|Still current at: 07 January 2011
Updated: 20 December 2010
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Safety and Security – Crime – Racially Motivated Attacks section. The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all travel to specific regions of Russia due to the security situation in the North Caucasus, and against all but essential travel to other specific regions of Russia where kidnapping and terrorism remain a serious risk.
(see travel advice legal disclaimer)
Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
Particular threats have come from suicide attacks in public places in Moscow, including the Metro system, and in previous years from hostage taking. The risk of terrorism in Moscow could rise quickly in relation to any escalation of violence in the North Caucasus.
The North Caucasus remains an unstable and potentially dangerous region. The Russian authorities take a particularly strict attitude towards security and compliance with official regulations. If you intend to travel there you must have the correct documents including the right visa for the purpose of your visit, and meet registration requirements. If you travel to these parts of Russia despite this advice, you are taking a serious risk, and must accept that the ability of the FCO and the British Embassy in Moscow to help in the case of an emergency is severely limited. Cross-border traffic with Georgia and Azerbaijan is also subject to restrictions.
Road conditions can often be poor, especially outside the major cities. You should comply with all local speed limits. The standard speed limit for built-up areas is 60kph (37mph), outside built-up areas 90kph (55mph) and 100kph (62mph) on motorways (Brest-Moscow). Visiting motorists who have held a driving licence for less than two years must not exceed 70kph (43mph). It is common practice for traffic police to stop motorists for spot checks. There is a zero tolerance policy towards drink-driving.
Official looking taxis can be unlicensed. Do not share a taxi with strangers or flag down unofficial taxis. You should negotiate a price before getting into the taxi. Where possible ask your hotel to get a taxi for you, or to give you the telephone number of a reputable taxi company you can use.
See our Driving Abroad page.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Rail Travel
If you are travelling by overnight train in a sleeping compartment, store valuables in the container under the bed/seat. Do not leave your sleeping compartment unoccupied as some compartments only have a simple lock on the sliding door. On some trains there may be an additional security device, which can be attached to the fitted handle/lock unit. There may also be a steel switch at head-height on the door panel which, when pulled down, prevents the closed door from being slid open.
When travelling by train do not agree to look after the luggage of a fellow traveller or allow it to be stored in your compartment.
On 27 November 2009 an express train derailed en route from Moscow to St Petersburg. There were 27 deaths and around 100 casualties. It is believed that this was a terrorist act.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
International travellers transiting through Moscow should be aware that British nationals require a visa to enter the Russian Federation, and are advised to consult their airlines on what arrangements they will make if disruption to flights occurs.
Evidence suggests that some non western aircraft types used mainly on domestic routes by smaller airlines in Russia do not always comply with international safety standards.
In September 2008 a Boeng-737 Aeroflot Nord flight from Moscow crashed as it came in to land at Perm with the loss of 88 lives. The final investigation report concluded that pilot error was the main cause of the crash.
Security on Russian internal flights is not as high as that for international flights.
Safety and Security - Political Situation
Russia Country Profile
Do not become involved with drugs. Long sentences are given for those in possession of even small quantities of drugs, regardless of whether they are "hard" or "soft"
You must carry your original passport at all times in the Russian Federation. A copy will not be sufficient. If you cannot produce your passport when asked, you will be fined. Russian immigration services usually retain copies of visiting cruise passengers passports for immigration purposes for 6-12 months.
Homosexuality is legal in Russia and there is a reasonably tolerant attitude to homosexuality in major urban areas. However, be careful about public displays of affection as there is still a degree of intolerance amongst some sections of the population.
The photographing of any military installation, establishment or site of strategic importance (including airports) is banned. You are likely to have your film confiscated, be detained for questioning and possibly arrested if you do not observe this rule.
See our Your Trip page.
Entry Requirements - Visas
Visas are required to enter Russia. During periods of high demand, you should apply for your visa well in advance. If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland you should apply to the Russian Federation's visa processing centre VF Services, 15-27 Gee Street, London, EC1V 3RD. Tel: 020 7499 1029; fax: 020 7229 3215; website: http://www.rusemb.org.uk. You should apply to the Russian visa application centre for Edinburgh and London: http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/allaboutyourvisas.html.
VF Services can normally process visas in five working days. The forms must be completed online, and can either be submitted by post or in person. If you want to get a visa more quickly it is possible to pay extra for a next-day service. You must have a current up to date visa to leave Russia. Before you travel to Russia ensure that you are aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa, for both entry and exit, and check that the dates and details which have been entered on your visa are correct. Presenting documentation which contains incorrect information to immigration officials can lead to severe inconvenience and in some cases could result in refusal of entry.
Entry Requirements - Visas - For stays of more than three days
You must register your stay within three working days of arrival in Russia with the local branch of the Federal Migration Service. Most major hotels will do this automatically. If you are staying in private accommodation the owner of the property must do this for you. You need not register a visa if your visit is for less than three days.
Entry Requirements - Passport validity
If your passport has less than six months to run, you may be refused entry to Russia. You should get a replacement passport before travelling.
