Russia is a big and powerful country, and you hear about it a lot, whether it’s in movies or on the news. Although so popular, it seems it’s hard for people to unglue themselves from trips to more visited countries and cities.
One of the questions rambling through their minds is “Is Russia safe to visit?”. For the most part, people are visiting Russia without any unwanted incident happening. Still, some situations can turn out to be unsafe, which is why you should know how to avoid them and what to do.
Therefore, some Russian safety travel tips can tell you what to do once you step on Russian soil and how to keep yourself safe and sound during your vacation. Here is a Russian safety guide to feed your curiosity and help you decide if purchasing plane tickets is the best thing to do.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Russia
Overall Risks in Russia: LOW to MEDIUM
Overall, Russia is relatively safe. Most travels are trouble-free, so tourists can have a great time if they know how to spend it. At the same time, there are some situations you need to take into consideration because nobody is safe all the time. Things can happen all the time, meaning each individual looking to visit Russia should take precautions.
In Russia, one situation to be considered is the political one. Due to it, there are certain tensions, and demonstrations can arise at times. If you’re a British resident, there might be difficulties getting into the country because of an attack that took place in Salisbury on 4 March 2018.
This incident led to political tensions between the Russia and UK. Demonstrations and rallies can occur in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and many other places across Russia.
In terms of terrorism, terrorists are likely to try their luck in carrying out attacks in big countries. Considering Russia is such a big power, it’s not a surprise.
Street crime is also not something that you should rule out. At any given time, perpetrators could try to attack you and fulfill their own personal needs. It isn’t something that happens specifically in Russia, but as a tourist, you may be an easier target.
From time to time, there are small earthquakes over Russia’s surface, but thankfully they are free of consequences most of the time.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Russia: LOW to MEDIUM
When going to a country you’ve never been to before, one of the biggest concerns you may have is regarding theft. As such, asking yourself “Is Russia safe to visit?” when the theft scenario invades your mind is not surprising.
In main tourist areas, thieves could operate knowing that many people from all over the world could be there, with valuables in their possession. So, that is one of the places where they could think about attacking innocent victims and stripping them of their belongings.
In areas with a lot of people, pickpocketing could occur, taking into account the fact that it would be hard to feel anything between so many people. Also, by the time you’d notice anything, the thief may most likely be gone already, and there would be no trace of him.
You may be targeted even inside the airport. As expected, some unscrupulous people prey on tourists who seem to barely have any idea about what’s going on. If bags are left unattended, they may end up in someone else’s hands, and the last thing you want is your favorite shirt being taken away.
Even passports are being stolen sometimes, not only money or other valuables, and the passport is an important item to have during trips.
If something gives away the fact that you’re a tourist, some may try to take advantage of that, which is why tourists should look as normal as possible.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Russia?
One of the things you could do to stay away from unwanted situations is common sense. For example, you could start by not leaving your bags or other belongings unattended, in the airport, or just anyone else.
Don’t ask foreigners to look over them either, considering you don’t know what could happen. Also, keeping your passport safe is essential, as you may need it along the way. There were reports of passports being stolen from foreigners, and you don’t want your situation to be included there.
Another thing that could help you stay away from incidents is by being at your hotel when it gets dark. Given you may be more vulnerable when there’s no natural light, some thieves may see this as an opportunity and action during that time.
When you’re in crowded areas, it would be better to not have valuables in your pockets, especially in the pockets in the back of your jeans. It would be hard to actually feel that someone is stealing from them, so it’s better to avoid having to deal with such situations. If you have a handbag or a bag, it should stay in front of you, and you should keep it tightly, so nobody snatches it or ends up stealing from it.
Scam Risk in Russia: MEDIUM
Scammers exist everywhere, and they won’t lose any chance to benefit from you or someone else. If they see an opening, they dive in and try to take advantage of you.
Dating services are meant to help you find your soulmate, but it’s not uncommon for these to be scams. In Russia, some people were victims of fraud. There were also cases of foreigners being scammed by these dating services.
It is better to avoid using these apps altogether or just be careful who you choose to meet. You should also never spend money or buy items from people you’ve never met in person. It could either end up being a broken object or spend more money than you should have.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Russia?
Furthermore, it is advised to not send money through untraceable transfer services. In several situations, people were scammed. Residents from other countries have lost sums of cash when sending money to unknown recipients without checking whether they were genuine.
Taxis are not the safest either, and you’d be surprised hearing that some taxis are actually unlicensed and you could end up in the devil’s cave. Although some taxis look like the real deal, they may be unlicensed, and you may end up being mugged. There were cases of British tourists being the victims in such situations.
Therefore, you need to look for taxis that are registered and stay far away from drivers who may look for nothing more but to take your money. A useful way to find a reputable taxi company is by asking the hotel staff. They should know taxi companies that won’t do any harm to their clients. Another way is by using an app. Through a taxi app, you can call the taxi to come exactly to your location, and it’s safer as well.
