Visa Support 

INSTRUCTION TO TOURISTS 

1. WHICH IS THE BEST CURRENCY TO TAKE TO RUSSIA?All prices in Russia are given in roubles, and it is prohibited by law for any outfit to accept any other currency except the national one. It would be worth exchanging your cash into roubles upon your arrival in Russia. British pounds are very hard to exchange - only in Moscow, St Petersburg and some other host cities - and the rate may not be good, so it is better to bring USD or Euro. It’s also not recommended to bring traveller’s cheques to Russia. Try not to run out of cash, although major credit and debit cards are accepted in Russia. 

2. WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO EXCHANGE MONEY?Changing money is rarely a problem in Russia. Almost every place, even a smallest town, has a bank or a currency exchange office. This is not always the case in the tiniest remote Siberian or mountain villages, but, generally, if the town has more than 1000 inhabitants, a legal money exchange will not cause a problem. 

3. WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN RUSSIA?The best time to visit Russia is May through September. Temperatures range from the 21C-32C in the day to the 10C-21C at night. Be aware that the spring and fall are unpredictable with flurries showing up in May and September, and mud ensuing. Take along with you waterproof shoes and a jacket. 

 4. WHICH MEANS OF TRANSPORT IS BETTER TO USE IN MOSCOW, IN ST PETERSBURG?The Moscow and St Petersburg Metro is a great alternative to using local taxi services. You'll travel fast, cheap and easy, skip most of the traffic, and save lots of time. This means of transport may not be very comfortable, but nothing beats it as the traffic gets worse by the year. Also, taxis cost a lot these days. 

5. WHO SHOULD I ASK IF I GET LOST IN RUSSIA? DO PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH?If you haven't learned to speak Russian yet and find yourself in a difficult situation, you can ask hotel receptionists, guides, translators or any English-speaking people to help you get around and find your way back to the hotel or train station.In Russia’s big cities, you can buy a map or travel-guide in English with sightseeings. Russian transcription is found in most subways. If you get lost, you can turn to any policeman or passer-by for help. More and more people speak English in Russia with each passing year. 

6. ARE TOURIST PLACES CLOSED DURING PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN RUSSIA?There are a total of nine official holidays in Russia. All countries have their own set of holidays, but what’s different about Russia is that holidays last longer.Another unique feature of Russia’s holidays is that all markets and public places remain open, and people are seen thronging the streets. The entertainment centres and recreational activities can be enjoyed till late evening, making it a fun-filled holiday for Russians. 

7. DO I NEED TO CARRY MY ORIGINAL PASSPORT WITH ME AT ANY TIME DURING MY VACATION TRIP TO RUSSIA?Police have the authority to stop people and request their documents at any time without cause. Due to the possibility of random document checks by police, foreign citizens should carry their original passports, registered migration cards, and visas with them at all times. Failure to provide proper documentation can result in detention and/or heavy fines. It is not necessary for travellers to have either entry or itinerary points in the Russian Federation printed on their visas.

 

ENTRANCE AND CUSTOMS RULESBORDER CROSSING GUIDANCE

Make sure you have all the necessary documents, including your passport (which should be valid for at least 6 months after the end of your stay); tickets and documents for return or onward travel; a valid Russian visa; HIV Certificate (if required); medical insurance (if required); and any other required documents.Before leaving for Russia, make several copies of your passport and visa. Leave one at home with an emergency contact and keep an additional set with you separately from your actual passport. Having these copies makes replacing your passport and visa easier in the event of loss or theft. 

IMMIGRATION 

When you arrive, you will first pass through passport control, then customs. Forms need to be filled out for each of these processes. Migration cards will be handed out during your flight to Russia (if you are arriving by land or sea you will usually need to ask for a card at the immigration post). These cards consist of two identical parts printed either side-to-side or top-to-bottom. Both parts need to be filled out, in either English or Russian. 

The card is straightforward to complete, but here are some hints: 

  • Under ‘Given name(s)’, print both your first and middle names. 
  • Leave ‘Patronymic’ blank.Remember to list dates by day/month/year. 
  • For ‘Passport or other ID’, write ‘passport’ and fill out the number. 
  • For ‘Purpose of travel’, underline ‘Tourism’ or ‘Business’. 
  • Under ‘Name of host person or company’, write the name of company which issued your invitation. 
  • Make sure the dates indicated under ‘Duration of stay’ are from the current date to the departure date indicated in your visa. 

 

Having filled out the card, you will need to queue to go through passport control. Make sure you choose the line for foreign nationals. An immigration official will take your passport and migration card from you and stamp your passport and the card, removing one half of the card and placing the other half in your passport. It is very important that you do not lose your migration card. If you do, you will need to pay a heavy fine.CUSTOMSAfter going through immigration, you will need to retrieve your luggage and fill out a customs declaration form. Tourists normally have nothing to declare and customs officials do not collect forms from people passing through the green channel (for people with nothing to declare). If you do have something to declare, you should pass through the red channel, present what you are declaring and have your customs declaration stamped so that you can then take the item/s out of the country when you leave.

 Items that need to be declared include: 

  • Amounts of cash exceeding USD 10,000 (if you plan to leave the country with this money). 
  • Items of particular value, includingjewellery, artwork, or antiques. 
  • Musical instruments. 
  • Goods with a value exceeding EUR 2,000 and weighing over 35 kg. 
  • Weapons and drugs. 
  • Alcohol over 2 litres. 
  • Tobacco (more than 50 cigars, 100 cigarillos, 200 cigarettes, or 250 g of pipe tobacco). 

 

If you do not declare these items on entering the country, you may not be allowed to take them out with you. Money needs to be declared only if you are planning to leave the country with a large sum, as you cannot leave the country with more money than you brought in without paying taxes. Personal computers (if you bring only one) and other electronic devices do not need to be declared. Bringing in items such as drugs and weapons without permission, whether they are declared or not, may lead to your arrest.The customs declaration form is straightforward to complete and is usually available in several languages. 

DEPARTURE FROM RUSSIA 

Leaving is very similar to entering the country, except that you first go through customs and then passport control. When going through customs you will need to declare any artwork or antiques (including old books) you have purchased. In general terms, anything made before 1941 is considered to be an antique, and you will need special permission to take it out of the country. Anyone who filled out a customs declaration on arrival will need to pass through the red channel, presenting their declaration from when they arrived and the items declared. If you have lost your declaration, you may not be able to take those items out of the country. If you declared nothing on arrival and have bought nothing that you need to declare upon departure, you can pass through the green channel and proceed to check-in.Having checked in, you will need to go through passport control, where you will get an exit stamp put into your passport and your migration card will betaken from you. When departing, make sure you have a copy of your Russian visa registration, otherwise you may be fined. The fine is about USD 200, or RUB 5,000. Once you have passed through passport control, you will be in the international area. 

DON’T FORGET: 

  • Before booking your tickets, please check the start date of your visa. You cannot enter the country before this date. Before booking your return tickets, please check the expiry date of your visa. Travellers overstaying the validity of their visa, even by one day, will be prevented from leaving until their sponsor intervenes and requests a visa extension on their behalf. Make sure you pay attention to the visa regulations and your travel dates, and you should have no problems entering and exiting the country. 
  • Items of considerable value, such as diamond jewellery, should be noted on the customs declaration on entry. All such valuables must be re-exported, or an import duty will be charged. 
  • On arrival and departure all items go through an X-ray machine. 
  • Migration cards are available at all ports of entry from Russian passport control officials (border guards). The cards are normally distributed to passengers on incoming flights and are also available from racks at arrival points. Lost/stolen migration cards cannot be replaced.