Russia travel guide
Russia is at once breathtaking and baffling. Winston Churchill’s much-quoted line that the world’s largest nation represented “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” is as true today as it was back then.
Monumental in every respect, it’s a land where burnished imperial splendour coexists with icy Siberian tundra, where timeworn Soviet-era monuments backdrop uber-hip urban cultures and where everything from the ruling party downwards functions in its own, impenetrably Russian, way.
The west of the country draws the most visitor attention, thanks to the presence of two extraordinary cities. St Petersburg and Moscow serve up sweeping postcard sights by the dozen. Moscow is the rapidly beating heart of the “New Russia,” where Asia and Europe combine to create a boisterous, enigmatic metropolis on a grand scale. St Petersburg, meanwhile, with its living film-set of palaces, cathedrals and waterways, is the grandest and most European of Russia’s cities, yet still retains a deeply complex character.
Exploration beyond these two main hubs, however, is well advised. The Golden Ring, a collection of ancient towns northeast of Moscow, still has plenty of period architecture and is easily accessed from the capital. By cruising along the mighty River Volga, meanwhile, it’s possible to travel south towards the Caspian Sea and see the country beyond its increasingly westernised veneer. And those heading east, into Siberia, will find a land of varied, often sublime natural beauty. From Lake Baikal to the old imperial city of rkutsk, and from the mountains of the Altai and the shamans of Tuva, Siberia has many secrets.
A combination of the above is drawing an increasing number of tourists to the Russian Federation – that it remains as obscure and mysterious as ever is all part of the charm. As the poet Fyodor Tyutchev once said: “Russia cannot be understood.”
17,100,000 sq km (6,602,347 sq miles).
8.4 per sq km.
President Vladimir Putin since 2012.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin since 2020.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Russia on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Direct flights have resumed between the UK and Russia. Check with your travel company for the latest information.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Russia.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. A full list of certified clinics and laboratories certified to perform PCR COVID-19 tests is available online (only in Russian).
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Many hotels in Russia remain open.
Public places and services
The Federal Government has delegated responsibility for introduction or relaxation of restrictions to the regional authorities. It is therefore possible different restrictions will be in force in different regions. You should follow regional advice. The latest advice for Moscow is available on the Mayor’s website. For Saint Petersburg, advice can be found on the City Government’s website .
Travel in Russia
For information on entering Russia, see Entry requirements.
The Federal Government has delegated responsibility for introduction or relaxation of restrictions to the regional authorities. It is therefore possible different restrictions will be in force in different regions. You should follow regional advice. The latest advice for Moscow is available on the Mayor’s website. For Saint Petersburg, advice can be found on the City Government’s website.
Social distancing of 1.5 metres is to be followed everywhere except in taxis.
Healthcare in Russia
If you show any symptoms of coronavirus, such as respiratory illness or a temperature, you and your cohabitants may be required to self-isolate even if you haven’t been tested.
From 2 July 2021, all cases of respiratory illness in Moscow will be treated as high probability COVID cases. All patients displaying symptoms of a respiratory illness will have their PCR and rapid antigen tests taken and need to self-isolate until their PCR test is negative.
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers. Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Russia.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Russia
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.
British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization COVID-19 vaccines page.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Tell a friend or relative about your travel plans before you go. Give them some idea of your itinerary (if possible), and an emergency contact number.
Check with your mobile phone provider to make sure your phone will work in Russia. Store useful numbers in your phone, such as the British Embassy (+7 495 956 7200) and the local emergency service number (112). To get a local SIM card, you will need to show your passport.
Read our foreign travel checklist for more information and advice on preparing for a safe trip.
Most visits to Russia are trouble-free, but petty crime does happen. You should follow the same personal security procedures as you would anywhere else.
Be alert to the possibility of mugging, pick pocketing and theft in the main tourist areas and around the main railway concourses, as well as from vehicles or hotel rooms. Don’t leave your bags unattended. Avoid openly carrying expensive items or anything that might easily identify you as a tourist. Avoid walking about late at night alone. Be wary of groups of women and children who beg. Don’t agree to look after possessions of people you don’t know, and never agree to go to a bar or a club with someone you have just met.
