning of 19th century, and after a war with the Ottoman Empire acquired them in 1829. Soon after that, in 1838, Russian authorities established the fort of Alexandria, at the site of modern Central Sochi, and 2 more forts in the modern Lazarevskoe district of the city. Alexandria was renamed several times and finally obtained the name Sochi (by the name of a local river) in 1896.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Sochi became known as a resort place. In 1902 the first bath building in Matsesta was constructed and in 1909 the official resort named "Caucasian Riviera" was open. Right before the 1917 revolution Sochi got its city status, and in the same time the railroad connected it with the rest of Russia. But the regular train service started only 6 years later, after the Russian Civil War finished with the Bolsheviks' victory. The city was growing quite slowly (from 13,000 in 1916 to 17,000 in 1932).

The situation changed in 1934, when a general reconstruction of Sochi was initiated by Stalin's government. For just 7 years from 1932 to 1939 the city's population skyrocketed from 17,000 to 72,000. New roads, theaters, parks, hotels and spa resorts were constructed, making the look of Sochi closer to what can be seen today.

In 1961 authorities decided to incorporate neighboring settlements into Sochi, giving the start to the history of Greater Sochi (Большой Сочи).

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Sochi took the role of Russian President's traditional summer residence from Crimea, as that became a part of the independent Ukraine.

In 2007 the city opened a new chapter in its history by winning the bid of the Olympic host city of 2014. The volume of construction work is huge, including new infrastructure (roads, sanitation, air and seaports, etc.), sport venues (both indoor and outdoor), commercial and residential buildings. The new look of Sochi has already started to transform the features of once a Soviet domestic resort.

Climate

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 9.3 9.8 12.1 16.8 20.5 24.4 27 27.1 24.2 20 15.1 11.4
Nightly lows (°C) 3.1 3.2 5 9.1 12.6 16.4 19.4 19.3 15.8 12 7.9 5.1
Precipitation (mm) 179 118 109 116 93 91 122 135 135 158 191 197

Average of Sochi (coastal part)

Sochi belongs to that tiny part of Russia, which is happily located in the subtropical climatic zone. In contrast to Mediterranean climates, Sochi has a very high humidity level, like that in Abkhazia or in some USA states (e.g. Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia). Despite high precipitation, Sochi enjoys 300 sunny days annually, which is unbelievable for any other part of Russia except neighboring Krasnodar Krai coastal cities. This makes nearly all the year months comfortable for visiting Sochi, except maybe November, December and January.

Palms and snow: the winter in Sochi

Most of precipitation falls during the winter, partly in snow, but there is usually no regular snow cover in the coastal part of the city. Sochians rarely use winter tyres, so every heavy snowfall comes unpredictably for drivers. The climate of the mountainous part of Greater Sochi is significantly colder, allowing for a full ski season in winter (usually, February and March). Thanks to that, Krasnaya Polyana is quickly developing as a winter resort and will host all outdoor competitions during the 2014 Olympics.

The period of spring is quite short and is characterized by gardens blossoming (usually starts in March, even if temperatures are lower than in February). This is a comfortable season with less rain, but still with the cold sea.

Sochi summer can be associated with the swimming season, which usually lasts from the mid-end of May till the end of October. This is the true high season with it's touristic peak in July-August. In September and October the city attracts fewer visitors, partly because of the start of the school year. These two months, when the Black Sea is still warm, air is not very hot, and streets are not filled with tourists' crowds, seem to be the most enjoying time to visit Sochi. This period is called smoothy season ("бархатный сезон").

The off-season autumn, coming to Sochi in the end of October, is warm, but with more cloudy days and rain. By the end of November daily average temperature drops below 10 degrees C.

Ethnicities and religions

Sochi is one of the most multinational cities in Russia with people of more than 100 ethnic groups living there. Most of them are ethnic Russians (68%), the important minorities are Armenians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Greeks, Ciscassians, Belorussians, Tatars, and Jews.

Russian is the predominant language spoken by almost everyone in the city, including nearly all minorities, but many local placenames came from Abkhazian and Ciscassian languages. The most commonly used ones include "pse" / "psh" / "psta" (water), "akh" (high), and "nykh" (holy).

