Russia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 04 February 2014.   We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Russia because of the threat of terrorist activity and the level of criminal activity.

Russia overall

North Caucasus

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Russia because of the threat of terrorist activity, and the level of criminal activity.
  • You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Russia. Terrorist attacks have occurred in Russian cities, including Moscow, and are a particular threat in the North Caucasus region. Attacks may also take place in other regions of Russia.
  • Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by security services in recent years, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking Russian locations.
  • Two separate terrorist incidents occurred in the city of Volgograd in late December. On 29 December at least 16 people were killed in an attack on Volgograd railway station and at least ten people were killed following the bombing of a trolleybus on 30 December.
  • You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to the North Caucasus, in particular the regions of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, the south-east part of Stavropol bordering Chechnya, Karbardino-Balkaria (including the Elbrus area), and Karachay-Cherkessia because of the high threat of terrorist activity.
  • Severe winter weather can disrupt travel in Russia. If you are delayed, you should check when your visa is due to expire and contact local authorities about a visa extension if required.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Australian citizens are required to obtain visas. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Russia for the most up-to-date information. You should ensure that your visa is accurate (passport number, date of birth, validity) and, if necessary, return it to the Russian Embassy or Consulate which issued it for corrections. It is virtually impossible to amend visa details once you are in Russia.

If you intend to transit through Russia on the way to a third country, you should check transit visa requirements.

When applying for your visa, please note there is a distinction between tourist and visitor visas. A tourist visa is intended for those staying in hotel-type accommodation. Visitor visas apply to those staying privately. If you intend to stay privately, do not apply for a tourist visa.

Failure to leave Russia before your visa expires (even if the date has been incorrectly entered on your visa) will result in significant delays and/or fines on departure and possibly deportation from Russia. An exit visa specifies the visa expiry date and is normally issued with the entry visa. A tourist visa cannot be extended.

All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card. The entry portion of the card will be retained by Immigration upon arrival. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport during your stay in Russia and/or Belarus and submitted to Immigration upon departure. Loss of the exit portion of the card may result in significant delays and fines upon departure. You must complete a new migration card each time you enter Russia, even if you have a multiple entry visa.

A single migration card now covers both Russia and Belarus. If you are travelling directly between Russia and Belarus, the stamped migration card received on entry to the first of the two countries should be retained until you exit the last of the two countries visited.

You must register with the Federal Migration Services within seven working days of arrival in Russia. Most hotels undertake visa registration on behalf of guests. If you are not staying at a hotel, the process of registration can be complex. Those travelling on a visitor-type visa should register at the nearest post office. Those with visas allowing employment should be registered through their employer. A small registration fee will be imposed. Failure to register may result in significant delays and/or fines upon departure.

For passport information for Australian/Russian dual nationals, see the information for dual nationals section above.

You may import up to USD 10,000 (or equivalent) without declaring it. On departure, you may export up to USD 3,000 without declaring it. If you export over USD 3,000 and under USD 10,000, it must be declared. For amounts greater than USD 10,000, proof will be required that it was imported and declared or legally obtained in the country. Customs declarations are only valid when stamped by a customs official.

The importation of electrical and some high technology equipment, for example Global Positioning Systems, is strictly controlled. This extends to the importation of equipment in accompanied baggage, including by business people for demonstration purposes. Certification and approval is required. There are no restrictions on bringing laptop computers for personal use into Russia.

The importation of medication is strictly monitored. Some prescribed drugs are prohibited in the Russian Federation and large amounts of medication may prompt an investigation. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Russia for the most up-to-date information.

There are strict regulations covering the export of antiques, artworks (including modern art and posters if they are particularly rare or valuable) and items of historical significance from Russia. An approval from the Ministry of Culture is required for the export of such material and this may be requested at the point of departure. In addition, we recommend you keep receipts of any such purchases in case they are requested when you leave Russia.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Russia because of the threat of terrorist activity, and the level of criminal activity. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Russia. Terrorist attacks have occurred in Russian cities, including Moscow, and are a particular threat in the North Caucasus region,. Attacks may also take place in other regions of Russia.

Two separate terrorist incidents occurred in the city of Volgograd in late December 2013. On 29 December at least 16 people were killed in an attack on Volgograd railway station and at least ten people were killed following the bombing of a trolleybus on 30 December.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include public transportation such as subways, trains and buses, airports, commercial and public places such as government buildings, residential complexes, hotels, restaurants, bars, schools, businesses, embassies, places of worship, markets and tourist areas.

