Sochi Winter Olympics: Plan Your Trip
With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi fast approaching, many sports fans are gearing up for a trip to a part of Russia that they know little if anything about. But while this beach and ski resort is unfamiliar territory to the Western world, it has long been one of Russia's most popular destinations for both summer and winter vacations. The snow-capped Caucasus Mountains' proximity to the Black Sea makes for stunningly beautiful landscapes, from subtropical to alpine – and yes, you can swim in the sea and ski up in the mountains all in one day (well, at least at some times of year – in February the water might be a bit chilly).
The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics takes place from Feb. 7 to 23, followed by the Paralympic Games from March 7 to 16. Sochi is located almost 1,000 miles south of Moscow – about a 2.5-hour 'flight from the capital. By road it's a 20- to 30-hour drive, and by train it takes a day and a half. The 2014 Winter Olympics host city is in the same time zone as Moscow – that's nine hours ahead of New York, and 12 hours ahead of Los Angeles.
Naturally, no one can say with any certainty what to expect weather-wise during the Olympics, especially given the area's volatile mix of subtropical and alpine climates, which is accentuated by its tricky topography. However, the average temperature in Sochi in February is 43 F, ranging from 48 degrees during the day to 36 at night. At the ski village of Krasnaya Polyana, temperatures range on average from 28 degrees at night to 41 during the day. While snow can be expected in the mountains, Sochi proper seldom sees it in winter, and only rarely does snow stick around to cover the palm trees.
It goes without saying that you'll need a Russian visa for the entire period of your visit (unless you're traveling on a passport from a country that has a visa-free agreement with Russia), as well as a passport valid for six months after your departure from Russia, plus overseas medical insurance, hotel reservations and so on. For more advice on visas, check out these travel tips for Russia.
Besides domestic flights from Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities, Sochi can be reached by direct international flights from a small number of European cities as well as from points in the former Soviet Union. Extra international flights are being added for the Games. If you’re flying to Moscow and then to Sochi from there, take note of whether your flights arrive and depart from the same airport, as travel between Moscow's three international airports is time-consuming.
Lastochka trains are the fastest and easiest way to get between Sochi and the airport, located in the Adler district 18 miles southeast of the city proper. The ride takes 43 minutes. While Sochi is the host city, the Games are not in the city itself but rather within a sprawling larger area known as Greater Sochi.
Olympic events are to take place in two zones called the Coastal Cluster and the Mountain Cluster, about 30 miles from each other. The Coastal Cluster is south of Adler, while the Mountain Cluster is near the alpine resort of Krasnaya Polyana, some 40 miles from the city. Lastochka trains run to Krasnaya Polyana – a ride of 1 hour and 20 minutes from Sochi, while the train journey between the Coastal and Mountain clusters takes 30 minutes.
Besides trains, there will also be buses, minibuses and cable cars to help Olympic visitors get around, all free of charge for event ticket-holders on the date printed on the ticket. For more transport information see the Games' official website.
Spectator tickets to the sporting events are to be officially available right through to the end of the Olympics. US residents looking to purchase tickets in advance should order them from CoSport, the official ticket resellers for the United States. Keep in mind that due to the unprecedented security measures in place for the Sochi Olympics, ticket holders will need to ensure that they have received a Spectator Pass (or Olympic Accreditation) in addition to a ticket. Entrance to all of the venues is strictly allowed only with an activated Spectator Pass and a corresponding valid ticket.
Applications for a Spectator Pass can be made either on the Fan Registration Portal or directly at a Spectator Registration Center (one office located in Moscow, one in the town of Krasnodar and three in Sochi). To apply online, you will need to provide your passport details and ticket information. The pass will take approximately 72 hours to be produced, so this is not something to leave to the last minute. Once the pass is ready, ticket holders can either have it mailed to themselves or collect it at one of the Spectator Registration Centers. All Spectator Passes must be activated before they can be used. To activate your pass, you will need to visit a Spectator Registration Center, bringing the passport used to apply for the pass (or original birth certificate for those under 18) and ticket or ticket order number.
Resale of Tickets
The purchase and resale of tickets is strictly through official outlets only. Given the use of the Spectator Pass system, it makes little sense to purchase a ticket “off the street,” as the ticket will not provide entrance without a corresponding pass. If you find that you cannot attend an event, tickets can be resold on the official ticket resale website, which is planned to be in operation by the end of 2013.
More Travel Tips for Russia:
Check out our top 5 picks for where to stay in Sochi.
Do as the Russians do by following etiquette in the Motherland.
Don't miss these must-try dishes in Russia.