The major part of Sochi inhabitants are Orthodox Christians (80%). There are also Muslims (5%), Catholics and Judaists. Orthodox cathedrals are represented in all the parts of the city. The only Catholic cathedral located in Central Sochi was built in 1997 (most churchgoers are Catholic Armenians). There is also a mosque, albeit a very small and remote one (in Tkhagapsh community, 15 km towards the mountains from Lazarevskoe). The city authorities are planning to build a new mosque and a synagogue by 2014.

Greater Sochi map

Orientation

Greater Sochi occupies 105 km along the Black Sea coastline. Its total area is 3,500 square kilometres (3 times as large as Moscow). However, most of the population is spread along the narrow coastline stripe, while the mountain area (1,900 square km) mostly belongs to Sochi National Park and partly to Caucasian Biosphere Reserve. The city alignment is from north-west to south-east, from the neighboring city of Tuapse right to the Russian border with Abkhazia.

Greater Sochi officially includes 4 administrative districts:

Central Sochi District
The core of the city and its most developed and populated part. Many of the city attractions, hotels and most shopping centers are located there. During the summer season Central Sochi is usually overcrowded and traffic-jammed.
Lazarevskoye District (Ashe, Dagomys, Golovinka, Lazarevskoye, Loo (LO-Oh), Makopse, Solokhaul, Uchdere, Vardane, Volkonka)
The largest (1744 sq. km) and the longest (65 km coastline) one among Sochi districts, includes 34 sub-districts, most of them are spread along the sea shore. Lazarevskoe district is less urbanized that other ones in Greater Sochi. In fact it has many various settlements, often poorly connected with each other and lacking in basic infrastructure.
Khosta District (Khosta, Kudepsta, Matsesta)
Located to the south-east from Central Sochi, this district contains some major attractions, such as Akhun mountain.
Adler District (Adler, Imeretinskaya lowland, Krasnaya Polyana, Vesyoloe.)
The city's important transport hub, which includes Sochi International Airport, Adler train terminal (final point for most trains going to Greater Sochi) and the only open border crossing with Abkhazia. The role of Adler is rapidly increasing now because it will host all the Olympic venues for the 2014 Games (the Olympic coastal cluster at Imeretinskaya lowland and the mountain cluster at Krasnaya Polyana). The district currently looks like a single huge construction site (certainly, the works cause traffic problems). By 2014 the look of Imeretinskaya lowland and Krasnaya Polyana will change completely, as well as the local transport infrastructure.










The best developed, urbanized and monolithic part of Greater Sochi is the coastline between Dagomys (south-east of Lazarevskoe district) and Imeretinskaya lowland of Adler district.

Money

Like elsewhere in Russia, Russian rouble (RUR) is the only currency officially accepted in the city. Money exchange is not a problem, but use only official counters at banks and avoid people offering you exchange at major transport hubs. By Russian legislation passport is needed for exchange operations. The approximate exchange rate is 40 RUR for 1 euro or 28 RUR for 1 US dollar (as of 2011).

Sochi has many ATMs, especially in Central Sochi and Adler. You may withdraw not only roubles, but also dollars or euro at some of them (approximately 10% of all ATMs). Take into account, that Visa and MasterCard are widespread in Russia, but American Express cards are usually not accepted even at major tourist places. Also, expect possible problems with paying by card at minor shops or restaurants and at small private hotels. Have some cash with you for such cases.

Get in

Sochi is among several Russian seaports, where international tourists have the opportunity of visa-free entry for up to 72 hours (applicable for cruise ships and ferry line passengers only). Check limitations and requirements carefully before use.

For other foreign visitors standard Russian visa requirements apply.

File:Sochi airport1.jpg
Sochi International Airport

By plane

Sochi's primary gateway is Sochi International Airport [4] (IATA: AER ICAO: URSS), which is located in Adler district, right on the way to Krasnaya Polyana. It was totally reconstructed during the preparation to the 2014 Olympics. The new terminal was open in 2010 giving the city a chance to become a major regional air hub.

Flight schedule differs depending on season with the peak number of flights in May-September. During the winter flight delays are possible due to weather conditions. Alternatively, Krasnodar or Gelendzhik airports can be used.

