Should you go to Russia?

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Russian summers pack a bigger punch than some visitors might expect, with Trans-Siberian Railway trips shared with sweating shirtless guys who lean out of open windows to catch a breeze when the AC gets cut off at stops. But this summer is out of control, with temperatures breaking 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Farenheit) - hotter than anything Russia's seen in 130 years - and as many as 500 wildfires spreading across chunks of European Russia outside Moscow. At least 52 people have died (and a Pravda article suggests more).

Should you go?

Even away from the fires, this probably isn't the best time to be in smoggy conditions of Moscow or the areas surrounding, particularly for those prone to asthma (though these tourists seem to be enjoying St Basil's through the haze, others are canceling trips). The US State Department issued a travel alert for areas around Moscow through September 5. And Moscow's scrappy Domodedovo airport is seeing regular delays.

Moscow

Locals in Moscow, meanwhile, try to avoid the smog by clinging to the indoors - air-conditioned homes, movie theaters, malls, even cars - or wearing surgical masks or wet hand towels over their faces outside.

That said, Russia is huge. Some travelers reported on our Thorn Tree forum of smoggy conditions inĀ  St Petersburg, while the bulk of the Trans-Siberian Railway, including Siberian destinations like mountain-rimmed Lake Baikal, reportedly haven't seen any effects.

If you're planning the latter, you could consider flying to Novosibirsk (reachable by Aeroflot) and heading east, or from Beijing or Vladivostok and moving west - but skipping Moscow, at least for the time being.

Are you traveling in Russia now? Let us know how you're finding the local scene, and we'll keep giving updates here too.