Look after your passport at all times, especially in major transport hubs and busy areas. Passports have been reported stolen or lost from British nationals when in the airports in Moscow. Be particularly vigilant when passing through the airports, particularly in the baggage collection area and outside the arrivals hall.
The spiking of drinks does happen and can lead to robbery, violence and/or abuse. Unconscious victims are often left outside, which can be life threatening in the winter months. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times.
Official looking taxis can be unlicensed, and British nationals travelling in them have been the victims of crime. Taxi apps are a useful way to call a registered taxi. You can also ask your hotel to get a taxi for you or to give you the number of a reputable company. Don’t flag down what may appear to be an official taxi or share a taxi with strangers, as you are putting yourself at risk. Where possible you should agree the fare before getting into the taxi or check that the meter is working.
Foreign visitors are not usually the targets of violent crime. However, in St Petersburg there have been reports of street crime where tourists have been specifically targeted. These crimes are carried out by well organised gangs.
The police do not have to have a reason in order to stop, question or detain individuals. Bogus police officers have harassed and robbed tourists. If you’re stopped, always insist on seeing identification, and report harassment or crimes to the British Embassy.
Take care if you are using a dating service. A number of British nationals have been the victims of fraud. Never send money or buy items for anyone you have not met in person.
Be wary of sending money via untraceable transfer services. There have been instances where British nationals have lost money by sending money to an unknown recipient without checking they were genuine.
Political rallies and demonstrations occur in cities and towns across Russia, usually with notice and permission from the authorities. Unauthorised demonstrations can lead to a robust response from the Russian authorities, occasionally leading to violence. Under Russian law, actions by one person can be described as a protest, and if unauthorised this can also be subject to a robust response.
Check the local media for the latest information, be vigilant, and avoid any demonstrations.
Most visitors experience no difficulties but racial discrimination may be an issue and might vary according to location. People of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent may attract unwanted attention in public places and should take care, particularly when travelling late at night.
Consular support is severely limited in parts of Russia due to the security situation. The North Caucasus remains an unstable and potentially dangerous region. The Russian authorities take a particularly strict attitude towards security, as well as compliance with visa and registration rules. Short-term travel restrictions are sometimes applied in relation to ongoing security operations. These are publicised at very short notice, if at all. Cross-border traffic with Georgia and Azerbaijan is also subject to restrictions.
If you travel to these parts of Russia against FCDO advice, you are taking a serious risk. The ability of the FCDO and the British Embassy in Moscow to help in the case of an emergency will be severely limited.
The AA and the RAC offer information and advice on driving in Russia, including information on compulsory documentation and equipment. If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.
You will need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Russia. 1949 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted in Russia. You can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.
You should be aware that travel between cities can take a long time given the distance, heavy traffic in big cities, and poor road conditions. Don’t drive alone at night or sleep in your vehicle on the side of the road. Don’t pick up hitchhikers.
Road safety is poor. According to statistics published by the Directorate for Road Traffic Safety there were over 169,000 road traffic accidents in Russia in 2017, causing over 19,000 deaths and over 215,000 injuries. You should be vigilant when driving, take account of weather conditions, and consider limiting or avoiding driving at night.
It is common practice for traffic police to stop motorists for spot checks. There is a zero tolerance policy towards drink driving.
In order to drive a vehicle into Russia, you will need to declare the vehicle with the customs authority at the point of entry. You can bring a vehicle into Russia without paying import taxes for a maximum period of 1 year.
Contact the Russian Embassy if you have more detailed questions about bringing a vehicle into Russia. The British Embassy is unable to offer help to those attempting to bring vehicles into Russia without the correct documentation.
All railway stations have airport-style security. All bags will be scanned and passengers will need to go through detector arches.
If you’re travelling by overnight train in a sleeping compartment, store valuables in the container under the bed or seat. Don’t agree to look after the luggage of a fellow traveller or allow it to be stored in your compartment.
Don’t leave your sleeping compartment unoccupied, as some compartments only have a simple lock on the sliding door. On some trains there may be an additional security device, which can be attached to the fitted handle/lock unit. There may also be a steel switch at head-height on the door panel which, when pulled down, prevents the closed door from being slid open.