International flights

There are regular air connections with Vienna (Austrian Airlines [5]), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines [6]), and Tel-Aviv (DONAVIA [7]).

Former Soviet Union countries are also connected to Sochi: Yerevan, Armenia (Armavia [8]), Tashkent, Uzbekistan (DONAVIA), Minsk, Belarus (Belavia [9]), Cishinau, Moldova (Air Moldova [10]), and Dushanbe, Tajikistan (Tajik Air [11]).

The departure hall of Sochi Airport

Domestic flights

Several flights per day connect Sochi with Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Other major cities of Russia, such as Kazan, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Perm, Rostov-on-the-Don, Samara, Yekaterinburg and others are also connected by air with Sochi.

Key carriers:

Airport transfer

By bus / marshrutka:

By taxi:

Taxi service at the airport is chaotic, taxi drivers can rarely speak English, and the declared price for a ride can be inadequate. To protect yourself book taxi / hotel transfer in advance.

The price varies greatly depending on the district you are going to. A ride to Adler costs 300-500 RUR, to Cental Sochi - 800-1000 RUR, to Krasnaya Polyana - 1,200-1,600 RUR. The most remote parts of Greater Sochi, such as Lazarevskoe, will cost up to 4000 RUR.

By rails:

Preparing to the 2014 Olympics, RZD [21] is constructing the railroad, which will connect Sochi airport with the city. Commuter trains to Adler and Central Sochi will be available since 2012, the connection with Krasnaya Polyana is planned on 2013.

File:Sochistation.jpg
Main railroad terminal of Sochi

By train

Sochi has two major rail terminals in Central Sochi and Adler. However, most trains make short stops at small transit stations of Great Sochi: Lazarevskaya, Loo, Dagomys, Matsesta and Khosta. Tickets can be purchazed via Russian Railways website [22] (at the moment the service is available in Russian only), at RZD counters, or via travel agencies. RZD opens ticket sales 45 days prior to ride, book in advance during the high season.

There are regular train connections with key cities of Russia, and also with major cities of Belarus and Ukraine. Round-the-year destinations include:

International:

Domestic:

During the high season (May to September) the number of trains and the diversity of destinations increase dramatically.

By car

The M4 / E115 road connects Sochi with Moscow (1660 km) via Voronezh (1150 km), Rostov-on-the-Don (570 km) and Krasnodar (300 km).

The quality of this busy road differs from a narrow serpentine to a highway depending on its section, tending to improve during last years. Normally it takes 2 days to reach the city from Moscow and 5-9 hours from Krasnodar, depending on traffic.

Going to Sochi from Europe you can use transit roads through Ukraine or Turkey. In the last case a car can be transferred to Sochi from Trabzon by ferry. Please note that entering Sochi via Georgia and Abkhazia is impossible at the moment because of closed border between those two countries.

By bus

Sochi main bus terminal is located right near the main train terminal in Central Sochi. The second important terminal is in Adler.

International route destinations:

Major domestic route destinations:

The seaport of Sochi

By boat

Going to Sochi by a cruise ship or by a regular ferry can be an attractive opportunity to visit Russia without visa. Passengers are allowed to stay up to 72 hours at Russian territory if they live at the cruise ship or at the hotel, which is arranged for this particular group tourist program [23].

Unsurprisingly, up to now, most international tourists come to Sochi by cruise ships (please check the itinerary [24]).

The seaport of Sochi [25] operates several regular international routes, mainly in the period from May to October:

Ferry tickets from Sochi can be usually purchased only at the port, 1 day prior to departure.

There are also regular ship connections with neighbouring cities of Novorossiysk, Tuapse and Gagra, Abkhazia.

Get around

By foot

Within Central Sochi most distances are walkable, with some regard to hilly landscape and appropriate physical efforts needed (take into account that the big volume of construction prior to 2014 Olympics has made some walks less suitable). Other districts of the city have signuificant spaces between their parts, so it's better to use some transport to get, for example, from Matsesta to Kudepsta or from Loo to Lazarevskoe. To walk between districts and sub-districts of Greater Sochi is also usually not convenient due to lack of sidewalks, hilly terrain, and intensive traffic.

