Safety Tips for Russia
First of all, stuff can happen in any city and using common sense while travelling will help you stay out of trouble. This is a list of the top troubles expats and tourists should be aware of when living and travelling in Russia.
Taxis in Russia
Right as you get into town, you’ll have your first test to see if you were paying attention to this article.
When you arrive someone will most likely ask you if you’re looking for a taxi. Don’t even think about it! You either call a reliable taxi company who will tell you the price up front, or (if you’re at the airport) go to the taxi booth right at the airport exit. You can’t miss it; it’s a big stand labeled Taxi. At the booth, they will order a taxi for you that will take you right where you need to go with no trouble.
In general, do not get in a car with a meter. They have some magic button they press that makes a ride that should cost around 1000 rubles turn into 5000 rubles and for that price you could be driven almost to Moscow.
See my guide for the best taxi companies and apps for St. Petersburg:
Gypsy Cabs in Russia
It’s easy to hail a gypsy cab in Russia, but just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. As in any city, if you take the wrong car you could find yourself in a forest without your wallet, cell phone, etc. If you insist on it, then do it with several friends and with basic knowledge of where you’re going.
gypsy cab – a random car you hailed that’s not a taxi or uber
Police in Russia
While police here are notorious for bribes, it’s illegal. Russians can feel when it’s appropriate to give a bribe, but as a foreigner the chances are that you cannot and so pulling that stunt may get you in a lot more trouble. If you’re wrongly being harassed by police, let the police know you are calling the consulate and they will probably leave you alone if all they want is a bribe.
Tip! It’s a good idea to have the consulate programmed in your phone.
Carry a copy of your passport, migration card and registration if you have it. You don’t have to carry the original as long as you have a copy and some government-issued ID. Americans, our driver’s licenses are our govt-issued ID. Many Russians will tell you that you still need your passport, but that’s because in Russia their government ID is their passport and they have 2 passports; one for in country and one for travelling.
Police have the right to check your documents but not to take them away from you.
Stay away from gatherings and protests if you don’t want to encounter the police. Protestors are required to get permission before holding a protest, but often permission isn’t given and the protest continues (which is illegal). This means that if you are at that protest, you could be arrested for just being there.
Pickpockets in Russia
Obviously where the tourists are is where you’ll find the pickpockets. So they operate heavily on Nevsky (street/buses) and any city-centered metros.
Several friends have reported being surrounded by guys who inappropriately touched and pushed them and, in the process, took their wallets and cell phones. Other tactics involve someone pushing you while others appear to be helping you but who are really stealing your wallet at the same time. Just use common sense and be aware any time you are surrounded and confronted especially if there’s plenty of space in another part of the bus or sidewalk.
- keep your wallet in your back pocket
- bring a purse with easy access – keep the zipper part where you can see it with your hand over it
- leave your valuables so that they’re easy to grab
- ask your friend, who’s glued to a phone, to watch your valuables on the other side of the table
- make it easy for someone to snatch your iphone out of your hand and run off as the metro doors close
There are lots of people asking for money on Nevsky and gypsies who operate around Ploshad Vostaniya and the Galleria. There’s no need to give them money. They are always there – it’s their job. Just avoid them.
Crossing the Street in Russia
Never assume cars will stop for you. At crosswalks, cars usually keep going unless pedestrians are in the road directly in front of them, but be careful and make sure they are planning to stop for you. Make eye contact and step carefully in the road and proceed slowly making sure they are slowing down as you get further into the road.
Look both ways when crossing, even if it’s a one-way street or red light.
Going Out in Russia
At some clubs, drugs are slipped into guys (yes guys) drinks at bars and clubs. Women (sometimes in cooperation with bartenders) flirt with guys, getting them to drink and then steal their cash and cards. Girls and guys should both be careful and watchful of drinks here!
Read about what to look out for here.
Drinking the Water in Russia
It’s recommended that you don’t drink the tap water or water from the filter. As extra caution, boil the filtered water or buy your water.
The water is clean, but the pipes are supposedly old and rusty and so the water isn’t pure. As for the filtered water, it’s ok but it doesn’t remove all the impurities and also it’s not clear how often the filters are changed and so not a safe bet either.
Emergency Assistance in Russia
From a cell phone: From a landline:
Police 02 102
Medical emergency 03 103
Fire 01 101
Gas 04 104