Most visits to Russia are trouble-free, but petty crime does happen in cities. Be alert to the possibility of mugging, pick pocketing and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. Be wary of groups of women and children who beg.
Drink-spiking leading to robbery, violence and/or abuse does happen. Unconscious victims are often left outside, which can be life threatening in the winter months. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times.
In St Petersburg there have been reports of street crime where tourists have been specifically targeted. These crimes are carried out by well-organised gangs. Be aware of pickpockets in the main tourist areas and around the main railway concourses. Bogus police officers have harassed and robbed tourists. If you are stopped always insist on seeing identification.
Avoid openly carrying expensive items, or anything that might easily identify you as a tourist. Avoid walking about late at night alone. Incidents of violence in major cities are usually linked to criminal/business activities and are not usually directed against foreign visitors.
Look after your passport at all times, especially in major transport hubs and busy areas. Passports have been reported stolen or lost from British nationals when in the airports in Moscow. Be particularly vigilant when passing through the airports, particularly in the baggage collection area and outside the arrivals hall.
Most visitors experience no difficulties but racially motivated attacks do occur. People of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent may attract some unwanted attention in public places and should take care, particularly when travelling late at night. You should follow security precautions as you would in any other big city.
Take care if you are using a dating service. A number of British nationals have been the victims of fraud. Be wary of sending money via untraceable transfer services. There have been instances where British nationals have lost money by sending money to an unknown recipient without checking they were genuine.
The North Caucasus remains an unstable and potentially dangerous region. The Russian authorities take a particularly strict attitude towards security, as well as compliance with visa and registration rules. Short-term travel restrictions are sometimes applied in relation to ongoing security operations. These are publicised at very short notice, if at all. Cross-border traffic with Georgia and Azerbaijan is also subject to restrictions.
If you travel to these parts of Russia against FCO advice, you are taking a serious risk. The ability of the FCO and the British Embassy in Moscow to help in the case of an emergency would be severely limited due to the security situation.
You can drive a car in Russia using your UK driving licence. If possible get a notarised Russian translation. If you need to get a Russian driving licence or exchange your foreign licence into a Russian one (eg for stays over 6 months) you must also submit a medical report confirming that you’re fit to drive and free from certain medical conditions as specified by Decree N1097 of 24 October 2014 and categorised by the World Health Organisation. Medical Report forms must be issued by a registered doctor in Russia.
In order to drive a vehicle into Russia you will need to provide the following documents:
You will need to declare the vehicle with the customs authority at the port of entry. You can bring a vehicle into Russia without paying import taxes for a maximum period of 1 year.
Contact the Russian Embassy in London if you have more detailed questions about bringing a vehicle in to the country. The British Embassy is unable to offer help to those attempting to bring vehicles into Russia without the correct documentation.
Road conditions are often poor, especially outside the major cities. The standard speed limit for built-up areas is 60km/h (37mph), outside built-up areas 90km/h (55mph) and 100km/h (62mph) on motorways (Brest-Moscow). Visiting motorists who have held a driving licence for less than 2 years must not exceed 70km/h (43mph). It is common practice for traffic police to stop motorists for spot checks. There is a zero tolerance policy towards drink-driving.
Road safety is poor. According to statistics published by the Russian Main Directorate for Road Traffic Safety there were over 198,000 road traffic accidents in Russia in 2014, causing over 26,000 deaths and over 250,000 injuries. You should be vigilant when driving, take account of weather conditions, and consider limiting or avoiding driving at night.
Official looking taxis can be unlicensed. Don’t share a taxi with strangers or flag down what may appear to be an official taxi. Where possible ask your hotel to get a taxi for you, or ask for the telephone number of a reputable taxi company. You should agree the fare before getting into the taxi.
If you are travelling by overnight train in a sleeping compartment, store valuables in the container under the bed or seat. Don’t 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.
Don’t agree to look after the luggage of a fellow traveller or allow it to be stored in your compartment.
The volume and quantity of liquids, gels, aerosols, creams or pastes you can carry in your hand luggage when going through airport screening facilities throughout Russia is limited. For more information, please refer to the Federal Air Transport Agency website (in Russian), or consult your airline.
A list of recent incidents and accidents including the location, type of aircraft and operator can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
Travel by helicopter is often used in more remote areas of Russia. In recent years there have been helicopter crashes with multiple fatalities. Be aware of the increased risk of travel by helicopter and satisfy yourself of your tour operator’s safety record.