It may seem that the city extended along the sea coast should have long promenades. In fact, most of the coastline space behind the beach is taken by the railroad. So, the only real promenade is between Riviera Park and Dendrarium of Central Sochi. The other one is under construction in the Olympic Park of Adler.

Due to the resort specifics of Sochi, the usual approach there is to measure the distance in meters from the beach. This may play a bad joke: you can find yourself at a hotel or apartment close to the sea, but far away from any infrastructure and transportation. So, be attentive while booking.

By bus / marshrutka

In contrast to other Russian cities of the same size, Sochi does not have any trams or trolleybuses. The initial bus transportation system after the collapce of Soviet Union was doped with smaller private buses and marshrutka (minibuses). The last category mostly duplicates the existing bus routes with some minor, but often useful additions. The sevice is quite frequent and relatively cheap, that makes it the most popular way of transportation in Sochi.

By 2014 Olympics the city authorities plan to provide English signage in buses and even English-speaking drivers. But as for now, neither the first nor the second can be found. So, as elsewhere in regional Russia prepare to bend your intuition not to miss your stop.

The most important bus/marshrutka routes in the city are:

Bus / marshrutka numbers from 1 to 99 mean that the fare is fixed for all the distance of the ride (9 RUR). Numbers from 100 have flexible fare system depending on the travel distance.

By train

File:Sochi Trains.jpg
Old vs New: an elektrichka and a Siemens Desiro ML train in Sochi

The 105 km lenght of Greater Sochi makes the railroad one of the fastest and most suitable transports to travel between the city districts. For a long period Sochi had the only line going from Tuapse to Abkhazia and beading 5 major stations, 4 minor ones, and 28 platforms inside the metropolitan area. Preparing to 2014 Olympics, RZD constructs two new lines (from Adler to the airport and from Imeretinskaya lowland to Krasnaya Polyana) with total lenght of 48 km and 5 new stations and platforms.

Commuter trains of Sochi have been constantly improving during recent years, upgrading from standard Russian elektrichki to modern and comfortable ones. Most of them go from Adler (or from Sochi central terminal) to Tuapse and back. There are also 1-2 trains daily to Krasnodar and Maykop. One way ride from Sochi to Lazarevskoe will cost 45 RUR for an ordinary elektrichka (1 hour 45 minutes). A modernized commuter train ticket is more expensive: from 100 to 200 RUR depending on class, but also faster (50-70 minutes). Expect to pay 40 percent more if going to Lazarevskoe from Adler (2 hours 20 minutes for an ordinary elektrichka).

While summer hot season brings more interregional trains to Sochi, the number of local commuter trains is decreasing for that period. So, there are only 6 round-the-year local trains (16 in off-season period). The good news is that each long distance train will also stop at Adler, Khosta, Sochi, Loo and Lazarevskaya stations, so it is possible to travel inside the city by these trains. The bad news is that you will need a passport each time you are buying a long-distance train ticket.

By taxi

As usually in Russia, your hand put out at the street will gather several cars willing to earn on your ride, and only few of them will be licensed taxis. Such unofficial way of transportation is still popular in the country because it is usually cheaper and faster, than official taxi service. In the same time, it is of course less safe, cars are less comfortable etc.

You will hardly find any English-speaking taxi drivers in Sochi. So, unless you are a bit adventurous or familiar with Russian, it is very recommended to use mediators, such as hotel receptionists, to arrange a ride.

Be also aware, that even official services rarely use meters, more often measuring the fare by time of ride or using fixed prices. Have cash with you as only few services accept credit cards.

By car

Driving style in Sochi is more chaotic than in most parts of Russia: southern blood affects it. So, expect the road culture similar to that one in Greece or Turkey and be extremely careful while driving, if you have finally decided to do that.

Another issue is that Sochi is extremely lacking parking space, especially in the central part of the city. Drivers often have no alternatives to leaving their cars at bus stops, pedestrian areas etc. Together with the fast increase of car users this leads to traffic jamming at the streets. City authorities are planning to launch more pay parkings in 2012.

Car rentals in Sochi:

By boat

Regular ship service from Central Sochi to other city districts was stopped in 2005 due to an obsolete fleet and several local piers' destruction. Currently, the objective to restore this shipping is in place, and probably in the next few years it will be done.

