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Travel Security for the Russian Federation

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Russia is a vast and diverse nation that continues to evolve politically, economically, and socially. Most Americans find their stay in Russia both exciting and rewarding, but travel and living conditions in Russia contrast sharply with those in the United States. Major urban centers show tremendous differences in economic development compared to rural areas. While good tourist facilities exist in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and some other large cities, they are not developed in most of Russia, and some of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Russian visa requirements are highly complex, and U.S. citizens must take care that they do not unintentionally violate entry and exit regulations. Travel to the Caucasus region of Russia is dangerous; the Department of State recommends Americans not travel to Chechnya and the North Caucasus region, including Mt. Elbrus.

Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Russia for additional information.



REGISTRATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Russia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page  in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in the event of an emergency.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

The Russian government maintains a restrictive and complicated visa regime for foreigners who visit, transit, or reside in the Russian Federation. A U.S. citizen who does not comply with Russian visa laws can be subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. Russian authorities will not allow a U.S. citizen traveler with an expired visa to depart the country until a new visa is approved, which may take up to 20 days.

The Government of Russia does not recognize the standing of the U.S. diplomatic mission to intervene in visa matters, including situations in which an American is stranded because of an expired visa. U.S. citizens should also be aware that Russian immigration and visa laws change regularly, and the implementation of new regulations has not always been transparent or predictable.

The Russian visa system includes a number of provisions that may be unfamiliar to Americans, including:

Dual citizens who also carry Russian passports face additional complicated regulations. Dual citizen minors who travel on their Russian passports also face special problems. International cruise ship passengers do not need visas if they remain with authorized tour groups at all times while ashore.

Sponsorship:

Under Russian law, every foreign traveler must have a Russian-based sponsor, which could be a hotel, tour company, relative, employer, university, etc. Even if a visa was obtained through a travel agency in the United States, there is always a Russian legal entity whose name is indicated on the visa and who is considered to be the legal sponsor. Russian law requires that the sponsor apply on the traveler’s behalf for replacement, extension, or changes to a Russian visa. U.S. citizens are strongly advised to ensure that they have contact information for the visa sponsor prior to arrival in Russia, as the sponsor’s assistance will be essential to resolve any visa problems.

Entry Visas:

To enter Russia for any purpose, a U.S. citizen must possess a valid U.S. passport and a bona fide visa issued by a Russian embassy or consulate. It is impossible to obtain an entry visa upon arrival, so travelers must apply for their visas well in advance. U.S. citizens who apply for Russian visas in third countries where they do not have permission to stay more than 90 days may face considerable delays in visa processing. Travelers who arrive in Russia without an entry visa will not be permitted to enter the country, and face immediate return to the point of embarkation at their own expense.

A Russian entry/exit visa has two dates written in the European style (day/month/year) as opposed to the American style (month/day/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. A Russian visa is only valid for those exact dates and cannot be extended after the traveler has arrived in the country, except in the case of a medical emergency.

Russian tourist visas are often granted only for the specific dates mentioned in the invitation letter provided by the sponsor. U.S. citizens sometimes receive visas 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. Travelers should ensure that their visas reflect intended activities in Russia (e.g., tourism, study, business, etc.).

U.S. citizens who are denied visas may seek a clarification from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 32/34 Smolenskaya-Sennaya Pl., Moscow, Russia, 119200,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it The U.S. Embassy and the Consulates General, however, cannot advocate on behalf of private U.S. citizens who have been refused visas or denied entry into Russia.

Limitations on Length of Stay:

Under changes to the Russian visa regime in late 2007, most foreigners may remain in the Russian Federation for only 90 days in a 180-day period. These provisions apply to business, tourist, humanitarian, and cultural visas, among other categories. U.S. citizens and other foreigners whose visas permit employment or study are not normally subject to this rule. Any person contemplating a stay in Russia of more than 90 days should consult with his or her visa sponsor to ensure that remaining in the country will not result in a violation of visa regulations.

