A country that has given birth to some of the world’s best artists, poets, and composers, Russia combines both culture and history beautifully. Outside of the arts, the country also has majestic landscapes spanning from one ocean to another. But is Russia safe?
It really is hard to describe Russia and the truth is that to understand the place, you simply must visit yourself. The world’s largest country, spanning Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, Russia really has a bit of everything.
For a long period of modern history Russia, and the rest of the old Soviet Union, was off limits to travelers from most of the world. While the country has opened its doors in more recent decades, a lot of misinformation still swirls about.
Despite what you might have heard, in general, Russia is safe.
Whether you are planning a quick trip to Moscow or a journey cross-country on the Trans-Siberian railroad, Russia is sure to be a memorable destination. However, with such a large country, views of Russian safety can obviously vary.
There are important things to consider before booking your trip and above all else, it’s vital to be prepared. At the minimum, get travel insurance and do a bit of research on Russia safety issues – regions to avoid, taxi scams, traveling alone, etc.
The question of Russia safety is far from an easy one. Some areas of Russia feel completely European, with the most common crimes against travelers being simple pickpocketing. Other regions of Russia are entangled in bitter violence.
Rather than asking “is Russia safe”, it’s more important to ask “is the region of Russia I want to visit safe?”
Individual countries rate Russia at very different levels of safety. In general though, most countries with travel advisories for Russia clarify their warnings based on region or specific groups.
The United States ranks Russia safety as a Level 2, with the message to “Exercise Increased Caution.” While this level applies fairly to Russian cities and most tourism destinations, there is a “Do Not Travel” warning on a few specific Russian regions. These include the North Caucasus, including Chechnya, and the region of Crimea.
The Canadian government lists Russia at a slightly higher safety level with a warning to “exercise a high degree of caution.” They also make clear that a lot of the safety issues in Russia stem from certain regions.
Russian safety has been drastically impacted by conflict in certain regions. However, the question of “is Russia safe for travelers” probably doesn’t need to account for distant regions you won’t visit.
Is Russia Safe to Visit Right Now?
For travelers, Russian safety, at the moment, is about the same as it has been over the last few years. In some respects, Russia is safer now for travelers than it has been in decades.
A large part of Russia’s current safety issues – war in Crimea, conflict in the North Caucasus – won’t affect travelers. These regions are far from Russia’s top travel destinations. On the other hand, Russia’s major cities have boosted safety for foreign visitors dramatically.
A lot of the safety improvements in the more tourist focused areas of Russia tie directly to major sporting events. In the last few years Russia has hosted both the Olympics and the World Cup of Soccer. Such events brought hundreds of thousand foreign visitors and Russia had strong incentive to ensure visitors felt safe.
Travel Insurance in Russia
As we have discussed, a lot of the major safety issues in Russia are unlikely to impact the average tourist. That being said, it’s always incredibly important to be prepared. If you want to ensure a smooth trip to Russia, you need travel insurance!
Most visitors to Russia will need a visa and under Russian law, that visa often requires an “invitation” from a Russian tour company. This means visitors to the country often need to prebook at least some of their travel plans. If you want to insure you’d don’t lose any of this money in the case of a trip cancelation or delay, you need travel insurance.
Travel insurance in Russia is also a good idea if you run into any medical emergencies. Healthcare in Russia varies widely from city to city and region to region. Having good travel insurance that will help cover the cost to get you home to your own doctors is priceless.
Travel insurance can come in handy even for the little things. The most common Russia safety issue travelers face is simple pickpocketing. With travel insurance, the cost to replace your stolen phone or wallet is covered.
A smart traveler never leaves home without travel insurance. This is especially true when visiting Russia.
Before leaving for your trip, we recommend picking up a World Nomads policy. World Nomads is one of the leaders in travel insurance with affordable plans for Russia and just about anywhere else in the world. To get a quote just fill out the form below.
Russia Safety Travel Tips by City
Russia is literally the largest country in the world! It’s no surprise that safety issues and tips vary widely depending on which city or region you are visiting. To help, we have broken down safety tips for a few of Russia’s major cities.
Also, keep in mind safety when traveling between cities. A great option to consider is the Sapsan – Russia’s high speed train. The train is not only fast but one of the safest ways to travel, especially between Moscow and Saint Petersburg
Moscow, Russia Safety
Russia’s sophisticated, modern capital, Moscow shows off the increasing wealth and power of the country. As such, this is one of Russia’s safer cities for travelers.
If visiting Moscow’s major sights – like the Red Square and the Kremlin – keep an eye on your bag and pockets. One of the largest issues here is pickpockets at the major tourist destinations.
Saint Petersburg, Russia Safety
With a UNESCO-listed historic center and an old European charm, Saint Petersburg is a favorite of many international visitors.
Pickpocketing here is also common as are the notorious taxi scams. If arriving by plane, only use the official airport taxi stands. If you need a taxi at night, use an app to call one and avoid the black cabs on the street who are known for charging travelers outrageous prices.
Vladivostok, Russia Safety
Vladivostok sits on Russia’s Pacific Coast, around 4,000 miles from Moscow. Once known as a mafia hub, today the city is quite safe, as well as beautiful.
