Safety and security
Tell a friend or relative about your travel plans before you go. Give them some idea of your itinerary (if possible), and an emergency contact number.
Check with your mobile phone provider to make sure your phone will work in Russia. Store useful numbers in your phone, such as the British Embassy (+7 495 956 7200) and the local emergency service number (112). To get a local SIM card, you will need to show your passport.
Read our foreign travel checklist for more information and advice on preparing for a safe trip.
Most visits to Russia are trouble-free, but petty crime does happen. You should follow the same personal security procedures as you would anywhere else.
Be alert to the possibility of mugging, pick pocketing and theft in the main tourist areas and around the main railway concourses, as well as from vehicles or hotel rooms. Don’t leave your bags unattended. Avoid openly carrying expensive items or anything that might easily identify you as a tourist. Avoid walking about late at night alone. Be wary of groups of women and children who beg. Don’t agree to look after possessions of people you don’t know, and never agree to go to a bar or a club with someone you have just met.
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.
The spiking of drinks does happen and can lead to robbery, violence and/or abuse. 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.
Official looking taxis can be unlicensed, and British nationals travelling in them have been the victims of crime. Taxi apps are a useful way to call a registered taxi. You can also ask your hotel to get a taxi for you or to give you the number of a reputable company. Don’t flag down what may appear to be an official taxi or share a taxi with strangers, as you are putting yourself at risk. Where possible you should agree the fare before getting into the taxi or check that the meter is working.
Foreign visitors are not usually the targets of violent crime. However, 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.
The police do not have to have a reason in order to stop, question or detain individuals. Bogus police officers have harassed and robbed tourists. If you’re stopped, always insist on seeing identification, and report harassment or crimes to the British Embassy.
Political rallies and demonstrations occur in cities and towns across Russia, usually with notice and permission from the authorities. Unauthorised demonstrations can lead to a robust response from the Russian authorities, occasionally leading to violence. Under Russian law, actions by one person can be described as a protest, and if unauthorised this can also be subject to a robust response.
Check the local media for the latest information, be vigilant, and avoid any demonstrations.
Most visitors experience no difficulties but racial discrimination may be an issue and might vary according to location. People of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent may attract unwanted attention in public places and should take care, particularly when travelling late at night.
Take care if you are using a dating service. A number of British nationals have been the victims of fraud. Never send money or buy items for anyone you have not met in person.
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 should be aware that travel between cities can take a long time given the distance, heavy traffic in big cities, and poor road conditions. Don’t drive alone at night or sleep in your vehicle on the side of the road. Don’t pick up hitchhikers.
Road safety is poor. According to statistics published by the Directorate for Road Traffic Safety there were over 169,000 road traffic accidents in Russia in 2017, causing over 19,000 deaths and over 215,000 injuries. You should be vigilant when driving, take account of weather conditions, and consider limiting or avoiding driving at night.
It is common practice for traffic police to stop motorists for spot checks. There is a zero tolerance policy towards drink driving.
In order to drive a vehicle into Russia, you will need to declare the vehicle with the customs authority at the point of entry. You can bring a vehicle into Russia without paying import taxes for a maximum period of 1 year.
Contact the Russian Embassy if you have more detailed questions about bringing a vehicle into Russia. The British Embassy is unable to offer help to those attempting to bring vehicles into Russia without the correct documentation.
All railway stations have airport-style security. All bags will be scanned and passengers will need to go through detector arches.
If you’re travelling by overnight train in a sleeping compartment, store valuables in the container under the bed or seat. Don’t agree to look after the luggage of a fellow traveller or allow it to be stored in your compartment.
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.
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 (in Russian), or consult your airline.
A domestic flight crashed shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport in February 2018 killing all on board; and in September 2018 a domestic flight skidded off the runway and caught fire while landing in Sochi, injuring 18 people. 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. 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, including in the oil and gas industry. In recent years there have been helicopter crashes with multiple fatalities. A helicopter crashed shortly after take-off near Igarka in August 2018, killing all on board. Be aware of the increased risk of travel by helicopter and satisfy yourself of the operator’s safety record.
The most recent audit of Russia’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 Russia was above the global average.
According to the Russian migration authorities, around 69,000 British nationals visited St Petersburg in 2016 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.
People with disabilities may face difficulties in accessing certain public areas as disabled facilities vary across Russia, and can be poor or even non-existent in places.