Do Airbnb or Booking.com still operate in Russia in 2024? Are there no other accommodation booking platforms available? Which booking services most of Russian accommodation providers use? What types of accommodation options are available in Russia? How can you book and pay for your accommodation in Russia from abroad? Do VISA and MASTERCARD issued by your bank work in Russia? So many questions…
Here is the reality: Russia offers plenty of accommodation options to suit any budget, that are available to book in many ways including online of course. From top star hotels to budget-friendly hostels and private accommodations.
In 2022, Booking.com and Airbnb suspended operations in Russia and Belarus and as for today, it is still the case. Other booking services such as Agoda, Momondo, Hotels.com and HotelsCombined are also unavailable in Russia. However, this doesn’t mean there’s no way to book accommodation online in Russia. In fact, plenty of options are readily available. Actually there are quite a few, so we’ll only list the most popular ones here to keep it to the point. Let’s explore which option might work best for you based on the type of accommodation you are looking for. *
In the last decade, Russia has experienced significant growth in hostel-type accommodations. The hostels are usually small, owner-operated businesses that offer a personal touch and hospitality to their customers. This is a very popular way to explore the country without breaking your budget. Find out how.
* IMPORTANT: Although we are trying to stay up to date, we cannot guarantee that the accuracy of information provided here at the time you’re reading this. Our world changes faster than ever so it is recommended that you always check the most current information before planning your trip.
Where to search and book a hotel in Russia?
When in Russia do like the Russians do. And the Russians just like the rest of us search and book the hotels mainly online. The most commonly used resource for booking hotels in Russia: Ostrovok is the most popular Russian service for booking hotels, apartments, hostels, campgrounds etc. It is a direct alternative to Booking.com, not limited to Russia but covering over 1,7 million accommodation options in the entire world. To put it simply, Ostrovok.ru is a Booking.com competitor that extends its coverage to include Russia. It supports multiple languages and currencies, offers maps search, features a loyalty program, corporate schemes and provides reviews and ratings – essentially offering everything you’re accustomed to with Booking.
Ostrovok is available on the web, iOS & Android platforms and quite easy to use. The main downside of Ostrovok is that it currently doesn’t support Western-issued debit and credit cards (e.g., VISA or MasterCard). However, if your card was issued by a Russian bank (e.g. MIR, but also Russian bank issued VISA & MasterCard), you can easily use it for bookings with Ostrovok as well as generally anywhere else in Russia without any issues. If your card was issued by a foreign bank (e.g. in the EU country), the payment might not work due to a foreign bank restrictions, but don’t worry; you will still be able to book your accommodation in Russia from abroad. Read on.
In a nutshell Zenhotels is a sister platform of Ostrovok that allows you to book all sorts of accommodation in Russia such as hotels, apartments, houses etc and pay with Western debit and credit cards (e.g. VISA or MasterCard) or with PayPal. The Zenhotels brand belongs to the parent company Emerging Travel Group, which also owns the Ostrovok brand. So all the accommodations available on Ostrovok are also available on Zenhotels and vice versa. Needless to say Zenhotels has all the advantages Ostrovok has.
Additionalresources are also frequently used in Russia for booking hotels and apartments. However, they are primarily oriented towards Russian-speaking customers and may not be extremely user-friendly for those who don’t speak Russian. Nevertheless, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using these resources; they are all very popular and perfectly fine to use:
101hotels – A young and ambitious hotel booking platform has been experiencing significant growth in Russia lately. It capitalised on the departure of Booking.com and other Western accommodation booking resources, offering hotels low and attractive commissions. As a result, it has been expanding its pool of participating accommodations.
Hotel.tutu.ru – Originally a tour search engine, tutu.ruhas expanded its business to include hotel reservations. While it may not be as comprehensive as Ostrovok and has limited English version, it gets the job done and is very commonly used inside Russia.
What do the Russian hotels look like?
It depends on your choice and preference. The options are plentiful and range from a modest soviet “gostinitsa” type hotels with a very basic range of facilities to the luxurious 5 star hotels.
APARTMENTS & HOUSES
How to search and book apartments or houses in Russia?
What is the alternative to Airbnb in Russia you may wonder?
Sutochno (meaning “Daily” in Russian) is an apartment booking platform that has experienced significant growth in Russia after Airbnb’s departure. With currently over 200,000 accommodation options, including houses, apartments, guest houses, hotels, hostels, and even guided tours, primarily in Russia but with some modest coverage of neighbouring countries, Sutochno offers a diverse selection. Similar to traditional communication with hosts, there is also the option of instant booking, where the reservation is confirmed immediately. Like Airbnb, Sutochno has ‘superhosts’ – experienced apartment owners with high ratings. In 2024 and subject to their T&C, Sutochno offers up to 30% cashback on selected bookings and unlike Airbnb it doesn’t charge you a commission.
