7 practical tips for visiting Russia

St Basil’s Cathedral

We have compiled a list of 7 Practical Tips for visiting Russia that can be useful to those who are going to go to Russia for a long time or for a couple of days.

  1. Wherever you go – take your passport with you. As a rule, the passport is required to buy phone SIM-cards, to enter the business center or university, and even to return the goods to the store. Residents of Russia carry their passports with them everywhere, and in order for your trip to be trouble free, do the same (or carry at least a copy of your passport with you).

  1. No Typos in Documents. –  If you buy a ticket, make sure you use the right passport and correct spelling of the name, because even if there is one letter written incorrectly, or a number is different from your passport, they may not let you get on the plane. Also, never shorten the name – for example, do not write “Bob” instead of “Robert” in the document.
  1. Roaming Charges – Some tourists are surprised by the huge bills for phone calls in roaming between the cities of Russia. Check your tariff and subscribe to any special one to minimize the cost of telephone connection on the trip.
  1. Recommended Banks – Opening a bank account by a foreigner can be a complicated procedure. Sometimes different departments conduct the opposite policy. In general, Citibank (for American citizens) and Raiffeisen (for citizens of European countries) are the simplest in terms of servicing banks for foreigners.
  1. Foreign bank cards. Some foreigners (especially Americans) have problems using foreign bank cards, since most ATMs in Russia accept them only with a PIN code. Get a PIN-code for your credit card in advance if you do not have it. Also, some foreign banks reject online purchases on certain Russian sites – be prepared to go personally for your purchase or call to your bank and ask the bank to confirm the operation. In addition, owners of foreign cards are limited in withdrawing money through an ATM (usually 7500 rubles or 132 dollars) – Russians, as a rule, are not allowed to withdraw a large amount of cash.
  1. Registration. Foreigners must register their visa within seven working days after arriving to Russia, excluding holidays and weekends, otherwise you may be fined or deported. This law was changed in 2011 (earlier the registration period was 72 hours).

         However, there are ambiguities. According to how the text of the law is written, it seems that you don’t have to register at all if you do not spend seven days in a row in the same city. However, it is recommended to register as soon as you arrive to Russia, as well as in every subsequent city of your trip.

         The hotels must register you automatically. If you stayed in a private apartment, then the owner of the house must go to the local police department or to the post office to register you. If you have a work visa, then your employer will take care of this. If you are traveling on a tourist visa, then the travel agency that sent your invitation should help you.

         Despite the fact that in theory all hotels must register foreigners, some do not. You should always call the hotel at the time of booking and ask if they register, if it is not written on their website.

  1. Borders. The rules for crossing Russian borders for Russian citizens and foreigners are different. It is better to clarify in advance if you are going to travel to the border area, especially the regime, for example, with North Korea. Always bring your passport and registration.

One American also told us a story about a bus carrier who refused to sell them a ticket to Finland, since there were previously problems with crossing the border from citizens of some countries. The same happens to foreigners who travel to China by bus from the Far East. Specify in advance if you intend to use a private carrier to cross the border.

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