Exit Visas:

A valid visa is necessary to depart Russia. Travelers 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. Russian authorities may take up to 20 calendar days to authorize an exit visa, during which time the traveler will be stranded in Russia at his or her own expense. The ability of the U.S. Embassy or Consulates General to intervene in these situations is extremely limited.

Travelers with expired visas should also be aware they may have difficulty checking into a hotel, hostel, or other lodging establishment. There are no adequate public shelters or safe havens in Russia and neither the U.S. Embassy nor the Consulates General have means to accommodate such stranded travelers.

Visitors who lose their U.S. passports and Russian visas by accident or theft must immediately replace their passports at the U.S. Embassy or one of the Consulates General. The traveler must then enlist the visa sponsor to obtain a new visa in order to depart the country. As noted above, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General are not able to intercede in cases in which visas must be replaced. It is helpful to make a photocopy of your visa in the event of loss, but a copy is not sufficient to permit departure.

Travelers departing Russia by train should be aware that if they board a train on the last day of a visa’s validity, Russian immigration officials may consider the visa to have expired if the train crosses the international border after midnight on the day of expiration. The Embassy and Consulates General are aware of cases in which travelers have been detained at border crossings, unable to leave Russia, because their visas were expired by a matter of hours or minutes.

Visas for students and English teachers sometimes allow only one entry. In these cases, the sponsoring school is responsible for registering the visa and migration card and obtaining an exit visa. Obtaining an exit visa can take up to 20 calendar days, so students and teachers need to plan accordingly. Please see the section below regarding Teaching in Russia.

Migration Cards:

All foreigners entering Russia must fill out a two-part migration card upon arrival. The traveler deposits one part of the card with immigration authorities at the port of entry, and keeps the other part for the duration of his or her stay. Upon departure, the traveler must submit his or her card to immigration authorities. Foreign visitors to Russia are normally required to present their migration cards in order to register at hotels.

Migration cards, in theory, are available at all ports of entry from Russian immigration officials (Border Guards). The cards are generally distributed to passengers on incoming flights and left in literature racks at arrival points. Officials at borders and airports usually do not point out these cards to travelers; it is up to the individual travelers to find them and fill them out.

Replacing a lost or stolen migration card is extremely difficult. While authorities will not prevent foreigners from leaving the country if they cannot present their migration cards, travelers could experience problems when trying to re-enter Russia at a future date.

Although Russia and Belarus use the same migration card, travelers should be aware that each country maintains its own visa regime. U.S. citizens wishing to travel to both nations must apply for two separate visas. A traveler entering Russia directly from Belarus is not required to obtain a new migration card, but at his or her option may do so if blank ones are available at the time of entry.



Visa Registration:

Travelers who spend more than three days in Russia must register their visa and migration card through their sponsor. Travelers staying in a hotel must register their visa and migration card with their hotel within one day. Even travelers who spend less than three days in one place are encouraged to register their visas. If a traveler chooses not to register a stay of less than three days, he or she is advised to keep copies of tickets, hotel bills, or itineraries in order to prove compliance with the law.

U.S. citizens should be aware that Russian police officers have the authority to stop people and request their identity and travel documents at any time, and without cause. Due to the possibility of random document checks by police, travelers should carry their original passports, migration cards, and visas with them at all times.

Transit Visas:

Travelers intending to transit through Russia en route to a third country must have a Russian transit visa. Even travelers simply changing planes in Russia for an onward destination will be asked to present a transit visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate. Russian authorities may refuse to allow a U.S. citizen who does not have a transit visa to continue with his or her travel, obliging the person to immediately return to the point of embarkation at the traveler’s own expense.

Restricted Areas:

U.S. citizens should be aware that there are several closed cities and regions in Russia. Travelers who attempt to enter these areas without prior authorization are subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. A traveler must list on the visa application all areas to be visited and subsequently register with authorities upon arrival at each destination. There is no centralized list or database of the restricted areas, so travelers should check with their sponsor, hotel, or the nearest office of the Russian Federal Migration Service before traveling to unfamiliar cities and towns.