Sutochno is accessible on the web, iOS, and Android platforms, and it is quite user-friendly. However, a downside is that it currently doesn’t have many accommodation options outside of Russia, making it not a fully international platform yet. However, our primary focus is on apartment booking in Russia, and currently, Sutochno stands out as one of the best tools available for that purpose.
Zenhotels is another popular platform that can be used for booking apartments, guest houses etc. The main advantage is that it allows you to pay with Western debit and credit cards (e.g. VISA or MasterCard) or with PayPal. More info on Zenhotels here.
Additionalresources are also frequently used in Russia for booking apartments, mainly by people inside Russia:
Avito is a massive Russian online marketplace that covers just about anything one may need, including short-term apartment rentals. It is oriented towards Russian-speaking users, so, unfortunately, other languages are not currently supported. However, with modern AI automatic translations widely embedded in most commonly used browsers, navigating Avito, even if you can’t understand Russian, is not as difficult as before. Avito also prepared detailed step-by-step instructions on how to book accommodation using their service.
What does private accommodation in Russia look like?
As in most other places in the world, it depends on your choice, preferences, budget, and availability. With over 200,000 options and a growing list, the choices are abundant. Since accommodations are often operated as small side businesses, people strive to add a personal touch and provide great hospitality to their customers. If you choose to rent a room in a shared-with-host accommodation, you might also get a real Russian cultural experience in addition to your stay.
If you are on a budget, it doesn’t mean that you won’t find inexpensive yet good-quality shared-type accommodation in Russia, whether it’s a hostel or the increasingly popular capsule hotel. The main idea of a hostel is that you will share pretty much everything except for your own sleeping and storage place. It’s very common to have female or male-only dorms, and many hostels in Russia offer that option. In the last decade, Russia has experienced significant growth not just in hostel-type accommodations but also in so-called capsule hotels. Originating in Japan, capsule hotels provide a higher level of privacy compared to traditional hostels, yet they remain very affordable options. You can find capsule hotels in Russian airports as well as all over the country.
How to book a budget accommodation in Russia?
Use the following accommodation booking platforms to book your budget stay in Russia:
Zenhotels is a popular platform that allows you to pay with Western debit and credit cards (e.g. VISA or MasterCard) or with PayPal. Read more about the service here.
Sutochno is an Airbnb alternative that is mainly used in Russia for budget accommodation booking and is increasingly popular. Read more about the platform and how to use it here.
HOW TO PAY FOR ACCOMMODATION IN RUSSIA
In todays realities, the way you would pay for accommodation in Russia is not exactly straightforward and mainly depends on where you are in the world as well as what payment tools you have available. However, it’s an easy process once you know it. Here are the main points:
Currently, credit and debit cards (VISA or MasterCard) issued by a foreignbank do not work inside Russia. UnionPay cards issued by foreign banks can be used but not all ATMs and terminals in Russia accept it. You can still book your accommodation online with your foreign card using Zenhotels booking platform. Here is how to do it.
If you have a credit or debit card issued by a Russian bank, even if it is a VISA or MasterCard, you can pay for accommodation or virtually anything in Russia, regardless of your location in the world. Your Russian card can also be a virtual one.
The Foreign Tourist Card Russia is a new secure payment card that is currently being introduced by Russian Tourism to make it easy for visitors from abroad to make payments in Russia. The Tourist Card can be purchased and topped up online before your travel to Russia. Cardholders can transfer money from their personal home bank accounts to the card’s bank account. Subsequently, the Tourist Card can be used within Russia just like a regular payment card to pay for goods and services, both online and offline (e.g. in supermarkets).
Cash. The main world currencies, such as USD, EUR, and CNY, can be easily exchanged into Russian Rubles in Russia. All payments within Russia, cash or digital, are made in Russian Rubles (₽). That includes payments for accommodation. Most countries, including Russia, allow travelers to carry up to USD 10,000 equivalent in cash when crossing the border in and out. The situation with euros is not perfectly clear. For Russian customs, bringing cash euros into the country is entirely allowed, as long as the amount doesn’t exceed the legal maximum equivalent of USD 10,000. However, some travelers have reported issues on the EU side when crossing the border overland. For instance, Latvian customs may attempt to limit the amount of EUR cash taken out ofLatvia, sometimes restricting it to ridiculously low amounts, around EUR 60 per person. While this doesn’t happen to everyone, and most people face no issues bringing in larger amounts, our goal here is to warn and provide information to those who might potentially face such challenges.
Can you tell where Russia is?
How well do you know the country? Do you know what it looks like today? From unexpected nature landscapes to the daily life scenes. Can you easily distinguish Russia from other countries? Look at the photos and guess whether what you see is in Russia or not. Sounds easy? Let’s find out!