- General Info
- Health Risks
- Insect Threats
- Water Quality
- Security Concerns
- Weather Notes
- Electrical Standards
- Visa Info
- Time Zone
Russia is a huge nation of multiple climates, wide open spaces, small villages, and large cities full of history and art treasures. From Peter the Great's St. Petersburg, where the Winter Palace combines the heritage of Russia with the flavor of Europe, and the Kremlin and St Basil's in Moscow, to the quiet town of Novgorod with its splendid historic architecture, ancient monuments and frescos, and the subtropical resort town of Sochi, with its mineral springs, warm beaches, gardens, waterfalls and mountain scenery, Russia's diversity places it high on the "must see" list. Note: The air in urban areas of Russia can get fairly smoggy.Language: Russian
Major International Airports Include:
|Moscow||Domodedovo Airport||DME||30 miles SE|
|Moscow||Sheremetyevo Airport||SVO||18 miles NW|
|St Petersburg||Pulkovo Airport||LED||11 miles SW|
Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout Eastern Europe and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E.coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.
Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. All travelers to malaria-risk areas in Eastern Europe, including infants, children, and former residents of Eastern Europe, are at risk for malaria.
An outbreak of diphtheria is occurring in all the states of the former Soviet Union. Travelers to these areas should be sure that their diphtheria immunization is up to date.
Tickborne encephalitis, a viral infection of the central nervous system occurs chiefly in Central and Western Europe. Travelers are at risk who visit or work in forested areas during the summer months and who consume unpasteurized dairy products. Vaccine for this disease is not available in the United States at this time. To prevent tickborne encephalitis, as well as Lyme disease, travelers should take precautions to prevent tick bites.
Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):
The CDC recommends the following vaccines as appropriate for age (See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect):
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
- Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
- Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
- As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.
- Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for 11- to 12-year-olds who did not receive the series as infants.
All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:
- Wash hands often with soap and water. Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
- Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Don't eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
- Don't share needles with anyone.
- Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it. Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Those traveling to Russia are at risk from malaria transmitted by mosquito bites, encephalitis and Lyme disease from tick bites, and leishmaniasis from sandfly bites. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.
The water supply in Russia is considered grossly contaminated with viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.
Due to continued civil and political unrest throughout much of the Caucasus region, the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Chechnya and all areas that border it: North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Stavropol, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya and Kabardino-Balkariya. The U.S. government's ability to assist Americans who travel to the northern Caucasus is extremely limited. Throughout the region, local criminal gangs have kidnapped foreigners, including Americans, for ransom. U.S. citizens have disappeared in Chechnya and remain missing. Close contacts with the local population do not guarantee safety. Recently, there have been several kidnappings of foreigners and Russians working for non-governmental organizations in the region. United States government personnel are prohibited from traveling to these areas, and American citizens residing in these areas should depart immediately as the safety of Americans and other foreigners cannot be effectively guaranteed.
Acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage taking, have occurred in large Russian cities over the last several years. Bombings have occurred at Russian government buildings, hotels, tourist sites, markets, residential complexes and on public transportation. In October 2002, terrorists seized a Moscow theater and held its audience captive for several days before Russian Special Forces stormed it. Over 130 persons died in the seizure and subsequent rescue operation. In the summer of 2003, several venues, including an outdoor music festival, were targeted by suicide bombers, and in December 2003, a bomb exploded adjacent to the National Hotel in downtown Moscow, killing six people. In 2004, several incidents occurred: in February, a bomb exploded in a Moscow subway train killing over 40 people; in August explosives on two Russian domestic flights caused them to crash claiming 90 lives, the same week a bomb outside a Moscow Metro station killed another 9 people and injured dozens more; in September, the seizure of a school in the Russian Republic of North Ossetia by armed terrorists resulted in over 300 deaths.
Demonstrations occasionally occur in large cities, and sometimes in front of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates. While these demonstrations are for the most part peaceful and controlled, it is best to avoid such gatherings. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current travel warnings and public announcements can be found. The Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.