The volume and quantity of liquids, gels, aerosols, creams or pastes you can carry in your hand luggage when going through airport screening facilities throughout Russia is limited. For more information, refer to the Federal Air Transport Agency (in Russian) or consult your airline.
A domestic flight burst into flames during an emergency landing shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in May 2019, killing 40 passengers and 1 crew on board. A domestic flight crashed shortly after take-off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport in February 2018 killing all on board. A list of recent incidents and accidents including the location, type of aircraft and operator can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.
The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. The International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
Travel by helicopter is often used in more remote areas of Russia, including in the oil and gas industry. In recent years there have been helicopter crashes with multiple fatalities. A helicopter crashed shortly after take-off near Igarka in August 2018, killing all on board. Be aware of the increased risk of travel by helicopter and satisfy yourself of the operator’s safety record.
The most recent audit of Russia’s civil aviation authority by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in 2015 found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight Russia was above the global average.
According to the Russian migration authorities, around 69,000 British nationals visited St Petersburg in 2016 on sea cruise ships organised by foreign tour companies. Volga river cruises between St Petersburg and Moscow are also popular. Use recognised cruise operators with established safety records.
People with disabilities may face difficulties in accessing certain public areas as disabled facilities vary across Russia, and can be poor or even non-existent in places.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Russia.
Although these have mainly been by Islamist and rebel groups in the North Caucasus, attacks in other major cities and regions can’t be ruled out. Previous attacks, including in Moscow and St Petersburg, have seen large numbers of casualties, and Russian aviation has also been targeted:
- in April 2017, a suicide attack on the St Petersburg metro resulted in 15 deaths and many injuries
- in October 2015, a Russian flight from Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt to St Petersburg crashed in North Sinai, killing all on board. Russian authorities stated the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the plane
- in 2013, 3 suicide bombings targeted public transport in Volgograd, resulting in 41 deaths and many injuries
- in 2011, 37 people were killed, including a British national, and many others injured in a suicide bombing at Moscow Domodedovo airport
Since December 2017, Russian security forces have disrupted several plots in major Russian cities, including Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Stavropol. These plots are reported to have targeted public transport and crowded places. Terrorist groups, including Daesh and al-Qaeda aligned groups, continue to call for attacks in Russia.
Although there’s no indication that British nationals or interests have been specific targets, attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should be vigilant in all public places, including major transport hubs, tourist sites and crowded areas; and particularly where access isn’t controlled, for example at open-air events and markets. Previous attacks have targeted transport infrastructure.
In 2015, Daesh announced the establishment of an affiliate in the North Caucasus, and many rebel leaders announced they had switched their allegiance to Daesh. Daesh North Caucasus has claimed responsibility for a number of small-scale attacks (mainly in Dagestan), targeting law enforcement personnel.
While the number of casualties from ongoing violence in the North Caucasus has reduced in recent years, there continues to be frequent attacks and skirmishes between rebel groups and Russian forces in the republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. The threat from terrorism could rise quickly in relation to any escalation of violence in the North Caucasus.
Security services conduct frequent counter-terrorism operations in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia. These can be at short notice and involve restrictions on travel.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
A number of western nationals, including British nationals, have previously been kidnapped in the North Caucasus and some have been killed by their captors. Those engaged in humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors are viewed as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.
You should carry your passport with you at all times. A copy will not be sufficient. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security. Failure to produce your passport when asked can lead to a fine.
You’ll need to register with the local authorities if you’re staying anywhere for more than 7 working days. Your hotel will do this automatically. If you’re staying in a rented or private apartment, it is your host’s responsibility to carry this out. However, it is your responsibility to ensure this is done. You will need to produce evidence of the registration at passport control on departure from Russia. You can find more information on the website of the Russian Interior Ministry’s General Administration for Migration Issues (in Russian).
Don’t become involved with drugs. You can expect a long sentence for possession of even small quantities of drugs, regardless of whether they are ‘hard’ or ‘soft’.
Photographing any military establishment or site of strategic importance (including airports) is banned. There may not be warning signs in locations where prohibitions are in place. You are likely to be detained for questioning or arrested if you are caught.
You’ll need to get official permission from the Russian aviation authority (in Russian) before using any unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in Russian airspace. You must inform them of the flight route at least 24 hours in advance and keep in regular contact with them before and during the flight. Failure to do so will result in a fine.