A number of planned attacks have been disrupted by security services in recent years, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking Russian locations.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

North Caucasus: Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, the south-east part of Stavropol bordering Chechnya, Karbardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia: We strongly advise you not to travel to the North Caucasus, in particular the regions of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, the south-east part of Stavropol bordering Chechnya, Karbardino-Balkaria (including the Elbrus area), and Karachay-Cherkessia because of the high threat of terrorist activity.

If, despite our advice not to travel, you decide to go to this region, you should monitor local conditions through the media and travel operators in advance of your travel.

Tensions in Georgia may also impact security in the area bordering Russia. See our travel advisory for Georgia for details.

Foreign nationals intending to travel to Chechnya and a number of other regions in the North Caucasus must first get permission from the Ministry of Interior.

Civil unrest/political tension

You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent. Any involvement in unsanctioned demonstrations or protests could lead to arrest.

Racially-motivated assaults continue to occur in Russia, particularly in Moscow and St Petersburg. Attacks are often perpetrated by skinhead groups or ultra-nationalists. There have been several large rallies by nationalists and neo-Nazis to protest against the presence of foreigners (particularly people from Central Asia and the Caucasus region) in Russia. You should avoid any such rallies. If you are of Asian or African descent, you should take extra care.

Crime

Petty crime, pick-pocketing and mugging (sometimes committed by groups of children) is common, especially around tourist attractions such as Red Square, the Ismailovsky tourist market and the metro in Moscow and St Petersburg. Care should be taken with your personal belongings.

There is a high incidence of passport theft from foreign tourists.

Scams involving money and valuables apparently dropped by a passer-by are common. The unsuspecting traveller picks up the money to return it to the person and is told that it is not the correct amount. Travellers are advised not to pick up money, not to get involved in disputes with strangers over such incidents and to walk away immediately. Only exchange currency at bank counters. Travellers have become scam victims when trying to exchange money with strangers in the street or in a bank queue.

Assault and robbery occasionally occur in large cities. Tourists have been targeted.

Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. Keep your credit card in sight during transactions.

Travellers have been drugged and robbed while drinking in nightclubs and bars in Moscow or after accepting offers of food, drink or transportation from strangers.

There have been reports of harassment, mistreatment and extortion by police or other local officials.

Bomb explosions and arson attacks, which appear to have criminal motives rather than terrorist ones, have occurred in Moscow and other parts of Russia, particularly at busy markets. These attacks have caused fatalities. The Cherkizovsky/Ismailovsky markets in eastern Moscow, which attract large numbers of Russian and foreign shoppers, have a history of business conflicts including arson. In August 2006, an explosion at this market which killed up to ten people was linked to feuding between rival businesses or gangs.

Some Australian citizens have been defrauded by bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes purportedly operating from Russia. These large-scale, well-organised scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual relationship develops, the Australian citizen is asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable travel to Australia. Once the money has been received, the relationship is usually terminated and any chance of recovering the funds is highly unlikely.

Kidnapping for political, ransom and revenge reasons is common in the Northern Caucasus. In the past, foreigners have been targeted. The Australian Government’s longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money in Russia, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Consult with your bank to find out what is the most appropriate currency to carry and if your ATM card will work in Russia. Because of the risk of crime and ATM fraud we recommend you use ATMs inside bank premises and during business hours only. Travellers' cheques are not widely accepted, even in the main cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, and rarely in the regions.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Australian Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Other local travel issues

Some taxis may appear to be official but are not licenced by local authorities. There are reports of extortion and robbery of passengers in unauthorised taxis. Travellers are advised to only use official taxi companies that can be booked by phone or at major hotels and from inside airports. We recommend against flagging taxis down on the street or sharing taxis with strangers. You should negotiate the fare before entering a taxi.

Road users often drive dangerously and erratically. Ice and snow make driving in winter especially hazardous. Road conditions can be poor in rural areas. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Routine police checks in public and tourist spots are common. You should carry with you your passport, originals of the registered visa and migration card. Photocopies are not acceptable. Failure to provide travel documentation can result in detention and/or substantial fines.

Extensive areas of Russia, especially in Siberia and the Russian Far East, are designated closed areas. Foreigners require government permission to enter.

On 1 March 2010, the Verkhny Lars/Darial Gorge border crossing between Russia and Georgia was reopened for the first time since the August 2008 conflict. Limited direct charter flights have also resumed between Russia and Georgia.

