Russia is generally a safe place to visit however just like any other country there are some safety protocols that tourists should follow. There are some unsavory characters who take advantage of the fact that most tourists do not know the dirty details of the country and look for them as targets. Here is a list of things that a tourist should look out for when visiting Russia in order to stay safe.
Avoid Neighborhoods with Bad Reputations
Every city has parts that are less secure than others. In Russia these neighborhoods are Prospect Bolshevikov, Kupchino and Ulitsa Dybenko. Most tourist tours will avoid these areas however if you find that you have to go there then try not to go alone and plan your trip so that you are there during daylight hours when the risk to your safety is at a minimum.
Russia is a country that is proud of its large forest areas. They are fun places to be during the day however at night they are known to be frequented by a host of characters with bad intentions.
Watch Out for Pickpockets
The high density of people in the metro makes it a haven for pickpockets. They have mastered a number of ingenious ways to get into unsuspecting victims’ pockets. The locals of Russia are wise to their antics however people new to the city may not be aware of their methods.
One tactic that they like to use is coming up to people offering to sell them items. They get in close and then literally push the items onto your chest. If your wallet is in your coat pocket then they take that opportunity to reach in and grab it then take off before you realize what they were up to.
Another popular trick is what they call ‘the sandwich‘. A team of pickpockets work together for this con. One of them goes to enter the train in front of you and slows down as she approaches the door. Her accomplice will then come up behind you and pretend to be in a hurry to enter the train and pushes you forward. The person behind you may even pretend to be angry at you for slowing them down which disorients you and makes it so that you don’t notice his hands in your pockets.
Pickpockets look for targets who look like they would be easily frazzled or disoriented. The simplest way to ward them off is to be aware of your surroundings. Another way to protect yourself is to not keep your belongings in your back pockets or shirt pockets as these are the easiest to get into without your knowledge. Avoid overcrowded public transport if you can.
Watch Out for the Hooligans
Hooliganism is defined as a flagrant violation of public order expressed by a clear disrespect for society. Russia has strict laws regarding hooliganism and they are in place for a reason. The country is well known for riots that get out of hand especially when it comes to soccer.
Soccer is a sport well-loved in Russia. The aim of the game is to unite the different regions of the nation under a shared love for the sport however when match-day comes fans from different regions of the country with long-standing hatred for each other are packed into stadiums where alcohol flows and tensions are high depending on the outcomes of the games. The Russian military has to be employed to keep the peace inside stadiums and has gained a reputation for the brutal beatings that they deliver to rabble-rousers. The fans feel that they still need a way to punch out their differences so they organize brawls outside the stadiums either right before or right after the football matches.
The worst thing that can happen for a tourist visiting Russia is to get mixed up in these street brawls so if you plan to visit Russia, stay far away from the football stadiums when there is a match on, especially when there is a game between teams such as Zenit St. Petersburg, CSKA Moscow or Spartak Moscow.
Look Around Before Choosing Where to Change Your Currency
There are some currency exchange bureaus that take advantage of the fact that most tourists are unaware of where to get the most attractive rates. This happens in all countries as you will always find that the worst exchange rates are offered at places that tourists frequent often such as airport and hotel bureaus however Russian bureaus are especially conniving.
The rates offered at most airport bureaus are usually only slightly different to those that would be found downtown however the ones in Russia have differences that are day and night. You would find that the bureaus closest to the airport exchange 30 Rubles for each Euro however those in town will exchange a Euro for 42.5 Rubles. This is a 25% difference and nothing short of a con. Be wise and look around for the most attractive rates before deciding on where to change your money.
Travel insurance is a must have for any trip oversees. This is especially so when travelling to a country such as Russia where health care is not free.
Travel insurance packages are affordable and come with the option to tick a few extra boxes for a more comprehensive cover. The comprehensive cover may cost more but it is worth it for the peace of mind in knowing that should anything happen and the local doctors are unable to treat you, your travel insurers will cover the cost of repatriating you in a plane that is staffed with medical professionals.
Back it Up
Keeping everything in one place is never wise. Leave some extra money along with emergency cash cards at your hotel or accommodation in case your wallet gets lost. Anything could happen and if the worst does happen it is nice to have something to fall back on.
We all want to stay safe wherever we are however constantly looking over your shoulder for imagined threats will only make you paranoid. Keep this list of possible dangers at the back of your head but do not allow them to rule your entire experience of a great country.