Author Topic: More Russian travel advice from the U.S. Government  (Read 4155 times)

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More Russian travel advice from the U.S. Government
« on: February 10, 2009, 11:20:08 PM »

[b]Teaching in Russia:[/b]  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.)

[b]Currency:[/b]  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.

Travelers need no longer bring large amounts of hard currency unless they expect to travel in rural areas.  Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) 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 card acceptance, while not universal, is rapidly spreading in Moscow and to a lesser extent in other large cities.  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.

[b]Customs Information:[/b]  Travelers to the Russian Federation should be aware that in early 2009, Russian officials reportedly began to enforce a law which requires that when luggage is lost on the way to Russia, the passenger must return to the airport and personally escort the bag through Russian customs.  Under a strict interpretation of this law, airlines 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 which 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 Airport Sheremetyevo-2 Service 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 has most 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 State Customs Committee has stated that there are no restrictions on bringing laptop computers into the country for personal use.  The software, however, can be inspected upon departure.  Hardware and software found to contain sensitive or encrypted data may be subject to confiscation.

[b]Prescription Medication:[/b]  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.

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.

[b]MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:[/b]  Medical care in most localities is below Western standards; shortages of medical supplies, differing practice standards and the lack of comprehensive primary care all combine to make the medical system difficult to negotiate as well as suspect. The few facilities in Moscow and St. Petersburg that approach acceptable standards do not necessarily accept all cases (i.e., they may not be licensed to treat trauma, infectious disease or maternity cases).  Access to these facilities usually requires cash or credit card payment at Western rates at the time of service.

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 (TB) is an increasingly serious health concern in Russia.  For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB.

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.

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 Russia.

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 hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or the CDC’s web site.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.  Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.

ALTERNATIVE MEDICAL TREATMENTS:  Foreigners 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.  They are responsible for all additional costs of the hospitalization, including repatriation back to the United States.

[b]MEDICAL INSURANCE:[/b]  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.  Medicare does not provide benefits for medical care overseas.  Travelers should consider obtaining traveler’s insurance prior to going abroad.

[b]TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:[/b]  While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Russia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

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.

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 an International Driving Permit issued by the American Automobile Association ( 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.


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.  For more information travelers may visit the FAA’s web site.

Travelers 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.

For more information visit the US State Department's website:


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Re: More Russian travel advice from the U.S. Government
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2009, 12:51:38 AM »
Mamma Mia! Do i have to read all this!!??