CRIME: As a visitor to Russia, be alert to your surroundings. In large cities, take the same precautions against assault, robbery, or pickpockets that you would take in any large U.S. city. Be aware that women and small children, as well as men, can be pickpockets or purse-snatchers. Groups of children and adolescents have been increasingly aggressive in some cities, swarming victims, or assaulting and knocking them down. They frequently target persons who are perceived as vulnerable, especially elderly tourists or persons traveling alone. Some victims report that the attackers use knives. Persons carrying valuables in backpacks, in back pockets of pants, and in coat pockets are especially vulnerable to pickpockets. Keep your billfold in an inner front pocket, carry your purse tucked securely under your arm, and wear the shoulder strap of your camera or bag across your chest. Walk away from the curb and carry your purse away from the street. The most vulnerable areas include underground walkways and the subway, overnight trains, train stations, airports, markets, tourist attractions, restaurants, hotel rooms and residences -- even when locked or occupied.
Foreigners who have been drinking alcohol are especially vulnerable to assault and robbery in or around nightclubs or bars, or on their way home. Some travelers have been drugged at bars, while others have taken strangers back to their lodgings, where they were drugged, robbed and/or assaulted.
In many cases involving stolen credit cards, thieves use them immediately. Victims of credit card or ATM card theft should report the theft to the credit card company or bank without delay.
Travelers are advised to be vigilant in bus and train stations and on public transport. Always watch for pickpockets in these areas. Travelers have generally found it safer to travel in groups organized by reputable tour agencies. Robberies may occur in taxis shared with strangers. Crime aboard overnight trains has occurred as thieves, on some trains, have been able to open locked compartment doors. U.S. citizens should never hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
To avoid highway crime, travelers should try not to drive at night, especially when alone. Never sleep in vehicles along the road. Do not, under any circumstances, pick up hitchhikers, who not only pose a threat to your physical safety, but also put you in danger of being arrested for unwittingly transporting narcotics or narcotics traffickers in your vehicle. Your vehicle can be confiscated if you are transporting marijuana or other narcotics.
Violent, racially motivated attacks on people of color and foreigners have become widespread in Russia. Many of these attacks target university students, particularly those of Asian and African origin, but older tourists have also been targeted. Travelers are urged to exercise caution in areas frequented by "skinhead" groups and wherever large groups have gathered.
It is not uncommon for foreigners in general to become victims of harassment, mistreatment and extortion by law enforcement and other officials. Police do not need to show probable cause in order to stop, question or detain individuals. Be wary of persons representing themselves as police or other local officials. Try to obtain the officer's name, badge number, and patrol car number, and note where it happened, as this information assists local officials in identifying the perpetrators. Authorities are concerned about these incidents and have cooperated in investigating such cases. Report crimes committed against you by persons presenting themselves as police or other governmental authorities to the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. Consulate.
Extortion and corruption are common in the business environment. Organized criminal groups and sometimes local police target foreign businesses in many cities and have been known to demand protection money. Many western firms hire security services that have improved their overall security, although this is no guarantee. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable. U.S. citizens are encouraged to report all extortion attempts to the Russian authorities and to inform consular officials at the U.S. Embassy or nearest Consulate.
Travelers should be aware that certain activities that would be normal business activities in the United States and other countries are either illegal under the Russian legal code or are considered suspect by the FSB (Federal Security Service). Americans should be particularly aware of potential risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, and production facilities or other high technology, government-related institutions. Any misunderstanding or dispute in such transactions can attract the involvement of the security services and lead to investigation or prosecution for espionage. Rules governing the treatment of information remain poorly defined. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. While the U.S. Embassy has had consular access to these individuals, arrested Americans faced lengthy sentences -- sometimes in deplorable conditions -- when convicted.
The U.S. Embassy receives reports almost every day of fraud committed against U.S. citizens by internet correspondents professing love and romantic interest. Typically, the Russian correspondent asks the U.S. citizen to send money or credit card information for living expenses, travel expenses, or "visa costs." When the U.S. citizen asks to arrange a face-to-face meeting, the Russian correspondent often "dies" in a sudden accident. The anonymity of the Internet means that the U.S. citizen cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of the correspondent. Several citizens' report losing thousands of dollars through such scams. U.S. citizens may refer to http://uscis.gov for authoritative information about the immigration process and the true costs involved. For example, U.S. law does not require Russian visitors to have a certain amount of "pocket money" or "walking around money" in either rubles or dollars.
