Staycation in Siberia? Russians told to holiday at home this year as country prepares for borders to remain closed

Russians can dust off their trunks for a swim in Sochi or lose themselves in St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum but, until the threat of Covid-19 stops looming large, international trips are mostly off the cards for now.

That’s according to the country’s top senator, who has told the public to expect its borders to reopen only gradually over the course of this year. In an interview published on Tuesday, Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matvienko told RIA Novosti that the safest option for would-be holidaymakers is to expect disruption to overseas travel, as was the case last summer.

“You can and should definitely plan your vacation in Russia,” she told citizens, “then there is no need to be afraid that the borders will be closed or flights will be canceled.”

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However, the politician added that there was no need to be gloomy about the prospect of a staycation in the world’s largest country. “We have a huge number of opportunities for recreation,” she said. “We have all already gotten to know our country better and what beauty we have, what unique historical sites we have, and nature reserves, and agritourism.”

Only “with improvement of the pandemic situation will we be ready to open air traffic in new directions,” she said. “We see that the situation in Europe, and by no means not Europe alone, is developing in an extremely difficult way.”

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Despite her warning of disruption, many Russians are still finding ways to sun themselves on foreign shores, with flights to countries like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates remaining up and running for those who can’t face a frosty winter at home. Business travelers are also given exemptions by border control officials in a number of nations.

For the time being though, much of the rest of the world will have to wait to lay on a Gelendzhik beach on Russia’s sunny Black Sea coast or dive into bowlfuls or borscht at a Moscow eatery. “Today no one can say for sure when they will be ready to open the borders for citizens of other states,” she argued. “We are closely monitoring the situation. We hope that, as soon as it allows, the borders will gradually open.”

Russia has sealed its land, air and sea frontiers to tourists from many parts of the world since last year in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

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