Russia Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Russia
How safe is Russia?
Threat level: Medium–High
Many people see Russia as a threat to Westerners, the reality is that many tourists flock to Russia each year with no problems and have an enjoyable stay in the country. Like many countries around the world, some parts are more dangerous than others. It is best advised to avoid conversation about difficult political subjects.
The British Government warned on the 14th of March 2018, that British subjects travelling to Russia should be wary of any hostility against them due to breakdown in British/Russia relations and the expelling of 23 Russian diplomats. This is in relation to the Nerve Agent attack in the UK on Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia. Further to this, the British Government go as far as issuing advice to British Subjects that might be in Russia to not comment publicly or via social media on the issue of Sergei Skripal.
Russia's security and stability may be undermined in the future due to its reliance on the energy sector and its decisiveness with its political affairs globally. Western sanctions and low oil prices have seen the Russian economy shrink in 2015. However, with a weak Ruble, it is a lucrative spot for international tourists.
2018 World Cup
Russia hosted the 2018 Football World Cup that saw thousands of tourists from all over the world flocked to the country. See Russia 2018 World Cup security advice for information on the security for this event.
Russia has dealt with some of the most severe terrorist attacks in the developed world for decades, escalating what was a nationalist-separatist insurgency in Chechnya into a widespread multifaceted terrorist dilemma for the country, involving Islamist factions such as recently the Islamic State (ISIS).
The attacks have been indiscriminate over the years; from hostages taken in the thousands at hospitals, schools and large venues such as theatres, through to passenger planes being taken down by suicide bombers and devices. They will not just target government establishments but also civilian residences.
On the 31th of October 2018, a bomb blast occurred at the regional headquarters of the FSB security service in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, injuring three FSB employees. The suspect bomber, a 17-year-old local resident, died in the attack.
On Sunday the 18th of February 2018, a gunman opened fire on a group of worshipers in a church in Kizlyar, Republic of Dagestan; killing five female worshippers with a hunting rifle. The 22-year-old attacker, Khalil Khalilov, was shot dead by police at the scene. Khalilov was wearing military clothes and shouted 'Allahu akbar' as he opened fire. ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack.
Fourteen people have been killed and at least 50 more injured in an explosion, which has hit the St Petersburg metro system on the 3rd of April 2017. Two carriages of the metro were subject to blasts in what is understood to be a suicide bomber carrying out the attack.
The attack took place between Sennaya Ploshchad metro station and Saint Petersburg station. A secondary larger device was found within a suitcase on the St Petersburg metro, which was defused.
In Febuary 2017, at least two police officers and three suspected Caucasus Emirate militants were killed during a gunfight in Shali, Chechnya.
There have also been clashes between Russian security forces and suspected ISIS militants in Dagestan, on the Russian/Azerbaijan border.
Smart attire may distinguish you from the general tourist, who may be seen as too casual at some destinations. A long black coat and dark shoes are advised in Moscow, to aid blending in.
The crime levels have somewhat improved in Russia in recent times, although there are still a number of things to be aware of when travelling this country. You should avoid carrying lots of valuable items wherever possible, instead leaving them in a safe in your accommodation. Police can ask for ID at any time however, so keep this is mind at all times.
In some areas, there have been reports of bogus checkpoints, especially in rural areas. Keep this in mind when travelling away from the main cities in the country and report any suspicious behaviour. One major con is thieves dressing as policemen and issuing fraudulent traffic/speeding fines.
Credit card skimming at ATM points have been known to happen. This can result in your credit card being exploited by third parties. It is advised that you use the guarded hotel ATM machines only, or ensure you have sufficient cash for your trip.
Although security is in place at public venues, it is not the most stringent, as with any security measure it can be averted. It is advised that you know where emergency exit points are in public venues and be vigilant at all times.
Practice safety when socialising; do not accept drinks from strangers, previous muggings via drugging have occurred on tourists. Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can leave you vulnerable, especially if you do not know the area well. Drink in moderation and do not walk home alone.
The country continues to face issues of racism, particularly towards those of Asian or African descent. It is advised that you take extra caution if you plan to travel anywhere outside of central Moscow, as there have been a number of previous racially-motivated attacks.
Russia's involvement in the disputes within Syria and the Ukraine has heightened the threat towards the country and possibility of retaliatory attacks due to the country's firm political stance. Russia has seen an increase in terrorist activity since its involvement in Syria. Although terrorism and criminal activity has been most prominent in the North Caucasus region, this has extended to threats against the capital Moscow.
There is a state of emergency in Rostov Oblast, and all travel to Chechnya, Donetsk, Ingushetia, Kharkiv oblasts, Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai is advised against. Some of these areas are known for kidnappings, violent attacks and generally known to be insecure at this time.
Russia's International Relations
The geopolitical situation regarding Russia's Nuclear Military programmes alongside Russia's foreign policy is still developing on a global scale, which can therefore intensify an already sensitive situation, regarding security and both internal/external threats.
Since the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian jet on November 24th 2015, the relationship between the two countries has been sour to say the least. Also a Russian ambassador was shot by a Turkish police officer in December 2016, in retaliation to Aleppo bombings by Russian forces.
Travelling around Russia
Avoid travelling alone, especially with taxis. Make sure you know where you are going and negotiate confidently if using a taxi service. Keep to a respectful level socially when using the metro, as loudness can be considered as rude, and be cautious of all valuables when using this services. The metro can be an area of risk for pickpockets and robbery.
Emergency services in Russia:
Religion: Orthodox Christianity
Currency: Russian Ruble
Time zone: Varies between UTC+2 to +12
Time now in Moscow:
Consular information for Russia
US Embassy Moscow
Bolshoy Deviatinsky Pereulok No. 8
Telephone: +7 495 728 5000
Emergency Telephone: +7 495 728 5000
Telephone: +7 12 331 2600 (St Petersburg)
Emergency Telephone: +7 912 939 5794 (St Petersburg)
British Embassy Moscow
Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10
Telephone: +7 495 956 7200
Visa requirements for Russia
There are Visa requirements for entering Russia, it is advised that you apply a month in advance and seek advice via their visa application service, found at VFS Global Russia Visa Application
Healthcare and Immunisations
It is advised that visitors to Russia are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider vaccinations for Hepatitis B and Tick-borne Encephalitis.
In some areas of Russia, there is a heightened risk of Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis. If you plan to travel to these areas, you should vaccinate yourself against these diseases. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Travellers bringing medication into Russia are required to present a copy of the prescription - translated into Russian - upon request. This should include the traveller’s name, plus the name of the drug and prescribed quantity.
Payment is required before medical treatment can begin. Facilities and resources in rural areas of Russia are limited, so you should ensure that you have comprehensive travel insurance, in case you have to travel to a destination with more adequate facilities.