Entry Requirements - Migration Cards
All foreign nationals entering Russia must fill in a migration card. The card is in two identical parts. One part will be retained by the Immigration Officer on arrival. You should keep the other part with your passport; you will need it when you depart Russia and if you are stopped by the police for an ID check during your stay. There are many hotels/hostels that will not check in guests if they do not have the stamped white immigration card with them. You must complete a new migration card each time you enter Russia, even if you have a multiple entry visa. If you lose the second part of the card you will be fined, and your departure from the country could be delayed.
Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the http://www.rusemb.org.uk in London. Parents should note that children born overseas and added to their Russian passports by Russian Embassies may now have to obtain their own passport to exit Russia. There have been instances where a parent has renewed their own passport but the authorities have refused to add the child to it until the child's claim to Russian citizenship is properly substantiated. Parents should check the Russian Nationality Act and contact their nearest Russian Embassy or Consulate to ensure that their child has a claim to Russian citizenship, and that they have the necessary paperwork to prove this before travelling to Russia to renew passports.
Entry Requirements - Transit through Belarus
If you intend to travel by train on popular routes such as Warsaw-Moscow or St Petersburg-Kiev you need to get a transit visa for Belarus before travelling.
Entry Requirements - Dual Nationality
Under international law, the British Embassy or Consulates cannot formally intervene with the Russian authorities on behalf of dual Russian/British nationals who encounter difficulties whilst in Russia.
If you come to Russia to renew your Russian international passport, be aware that it may take up to four months for a new passport to be issued. You will have to remain in Russia throughout this period. You will be required to leave Russia on your Russian passport, it that was how you entered the country.
Entry Requirements - Customs
You may import into the country up to 10,000 US dollars (or equivalent) without declaring it. You may export from the country up to 3,000 US dollars without declaring it. If you export from the country currency or travellers cheques worth between 3,000 and 10,000 US dollars, it must be declared on departure. There is a limit of the equivalent of 10,000 US dollars on the amount of roubles and foreign currency that can be taken out of or brought into Russia.
If you import into the country over 10,000 US dollars or certain categories of goods, such as more costly electrical items, jewellery or antiques and valuable musical instruments, you must complete a customs declaration form (available at all ports of entry) on arrival.
If you wish to import certain sophisticated electronic items (e.g. Global Positioning System instruments), you must get an operating licence from the Russian authorities before you travel. If you are unsure whether you should declare an item or need an operating licence you should check with the Embassy of the Russian Federation before your departure.
If you complete a declaration form you must ensure that it is stamped by a Customs official at your port of entry or it will not be valid. If you fail to complete a declaration form on arrival or to get it validated by Customs officials your foreign currency and non-declared items may be confiscated when you leave Russia and you may be fined.
There are also strict regulations governing the export from Russia of antiques, icons, medals, artwork and other items of historical significance. This includes modern art and even posters if they are particularly rare or valuable. If you wish to export such material from Russia, you must receive approval from the Ministry of Culture. This may be requested at the point of departure. Infringements of these regulations are treated seriously and may result in imprisonment.
A Reciprocal Health Care Agreement operates between the UK and Russia. This entitles British nationals to free treatment in a Russian hospital. However, any treatment you receive is likely to be limited.
Food poisoning, TB, rabies and tick-borne encephalitis occur in Russia. Travellers to, and residents of, the Sverdlovsk region should be aware of the increase in notified rabies cases (see the NaTHNaC website for more information). Tick-borne encephalitis occurs in rural and wooded areas in the summer months.
It is advisable not to drink tap water anywhere in Russia. You should seek advice locally and if in any doubt drink bottled water.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Russia and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
The 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that the prevalence rate of adults aged 15 or over in Russia living with HIV was at around 1.1% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. See our HIV and AIDS page.
See our Travel Health page.
There are occasional occurrences of flooding in Russia, mainly in Siberia, of forest fires, mainly around Central and Western Russia, and also earthquakes in the North Caucasus and in the Far Eastern region.
General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling and ensure that your policy covers you for all the activities that you want to undertake. See our Travel Insurance page.
See our When Things Go Wrong page.
General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.
General - Money
Most major high street banks and currency exchange providers can pre-order Roubles (Russian currency), which may take up to two working days. If you wish to purchase roubles in Russia, you should take US dollars or Euros to change. Only change money at banks, hotels and airport exchange bureaus. The Russian Central Bank closed all other exchange bureaus on 1 October 2010. It is an offence to change money from street traders. It is illegal to pay directly with dollars or Euros.
Most hotels, restaurants and larger shops accept credit cards, but smaller shops do not. ATMs exist in most major cities. Consider informing your bank before you travel to Russia to avoid having a temporary stop being put on your card. Travellers' cheques are not widely accepted.
General - Money - Scams
Negotiate a price before getting into a taxi. Some appear to be official and the driver will produce a card showing the name and contact details of the company, and suggests the customer can telephone them if they do not receive proper service. The taxi driver will then charge an extortionate fare.
There are services offering addresses and contact information for Russian women who are looking to become romantically involved with Western Europeans. A number of prospective suitors have entered into correspondence, only to be defrauded. If this happens, there is little that the British Government can do to assist in the recovery of any money. You should exercise caution if entering into correspondence. See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.
General - Consular Assistance Statistics
Most visits are trouble-free. 66 British nationals required consular assistance in Russia in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010, for the following types of incident: eight deaths; 37 hospitalisations; and four arrests, for a variety of offences. During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (68 cases).