Russia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 23 July 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to regions bordering the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv due to the volatile security situation. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Russia because of the threat of terrorist activity and crime.

Russia overall

Regions bordering the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv

North Caucasus

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Russia because of the threat of terrorist activity and crime. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new 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 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.
  • You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.
  • Two separate terrorist incidents occurred in the city of Volgograd in December 2013, which resulted in at least 26 deaths and many injuries. On 4 December 2014, a group of armed militants carried out an attack in the city of Grozny, Chechnya. 16 people were killed and 40 injured during the attack.
  • We advise Australians to reconsider the need to travel to regions bordering the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv due to the volatile security situation in this area.
  • 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 Mount 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.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Australian citizens must obtain visas prior to travelling to Russia. Visas cannot be obtained on arrival. Australians arriving without valid visas will be detained and deported following the payment of a fine, and potentially barred from re-entry into Russian territory.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. 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.

Applying for a Russian Visa

It is not possible to obtain visas upon arrival. Australian citizens must apply for a visa in advance at a Russian Embassy or Consulate. If you arrive at a Russian airport without a visa, you will be denied entry and returned to the country of embarkation at your expense. You could also face penalties, including detention, fines, and a ban from re-entering Russia. If you enter Russia by train or other means without a visa, you could be subject to lengthy detention periods and federal prosecution.

Special visa-free entry permissions apply to travellers who arrive by commercial cruise ships that dock for less than 72 hours in St. Petersburg (and some other Russian port cities). Travellers are allowed to disembark for short periods as part of an officially–recognised tour organised by the cruise company or a registered tour operator. Discuss your travel plans with your cruise operator well in advance of travel, including whether you need to obtain a Russian visa.

Visa validity and other visa restrictions are strictly enforced. Russian border authorities will not permit entry prior to the validity date on your visa. You should check both the beginning and end dates of your visa. You should also ensure you hold the appropriate visa in relation to your visit and that it reflects your intended activities.

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 visiting relatives and friends..

From 10 December 2014, new regulations require visitors to Russia to provide biometric data (e.g. scanning of fingerprints) as part of the visa application process. This is being piloted at Russian embassies in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Myanmar, Namibia and at border control stations at some local airports. A refusal to provide biometric data could mean your application for a visa is denied.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Entering Russia

All foreign visitors are provided with a migration card on arrival in Russia. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport and submitted to passport control upon departure. The migration card is produced electronically at most international airports, however, there are some smaller airports where you will still be require to fill it out manually.

The migration card 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 will require valid visas for both countries in order to travel between Russia and Belarus. If you are travelling to Russia through Belarus, you must obtain a Belarusian visa in addition to your visa for Russia. For information on Belarusian visas, please contact the nearest embassy of Belarus. The Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Jakarta has a responsibility for Australia. If you lose your migration card, it is possible to obtain a replacement from the Federal Migration Services, however this could delay your departure and involve significant costs.

If entering Russia by train, ensure you have a valid visa prior to boarding the train. Recent instances where foreign nationals failed to present a valid visa to train inspectors or on arrival at a Russian station involved long periods of detention and federal prosecution. If you are travelling on the Warsaw-Moscow or Kyiv-St Petersburg routes, you will also need a transit visa for Belarus, in addition to a Russian visa.

The importation of electrical and some high technology equipment, for example Global Positioning Systems (GPS), is strictly controlled. Russian Customs have advised that all visitors may import terminal GPS devices upon their declaration on arrival. You should however obtain a special customs permit where you intend to import a GPS peripheral device connected to a computer or to an antenna. This extends to the importation of equipment in accompanied baggage, including by business people as samples. The penalty for using a GPS device in a way that is determined to compromise Russian national security can result in detention.

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

There are no restrictions on bringing mobile phones into Russia. Satellite phones however require advance approval from the Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications (Roskomnadzor).

There are no restrictions on bringing laptop computers for personal use. However, Russian border officials may require the inspection of any electronic device (including installed software) on departure.

Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal or restricted in Russia. You should contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate for advice. You should also carry a copy of the prescription and a letter from your physician and declare all prescription medications and other restricted items on arrival. If not declared, or if the quantity held exceeds legal limits, possession of such items, even with a prescription, could lead to administrative or even criminal charges.

While in Russia

You must register with the Federal Migration Services within seven working days of arrival. Most hotels undertake visa registrations on behalf of guests; however it is your responsibility to ensure this is done by hotel staff. 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 registration fee applies. Failure to register may result in significant delays and fines upon departure.

Photocopies of visas are not sufficient for entry or departure purposes as Russian border authorities require original travel approvals. If your Australian passport is lost or stolen while travelling in Russia, you will need to obtain an official police report. This is necessary to obtain an exit visa. A replacement passport can be sought from the Australian Embassy in Moscow and an exit visa must be obtained from Russian authorities. Australians who overstay their visa will be prevented from leaving Russia until they are granted an extension by the Federal Migration Services.

Departing Russia

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.

You may import up to USD $10,000 (or equivalent) without declaring it. 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.

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.

Safety and security

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. Attacks may also take place in other regions of Russia.

On 4 December 2014, a group of armed militants of the Jihadist organization Caucasus Emirate attacked a traffic police checkpoint outside the city of Grozny, Chechnya, Russia. The militants then entered the city and occupied the "Press House" building in the city centre and a nearby school. A total of 16 people were killed and 40 injured during this attack.