By bike

Sochi authorities recently introduced the city bike rental service. A bike can be taken and left at any of 30 automated terminals (pilot ones are installed in Central Sochi and Khosta districts). The service itself is free, but you need to leave 3,000 RUR deposit before you return the bike.

There is also work on cycle lanes allocation in the city. However, Sochi is still uncomfortable for cycling due to heavy traffic and a lot of construction sites.

By wheelchair

Generally, Russia has a huge gap in the level of accessibility for people with disabilities. Several cities have started their improvement programs in this area, and Sochi is among them. The accessible city is a requirement for 2014 Paralympic Games organization.

So far, at least the airport facilities and new commuter trains in Sochi are accessible. The project to create the accessibility map of Sochi has been launched in 2011, giving the start to the same all-Russian project. Hopefully, next few years will bring the significant improvement in the city's accessibility, as it happened in Khanty-Mansiysk prior to another Paralympic sport event.

See

Loo temple

Historical sights

Anchor and Cannon monument in Sochi

Monuments

Among the traditional Russian set of monuments left as a legacy of the collapced Soviet Union, Sochi has several original artworks worth to be explored by the city's guests.

Museums

File:Sochi Art Museum.jpg
Sochi Art Museum

The individual art gallery of a talented Sochian wooden sculptor, Alexander Sobol. The exposition of over 500 wonderful wooden works accompanied with specially composed music. 1-hour guided tours are provided.

A Mauritanian arbour at Sochi Dendrarium park

Parks

Sochi Olympic Park

Imeretinskaya lowland of Adler district was chosen as the place of Sochi 2014 Olympic Coastal Cluster allocation (the Mountain Cluster is located at Krasnaya Polyana). Initially occupied with chaotically built private houses, this area started to be totally re-developed in 2007, seeming to be the largest construction site of modern Russia. As of 2011, the construction is on its midway and to be finished by the end of 2013.

In 2014 the Olympic Park will be used for the Games opening and closing ceremonies, hockey, skating and curling competitions, and all medal award ceremonies. After the Games the park will become the city's legacy, while several competition venues will be transferred to other locations in Russia and the Olympic Village facilities will be converted into hotels and apartments.

Map of Sochi Olympic Park (in construction till 2013)

Olympic Park will include the following venues and facilities:

Olympic Competition Venues:

Olympic Non-competition Venues:

Other Facilities and Venues:

Olympic Park is 7 km away from Adler station and Sochi International Airport. It will be connected with the rest of Sochi city by train and bus routes.

Wildlife expositions

File:Sochi aquarium.JPG
Sochi Discovery World Aquarium

Outdoor sights

View at Mount Akhun, Sochi

As a rule with some exceptions, Sochi outdoor sights are located inside the area of Sochi National Park. This means that in some cases you will need to pay the park entrance fee. All major sights attract both independent travellers and guided groups. Tours can be arranged at hotels or at the hot tourist areas in the city.

File:Khosta wood.JPG
Yew and boxtree wood at Khosta, Sochi

Do

A beach arbour in Sochi

Leisure

Sports

Festivals and Events

Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games

In 2014 the Olympic winter games will be held in Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana.

Learn

Russian Language

There is no sustainable practice of learning Russian as a foreign language in Sochi at the moment. Two places can offer such classes potentially:

Work

Getting a work permit in Russia is not usually an easy process, at least if you are not a former Soviet Union state citizen. Sochi can possibly be an exception, as in nearest future the preparation of Olympic Games will create many new workplaces. Some of the potential vacancies will require international expertise. Highly qualified international candidates will have simplified visa and work permit procedure.

Another Olympics-related opportunity is to join Sochi 2014 Volunteer Program (recruitment will start on February 2012).

Apart from Olympics there are potential vacancies for English tutors, as the demand for English study in the city is constantly growing. It is also possible to find sport instructors' jobs, in both winter (skiing, snowboarding) and summer (diving, yachting, kitesurfing) sports, but the knowledge of Russian is essential for those positions.