Public attitudes towards LGBT+ issues are less tolerant than in the UK, and can vary depending on location. Government officials have made derogatory comments about LGBT+ individuals. Public displays of affection may attract negative attention. The republics of the North Caucasus are particularly intolerant to LGBT+ issues. Since January 2017, credible reports have been received of the arrest, torture and extrajudicial killing of gay men in Chechnya, allegedly conducted by Chechen regional authorities.
In 2018 Russia was ranked 45th out of 49 European countries for LGBT+ rights by ILGA-Europe. There are no laws that exist to protect LGBT+ people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia. However, in 2012, Moscow Pride was banned for 100 years. In June 2013, a law banning the promotion of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ towards under 18s (the “gay propaganda” law) entered into force. There have been reports that instances of harassment, threats, and acts of violence towards the LGBT+ community have increased following the introduction of this law. While no foreign nationals have been charged or convicted under it, penalties could include arrest and detention, fines and/or deportation.
See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community before you travel.
There are restrictions on certain religious activities, including preaching and distributing religious materials. Following recent legislation, Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered an extremist organisation in Russia and can be subject to significant harassment from the authorities, particularly at places of worship. At least one foreign national has been detained and subsequently imprisoned for being a Jehovah’s Witness, though we are not aware of any British nationals being detained for this reason. Other minority religious groups in Russia are also subject to similar discrimination, as are organisations like the Scientologists.
Russia’s cybersecurity laws are changing. Restrictions have been placed on some social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Telegram, and access to other internet sites can be unreliable. More information is available from the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (in Russian).
You can find further advice on the website of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre.
Access to certain areas such as military and border zones are restricted. You must get permission from the local authorities before entering these areas. You can find a list on this website (in Russian).
If you don’t get the necessary permissions you may be arrested, fined or even deported. If you’re in any doubt about whether a tour or excursion will take you into a restricted area, contact your tour operator or the Russian Embassy.
If you have dual nationality and enter Russia on the passport of your other nationality, the assistance that the British Embassy is able to offer you may be limited.
If you have dual British and Russian nationality and travel to Russia to renew your Russian passport, it may take up to 4 months for your new passport to be issued. You won’t be able to leave Russia on your British passport if you entered Russia on your Russian passport, and will therefore have to remain in Russia until your new Russian passport is issued.
Children born overseas and added to their parents’ Russian passports may now have to get their own passport to exit Russia. Check with the Russian Embassy before you travel to ensure you have the necessary paperwork.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory that you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to Russia
On 18 March 2020 the Russian government introduced restrictions on entry into the whole country for almost all foreign citizens. On 30 March 2020, temporary restrictions on entry and exit via Russia’s land borders were enforced. The duration of these remains unspecified.
Certain groups may be exempt from these restrictions, including people who are resident in Russia, those whose close family members are Russian citizens, members of diplomatic missions and highly qualified specialists. Further guidance was issued on Friday 16 April to nationals of various countries including the UK, that they could now travel to Russia via a 3rd country as long as that country featured in the published list. The full list is United Kingdom; Tanzania (suspended until 19 July 2021); Turkey; Switzerland; Egypt; Maldives; United Arab Emirates; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Republic of Korea; Cuba; Serbia; Japan; Republic of Seychelles; Ethiopia; Vietnam; India; Qatar; Finland; Azerbaijan; Armenia; Greece; Singapore; Venezuela; Germany; Syria; Tajikistan; Uzbekistan; Sri-Lanka; Iceland; Malta; Mexico; Portugal; Saudi Arabia; Austria; Hungary; Lebanon; Luxemburg; Mauritius; Morocco; Croatia; Belgium; Bulgaria; Jordan; Republic of Ireland; Italy, Cyprus; China; Lichtenstein; North Macedonia; United States.
You should check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs guidance to see if you qualify and consult your airline before travel. Ministry of Foreign Affairs guidance also includes detailed guidance on the approvals and documentation you will need to have in place before you commence your journey.
Direct flights between the UK and Russia restarted on 2 June 2021. Check with your travel company for the latest information.
You should check the specific COVID-19 test requirements airlines have in place in advance of your flight. Different airlines have different requirements and may refuse boarding if they are not met.
