Russia is Safer Than You May Think: Here's WhyThe relationship between the United States and Russia has been a volatile one for many years, making travel to this country challenging for US citizens. However, with proper research on the safest areas to visit, a trip to this beautiful country is something that all avid travelers should add to their list.
US citizens traveling to Russia should obtain their travel visas ahead of time through the APVI website. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended visit and should have two blank pages per stamp available. APVI offers single or double-entry visas valid for up to one month, as well as a multiple entry option valid for up to three years.
As a whole, Russia is rated at Travel Advisory Level 2 for US tourists due to increased risk of terrorism, civil unrest, and potential for kidnapping and hostage situations. While this level applies to most of the country, including Moscow and St. Petersburg (making these cities reasonably safe with some precautions), there are areas that the US government advises its citizens to not visit.
The North Caucasus region has been assigned Travel Advisory Level 4 (Do Not Travel). This area includes Chechnya, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, Kabardino-Balkariya, etc. Mount Elbrus, while technically not in this region, is close enough that citizens are in danger if they attempt the climb. Crimea, the Russian-occupied region of Ukraine, is also off-limits. US Government officials are specifically prohibited from these areas and are therefore unable to provide any assistance to citizens in need of help if they visit a Level 4 territory.
Preparing for Your Trip
The official currency is the ruble, and it is important to exchange your currency as the US dollar is not widely accepted in places of business. Money can be exchanged at banks within the country, but many only accept pristine bills free from folds, tears, and other marks. The current exchange rate is 1 ruble to .016 U.S. dollar. To help illustrate what this means for your financial planning, an item that costs 20 rubbles would equate to $0.31.
Below are additional tips:
- English signs can be found in major cities, and many citizens have some fluency, but tourists will struggle without learning the Russian alphabet and a few key phrases.
- Public transportation is widely available and inexpensive in and around the cities and should be utilized to get around since things are further apart than they may appear.
- Drinking water is not on-par with US standards, but bottled water is inexpensive and widely available.
- As expected, winters are cold due to wind chills so layers will need to be worn, but this is also one of the best times to visit due to the availability of winter activities and the sheer beauty of the holiday season.
- Remember your standard European plug converters, and consider purchasing a Russian SIM card since many Wi-Fi networks will not accept foreign phone numbers to connect