Buy

A pack of Krasnodar Tea

Local specialties

Shopping

Eat

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Sleep

Sochi has plenty of hotels (200+), and their number is steadily increasing, but the cost of stay may seem to be overpriced, comparing to many European destinations. There are more than enough gigantic health resorts and hotels, which were a pride of former Soviet Union resort industry, but which are completely obsolete at the moment. In the other hand, many mini-hotels mushroomed in Sochi recently, but only few of them are able to meet average international service requirements. Hotel staff often has problems with hospitality, helpful answers and advice, and with speaking any other language than Russian.

Between these two extremes, there is a gap of normal chain or chain-like 2-3-4 star hotels with reasonable prices and acceptable level of English and hospitality skills of staff. The situation is slowly improving, but the room to grow is still large.

In general, Lazarevskoe district offers cheaper accommodation, while Central Sochi and Adler have more expensive options. Prices also depend on season, traditionally increasing in summer and in the beginning of May (between 2 national holidays). Always book in advance in summer. The selection of hotels below includes mainly those of them, where better English and/or service level has been reported. For the mountain part hotels please see Krasnaya Polyana.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Contact

Mobile Operators

Sochi has the traditional set of Russian mobile operators:

GSM 900/1800:

CDMA:

Check roaming prices before using non-Russian sim-card, especially those for mobile Internet. Some standards of mobile connection are not supported in Russia, e.g. those for Japan and United States.

Staying in Russia for a week or more, it's definetily worth to buy a local sim-card, but be aware, that a passport is needed for that. The easiest way refill a local mobile account is to use an ATM for that. Most ATMs have bilingual interfaces, allowing numerous kinds of payments, including those for mobile services by local operators.

Internet Cafes

Wireless Internet

Media

Among dozens of Sochi newspapers, magazines and radio stations, there are no expat-oriented or internationally-focused media at the moment. Everything is published in Russian only. Hotels often provide satellite TV with standard assortment of international channels (BBC, CNN, Russia Today, etc.). Following resources are recommended in addition:

Stay safe

Krasnodar Krai is probably one of Southern Russia's most safe regions. Sochi does not stand out with the higher crime rate, but standard safety precautions should be used. There is a saying in Russia: "Nights are dark in Sochi" ("В городе Сочи темные ночи"), and this can be explained as that anyone or anything can get lost in the city.

Try to avoid unlit spaces during the night and beware pickpockets in crowded places, such as markets and transport terminals. Beggars can approach you at stations and beaches. Fraud is widespread at Russian summer resorts, but most of its orhganizers would have problems with English. Anyway, try to avoid drinking and gambling with newly met people.

Several reports of explosions in Sochi area luckily were more vandalistic, then terroristic, and their organizators were arrested soon after.

Sunburn can occur in summer, so use sunblock during the hot season.

Cope

Consulates

At the moment Sochi has only one consulate in the city, open in 2008:

Travel Agencies

Get out

Abkhazia

View of New Athos monastery, Abkhazia

Once a flowrishing sea resort autonomy and a part of Soviet Georgia, this mountainous Caucasian republic passed through a bloody civil war with Georgians after the Soviet Union collapce, proclaimed its independence and was supported by Russia, but yet unrecognized by most countries. Honestly loved by many Russian tourists, Abkhazia is undeservedly mostly unknown by travellers from other parts of the world.

Abkhazia is quite small and can be quickly discovered within a weekend, but longer stay is certainly needed for deeper impressions. The monastery and the cave at New Athos, as well as Lake Ritsa, are definitely among most amazing places at the Black Sea. This breathtaking beauty mixed with Abkhazian poverty and the remains of the civil war will leave no one indifferent. Locals are very friendly, but only few of them will understand anything in English.

Sochi is the only place with Abkhazia border crossing possibility from Russian side. There is a crossing point at Vesyoloe (southern part of Adler district). It can be crossed both by foot and by car/bus (two separate bridges through the border Psou river). Coming to Abkhazia by foot, you will find a marshrutka parking right after the bridge - a cheap opportunity to reach any key destination of the country. The Abkhazian capital Sukhum is also reachable by a direct bus from Sochi, and a commuter train (elektrichka) is planned to start operate in 2011. There is also option to get to Gagra, Abkhazia by boat from Sochi port.