American Citizens Also Holding Russian Passports:

Dual U.S./Russian nationals who enter Russia on Russian passports face several possible difficulties. Russian authorities will not permit departure from Russia if the person’s Russian passport has expired or has been lost, whether or not the traveler also has a valid U.S. passport. In these cases the traveler will be required to obtain a new Russian passport, a process that can take several months. In order to apply for a Russian visa in a U.S. passport, however, Russian consular officials normally require a person to renounce his or her Russian citizenship.

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.

For further information, please see the Department of State’s web page on dual nationality.

Minors:

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 alone and/or in the company of adults who are not their parents. Such minors will be prevented from entering or leaving Russia if they cannot present such a power-of-attorney.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated special procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not legally required, may facilitate entry/departure. For further information, please see the Department of State’s web page regarding the prevention of international child abduction.

International Cruise Ship Passengers:

International cruise ship passengers are permitted to visit Russian ports without a visa for a period of up to 72 hours. Passengers who wish to go ashore during port calls may do so without visas, provided that they are with an organized tour at all times and accompanied by a tour operator who has been duly licensed by Russian authorities. These special entry/exit requirements do not apply to river boat cruise passengers and travelers coming to Russia on package tours. These travelers will need to apply for visas prior to entry, and should follow the general guidelines for entry/exit requirements.

HIV/AIDS Entry Restrictions: 

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to, and foreign residents of, Russia. Short-term visitors (under three months) are not required to undergo an HIV/AIDS test, but applicants for longer term visas or residence permits may be asked to undergo tests not only for HIV/AIDS, but also for tuberculosis and leprosy. Travelers who believe they may be subject to the requirement should verify this information with the Embassy of the Russian Federation.

Embassy of the Russian Federation: 

For additional information concerning travel to Russia, American citizens may contact the Embassy of the Russian Federation, Consular Section, 2641 Tunlaw Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel. 202-939-8907.

In addition, there are Russian Consulates in:
Houston: 1333 West Loop South, Ste.1300, Houston, TX 77027, tel. 713-337-3300
New York: 9 East 91 St., New York, NY 10128, tel. 212-348-0926
San Francisco: 2790 Green St., San Francisco, CA 94123, tel. 415-928-6878 or 415-202-9800
Seattle: 2323 Westin Building, 2001 6th Ave., Seattle, WA 98121, tel. 206-728-1910.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: 

Due to continued civil and political unrest throughout much of the Caucasus region of Russia, the Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Chechnya and all areas of the North Caucasus, including North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Stavropol, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, and Kabardino-Balkariya. The U.S. Government’s ability to assist Americans who travel to the Caucasus region of Russia is extremely limited. Throughout the region, local criminal gangs have kidnapped foreigners, including Americans, for ransom. American citizens have disappeared in Chechnya and remain missing. Close contacts with the local population do not guarantee safety. There have been several kidnappings of foreigners and Russian citizens working for media and non-governmental organizations in the region. Due to the ongoing security concerns, U.S. Government travel to the region is very limited. American citizens residing in these areas should depart immediately.

Acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage takings, have continued to occur in Russia, particularly in the Caucasus region. In the past, bombings have occurred at Russian government buildings, hotels, tourist sites, markets, entertainment venues, schools, residential complexes, and on public transportation including subways, buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights. Extremist groups occasionally threaten to set off bombs in market areas of major cities that are operated largely by migrant workers.

There is no indication that American institutions or citizens have been targets, but there is a general risk of American citizens being victims of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. American citizens in Russia should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices. Americans are urged to remain vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation. When traveling, Americans may wish to provide a friend, family member, or coworker a copy of their itinerary. Americans should avoid large crowds and public gatherings that lack enhanced security measures. Travelers should also exercise a high degree of caution and remain alert when patronizing restaurants, casinos, nightclubs, bars, theaters, etc., especially during peak hours of business.