In Moscow, express PCR COVID-19 tests are available in Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports as well as in a number of state and private clinics. A full list of certified clinics and laboratories certified to perform PCR COVID-19 tests is available online (only in Russian).
On 15 December the Russian President extended the temporary measures to regulate the legal status of foreign citizens and stateless persons in Russia in connection with the threat of the spread of a new coronavirus infection. The grace period for Russian visas which have expired or will expire between 15 March 2020 - 15 June 2021 was extended until 15 June 2021. However, for nationals or permanent residence holders of those countries with which Russia had regular travel links on 15 December, including the UK, the grace period was only extended for 90 days, until 14 March 2021.
As the grace period has now passed, British Nationals who entered on visas need to ensure that they have not overstayed. If the overstay is no more than 72 hours on a business or tourist visa then please contact the British Embassy Consular section. If over 72 hours, you will need to approach your local migration office for further information as soon as possible. It should be noted that the local authorities do not always speak English, so if necessary, please refer to the list of local translators and interpreters and lawyers.
Testing / screening on arrival
Anyone arriving into airports will be temperature-checked.
The Russian government requires all arriving passengers to obtain and present a negative COVID-19 test certificate dated less than 72 hours before travel. Airlines may require you to show this on check-in and some airlines require the certificate to be no more than 72 hours before arrival in your destination (please check with your airline). You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
On 24 December 2020 the Russian authorities adopted a 14 day quarantine period for any travellers arriving from the UK. This includes passengers arriving for permanent work purposes including Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) visa holders, who also have to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Russia.
You will be required to self-isolate if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 and/or if you test positive for COVID-19. You will be required to self-isolate until you have recovered and tested negative for COVID-19 on a PCR test. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities.
Regular entry requirements
You’ll need to get a visa from the Russian Embassy before you travel. Processing times are up to 20 business days for standard service or up to 3 business days for urgent service depending upon the visa category applied for and the application itself.
As part of the visa application process, all applicants based in the UK aged 12 or over will need to visit a visa application centre to submit biometric data (scanned fingerprints). These are located in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. The Russian government requires biometric fingerprinting from all foreign nationals, including British nationals, when entering Russia.
On receiving your visa you should check the details carefully including the validity dates and passport number to make sure they are correct. Make sure you’re aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa before you travel. You should adhere to the validity and conditions of your visa while you’re in Russia, as the authorities strictly enforce all visa and immigration laws.
Overstaying your visa may result in fines, court hearings, deportation and a possible ban from re-entry.
Cruise or ferry passengers can stay in Russia for 72 hours without a visa if they have booked tours through officially licensed companies. You are free to use any authorised travel agency, not just cruise ship tour companies.
Cities where this applies are:
- St Petersburg
- Korsakov (Sakhalin Island)
If your passport is lost/stolen while ashore, you need to obtain a police report, travel to the British Embassy in Moscow for a replacement Emergency Travel Document, get an exit visa and pay a fine to leave Russia.
If it is not done within the 72-hour visa free regime, you will be facing a court hearing, fine, deportation and a possible ban from re-entry.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry date of your visa.
It’s not possible to enter Russia using a visa in an expired passport, even if carried with a new, valid passport. You will need to either apply for a visa transfer or for a new visa. Further details are available from the Russian Embassy.
If you’re travelling on a British passport issued since January 2017, you should make sure you’ve signed your passport before you travel. Some British nationals who haven’t signed their new passports have been denied entry into Russia.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
If your passport is lost or stolen while you are in Russia, then you will need to obtain a police report from the nearest police station and get a UK Emergency Travel Document (ETD). Once you obtain these, then you will need to apply for an exit visa to leave Russia. ETDs are accepted for entry, landside transit and exit from Russia only if they contain a valid Russian visa. The Russian authorities will only put a visa for Russia in an ETD in limited circumstances. Contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate outside Russia or local migration office in Russia to find out if a visa can be issued. You also need to check with the Russian embassy, consulate or migration office on the required length of ETD validity. UK ETDs without a visa are accepted for airside transit only. You should check with your travel company or airline that transit zones will be available at the airports of your planned route.