One thing to keep in mind in Vladivostok is the water. Tap water here is not safe at all and should be avoided. Besides that, petty theft and pickpocketing crime rates are about as high as other major Russian cities.
Sochi, Russia Safety
Sochi, the unofficial ‘Summer Capital’ of Russia, is actually popular domestic travel destination.
Like any vacation hotspot, if you travel to Sochi (Russia), pickpocketing and scams are a problem. Fortunately, as most of the tourists here are Russians, scams are less likely to target foreign travelers who don’t speak Russian.
Is Russia Safe to Travel Alone?
Traveling alone can always be a bit more risky, with no one there to watch your back. In general though, Russia is fine for solo travelers.
Many travelers head to Russia alone every year and return home with nothing but great memories. That being said, keep a few things to keep in mind if traveling alone.
First, be careful if going out late at night and avoid drinking heavily. Nightclubs and vodka might be second nature to Russians but as a traveler in a foreign country, it’s best to play it safe. Thieves and pickpockets are known to target solo travelers, especially after a night of drinking.
If taking overnight trains alone, it’s also a great idea to have some extra bag security. A heavy duty lock is vital. You might also consider a chain-style lock that will allow you to physically lock your bag to your bed stand or seat.
Is it Safe for Americans in Russia?
To say that Russia and the US have a complicated history is quite an understatement. For American travelers visiting Russia, it’s important to consider this past.
On the other hand, anti-American sentiment and anti-America demonstrations have occured in parts of the country. US citizens are advised to avoid any and all political rallies or demonstrations, just in case.
There is also the issue of Russia limiting the number of US diplomatic personnel in Russia. This means as a US citizen, if you do run into trouble, it might be more difficult to obtain “U.S. consular assistance.”
Is Russia Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Russia is not a place specifically more dangerous as a solo female traveler. As a woman, you will face much of the same street harassment and aggressive behavior you’d find in many other countries.
As a solo female though, one thing to keep in mind when visiting Russia is your alcohol intake. In the land of great vodka, it can be easy to overdo it. The last thing you want though is to be stumbling alone back to your hotel a little too drunk.
If you are taking an overnight train or hoping to experience the Trans-Siberian railroad, you might need to plan a bit more as well. Unless you want to book an expensive train car all to yourself, you will likely be sharing a car with other travelers. As a solo female, see if you might book an all female car.
Overall, Russia is quite safe for solo travelers, whether female or male.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Russia?
Drinking tap water in Russia is best avoided.
Some cities, like Moscow, officially meet safe tap water requirements. That being said, many locals still buy or boil their water. In Saint Petersburg, tap water is even more unpredictable, with many parts of the city still using old, dangerous pipes.
In more rural regions you might find crystal clear water but less regulations and testing. To avoid any issues, it’s best to completely avoid tap water on your Russia trip.
If you don’t want to waste all your money on bottled water, consider packing a small, travel-sized water filter. We recommend the Lifestraw Go water bottle. Not only will you save money, you’ll avoid a bunch of single-use plastic bottles.
Is the Food Safe to Eat in Russia?
Thanks to the above water issues, food in Russia can sometimes be suspect. Generally, in places with bad water, you are safe if you opt for well cooked foods and avoid raw fruits or veggies.
Unfortunately, water is not the only issue affecting the safety of Russian food. There is a lot of corruption and little oversight of Russian food manufactures. According to the Russian food monitoring organization Roscontro, “Sixty percent of the products tested are poor quality, unsafe or falsified.”
There is not much as a traveler you can do to avoid such products. In general though, nicer restaurants and fresh-made foods are your best bet.
Are Taxis in Russia Safe?
Taxi scams are quite common in Russia. While your physical safety might not be in much danger, your wallet could be.
Always make sure you look up the average taxi rates in the cities and regions you are visiting. Also, don’t be afraid to find another taxi if you are quoted an outrageous price.
Police in Russia are known for corruption and won’t always be a help if a taxi driver tries to scam you at the end of a ride. Instead, it’s better to avoid the problem in the first place by establishing the price or ensuring the meter is working before getting in.
It’s also best to use an app to call a taxi. Official metered taxis won’t always stop if you flag them down and the taxis that do stop are often illegal.
Is Russia Safe to Live?
As a foreigner, there are a lot of places in Russia you probably wouldn’t want to live. While the country is generally safe for expats, the safety in Russia varies widely from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood.
The best cities for foreigners to live in Russia are Moscow and Saint Petersburg. These cities are modern, safe, and filled with foreign workers.
More distant cities and regions are often less welcoming to outsiders. This is especially true for minorities.
So, is it Dangerous in Russia?
Russia is a vast country. Labeling literally the world’s largest country as safe or not is really unfair. The answer to the question “is Russia safe” is, well, it depends.
Russia is far from a safe place for many. There is rampant corruption, government crackdowns on political opponents, and regions literally deadly for members of the LBGTQ community. At the same time, Saint Petersburg feels quite as safe as any major European city.
The reality is that no place in the world is truly safe, no matter how many travel safety tips I offer. At the same time, Russia, even with all its safety issues, is worth visiting.
If you are ready to see the country for yourself make sure you, at the minimum, have travel insurance. It’s there to be your backup plan – to get you home in a worst-case scenario or just to help take the bite out of a pickpocketed phone.