While planning an average trip to Russia to visit the big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, most tourists can feel perfectly safe. However, LGBTQ+ travelers in particular may face some difficulty, especially if they are traveling with a partner. Political tension between the U.S. and Russia also means that it is ill-advised to travel to certain parts of Russia like Chechnya and the occupied Crimea.
As a typical visitor, making your rounds through Red Square and the Catherine Palace, you may encounter some situations that are decidedly unsafe and should heed the travel advisories from the U.S. State Department. Additionally, be sure to take the proper precautions and stay aware of your surroundings to avoid becoming a victim of petty crime.
- Due to COVID-19, the U.S. State Department is discouraging all international travel indefinitely.
- Prior to COVID-19, the State Department warned against travel to the North Caucasus region due to the risk of terrorism and civil unrest and Crimea, a region of Ukraine that Russia is occupying. The international community, including the U.S., does not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea.
- Terrorist groups may plot possible attacks in Russia with little to no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, and government facilities.
- In the past, U.S. citizens, government, and military personnel have been arbitrarily detained by Russian officials and may face harassment or extortion. The State Department advises all government personnel to travel carefully and be aware that officials may unreasonably delay consular assistance to detained citizens.
Is Russia Dangerous?
While government employees and journalists may encounter more precarious situations when navigating the complexity of American-Russian relations, the average tourist mainly needs to worry about petty crime. Foreigners are seen as easy targets for pick-pockets, so you really should never flash your cash in Russia. Thieves are just waiting for foreigners to show them how much they have and where they keep it, so don't give them any help.
Is Russia Safe for Solo Travelers?
Russia is generally pretty safe for solo travelers, especially if you're sticking to the major cities. However, solo travelers should heed general precautions and avoid walking alone at night in unsavory areas. It's also worth noting that Russia may be a difficult country to navigate on your own if you don't speak the language, as only approximately one-third of Russians speak English. If you plan to travel to less-commonly visited areas of Russia, consider signing up for a guided tour.
Is Russia Safe for Female Travelers?
In Russia, women are very independent and a woman traveling alone typically doesn't attract much attention. Catcalling and street harassment are also rare, but it does happen from time to time. In Russia, women can feel free to wear whatever they want, but if you are visiting an Orthodox church, you will be required to cover up. That being said, Russia struggles with many gender inequality issues including domestic violence, which is not illegal in Russia and is considered a controversial topic.
Safety Tips LGBTQ+ Travelers
It is not considered safe for LGBTQ+ travelers to travel openly in Russia. Since the introduction of the anti-gay propaganda law introduced in 2013, hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community have doubled and according to the Spartacus Gay Travel Index , Russia ranks as one of the least gay-friendly countries in the world. If traveling in Russia with your partner, you'll need to be cognizant of your surroundings and be aware that public displays of affection could incite homophobic comments or even violence.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
BIPOC travelers and members of various ethnic groups regularly face discrimination in Russia, which can sometimes reach dangerous levels. Large cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg have large, mixed populations, so under most circumstances, discrimination will happen less often. Wherever 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 a trusted local individual. Many BIPOC travelers encounter no incidents when traveling in Russia along the main tourist routes like Moscow and St. Petersburg, apart from some curious stares.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Here are some general tips anyone traveling to Russia should heed to help ensure a safe trip:
- If you are a victim of a crime, you can contact the U.S. embassy for assistance.
- Avoid drinking tap water, which may contain elements that your body may be unused to or cause diseases due to being improperly sanitized.
- If you're going to drink vodka in Russia, make sure the vodka has been purchased at a store and is labeled properly. Bootleg vodka could contain harmful ingredients.
- Pedestrians don't have the right of way, so if you get hit by a car in Russia, you may be blamed for walking in front of a moving vehicle.
- Keep your passport on you, because if you get in a sticky situation with the police, not having your passport on you is a good excuse for them to harass, fine, or arrest you, whether or not you've done anything wrong.
U.S. Department of State. "Russia Travel Advisory."
Russia Beyond. "Percentage of Russians who speak English doubles to 30%." December 3, 2015.
The Nation. "Domestic Violence is Russia's Shame." December 17, 2019.
Pink News. "Russia's anti-gay propaganda law has led to a huge rise in anti-LGBT attacks." November 23, 2017.
Spartacus. "Gay Travel Index." March 3, 2020.