Airline safety

Airline and air charter safety and maintenance standards vary throughout the world. It is not known whether maintenance procedures and safety standards on aircraft used on internal flights are always properly observed or whether passengers are covered by airline insurance.

For further information, please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Russia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

It is illegal to photograph military installations and establishments or sites of strategic importance, including airports. There are also restrictions on the use of commercial film, television or camera equipment in public areas, such as Red Square in Moscow. Hand-held home video cameras are permitted.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison terms served in local jails.

Driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero is illegal.

Laws banning the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors recently entered into force. It is unclear exactly how these laws will be applied, but the effect is to make the “promotion” to minors of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans relationships illegal in Russia. These laws may affect public expression and assemblies on such issues. A range of penalties apply, including deportation for foreigners.

Homosexuality is legal in Russia, but many Russians are socially conservative. Intolerance towards the LGBTI community is common, particularly beyond Moscow and St Petersburg. Violence against LGBTI people has been reported, but it is unlikely foreigners will be targeted unless they are engaged in political activism or are otherwise active in support of LGBTI rights. Public displays of affection by LGBTI people may attract disapproval. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Police can demand to see identification at any time. You should carry your passport at all times, a copy is not accepted. Failure to produce your passport can result in a fine.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Russia does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Russian dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Male Russian/Australian dual nationals between the ages of 18 and 27 may be subject to military conscription. Australian/Russian dual nationals should seek advice from the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Russia well in advance of travel.

Australian/Russian dual nationals are required to enter and leave Russia on a valid Russian passport. If the passport expires while they are in Russia, they must obtain a new Russian passport before departing. Australian/Russian dual nationals can also enter Russia on an emergency travel document issued by a Russian embassy or consulate, but they must get a new Russian passport before departure. The process of obtaining a new Russian passport routinely takes several months.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, typhoid, rabies, hepatitis, diphtheria, measles and tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes. You should also avoid unpasteurised dairy products, and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Travel in forested areas brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis and other tick-borne diseases. Ticks are very common in country areas from spring to autumn. There have been reports of increased incidence of rabies and tick-borne encephalitis in Russia.

Public medical facilities in Russian cities are well below western standards and are extremely basic in rural areas. There are a few international standard private facilities in major cities. These private facilities will require up-front payment or seek confirmation of the patient's level of insurance or obtain a written guarantee of payment prior to treatment. In the event of a serious accident or illness, medical evacuation (at considerable expense) may be necessary.

There is a risk of avian influenza in Russia. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information on influenza.

Where to get help

In Russia, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy, Moscow

10a/2 Podkolokolny Pereulok,
Moscow, RUSSIA
Telephone: +7 (495) 9566070
Facsimile: +7 (495) 9566170
Email: austembmos@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.russia.embassy.gov.au

Limited consular assistance, which does not include passport issue, may be obtained at the:

Australian Consulate, St Petersburg

Mr Sebastian Fitzlyon (Honorary Consul)
St Petersburg
Australian Consulate
14 Petrovskiy prospect, Office 22N
St Petersburg 197110 Russia
Telephone/Facsimile: +7 (812) 325 7334
Email: oz@consulteast.com

and

Australian Consulate, Vladivostok

Mr Vladimir Gorokhov (Honorary Consul)
3, Prospect Krasnogo Znameni
Office 610
Vladivostok, Russia, 690106
Telephone: +7 (423) 244 67 82
Facsimile: +7 (423) 246 84 25
Email: vladimir.gorokhov@austrade.gov.au

If you are travelling to Russia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Severe winter weather can disrupt travel in Russia. If you are delayed, you should check when your visa is due to expire and contact local authorities about a visa extension if required.

The most common accident likely to befall visitors to Russia during winter is slipping on ice. Take care when walking in snowy/icy conditions, because falls can result in serious damage such as broken bones, back injuries and paralysis.

Every year during winter, a number of people are injured or killed in snow-related accidents. These include falls, traffic accidents, avalanches, snow falling from roofs and prolonged exposure to extreme cold.

During summer, forest and peat fires can occur in Russia including in the Moscow region. Fires in 2010 resulted in widespread destruction of property and loss of life.

The North Caucasus and far eastern region of Russia are subject to earthquakes. An earthquake occurred in Kamchatka in February 2011, there were no casualties or significant damage. All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis. For information on tsunamis, see the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.

Any adult travelling with children may be required to show evidence of parental, custodial and/or access rights, particularly in the case of dual nationals.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.