Mt. Elbrus:

In recent years, Mt. Elbrus has become an increasingly popular destination with adventure travelers wishing to climb the highest mountain in Europe. The security situation in the regions surrounding Mr. Elbrus, however, remains highly unstable. The U.S. Embassy recommends against attempting to climb Mt. Elbrus, as it can only be done by passing close to volatile and insecure areas of the Caucasus region of Russia.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.



CRIME:

Incidents of unprovoked, violent harassment against racial and ethnic minorities regularly occur throughout the Russian Federation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General continue to receive reports of American citizens, often members of minority groups, having been victimized in violent attacks by “skinheads” or other extremists. Travelers are urged to exercise caution in areas frequented by such individuals and wherever large crowds have gathered. Americans most at risk are those of African, South Asian, or East Asian descent, or those who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be from the Caucasus region or the Middle East. These Americans are also at risk for harassment by police authorities.

Visitors to Russia need to be alert to their surroundings. In large cities, they need to take the same precautions against assault, robbery, or pickpockets that they would take in any large U.S. city:

  • keep billfolds in inner front pockets,

  • carry purses tucked securely under arms,

  • wear the shoulder strap of cameras or bags across the chest,

  • walk away from the curb and carry purses and other bags away from the street.

The most vulnerable areas include underground walkways and the subway, overnight trains, train stations, airports, markets, tourist attractions, and restaurants.

Groups of children and adolescents have been 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. Recently, groups of older teen males have also swarmed Metro passengers and forcibly stolen personal belongings.

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. The Russian media report that the drug GHB is reportedly gaining popularity in local nightclubs, under the names butyrate or oxybutyrate. This drug can also cause amnesia, loss of consciousness, extreme intoxication when mixed with alcohol, and death. The drug, typically a capful of liquid mixed with a beverage, gained notoriety in the United States after incidents of date-rape and death.

In many cases, stolen credit cards are used immediately. Victims of credit card or ATM card theft should report the theft to the credit card company or issuing bank without delay.

Travelers are advised to be vigilant in bus and train stations and on public transport. Bogus trolley inspectors, whose aim is to extort a bribe from individuals while checking for trolley tickets, are also a threat. Travelers have generally found it safer to travel in groups organized by reputable tour agencies. Visitors are strongly discouraged from using unmarked, “gypsy” taxis. Passengers have been victims of robbery, kidnapping, extortion, and theft. The criminals using these taxis to rob passengers often wait outside bars or restaurants to find passengers who have been drinking and therefore more susceptible to robbery. Robberies may also occur in taxis shared with strangers. Although there are few registered taxi services in Russia, travelers should always use authorized services when arriving at major airports.

A common street scam in Russia is the “turkey drop” in which an individual “accidentally” drops money on the ground in front of an intended victim, while an accomplice either waits for the money to be picked up, or picks up the money him/herself and offers to split it with the pedestrian. The individual who dropped the currency then returns, aggressively accusing both of stealing the money. This confrontation generally results in the pedestrian’s money being stolen. Avoidance is the best defense. Do not get trapped into picking up the money, and walk quickly away from the scene.

To avoid highway crime, travelers should try not to drive at night, especially when alone, or sleep in vehicles along the road. Travelers should not, under any circumstances, pick up hitchhikers; they not only pose a threat to physical safety, but also put the driver in danger of being arrested for unwittingly transporting narcotics.

Extortion and corruption are common in the business environment. Threats of violence and acts of violence are commonly resorted to in business disputes. 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. American 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 General.

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). U.S. citizens should be particularly aware of potential risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, 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.

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. If stopped, travelers should try to obtain, if safe to do so, the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number, and note where the stop happened, as this information assists local officials in identifying the perpetrators. Authorities are concerned about these incidents and have cooperated in investigating such cases. Travelers should report crimes to the U.S. Embassy or the nearest Consulate General.



VICTIMS OF CRIM E :

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates ). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are 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.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Russia is 03(“Skoraya Pomoshch”).

