Local laws and customs
You should carry your passport with you at all times. A copy will not be sufficient. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security. Failure to produce your passport when asked can lead to a fine.
You’ll need to register with the local authorities if you’re staying anywhere for more than 7 working days. Your hotel will do this automatically. If you’re staying in a rented or private apartment, it is your host’s responsibility to carry this out. However, it is your responsibility to ensure this is done. You will need to produce evidence of the registration at passport control on departure from Russia. You can find more information on the website of the Russian Interior Ministry’s General Administration for Migration Issues (in Russian).
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’.
Photographing any military establishment or site of strategic importance (including airports) is banned. There may not be warning signs in locations where prohibitions are in place. You are likely to be detained for questioning or arrested if you are caught.
You’ll need to get official permission from the Russian aviation authority (in Russian) before using any unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in Russian airspace. You must inform them of the flight route at least 24 hours in advance and keep in regular contact with them before and during the flight. Failure to do so will result in a fine.
Public attitudes towards LGBT+ issues are less tolerant than in the UK, and can vary depending on location. Government officials have made derogatory comments about LGBT+ individuals. Public displays of affection may attract negative attention. The republics of the North Caucasus are particularly intolerant to LGBT+ issues. Since January 2017, credible reports have been received of the arrest, torture and extrajudicial killing of gay men in Chechnya, allegedly conducted by Chechen regional authorities.
In 2018 Russia was ranked 45th out of 49 European countries for LGBT+ rights by ILGA-Europe. There are no laws that exist to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia. However, in 2012, Moscow Pride was banned for 100 years. In June 2013, a law banning the promotion of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ towards under 18s (the “gay propaganda” law) entered into force. There have been reports that instances of harassment, threats, and acts of violence towards the LGBT+ community have increased following the introduction of this law. While no foreign nationals have been charged or convicted under it, penalties could include arrest and detention, fines and/or deportation.
See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community before you travel.
There are restrictions on certain religious activities, including preaching and distributing religious materials. Following recent legislation, Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered an extremist organisation in Russia and can be subject to significant harassment from the authorities, particularly at places of worship. Other religious groups are also subject to similar discrimination, as are organisations like the Scientologists.
Russia’s cybersecurity laws are changing. Restrictions have been placed on some social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Telegram, and access to other internet sites can be unreliable. More information is available from the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (in Russian).
You can find further advice on the website of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre.
Access to certain areas such as military and border zones are restricted. You must get permission from the local authorities before entering these areas. You can find a list on this website (in Russian).
If you don’t get the necessary permissions you may be arrested, fined or even deported. If you’re in any doubt about whether a tour or excursion will take you into a restricted area, contact your tour operator or the Russian Embassy.
If you have dual nationality and enter Russia on the passport of your other nationality, the assistance that the British Embassy is able to offer you may be limited.
If you have dual British and Russian nationality and travel to Russia to renew your Russian passport, it may take up to 4 months for your new passport to be issued. You won’t 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.
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 before you travel to ensure you have the necessary paperwork.