First-hand safety tips from Russia

Posted by: Judit

2014-02-15

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One of our friends has been working in Moscow for a couple of months, you can read his comments about safety in this metropole - in a nutshell:

The airplane just does not come or lands in an other city or comes but not according to the timetable. You can not do anything.

  • Passport must be valid for six months , otherwise you could get in trouble
  • Accommodation is expensive. Even if you book it in advance , when you arrive, there ‘s no one to welcome. The door is closed. If you are lucky, and you get a room, it might have  paper walls.
  • Airport taxi is very expensive. Go with Aeroexpress or bus.
  • Huge risk : pickpockets, thieves.
  • Risk for children : at railway or bus stops there are huge gap between the platform and the rail /road , the child may simply fall into.
  • 100x more traffic, 2 x 8 lane-roads, crazy drivers
  • Money scams everywhere. This is a national sport .
  • Huge bureaucracy, especially if you  as a foreigner wants to solve an official problem.
  • Sometimes terrorist action.There are  metal and bomb detectors in offices , railway stations , shopping malls .
  • You could be attacked for your money.
  • Corruption: you can buy everything, you just need to know the amount.
  • Weather: within few hours the temperature can drop 30 degrees. The winter is extremely cold.
  • Expensive (Switzerland can not compete in prices)
  • Moscow is a huge city of 14 million people , easy to get lost.
  • There are many people on the subways, buses, easy to catch  all kinds of disease
  • Hitchhiking means a paying service.
  • Written by Gabor from Russia, Moscow

The official travel advisors  recommend the followings if you travel to Russia:

Don’t Drink the Tap Water

Even locals don’t drink the tap water in Russia. Tap water may be even more dangerous for foreigners. Not only will it contain elements that a traveler’s body may be unused to, it also may also cause diseases due to being improperly sanitized. If you get some water in your mouth while showering, this isn’t a reason to rush to the hospital. But for drinking water and brushing teeth, use bottled water. The water can be especially bad in St. Petersburg, where the pipes are, in places, as old as the city itself.

Pedestrians Do NOT Have the Right-of-Way

In Russia, cars have traditionally meant money, and money meant power. Today, this power gives people with cars the ability to drive whereever they want. On the street, on the curb, on the sidewalk . . . over you. This is no joke. If you get hit by a car in Russia, you may be blamed for walking in front of a moving vehicle. Even if you are where you are supposed to be (walking on the sidewalk), cars may drive right up next to you if they are being inconvenienced by stopped traffic.

Watch Yourself On Trains

Train Travel in Russia is one of the exciting parts of visiting this vast country. However, other travelers on Russia’s trains might see you as an easy target. If asked to drink and dine with strangers on board a train, make sure you stay aware . . . and sober. Otherwise, you might find yourself the victim of pickpockets or worse.

Discrimination is Rampant throughout Russia

It’s unfortunate, but true – discrimination is an integral part of Russian society. Foreigners, Jews, Blacks and Asians (and members of other ethnic groups), individuals with disabilities, homosexuals, and women, are all regularly discriminated against in Russia. This discrimination can reach dangerous levels. What to do? You can’t change who you are. Large cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg have large, mixed populations, so under most circumstances, discrimination will happen less often. Whereever you happen to be in Russia, be polite and do not be baited into physically defending yourself if taunted. Stay within a group or be escorted by trusted local individual. Mentalities are changing in Russia, but at a ponderous pace.

Keep Your Passport On You

It may be inconvenient to keep your passport with you at all times. You may also worry about losing it or getting it stolen. But keep it with you in a secure, hidden location within your clothes – special wallets or money belts are ideal for this. If you get in a sticky situation with the police, not having your passport on you is a good excuse for them to harrass, fine, or arrest you, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong.

Be Familiar with Dangerous Areas

All cities and towns have their unsavory areas. Whereever you go in Russia, confirm with friends or hotel personnel where the bad areas of the city are and avoid them. If necessary, have these areas circled on a map. Most locals will know what places foreigners should best avoid and will be able to describe them for you easily.

Crime

Most visits to Russia are trouble-free, but petty crime does happen in cities. Be alert to the possibility of mugging, pick pocketing and theft from vehicles or hotel rooms. Be wary of groups of women and children who beg.

Terrorism

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, which is close to Sochi. Threats have been made by terrorist groups against the Sochi Olympics. Attacks may also take place in other regions of Russia.

 

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