Thefts of U.S. passports can and do occur. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Source: U.S. Department of State
The Russian climate, for the most part, has only two seasons - winter and summer. The polar north of Russia has summers that are cold and short, winters that are long and severe, and meager precipitation. Moving southward to Siberia, the climate is sub-arctic, with long, severe winters and short cold summers, with some precipitation year-round. The northwest, or European Russia experiences more precipitation, and typically has a warm wet summer and cold wet winter. The steppes in southern Russia are semi-arid, with cool to warm summers and cold winters. The Baltic Sea moderates the climate in the St. Petersburg area, where warm wet summers and cold wet winters can be expected, and a narrow subtropical region on the shore of the Black Sea offers warm to hot summers and mild winters with light precipitation year-round.
Russia's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Please note: Not all electrical sockets in this country provide grounding. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.
To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.
For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.
The Russian government maintains a restrictive and complicated visa regime for foreign travelers who visit, transit, or reside in the Russian Federation. The Russian system includes requirements of sponsorship, visas for entry and exit, migration cards, and registration. American citizens who also carry Russian passports face additional complicated regulations. Dual citizen minors who travel on their Russian passports also face special problems.
Russian immigration and visa laws have been recently changed, and, reportedly more changes are being contemplated. The implementation of these laws has not always been transparent or predictable. In addition, Russian Immigration officials at times implement the laws and regulations governing entry and exit inconsistently, especially in remote areas.
The Russian government does not recognize the standing of U.S. consular officers to intervene in visa cases. The U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia is not able to act as sponsor, submit visa applications, register private travelers, or request that visas or migration cards be corrected, replaced, or extended.
Entry Visas: Before traveling to Russia, U.S. citizens should verify the latest requirements with the nearest Russian Embassy or Consulate (for contact information for the Russian Embassy and Consulates in the United States, please refer to the last paragraph of this section).
U.S. citizens must always possess a valid U.S. passport and appropriate visas for travel to or transit through Russia, whether by train, car, ship or airplane. The visas should be obtained from a Russian Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. or abroad in advance of travel, as it is impossible to obtain a Russian entry visa upon arrival. Travelers who arrive without an entry visa are not permitted to enter Russia and face immediate expulsion by route of entry, at the traveler's expense.
U.S. citizens transiting Russia in route to any other country do need transit visas. In several instances, travelers were advised differently and erroneously by their travel agents or sponsors. The misinformation caused great delays and hardships. Similarly, Russia-bound U.S. citizens attempting to transit Belarus or Ukraine or the Central Asian republics without visas, have encountered great difficulties. U.S. citizens are strongly advised to check the visa requirements for all countries on their itinerary.
A Russia entry/exit visa has two dates written in the European style (day, month, year). The first date indicates the earliest day a traveler may enter Russia; the second date indicates the date by which a traveler must leave Russia. Russian tourist visas are often granted only for the specific dates mentioned in the invitation letter provided by the sponsor. United States citizens often receive visas only valid for periods as short as four days. Even if the visa is misdated through error of a Russian Embassy or Consulate, the traveler will still not be allowed into Russia before the visa start date or be allowed to leave after the visa expiration date. Any mistakes in visa dates must be corrected before the traveler enters Russia. It is helpful to have someone who reads Russian check the visa before departing the United States.
Visas are valid for specific purposes and dates. Travelers should ensure that they apply for and receive the correct visa that reflects their intended action in Russia (i.e., student visa, religious worker visa, commercial visa). Foreigners can be expelled for engaging in activities inconsistent with their visas.
All travelers must continue to list on the visa application all areas to be visited and subsequently register with authorities at each destination. There are several closed cities throughout Russia. Travelers who attempt to enter these cities without prior authorization are subject to fines, court hearings and/or deportation. Travelers should check with their sponsor, hotel, or the nearest Russian visa and passport office before traveling to unfamiliar cities and towns.