The latest audit of the Russian Federation’s Civil Aviation Authority by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in 2015 found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in the Russian Federation was above the global average.
According to the Russian migration authorities, in 2015 around 65,700 British nationals visited St Petersburg on sea cruise ships organised by foreign tour companies. Volga river cruises between St Petersburg and Moscow are also popular. Use recognised cruise operators with established safety records.
Political rallies and demonstrations occur in large cities across Russia, usually with notice and permission from the authorities.
Check media for the latest information, be vigilant, and avoid any demonstrations.
There is a high threat from terrorism. The main terrorist threat in Russia comes from Islamist and rebel groups in the North Caucasus, but attacks aren’t limited to this region. Previous attacks have seen large numbers of casualties.
In 2011, 37 people were killed at Domodedovo international airport in Moscow, including a British national; and in 2013, 3 suicide bombings targeted public transport in Volgograd.
Russian aviation has also been targeted. On 31 October 2015, a Russian flight from Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt) to St Petersburg crashed in North Sinai. Russian authorities stated the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the plane.
Although there’s no indication that British nationals or interests have been specific targets, attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should be vigilant in all public places, including major transport hubs, tourist sites and crowded areas – particularly where access isn’t controlled (eg open-air events and markets). Previous attacks have targeted transport infrastructure. Further attacks are likely, and could take place anywhere in Russia.
In the North Caucasus, while the number of casualties from ongoing violence has reduced in recent years, there continue to be frequent attacks and skirmishes between rebel groups and Russian forces in the republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria.
Attacks also take place elsewhere in the North Caucasus, and in other parts of Russia. The threat from terrorism could rise quickly in relation to any escalation of violence in the North Caucasus.
In 2015, Daesh announced the establishment of an affiliate in the North Caucasus. Many rebel leaders announced they had switched their allegiance to Daesh. Daesh North Caucasus has claimed responsibility for a number of small-scale attacks, mainly in Dagestan, targeting law enforcement personnel.
In August 2016, Daesh claimed an attack in which two traffic police were killed in Moscow. Russian authorities announced in December 2016 that the leader of Daesh North Caucasus had been killed in a counter-terrorism operation in Dagestan.
In 2016, the Russian authorities conducted several high profile raids against alleged Daesh-linked individuals in cities across Russia, including St Petersburg, Ekaterinburg and Moscow.
Security services conduct frequent counter-terrorism operations in the North Caucasus republics, and elsewhere in Russia. These can be at short notice and involve restrictions on travel.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
There is a history of kidnapping in the North Caucasus region and westerners have been particularly vulnerable. The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers as paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of hostage taking.
Don’t become involved with drugs. You can expect a long sentence for possession of even small quantities of drugs, regardless of whether they are ‘hard’ or ‘soft’
You must carry your original passport at all times. A copy will not be sufficient. If you can’t produce your passport when asked, you will be fined.
Homosexuality is legal in Russia, but there is still intolerance among some sections of the population. Be careful about public displays of affection.
In June 2013 a law banning the promotion of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ entered into force, but the definition and scope of prohibited activity is vague. Foreign nationals convicted under this law could face arrest and detention, fines and deportation. There have been reports that instances of harassment, threats, and acts of violence towards the LGBT community have increased following the introduction of the law.
Photographing any military establishment or site of strategic importance (including airports) is banned. You are likely to be detained for questioning or arrested if you are caught.
There are strict regulations covering the export of antiques, artworks (including modern art and posters if they’re particularly rare or valuable) and items of historical significance bought in Russia or imported to Russia from abroad.
You’ll need an export permit from the Ministry of Culture to export this type of material and each item must be declared at the point of departure. Export permits are never issued at the airport; you must get one in advance.
You may also need to present the items at Customs. You may not be able to get an export permit for items over 100 years old. Don’t attempt to export items that require permits without the relevant paperwork as this is a serious offence in Russia.
Keep receipts of any purchases in case you need to present them when you leave Russia.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
To enter Russia you’ll need a visa before travel - make sure you apply for the correct type and duration of visa and that you abide by the conditions of your visa. During periods of high demand, you should apply for your visa well in advance. From 10 December 2014 Russian diplomatic missions and the visa application centres in London and Edinburgh will collect biometric data (scanned fingerprints) from visa applicants above the age of 12. This applies to each Russian entry or transit visa application. For further information see the Russian Embassy website and the website of VFS Global who manage Russian visa applications on behalf of the Embassy. Tourist visa applications can take 10 working days to be processed, and longer during busy periods.
