This blog post was updated on May 1, 2020.
So you want to travel to Russia? Land of iconic cities, a decadent history, over 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and, of course, the newest appeal — world-famous sporting events that you’d obviously rather see live than on a television screen…we don’t blame you! But did you know it’s ranked as a level 3 on the U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory?
Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department introduced a new classification system for U.S. travelers known as the Travel Advisory list — an overview of every country in the world, based on CTUHNEO — Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Health Risks, Natural Disasters, Time-Limited Event, and Other. Of the four levels in the system (ranked from 1: least dangerous, to 4: most dangerous), Russia falls at a Level 3. At this level, the U.S. State Department advises travelers to “avoid travel because of serious risks to safety and security”. So what does this mean for you, oh intrepid traveler? Read on to find out everything you need to know about as an American traveling to Russia.
What Does a Level 3 Ranking Mean for My Trip?
Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: At this level, the U.S. State Department advises travelers to “avoid travel because of serious risks to safety and security”.
The Travel Advisory rankings are set in place to aid globetrotters like you, in making informed decisions about their travels outside the U.S. At first blush, these levels may seem a bit daunting, resembling laws or strict travel regulations, but just remember: these rankings are recommendations, not rules!
While there are a few destinations U.S. citizens are banned from traveling to, this list was created as a measure to keep travelers in-the-know about the essentials of their trip: safety, where to stay and what they should be precautious for. If you’re traveling to Russia, a level 3 as bolded in the list above, don’t panic at the words “reconsider travel”! The number here, as well as any nation, simply indicates a series of specific precautions and advisories about traveling to and within the country, offering an in-depth look at the potential risks, current events and areas to avoid while you’re there.
Advice for Your Russia Trip
You can definitely still have a wonderful vacation in Russia or any level 3 destination, so long as you do some solid planning ahead and follow these simple tips:
– “Know team know!” If you’re traveling here for the games, before you start chanting “go team goo!” be sure to check out this comprehensive know-before-you-go travel advisory page. A treasure trove of information, this is page totally dedicated to everything you need to know about the famous football event taking place here, from where to stay, what areas to stay clear of to visa advice and where to buy tickets to the games!
– Make it a quick trip. Don’t stay any longer than you need to, short and sweet is the key here. The less time you spend in a high-ranking advisory nation, the more of a chance you have to skip out on any dangers and avoid running into risky situations.
– Pre-book your accommodation and stay in touristy areas. For you adventure travelers looking for the authentic, we know this may be against your off-the-beaten-track ways, but hey, these areas are usually more populated and house more foreigners like you, so consider the tourist traps as a safety net in these high-risk areas.
– Enroll in STEP or the Smart Travel Enrollment Program. STEP is the State Department’s free service for U.S. citizens and nationals to register their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Enrolling in this program enables the U.S. Embassy to send you updates regarding the area you’re staying in and in the case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, change in travel advisory) they can contact you directly and also let your loved ones back home know you’re safe!
– Have a contingency plan. Talk to the U.S. embassy closest to the locale you’re staying in, assess your travel insurance plan and the services available within it that you can tap into in case of an emergency, and of course, have a planned time and mode of communication with loved ones back home to keep them in the loop about your daily whereabouts.
– Map it out. Know your surroundings and scope out the information on the things that are the most important for you to see. Be sure to stick to an itinerary and pre-plan your travel routes. When it comes to transport, do some research on the available modes of transportation and if you’re taking a cab, know your route and confirm that it’s an official taxi to avoid unsafe situations.
– Splurge on a data plan. You don’t want to be caught in a sticky situation, without being able to call for help. Having an international data or phone plan may just be your saving grace when you’re lost or encounter an emergency! If you can, seek local advice on your itinerary and strictly follow their advice on areas to avoid.
– Be respectful of the local culture. This one goes for any country in the world, but in high-risk areas in particular, be sure to try your best to keep a low-profile (a.k.a. don’t take photos of people, or sensitive places, without permission). Keep in mind that Russia has different laws in regards to those who are LGBQI (even visitors) and faith-based travelers, so it’s important to know the laws and know them well! Be careful and mindful of the people, religious beliefs and social norms of the setting you’re in.
– Don’t be a show-off. Besides the fact that no one likes one, just remember that you’re a foreigner in a place that’s slightly risky to be in, to begin with. Pickpocketers and locals alike can probably already sense that you’re not from around there, so try not to stick out of the crowd any more than you already do by being the object of ogling and a target for theft with blatant displays of wealth or inappropriate dress code (oh, and on that note: never carry large amounts of cash!)
Ready for your Russian adventure? Check out these cheap flights to get you there!