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Internet Dating Schemes:

The U.S. Embassy regularly receives reports of fraud committed against American citizens by Internet correspondents professing love and romantic interest. Typically, the correspondent asks the American citizen to send money or credit card information for living expenses, travel expenses, or “visa costs.” The anonymity of the Internet means that the American citizen cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or gender of the correspondent. The U.S. Embassy has received many reports of citizens losing thousands of dollars through such scams. American citizens are advised never to send money to anyone they have not met in person. Please review our information on Internet Dating Schemes.

In many countries around the world, including Russia, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. In Russia, CD and DVD piracy is an especially serious problem. Transactions involving such products are illegal under Russian law, and the Russian government has markedly increased its enforcement activities against intellectual property rights infringements. In addition, bringing counterfeit and pirated products back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division in the U.S. Department of Justice  has more information on this serious problem.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Teaching in Russia: Many Americans come to Russia to teach English, and some have complained about schools’ failure to facilitate proper visas and pay agreed salaries. Prospective teachers should ensure that schools are prepared to comply with Russian laws governing the employment and documentation of foreigners, including proper visa support, registration, and legal salary payments. Prospective teachers should ask for references from other foreigners who have taught at the school being considered and should consider insisting upon written contracts stipulating the provisions of their employment, just as they would in the United States. Warning signs include instructions to arrive in Russia on a tourist visa and “change status” later, payment under the table (in cash with no documentation or tax withholding), and requirements that the school retain a passport for the length of the employment. (Upon arrival, a legal employee must surrender his or her passport for registration by the employer but this process should take less than three weeks.)

Currency:  The Russian ruble is the only legal tender currency. It is illegal to pay for goods and services in U.S. dollars except at authorized retail establishments. Worn U.S. bills or bills marked in any way are often not accepted at banks and exchange offices.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are plentiful in major cities. Travelers should follow all normal precautions about using ATMs. In particular, they should avoid “stand-alone” machines and opt for machines at banks or higher-class hotels and stores. Credit cards are not universally accepted, and travelers should check in advance whether a specific store, restaurant, or hotel accepts credit cards. Outside of major cities, commercial enterprises still operate largely on a cash basis and travelers should plan accordingly.

Customs Information:   Travelers to the Russian Federation should be aware that in early 2009, Russian officials began to enforce a law which requires passengers to personally escort their lost luggage, when it finally arrives in Russia, through Russian customs. Under a strict interpretation of this law, airline companies may not deliver a lost bag to the traveler’s final destination. Not all airlines will reimburse the traveler for any expenses related to retrieving the lost luggage.

There have been reports of rigorous searches of baggage and stricter enforcement of customs regulations against the exportation of items of “cultural value.” U.S. citizen visitors to Russia have been arrested for attempting to leave the country with antique items they believed were legally purchased from licensed vendors. Travelers should obtain receipts for all high-value items (including caviar) purchased in Russia. Any article that could appear old or as having cultural value to the Customs Service, including artwork, icons, samovars, rugs, military medals, and antiques, must have a certificate indicating that it has no historical or cultural value. Certificates will not be granted for the export of articles that are more than 100 years old, irrespective of the value. These certificates may be obtained from the Russian Ministry of Culture. For further information, Russian speakers may call the Sheremetyevo-2 Airport Service Office in Moscow at (7) (495) 578-2125/578-2120. In St. Petersburg, the Ministry of Culture may be reached at 311-3496.

The importation and use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and other radio electronic devices are sometimes subject to special rules and regulations in Russia. The Russian Customs Service recently stated that terminal GPS devices can be imported upon their simple declaration on arrival. A special customs permit should be obtained in the case of importation of a GPS to be used as a peripheral device to a separate computer and/or antenna to increase its capability.

In general, mapping and natural resource data collection activities associated with normal commercial and scientific collaboration may result in seizure of the associated equipment and/or arrest. The penalty for using a GPS device in a manner which is determined to compromise Russian national security can be a prison term of ten to twenty years.

Visitors may bring regular cellular telephones to Russia without restriction. Satellite telephones require advance approval from the Russian authorities. The Russian agency responsible for telecommunications issues and which approves the importation of satellite phones is Rosnadzor.