Sponsorship: Under Russian law, every foreign traveler must have a Russian-based sponsor (a hotel, tour company, relative, employer, etc). Generally speaking, visas sponsored by Russian individuals are "guest" visas, and visas sponsored by tour agencies or hotels are "tourist" visas. Note that travelers who enter Russia on "tourist" visas, but who then reside with Russian individuals, may have difficulty registering their visas and migration cards and may be required by Russian authorities to depart Russia sooner than they had planned.
Even if your visa was obtained through a travel agency in the U.S., there is always a Russian legal entity whose name is indicated on the visa and who is considered to be your legal sponsor. It is important for travelers to know who the sponsor is and how to contact him/her because Russian law requires that the sponsor must apply on the traveler's behalf for replacement, extension, or changes to a Russian visa. U.S. citizens are strongly advised to contact their tour company or hotel in advance for the contact information of the visa sponsor.
To resolve any visa difficulties (lost visa, expired visa), the traveler's sponsor must contact the nearest Russian visa and passport office (OVIR/UVIR) for assistance. Resolving the visa problem usually requires the payment of a fee and a wait of up to twenty calendar days.
Exit Visa: A valid visa is necessary to depart Russia. Generally, the visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate is valid for entry and exit.
Visitors who lose or have their U.S. passport and Russian visa stolen must replace their passport at the U.S. Embassy or one of the Consulates General, and then obtain a new visa to depart with the assistance of their sponsor (see above). Without a valid visa in their new United States passports, U.S. citizens cannot leave Russia.
By Russian law, travelers without a valid visa, whether the visa is lost, stolen, or expired, may not check in at any hotel, guesthouse, hostel, or other lodging establishment in Russia. United States citizens without valid visas face significant delays in leaving Russia and may have trouble finding adequate accommodation.
There are no adequate public shelters or safe havens in Russia and the Embassy or the Consulates General have no means to accommodate such stranded travelers.
Visitors, who overstay their visa's validity, even for one day, will be prevented from leaving until their sponsor intervenes and requests a visa extension on their behalf (see above).
Student visas allow only for one entry. The sponsoring school is responsible for registering the visa and migration card and obtaining an exit visa.
Migration Card: All foreigners entering Russia must fill out a migration card, depositing one part with immigration authorities at the port of entry and holding on to the other part for the duration of their stay. Upon exit, the migration card, which serves as a statistical tool and a record of entry, exit, and registration, must be submitted to immigration authorities. The card is also necessary to register at hotels, most of which will not allow a traveler to check in if he or she does not have a migration card.
Migration cards, in theory, are available at all ports of entry from Russian immigration officials (Border Guards). The cards are generally left in literature racks at arrival points. Officials at borders and airports usually do not point out these cards to travelers and it is up to the travelers to find them and fill them out. From time to time, various ports of entry - even the major international airport in Moscow - run out of these cards. There is no mechanism to obtain such cards once a traveler has entered into Russia. The Russian government has not indicated what a traveler should do in such a case.
Lost/stolen migration cards cannot be replaced. While authorities will not prevent foreigners who have lost their migration cards and have not replaced them with a duplicate from leaving the country, foreigners could experience problems when trying to reenter Russia at a future date.
Registration: Travelers who spend more than three days in the country must register their visa and migration card through their sponsor. However, travelers spending less than three days are advised to register their visas as well, since they may encounter problems finding lodging without proper registration. Travelers staying in a hotel must register their visa and migration card with their hotel within one day. It is helpful to make a photocopy of your visa in the event of loss, but note that a copy of your visa will not be sufficient for leaving the country, as Russian border officials always ask for the original. A failure to register is unlikely to result in problems leaving Russia but travelers could experience problems when trying to reenter Russia at a future date.
Police have the authority to stop people and request their documents at any time without cause. Due to the possibility of random document checks by police, U.S. citizens should carry their original passports, registered migration cards, and visas with them at all times. Failure to provide proper documentation can result in detention and/or heavy fines. It is not necessary for travelers to have either entry or itinerary points in the Russian Federation printed on their visas.