On receiving your visa you should check the details of the visa including the validity dates and passport number carefully to ensure they are correct. Before you travel to Russia make sure you are aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa, for both entry and exit. Please note that you should carefully adhere to the validity and conditions of your visa. Overstaying your visa without authorisation from the Russian migration authorities can result in a delay to your departure from Russia, fines, court hearings and possible deportation and a ban from re-entry. You should arrange an extension of your visa before it expires.
According to Russian law, cruise or ferry passengers can stay in Russia for 72 hours without visas only if they have booked tours through the companies officially licensed by the Russian government. These companies will supply you with a tour ticket, which is called a blanket visa or booking confirmation, and let you pass the customs/immigration offices without any other documents except your valid passport and the migration card that you will be given onboard.
This visa-free exception applies only to those who travel within an organised group and who don’t intend to explore the cities on their own. Cruise passengers are free to use any authorised local travel agencies (not only cruise ship tour companies) for visa-free shore tours.
Russia’s port cities where travellers won’t need a visa for up to 3 days are:
If your passport has been lost/stolen while ashore and a replacement ETD is issued, or you would like to continue your journey by air or land, you must get a visa to leave Russia.
The Russian government has announced plans to introduce in 2017 biometric fingerprinting for all foreign nationals, including British nationals, entering Russia. No dates have been confirmed.
If you’re staying for more than 7 working days you must register with the local branch of the Main Department for Migration Issues of the Ministry of Interior. Most major hotels will do this automatically. If you’re staying in private accommodation the owner of the property must do this for you.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry date of your visa.
The Russian government has informed the UK government that there are no legal grounds for foreigners (including British nationals) to cross the Russia-Belarus state border. If you’re planning on entering Russia by road, you’ll need to take an alternative route through a different country.
If you’re planning on travelling by rail between the two countries, you should contact your train or tour operator to seek their advice. You should also consider contacting your nearest Russian Embassy for advice on the latest situation for rail travellers.
The UK government is not aware of any difficulties for British nationals when travelling by air between the two countries. Make sure you have all the necessary visas for the duration of your travel.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, landside transit and exit from Russia only if they contain a valid Russian visa. The Russian authorities will only put a visa for Russia in an ETD in some circumstances. Contact the nearest Russian Embassy outside Russia or local migration office in Russia to find out if a visa can be issued. You also need to check with the Russian Embassy or migration office on the required length of Emergency Travel Document validity.
UK Emergency Travel Documents without a visa are accepted for airside transit only. You should check with your travel company or airline that transit zones will be available at the airports of your planned route.
All foreign nationals entering Russia must sign a migration card, which is produced electronically at passport control in the major airports. Some airports may still require you to complete the migration card manually. 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 leave Russia and if you are stopped by the police for an ID check during your stay. There are many hotels and hostels that will not check in guests if they don’t 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.
Children born overseas and added to their parents’ Russian passports may now have to get their own passport to exit Russia. Check with the Russian Embassy or Consulate before travel to ensure you have the necessary paperwork.
Under international law, the British Embassy can’t formally intervene with the Russian authorities on behalf of dual Russian/British nationals.
Legislation came into force on 4 August 2014 regarding Russian nationals who are also citizens of other countries. Russian passport holders must inform the Russian authorities of the other passports they hold. If you hold both British and Russian citizenship you should take legal advice and/ or contact the relevant Russian authority (the nearest Russian Embassy if you are not in Russia or your local Migration office if you are in Russia) to find out how the legislation might impact you. See the Main Department for Migration Issues of the Russian Ministry of Interior (in Russian only) for more details.
If you come to Russia to renew your Russian international passport, it may take up to 4 months for a new passport to be issued. You will not be able to leave Russia on your British passport if you entered Russia on your Russian passport, and will therefore have to remain in Russia until your new Russian passport is issued.
You can import up to 10,000 US dollars (or equivalent) into the country and export foreign currency up to the equivalent of 10,000 US dollars from Russia without declaring it.
If you import over 10,000 US dollars or certain categories of goods like electrical items, jewellery, antiques and valuable musical instruments, you must complete a customs declaration form.
If you wish to import certain advanced electronic items (e.g. Global Positioning System instruments), you must get an operating licence from the Russian authorities before you travel. Check with the Embassy of the Russian Federation before your departure.