You must sign an immigration card every time you arrive in Russia. This will be given to you at passport control. The card is in 2 identical parts. One part will be retained by the Immigration Officer. You should keep the other part safe as your departure from Russia could be delayed. Hotels, hostels or another receiving entity will not accept guests without an immigration card.
Travelling between Russia and Belarus
By air: British nationals flying to Russia from Belarus or to Belarus from Russia are subject to immigration control. If you’re transiting Russia when flying to/from Belarus, please contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate to check if a transit visa is needed.
By road: There are no legal grounds for foreigners (including British nationals) to cross the land border between Russia and Belarus. If you’re planning on driving to Russia, you’ll need to take an alternative route through a different country.
By rail: If you’re planning on travelling by rail between the two countries, you should contact your train or tour operator when you make your booking to seek their advice. You should also consider contacting your nearest Russian embassy or consulate for advice on the latest situation for rail travellers.
Temporary travel restrictions across Russian land borders, including with Belarus, will be in place from 30 March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Duration of these remains unspecified.
You should make sure you have all the necessary visas for the duration of your travel.
You can import and export foreign currency up to USD 10,000 (or equivalent) without declaring it. And you can export foreign currency up to USD 3,000 (or equivalent) without declaring it.
If you import over USD 10,000 (or equivalent) or certain categories of goods (eg electrical items, jewellery, antiques, valuable musical instruments), you must complete a customs declaration form.
If you wish to import certain advanced electronic items (eg GPS instruments), you must get an operating licence from the Russian authorities before you travel. Check with your nearest Russian embassy or consulate for advice before your departure.
If you complete a declaration, make sure the form is stamped by a customs official at your port of entry, otherwise your foreign currency and non-declared items may be confiscated when you leave Russia and you may be fined.
Keep receipts of any purchases in case you need to present them when you leave Russia.
There are strict regulations covering the export of antiques, artworks (including modern art and posters if they’re particularly rare or valuable) and items of historical significance bought in Russia or imported to Russia from abroad. You’ll need an export permit from the Ministry of Culture to export this type of material and each item must be declared at the point of departure. Don’t attempt to import or export items that require permits without the relevant paperwork as this is a serious offence.
For further information visit the website of the Russian Federal Customs Service.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Russia on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Russia.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist are available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines.
You can normally bring prescription and over the counter medication into Russia for personal use. However, if your medication contains narcotic or psychoactive substances (details available on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website in Russian), you must carry a prescription in your name which has been translated into Russian and then notarised. Notarisation services in the UK are available from a Notary Public.
If you’re unsure whether you need to provide a prescription and notarised translation to bring your medicines into Russia, check with the Russian Embassy before you travel.
112 is the single number for any emergency service in Russia.
Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid in Russia, and the reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Russia ended on 1 January 2016.
Medical care in most areas of Russia is below Western standards. Hospitals do not accept all cases, and require cash or credit card payments at Western rates in advance of treatment. Disposable IV supplies, syringes and needles are standard practice in urban areas; however if you plan to travel in remote areas, you may wish to bring your own supplies.
The UNAIDS Data 2018 Report estimated that around 1 million people in Russia are living with HIV. The prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.7% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. Due to uncertainties with the local blood supply, non-essential and elective surgeries are not recommended.
Air quality in Moscow varies and can worsen in certain weather conditions. You should monitor local media and the website for Moscow Emercom (in Russian) for more information.
The currency in Russia is the Russian rouble (RUB).
Credit/debit cards are widely used in major Russian cities, including most hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, supermarkets and other shops. ATMs are easy to find; predominantly in bank outlets.
Let your credit/debit card provider know where you’re going to avoid your card being blocked for anti-fraud reasons. You should report the loss of your credit/debit card to your provider as soon as possible.
It’s advisable to have some cash in roubles to meet any expenses. For example, taxi drivers are unlikely to accept card payments unless you are using an app.
Most major high street banks and currency exchange providers in the UK can pre-order roubles.
If you plan to buy roubles in Russia, you should take US dollars or euros to exchange, and only change money at banks, hotels and airport exchange bureaux. It is an offence to change money from street traders.
It’s illegal to pay directly for general transactions with dollars or euros.
Large numbers of British nationals travel safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers are particularly advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.
The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions - can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
The 8 Arctic States take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be despatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.
Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.