How To Stay Safe When Traveling To Russia

I have heard conflicting information so I would like to know, once and for all, how safe is Russia compared to other destinations? Is St. Petersburg safer than Moscow?

Here’s the scoop and don’t get discouraged: Civil unrest makes most of Russia’s Caucasus region dangerous for travel, so steer clear of Chechnya and all its bordering areas. Stay alert of unattended luggage and fishy packages lying about in airports and be especially aware at main tourist sites, hotel lobbies and on public transportation.

To find out the most current regions to avoid and for general safety tips, check out the Russia Consular Information site. The page has regularly updated information on entry/exit information and crime.

Moscow and St. Petersburg are splendid destinations and you should explore both, even if you have only a week in Russia. Both have the same urban problems as other major cities, so pickpockets, petty thieves and muggers come with the territory. Be as cautious as you would in New York or London, for example, or a bit more on the alert if this is your first time in Russia.

Be careful (even in daylight) along Moscow’s Novy Arbat and St. Petersburg’s Nevsky prospekt. Reportedly, packs of sly and aggressive gypsy kids gang up on unsuspecting foreigners, grabbing jewelry and the like with their nimble little fingers. Don’t share taxis with strangers and, better yet, ride in them with traveling companions. And while we’re on the subject of danger, Asians and Africans have of late been the targets of harassment by skinheads so it’s advisable to avoid the “rynoks” or open markets in all cities.

As with all destinations, keep your common sense about you: Vulnerable areas include underground walkways, the subway, overnight trains, train stations, airports, markets, tourist sites and even hotel rooms. If you overdo the alcohol, you’ll put yourself at risk around bars and nightclubs and on your way home.