Driving in Russia
Driving in Russia is drastically different than driving in the USA and can be really intimidating to someone who’s used to the more rigid way of driving such as that of the States. Luckily, there’s a great bus and metro system in place in big Russian cities that’ll save you time, money and stress not to mention how incredibly beautiful it is!
Often taking a car somewhere can be more time consuming then simply taking the public transport. Additionally, there are not many parking lots or parking spaces here. At many apartment complexes, cars are doubled parked because there’s simply no space. Apartment complex parking lots that do exist cost an arm and a leg that most people can’t afford. If you find yourself blocked by a car that’s double parked, look in the car and see if they left their number. When parking in the city center, it’s a good idea to get up earlier to find a parking spot.
Renting a Car
If you’re renting a car in Russia, note that manual cars are much cheaper than automatic and more available. If you need an automatic, reserve in advance and be prepared to pay 3 times more for it.
Before You Drive
You can drive on your driving license. If you’re here for more than a quick visit, it’s recommended to have your license translated to help the police make their report when you’ve been pulled over or at least to speed up the process. I recommend the translation services of 1 Vostania St.
If/when pulled over, they will ask for your car documents and insurance information as well as your driver’s license and passport.
Save your consulate number in your phone just in case you think you have been wrongfully pulled over. Often the police are looking for a bribe and a threat to call the consulate may send them on their way more quickly.
Lights are typically not overhead at the intersections as they are in the U.S., but are usually on the street corners and even across the streets. This sometimes causes some confusion even for the Russians.
It can also be tricky to understand which lane is yours when crossing the street and turning. Often the street markings are removed in the winter with the salt on the roads and general wear.
Right when you get in the car, turn your headlights on. They should be on day or night; it’s the law.
Use your turn signals even if you’re in a turn-only lane and pulling out of a parking lot. In many American cities, it’s not the law to use the signal if you’re in the turn-only lane, but in Russia a signal is necessary no matter what.
No right turn on red or even green unless you have a green arrow.
U-turns are only allowed at intersections and where the lines are cut/dashed.
Don’t drive in the bus lanes. They’re typically marked with a big «A» symbol.
Things to Be Aware of
Drivers create lanes out of thin air – it’s an impressive talent! 2 lanes become 3 and so on. Just be careful and let them go on since they are in such a hurry.
If someone flashes their lights at you or honks while you’re driving, that might mean that you need to get over and let them pass. Unfortunately, many drivers may try to teach you a lesson with their car by hitting your car or at least pretending very seriously like they mean to side swipe your car, so be careful and try let them go should they ask.
If you do something nice like let someone get in front of you, you can expect them to flash their hazard lights in thanks. The more times the hazard lights flash, the more appreciative they are of your generosity. 3 times is often the max and means greatly appreciated. Don’t look for anyone to raise their hand as thanks. This is something Russians probably wouldn’t understand.
The roads in the cities are usually ok, but it is important to look out for the potholes. If you go on a road trip somewhere, be especially on the lookout for potholes and rough terrain. Low riding cars are not a good idea for Russian road trips.
People don’t seem to have much regard for pedestrians or bicyclists; by that I mean they drive full speed right next to them. Be careful when you see these crazy and persistent people trying to share the road with the cars.
Driving Apps for Russia