So, no flagging down taxis on the street considering it’s hard to know whether they’re official or not. Also, you shouldn’t share a taxi with strangers, because you are only putting yourself at risk. If you do it, you should agree on the fare before you even enter the taxi, and make sure that the meter is working. Otherwise, the situation may not turn out as expected.
Civil Unrest Risk in Russia: MEDIUM
“How safe is Russia for tourists regarding the protests?” is a question that may be playing with your thoughts, especially if you are always up to date with the news. The political situation and demonstrations that occur are known by people, making them ask if going to visit Russia is a good idea in the first place.
In towns across the country, there are sometimes political demonstrations and rallies occurring. They are usually happening with notice and permission from the authorities. If an unauthorized one takes place, the Russian authorities may step in and act to stop it. In certain situations, these cases have escalated and turned into violence.
Apparently, under Russian law, actions by one person can be considered as a protest, and if it’s not authorized, this can be subject to a robust response.
Before you enter the country, it’s essential to check the news for the current political situations and see if there are any ongoing protests. If you happen to be in the country at the time the protests are unfolding, stay as away as you possibly can.
Taking the dangers into consideration, these manifestations can have a violent outcome, and being caught in the middle of violence is not something you dream about for the perfect vacation. Don’t join them, and go away from them.
Kidnapping Risk in Russia: LOW to MEDIUM
Kidnappings can’t be ruled out in Russia, and only having the word in mind makes you ask “Is Russia safe to visit?”. Well, they are possible, but that doesn’t mean you’ll definitely be tied up and thrown in a trunk.
There were cases of western nationals being kidnapped and sometimes even killed by the captors, in the North Caucasus. Usually, people who are engaged in business sectors, journalism, or humanitarian work are viewed as targets too.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Russia?
If the act does happen, then the reason for your presence won’t be relevant, and it’s highly unlikely that it won’t protect you or ensure your safe release. Therefore, be vigilant wherever you go, don’t walk alone, especially during nights, and if you can, have someone keep you company, especially if you plan on walking in quiet areas.
Terrorism Risk in Russia: MEDIUM
Terrorism is something that you can’t joke about because terrorist attacks are one of the scariest things to come across. In Russia, attacks may be carried out, depending on the area, although they can take place just anywhere. Most of the past ones have been by rebel groups and Islamist groups in the North Caucasus, but attacks can happen in other regions and cities too.
Since 2017, there were several plots taking place in major Russian cities, such as Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg, and Moscow, targeting crowded places and public transport. Still, that doesn’t exclude the possibility of terrorist attacks being carried out in other cities, so you should stay vigilant. Certain terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Daesh continue to call for attacks in the country.
- How to avoid terrorism in Russia?
It’s important to stay as safe as possible and avoid attacks. If you’re in public places, you should be vigilant, including places such as crowded areas tourist sites, and major transport hubs. You should be careful especially in places where the access isn’t controlled, such as markets and open-air events. There were attacks that targeted transport infrastructure.
Another thing you should know is that attacks could be indiscriminate, so don’t expect the terrorists to call quits just because foreigners may be caught in the middle. They don’t care about such things, and only want to carry out their act. In other words, if you end up being in an attack or near a spot that is attacked, the terrorists won’t care that you’re there to spend your free days.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Russia: LOW
As a woman who wanders the world by herself, questioning “Is Russia safe for solo women travelers?” is not a surprise. Being a woman makes you more vulnerable to some, as you represent a smaller threat, especially if there’s nobody around to protect you.
Well, Russia is a relatively safe country when it comes to its solo female travelers. You can enjoy St. Petersburg and Moscow in all of their beauty without incidents occurring. Although safety exists, that doesn’t mean the dangers should be overlooked altogether. There are still things to keep in mind.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Russia?
First of all, walking alone at night is not recommended, because some may see that as an opportunity to approach you. Especially if you’ve had a few drinks, you should refrain from wandering the streets all by yourself.
Dress appropriately and take care if you have to walk in less crowded areas, where nobody could help you in case of a perpetrator who wants to do harm. Also, if you’re going to bars, do not let your drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers.
Situations, where someone puts some unknown substance in your drink, are not only possible in movies, and it’s a scary scenario to think of. There were cases in which people were drugged and stripped of belongings afterward. So, you should always buy your own drinks and keep them on your watch.
Rape Risk in Russia: LOW to MEDIUM
As of 2015, Russia's rape rate was valued at 2.7, with a change of -5.52% compared to 2014. Further research shows that this rate has been continuously decreasing since 2005 - when it stood at a value of around 6.4 cases per 100,000 population.
Therefore, there are little to no risks of such incidents - however, we must keep in mind the fact that there have been cases of spiked drinks in the past. Moreover, the victims that have been left unconscious by these drugged drinks are usually left outside. They face not only the cold but also other criminals that may take advantage of them.
- How to avoid getting raped in Russia?
Naturally, it is recommended that you do not travel alone - furthermore, avoid any alleys, remote areas, and low-populated neighborhoods. Obviously, you should also refrain from walking during the night, as there's the risk that you might be approached by someone with malicious intentions.