Any person applying for a visa for a stay of more than three months must present a certificate showing that he/she is HIV-negative. The certificate must contain the applicant's passport data, proposed length of stay in Russia, blood test results for HIV infection, including date of the test, signature of the doctor conducting the test, medical examination results, diagnostic series and seal of the hospital/medical organization. The HIV test must be administered no later than three months prior to travel and the certificate must be in both Russian and English. Medical facilities are required to report positive HIV tests to the authorities. Foreigners who test positive for HIV while in Russia are subject to deportation.
American Citizens Also Holding Russian Passports: The United States government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. It expects American citizens to travel on U.S. passports. However, possessing and traveling on a Russian passport, outside of the United States, does not negate a traveler's American citizenship. American citizens who choose to enter Russia on a Russian passport do face several possible difficulties.
U.S. citizens who have at one time held Russian citizenship are often required to renounce Russian citizenship before applying for a Russian visa in their U.S. passport. Unless a former Russian citizen has formally renounced his or her Russian citizenship through a Russian Embassy or Consulate, he or she always risks being considered a Russian citizen and not allowed to depart on any travel document except a Russian passport. This can also interfere with access to U.S. consular services in case of an emergency. This risk is greatly diminished if the traveler enters Russia on a U.S. passport and Russian visa.
Such persons should also be aware that if their Russian passport expires after entry, Russian authorities will not permit them to depart Russia using their U.S. passport. They will be required to obtain a new Russian passport - a process that generally takes several months. Russian external passports extended by Russian Consulates or Embassies overseas are not considered valid for departure from Russia no matter how long the extension. Bearers of such passports will have to apply for a new passport inside the country.
Males of conscript age (18 - 27 years old) who are deemed to be Russian citizens may experience problems if they have not satisfied their military service requirement.
American citizen minors, who also have Russian citizenship, and who are traveling on their Russian passports, must have a power-of-attorney, written in Russian, allowing them to travel if they are traveling alone or in the company of adults who are not their parents. Such minors will be stopped from leaving Russia if they cannot present such a power-of-attorney.
For additional information concerning entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Russian Embassy, Consular Section, 2641 Tunlaw Rd., NW, Washington, DC 20007, telephone (202) 939-8907, website http://www.russianembassy.org , or the Consulates in Houston (tel. 713-337-3300), New York (tel. 212-348-0926/55), San Francisco (tel. 415-928-6878, 415-929-0862, 415-202-9800/01) or Seattle (tel. 206-728-1910).
Source: U.S. Department of State
The time zone for Russia is 3 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Russia would be 8:00 pm
The unit of currency in Russia is the Russian ruble (RUR).
Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter
Traveled to Russia?
If you have visited this country recently and have ideas, thoughts, or suggestions to share with other travelers, we'd love to hear from you! Share your travel experiences and we'll post them on our website.
Other Travelers' Experiences in Russia
"I have just returned from Russia. You must keep your passport with you at all times. The militia checks it without notice or cause. Do not argue with them or question why they want it, just present the passport and wait, they will give it back to you.
Get a map of the metro (subway) system, it is the best way to travel. The roads are highly conjested and it will take you hours to get anywhere if you are in Moscow.
Health Care: the ambulance is free as is the emergency room however it is better to try to get to the American Clinic as soon as possible. There is one in both Moscow and St. Pete's."
"I'm American and teach in Moscow. True, carry your passport at all times. Driving is very dangerous. If you can't get there by metro, you're best off to hire a car with a driver. In the Moscow proper you will be walking a lot. If you don't know the language you will have trouble. And if you can't read Cyrillic, you're screwed, just stay home. You can't drink the water without boiling first and air quality can be very poor. There are industrial smoke stacks next to apartment blocks. Wild dogs roam the streets and compete with drunks for sleeping spaces at night. Crime is no worse than any large European city thanks to militia and private security everywhere. Prostitution and public drunkenness is legal. Female travelers should not go anywhere alone. In general the locals are friendly and willing to help. You will find an endless stream of culture, art and history. Not to mention the nightlife and clubbing. It's truly a city without limits of any kind."