If you complete a declaration make sure the form is stamped by a Customs official at your port of entry, otherwise your foreign currency and non-declared items may be confiscated when you leave Russia and you may be fined.
There are 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. You must get approval from the Ministry of Culture.
For further information visit the website of the Russian Federal Customs Service.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Since new Russian legislation was introduced in June 2016, medication containing certain strong or poisonous substances must be declared to the Russian Customs Services when you enter the country. All the drugs are listed on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website (in Russian). The British Embassy is in contact with the Russian government to get an English language version of the list. The Russian government has confirmed that the new legislation doesn’t apply to medication used for colds, flu, anti-inflammatory drugs, or to treat gastrointestinal diseases.
Since the introduction of the legislation, the British Embassy is not aware of any British nationals having medicines scrutinised or withheld when entering the Russian Federation. However, if you intend to travel to Russia with any medication on the list, it must be accompanied by a prescription in the traveller’s name which has been translated into Russian, and then notarised (notarisation services in the UK are available from a Notary Public).
If you’re not sure whether you need a prescription and notarised translation to bring your medicines into the country, you should check with the Russian Embassy in London or Consulate General in Edinburgh.
The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Russia terminated with effect from 1 January 2016. You should make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance.
Air quality in Moscow varies and can worsen in certain weather conditions. You should monitor local media, and the Moscow Emercom website (in Russian) for more information.
112 is the single emergency number for any emergency service in Russia.
There are occasional occurrences of flooding in southern regions, and forest fires, mainly in the far eastern areas and Siberia.
Small earth tremors are recorded throughout the year without consequences. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Most major high street banks and currency exchange providers in the UK can pre-order Roubles (Russian currency). If you plan to buy roubles in Russia, you should take US dollars or Euros to exchange. Only change money at banks, hotels and airport exchange bureaux. It is an offence to change money from street traders.
Most hotels, restaurants and larger shops accept credit cards. There are ATMs in most major cities. Consider informing your bank before you travel to Russia to avoid having a temporary stop on your card. Travellers’ cheques are not widely accepted.
It is illegal to pay directly for general transactions with dollars or Euros.
Large numbers of British nationals travel successfully and safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is, however, a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider carefully the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers are particularly advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.
The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions - can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
The eight Arctic States take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be despatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.
Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.
The Mongol Rally is scheduled to finish in Ulan Ude, Russia in July 2017.
Before you travel to Russia, make sure you’re aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa, for both entry and exit. Overstaying your visa without prior extension by the local authorities can result in a delay to your departure from Russia, fines, court proceedings, and possible deportation and a ban from re-entry. If you need a visa extension, you should arrange this before your current visa expires. If you’re planning to enter Russia more than once, make sure your visa allows for that. If you hold a single-entry visa, you won’t be able to re-enter the country once you have left.
All foreign nationals entering Russia must complete a migration card at passport control. Keep your migration card safe. One part will be retained by an immigration officer on arrival. You should keep the other part with your passport. You’ll need it when you leave Russia or if you’re stopped by the police for an ID check during your stay. You must complete a migration card each time you enter Russia, even if you have a multiple entry visa. If you lose the second part of the card your departure from the country could be delayed and you’re likely to be fined. Hotels and hostels aren’t allowed to check in guests if they don’t have their migration card.
If your passport is lost or stolen, report it to the local police and migration authority. You’ll be issued with a temporary ID document which will enable you to travel to the British Embassy in Moscow, or the British Consulate General in St Petersburg where you can get an Emergency Travel Document (ETD). You’ll need to get an exit visa from the local authorities in your ETD – your Russian visa sponsor should be able to help you with this. Russian authorities expect those affected in this way to leave Russia as soon as possible, rather than continuing with a pre-planned journey.
You can drive a car in Russia using your UK driving licence. You should get a notarised Russian translation of your driving licence in case you’re stopped by the Police.
You’ll need to declare your vehicle with the customs authority at your port of entry. You should present the following documents:
It isn’t possible to buy an insurance policy for a car in Russia with foreign licence plates. A certificate of temporary import of a vehicle will be issued. It’s illegal to drive an imported car without this certificate. You can bring a vehicle into Russia without paying import taxes if your visit lasts no longer than one year. If a car isn’t taken out of the country on time, customs fees will be payable. If your car is damaged or stolen, you should promptly report this to the police and to local customs officials.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.