Two separate terrorist incidents occurred in the city of Volgograd in late December 2013. At least 26 people were killed and many injured during the attacks. A number of planned attacks have been disrupted by security services in recent years, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking Russian locations.

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.

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.

The Australian Government is extremely limited in its capacity to provide consular assistance in the North Caucasus. 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.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

Civil unrest/political tension

We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to regions bordering the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv due to the volatile security situation in this area.

The Russian government has declared a state of emergency in nine districts of Rostov Oblast bordering Ukraine. The situation along the border remains unpredictable. Visitors should be aware of the potential for armed clashes or other violence, and the potential for threats to their security along the Russian-Ukraine border.

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. 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 Moscow or St Petersburg metros. Care should be taken with your personal belongings.

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

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

Only exchange currency at banks. Travellers have become scam victims when trying to exchange money with strangers in the street or in a bank queue. Credit card and ATM fraud does occur. Keep your credit card in sight during transactions and ensure you hide your pin code at all times.

Travellers have been drugged and robbed while drinking in nightclubs and bars or after accepting offers of food, drink or transportation from strangers. Never accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended. If you are not sure if a drink is safe, leave it. For additional safety information about socialising and partying while overseas, see our Partying Safely page.

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

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 there is little to no chance of recovering the funds.

Kidnapping for political, ransom and retribution 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 that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. See our Kidnapping threat bulletin.

Money and valuables

Due to 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 Moscow and St Petersburg, and rarely in the regions.

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 online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

The Russian government has declared a state of emergency in nine districts of Rostov Oblast bordering Ukraine. The situation along the border remains unpredictable. See the Safety and security: Civil unrest/Political tension section of this advice for further information.

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.

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 your passport, visa and migration card with you at all times. 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.

Many tour operators in Russia offer package tours which include travel to Crimea. The Australian Government does not recognise Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. We advise Australians not to travel to Crimea at this time as it is not under Government control. For information about Crimea please read our Ukraine travel advice.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network for information on aviation safety in Russia.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Russia, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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.

Possessing, selling, consuming or carrying illegal drugs, including small amounts of “soft” drugs such as cannabis, is heavily prosecuted in Russia. Penalties are severe and include lengthy prison terms served in local jails. See our Drugs page.

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

Australians visiting Russia for the purposes of commissioning commercial surrogacy arrangements should seek independent legal advice before doing so. See our Overseas births, adoptions and surrogacies page.

Same-sex relationships are not illegal 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.

A law banning the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors entered into force in June 2013. This law potentially makes any action, statement or dissemination of information which appears to promote LGBTI issues illegal, and may lead to arrest, fines and or deportation. It also introduces fines for individuals and media groups found guilty, as well as special fines for foreigners. 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 documents such as birth or marriage certificates, and other official documents, need to be legalised (by obtaining an apostille) before they will be accepted by Russian authorities. If you have an Australian document that you intend to use while in Russia, you should contact a Russian Embassy or consulate to ascertain if an apostille is required. Apostilles can only be issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia. Apostilles cannot be issued by Australian Embassies, High Commissions or Consulates overseas. See our Legalising documents page.

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.

Russian legislation which came into effect in 2014, requires all Russian nationals to declare any other citizenships or foreign residency permits to Russian authorities. Failure to declare could attract substantial fines.

Australian-Russian dual nationals are required under Russian law to enter and leave Russia on a valid Russian passport. If the passport expires while in Russia, a new Russian passport must be obtained prior to departure. Russian border authorities will not allow departure on an expired Russian passport. Australian-Russian dual nationals can also enter Russia using a repatriation certificate (svidetelstvo na vozvrashcheniye) issued by a Russian embassy or consulate, but they must obtain a new Russian passport before departure. The process of obtaining a new Russian passport for non-residents is complex and can take several months.

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

Children born overseas and added to their parents’ Russian passports should have their own passport to exit Russia. Russian border authorities may request documentary evidence of the parent or guardian’s relationship to the child and permission from the non-travelling parent to prevent international child abduction.

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 are 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. Medical costs in Russia can be very expensive without adequate cover.

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 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

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police or report it to the nearest police station. You should also obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

In an emergency, dial the following 24 hour emergency numbers from a landline:
•101 (01) for Fire and Rescue
•102 (02) for Police
•103 (03) for Medical Emergencies.
Or 112 from a mobile phone.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. You can contact the Australian Embassy in Moscow for consular assistance:

Australian Embassy, Moscow

Podkolokolny Pereulok 10a/2
Moscow, Russia
Tel: +7 (495) 956-6070
Fax: +7 (495) 956-6170
www.russia.embassy.gov.au

Limited consular assistance may be sought from the Australian Honorary Consuls in St Petersburg and Vladivostok:

Australian Consulate, St Petersburg

Mr Sebastian Fitzlyon (Honorary Consul)
St Petersburg
14 Petrovskiy prospect, Office 22N
St Petersburg 197110 Russia
Tel: +7 (812) 325 7334
Fax: +7 (812) 334 3326
Email: oz@consulteast.com

And the

Australian Consulate, Vladivostok

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

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

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.

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.

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. A common accident in 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.

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.

Additional Resources



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.