There are no restrictions on bringing laptop computers into the country for personal use. The software, however, may be inspected upon departure. Hardware and software found to contain sensitive or encrypted data may be subject to confiscation.

The Russian Customs Service recently stated that travelers entering Russia with $10,000 or more in cash may have to explain the money’s origin and intended use. Travelers may be required to present supporting documentation such as receipts from the sale of personal items or for ATM cash withdrawals.

Prescription Medication: Russia also has very strict rules on the importation of large quantities of medication. Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs common in the United States are prohibited in Russia, and large quantities of any medicine will receive scrutiny. It is advisable to contact a Russian embassy or consulate for specific information regarding this or other customs regulations.

The Embassy recommends that all U.S. citizens entering Russia with prescription medication carry a copy of their valid U.S. prescription. The Embassy is aware of instances in which U.S. citizen visitors have been detained in Russia for not being able to prove that their prescription medication was lawfully obtained in the United States.

If a traveler is in doubt regarding the importation into Russia of a particular item, he or she should address specific questions to the Federal Customs Service of the Russian Federation or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Great care should be taken to safeguard against the loss of airline tickets for Russian carriers. Generally, a central office must authorize the replacement of lost airline tickets, which can take 24 hours or more. In some cases, Americans who have lost their tickets just prior to their flights on local airlines have been forced to buy new full-fare tickets or miss the flight because replacement tickets were not authorized in time.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 

Medical care in most localities is below Western standards and expectations due to shortages of medical supplies, differing practice standards and the lack of comprehensive primary care. The few facilities in Moscow and St. Petersburg that approach acceptable standards do not necessarily accept all cases. Access to these facilities usually requires cash or credit card payment at Western rates at the time of service. The U.S. Social Security Medicare Program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs in Russia or anywhere else outside the United States.

Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at particular risk. Elective surgeries requiring blood transfusions and non-essential blood transfusions are not recommended, due to uncertainties surrounding the local blood supply. Most hospitals and clinics in major urban areas have adopted the use of disposable IV supplies, syringes and needles as standard practice; however, travelers to remote areas might consider bringing a supply of sterile, disposable syringes and corresponding IV supplies for eventualities. Travelers should refrain from visiting tattoo parlors or piercing services due to the risk of infection.

Outbreaks of diphtheria and Hepatitis A have been reported throughout the country, even in large cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend up-to-date tetanus and diphtheria immunizations before traveling to Russia and neighboring countries. Typhoid can be a concern for those who plan to travel extensively in the region. Rarely, cases of cholera have also been reported throughout the area. Drinking bottled water can reduce the risk of exposure to infectious and noxious agents. Outside of Moscow, tap water in Russia is generally considered unsafe to drink. Travelers are strongly urged to use bottled water for drinking and food preparation. Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Russia. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on Tuberculosis.

Rates of HIV infection have risen markedly in recent years. While most prevalent among intravenous drug users, prostitutes, and their clients, the HIV/AIDS rate in the general population is increasing. Reported cases of syphilis are much higher than in the United States, and some sources suggest that gonorrhea and chlamydia are also more prevalent than in Western Europe or the United States. Travelers should be aware of the related health and legal risks.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Alternative Medical Treatments: 

Foreigners occasionally travel to Russia to receive medical treatment that is more expensive or prohibited in the United States, including stem-cell therapy and surrogate birthing. Any person contemplating these treatments should be fully aware of the considerable risks. The procedures are often of unproven benefit, and/or performed with suboptimal technical expertise, and may be associated with life-threatening complications. Standards of infection control in both surgical and post operative care may be inadequate. Patients undergoing treatment often develop secondary infections that cannot be handled by the facilities offering the procedures, in which case they must be admitted to local hospitals of uncertain quality for treatment. In these cases the patient is responsible for all additional costs of the hospitalization, including repatriation back to the United States.



MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. In some areas of Russia, roads are practically non-existent. Persons planning to drive in Russia should adhere to all local driving regulations; these are strictly enforced and violators are subject to severe legal penalties. Drivers should be aware that Russia practices a zero tolerance policy with regard to alcohol consumption prior to driving. The maximum punishment is a two-year suspension of a driver’s license. An intoxicated driver may also be detained until he or she is deemed to be sober.

Avoid excessive speed and, if at all possible, do not drive at night, particularly outside of major cities. In rural areas, it is not uncommon to find livestock crossing roadways at any given time. Construction sites or stranded vehicles are often unmarked by flares or other warning signals. Sometimes cars have only one headlight with many cars lacking brake lights. Bicycles seldom have lights or reflectors. Due to these road conditions, be prepared for sudden stops at any time. Learn about your route from an auto club, guidebook or government tourist office. Some routes have heavy truck and bus traffic, while others have poor or nonexistent shoulders; many are one-way or do not permit left-hand turns. Also, some of the newer roads have very few restaurants, motels, gas stations or auto repair shops along their routes. For your safety, have your vehicle serviced and in optimum condition before you travel. It is wise to bring an extra fan belt, fuses and other spare parts. In the Russian Far East most vehicles are right-hand drive, affording the drivers limited visibility on two-lane roads.

Temporary visitors to Russia may drive for up to 60 days with a valid U.S. driver’s license and a notarized Russian translation. Tourists may also use International Driving Permit issued by the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance to drive in Russia. Foreigners in Russia on business or employment visas, or with permanent residence status in Russia, are required by law to have a Russian driver’s license. In order to obtain this license one has to take the appropriate exams in Russian. An American driver's license cannot be exchanged for a Russian license. Travelers without a valid license are often subject to prolonged stops by police and fines.

Drivers must carry third party liability insurance under a policy valid in Russia. U.S. automobile liability insurance is not valid in Russia nor are most collision and comprehensive coverage policies issued by U.S. companies. A good rule of thumb is to buy coverage equivalent to that which you carry in the United States.

Roadside checkpoints are commonplace. These checkpoints are ostensibly in place to detect narcotics, alien smuggling, and firearms violations. However, they are sometimes used by traffic police to extract cash “fines.” See paragraph under Crime on mistreatment by police.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Russia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Russia’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

American citizens should be aware that local air carriers in remote regions may not meet internationally accepted customer service standards. Some local airlines do not have advance reservation systems but sell tickets for cash at the airport. Flights often are canceled if more than 30% of the seats remain unsold. Travelers should have their passports with them at all times.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



EMBASSY/CONSULATES GENERAL LOCATIONS: 

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

The U.S. Embassy's consular section is located at Novinskiy Bulvar 21, Moscow, metro station Barrikadnaya. The Embassy's switchboard is tel. (7) (495) 728-5000, and the American Citizen Services Unit at tel. (7) (495) 728-5577. In the event of an after-hours emergency, please contact the main switchboard. The American Citizens Services Unit may also be contacted by fax at (7) (495) 728-5084, by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and through the Embassy website.

U.S. Consulates General are located in:


St. Petersburg


15 Ulitsa Furshtadtskaya, St. Petersburg 191028
Tel: (7) (812) 331-2600
Fax: (7) (812) 331-2646
After-hours emergencies: (7) (812) 331-2600
Email:
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Vladivostok


32 Ulitsa Pushkinskaya, Vladivostok 690001
Tel: (7) (4232) 30-00-70
Fax: (7) (4232) 30-00-91
After-hours emergencies: (7) (4232) 71 00 67
E-mail:
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Yekaterinburg


Ulitsa Gogolya 15a, 4th floor, Yekaterinburg 620151
Tel: (7) (343)379-3001
Fax: (7) (343) 379-4515
After-hours emergencies: (7) 8 902 84 16653
Email:
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Russian Federation dated February 10, 2009, to update sections on Exit/Entry Requirements, Threats to Safety and Security, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Aviation Safety Oversight.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Russia HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

There is also a Malaria Warning for Russia provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HERE......

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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