It is also advised that you let someone close to you what your itinerary is, as well as your expected time of return so that they know when they should call the authorities. Stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings.
Natural Disasters Risk in Russia: LOW to MEDIUM
When asking “Is Russia safe to visit?”, you can’t overlook the natural hazards, because they could be just as dangerous as crimes and terrorism.
Depending on the area, there could be earthquakes occurring from time to time. There is even volcanic activity, very significant in the Kuril Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Only the peninsula shelters 29 historically active volcanoes. The most active volcano is Kliuchevskoi, which erupted in 2007 and 2010.
Before you visit, you should check the situation in Russia, because you’d want to avoid being in danger. Also, as mentioned, earth tremors are not really uncommon in Russia. You should inform yourself about what to do in case one occurs during your time there. Learn safety measures and precautions, and you will be able to stay safe during a natural disaster.
Transportation Risks in Russia: MEDIUM
“Is Russia safe to visit concerning road travel?” you may ask yourself, especially if you’re thinking about driving instead of using the various forms of public transport.
Traffic accidents are not uncommon wherever you go, and they are probably one of the most frequent things you hear about on the news. As such, accidents could happen just anywhere. Even if you are the one paying attention and respecting the rules, there may be someone else who isn’t doing the same, resulting in harming others.
First of all, you should know that if you want to drive a car into Russia, you must declare it with the customs authority at the point of entry. For a minimum period of one year, you can bring a car into the country without having to pay import taxes.
If you want to ride motorcycles, expect the traffic police to stop you for spot checks. It is very common for this to happen, so you should obey the rules. Also, there isn’t any tolerance for drunk driving – obviously – so refrain from drinking anything before hitting the roads.
In terms of driving standards and road safety, the situation is really poor. Apparently, in 2017, there were over 169,000 road traffic accidents in Russia. They caused over 215,000 injuries and over 19,000 deaths. The statistics were published by the Directorate for Road Traffic Safety, so take this into consideration and be careful on the roads.
Additionally to all of these, you should take care when driving and stay vigilant. Check the weather conditions before you do so, in order to ensure driving is not dangerous at that time. Driving at night should be limited too, as it’s harder to see and the streets may be more dangerous.
If you decide to travel between cities, brace yourself, because it may take ages. Obviously, the traffic can be really high and make it hard to reach the desired destination. Not only the road conditions are poor, but the heavy traffic will only make you lose time.
You should also keep in mind not to pick up hitchhikers, as you don’t know what they could do. Moreover, do not sleep in your vehicle on the side of the road, because it could be dangerous.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Russia: MEDIUM
As mentioned before, there have been cases of spiked drinks - therefore, you should exercise increased caution when inside such facilities. Never leave your drink unattended and don't accept any drinks from strangers as well.
Also, when you are in a pub or a bar, make sure that your wallet is in a safe place and don't leave any bags on the counter or on the chair next to you - you have no idea how swift thieves can be.
Moreover, when leaving such facilities, make sure that you get into the right taxi - reportedly, there are more than enough official-looking taxis that are actually unlicensed. Getting inside such a vehicle will most likely end up with a robbery or any sort of crime.
In this respect, it is recommended that you use a taxi app or ask your hotel to send one of their taxis to pick you up - you can also grab a taxi number from your hotel, thus ensuring that the vehicle coming to pick you up is a registered one, as it is in partnership with the hotel.
Health Risks in Russia
When it comes to healthcare, most Russian hospitals have below standard conditions - furthermore, they are known to not accept all of the cases they are presented with and they require a credit card or cash payments in advance of the treatment.
Even though equipment such as needles and syringes are standard in most urban areas, it is still recommended that you bring your own - in case you need them -, especially if you plan to travel in remote areas.
You are also not advised to accept any blood transfusions or any surgeries that involve this practice, as the rate of HIV-infected people is quite high in Russia - around 1 million people.
In case of serious injury or illness, you are recommended to either consult with your medic or seek treatment in another country.
In terms of air quality, certain weather conditions can contribute to its worsening - this, in turn, can affect both your health and travel plans. It is recommended that you monitor the local media as well as the online news outlets in order to get a clear picture of what's happening in the country.
List of Vaccines You May Need in Russia
The fact that you may need vaccines may not be a surprise. In fact, before you visit any country, you should pay your doctor a visit and determine whether vaccinations are required before you have to take the plane.
If you want the vaccines to take effect and function properly, check in with your doctor weeks before your depart. Some of the vaccines which could be necessary for your trip are:
- Routine vaccines
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Most Dangerous Areas in Russia
- Zabaikalsky Krai
- Nizhny Novgorod
Concluding Remarks: Is Russia Safe to Visit?
Russia is a beautiful country, and with places such as Vladivostok, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and many others, your vacation is will surely be something that you won’t forget. Safety is an important aspect of every trip, which is why we created this Russia safety guide.
Now, you should be aware of what to do to avoid your belongings being taken, being a victim of natural hazards, being kidnapped, or having a traffic accident. These Russian safety travel tips should have been what you’ve been looking for.