Going to Abkhazia be prepared to comply Abkhazian visa requirements. Be also aware, that to return back to Russia after a trip, you may need double-entry or multy-entry Russian visa.

Adygea

A fully enclaved into Krasnodar Krai small national autonomy, neighboring to Greater Sochi, Adygea has a significant tourist potential, which is underestimated by the moment. Rafting, waterfall seeing, trekking and other mountain activities in front of awesome Caucasus views make this destination very promising. It is aslo important that Adygea is safer than any other Caucasian region except Krasnodar Krai.

Maykop, the capital of Adygea, is accessible from Sochi by train (daily, 6 hours) and bus (1-2 daily plus transit buses, 8 hours). There is also option to reach Adygea by car (6-8 hours via Tuapse). An extreme alternative to that is the mountainous unpaved direct road connecting Sochi with Adygea via Caucasus ridges. Be more than careful using it.

Caucasian Biosphere Reserve

View of Psekhako ridge in Caucasian Biosphere Reserve

This natural reserve has the second-largest protected area in Europe and the largest one in Caucasus mountains. It occupies the mountain ridges of Krasnodar Krai, Adygea and Karachay-Cherkessia, including part of Greater Sochi metropolitan area (Khosta district and Krasnaya Polyana), bordering Sochi National Park.

Caucasian Biosphere Reserve is the richest biodiversity treasury, having no equivalents in Russia and an international value as a piece of untouched nature with primeval habitats. Reasonably, this unique area is included into the UNESCO World Heritage List. The official site of the reserve is available in Russian only: [29]

Two exclaved parts of the reserve, those are located inside Greater Sochi, are easy to visit: yew & boxtree wood at Khosta and the wild animals nursery at Krasnaya Polyana. To visit other parts of the reserve, you need to get special permit, requiring the following:

In Sochi you can get the permit at the reserve's headquarter: Karl Marx street, 8, room 10, Adler district, Sochi.

Gelendzhik

A resort town located at the Black Sea coast to the north-west from Sochi, one of the most popular domestic summer destinations of Russia. Gelendzhik has both natural and leisure attractions. Gelendzhik's aquapark is the largest in the country, and its surroundings have very beautiful scenery. The town is home to International Sea Aviation Conference, which is conducted there each two years.

Gelendzhik is a transit point for several buses going from Sochi (4-5 daily). A ride will take 5.5 hours. The Sea Flight fast ferry going from Sochi to Novorossiysk and back also makes stops at Gelendzhik.

Novorossiysk

This Krasnodar Krai's 3rd largest city is the biggest Russian port at the Black Sea and the main cement industry center in Southern Russia. The majority of the city's tourist attractions are related to the II World War, when Novorossiysk was among Russian key battlefields. The most known memorials are Malaya Zemlya, Defence Line (Rubezh Oborony) and Death Valley (Dolina Smerti).

Novorossiysk's vicinities have beautiful nature of Caucasus foothills. On the top of local natural wonders is the amazing Abrau lake, the biggest one at Northern Caucasus. Just nearby the wine manufacture of Abrau-Dyurso is located, making this place the capital of Russian schampagne / sparkling wine (tours to Abrau-Dyurso with wine testing are available). There are also several smaller beach resorts around the city.

There are several ways to get from Sochi to Novorossiysk. Buses go daily (8.5 hours). Sea Flight speed ferry connection operates from May to October, 3 times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). One-way ride will cost 1,800-2,700 RUR, taking about 5 hours. It is also possible to get to Novorossiysk by train via Krasnodar.

Tuapse

Another important Russian port at the Black Sea and the closest neighbour town bordering Greater Sochi. This is mostly industrial and transport hub, attracting fewer number of tourists, than other Russian Black Sea coastal locations. But anyway, Tuapse is good for a single-day trip from Sochi. After a look at the downtown, the awesome surroundings should be visited. There are several very scenic cliffs around, the top of those is Kiselev's Rock, a 46 meter upright cliff breaking down into the sea. Quite many ancient cultural remains, such as table-stones, are also located around Tuapse.

Any elektrichka or long-distance train from Sochi stops in Tuapse, the frequent bus/marshrutka connection is also available. Expect 2 - 2,5 hours for one-way trip from Central Sochi.

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WikiPedia:Sochi

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