Traveling around Russia is perfectly secure for tourists, especially when it comes to large cities. Russia is considered to be even safer than some parts of Europe.
The tense relationships between Russia and other countries never affect tourists. On the contrary, the government is constantly trying to attract foreign tourists (e.g., a new law introduced in January 2021 will facilitate getting an electronic Visa to Russia).
No matter where you go, it is essential to know some trivial safety concerns to protect your health and better practice your security. Here you may find a list of tips.
Be aware of pickpockets
Even if you are a very experienced traveler, you cannot eliminate theft threats, so please practice as much caution as you always when going on vacation.
It is pretty standard for the pickpockets to seek victims who are distracted by something or somebody. For example, street vendors outside the museums (e.g., Hermitage) always sell cheap souvenirs, making the museum exits even more crowded. It is a perfect place for pickpockets. As you get distracted by street vendors, you open your wallet (street vendors mainly accept cash) and demonstrate how much money you are carrying with you, making it even easier for pickpockets to choose a victim.
Thefts are likely to happen near top touristy attractions. For example, in St. Petersburg, you can meet them near the Church of the Savior on spilled blood, St Isaac's, the Hermitage, Peterhof Lower Garden, metro, or public transport, especially in the rush hours.
Keep your wallet in front pockets
If you keep your wallet in your pocket, do not use your back pocket for this purpose. Forget about your back pocket as if you do not have it at all. The safest of all is the right front pocket.
Whenever you appear in a crowded place, always control your bag or your backpack to secure your belonging. Make sure it will not be easy to grab your bag from your shoulder and then disappear.
keep your passport separately
Thieves are more likely to target your wallet. They do not need your passport. However, people tend to keep wallets and passports together, which means they may lose everything.
It would help if you were more than careful with your passport, as in the very unlikely case of pickpocketing and losing your passport, you will have to go to Moscow to get a replacement. Needless to say, how much bureaucracy is usually involved when it comes to documents, especially in Russia.
If this happened to you, before contacting the police try to check the litter bins in the area, as pickpockets often throw passports into them.
Besides, it would be great to have a printed or digital copy of your documents.
Be smart with your cash
It is always a good idea to prepare cash for your upcoming trip. But during the holiday try not to carry all your money with you at the same time. First of all, there is no point in doing that. Restaurants, museums usually take credit cards. In most cases, you may need some cash only to tip or to bargain. Besides, ATMs and banks are almost everywhere in the center of St Petersburg, and it is very safe to use them when you need to withdraw cash.
Leave your valuables at the hotel
If you decide to carry some jewelry or expensive gadgets with you to St Petersburg, make sure you leave them all in the hotel room whenever you do not use them. Theft from the hotel rooms rarely happens in Russia, especially if that is an excellent reputable hotel. It is less likely something will happen to your stuff if you leave it at the hotel. The hotel workers in Russia are always happy to assist you and provide you with the necessary security information.
Ignore the annoying people
Apart from rather annoying street vendors, you may also encounter those dressed as Russian Tsars and Tsarinas or, even worse, the characters from cartoons seeking out some reckless tourists. They want to get some money out of the tourists by nearly forcing them to take pictures together.
How much would they want from you? Up to 50 bucks for a couple of pictures. Crazy, is not it? Just smile at them and keep walking. Best of all is just ignoring them. They will stop following you at some point.
Use reputable taxi apps and taxi companies
Having a private driver with his car is probably the safest option of all. They do often speak English enough for a driver-passenger type of communication. It may not be the cheapest option possible (though, still very affordable).
However, your transport can be more than reasonable, but at the same time provided by a reliable company. We suggest that you download Uber Russia or Yandex Russia and choose at least comfort + class and make sure the driver has a good rating. Always put on your seatbelt, even if you are in the back of the car. Mind that taxi drivers do not speak English.
Hiring a driver would be great for long distances and full-day trips while getting a taxi is a good alternative for short rides within the city center.
Do not drink tap water
We strongly advise you not to drink tap water in Russia. Most hotels usually provide you with a free daily bottle of water. If one is not enough, bottled water is available everywhere: in supermarkets, little shops, in some open markets, newspaper stalls, museums. It is safe to buy bottled water around but make sure it is closed properly. Brushing teeth is OK with tap water, however.
Avoid food or drinks from street vendors
Do not buy food from street vendors. No matter how good it looks and how cheap it is. If talking about traditional Russian drinks and delicacies, purchase only labeled vodka and caviar and only from reliable places. As for caviar, remember, it is never cheap! Trying caviar and vodka from the street may result in severe food poisoning. Eat only in restaurants and cafes.
Trust people: locals always know better
Do not avoid communicating with Russians. Locals can give you lots of valuable tips and recommendations. They are always ready to help, even if they are busy, and your request distracts them and takes them out of what they are doing.
Russian people are kind and hospitable
Even though Russians often seem to be unfriendly at first sight, they only seem to be, mainly because they do not smile much (especially without a genuine reason). In fact, they do have charming, warming, and caring personalities.
Youngsters speak English well, so there will not be any issue about it. If you are lost or in trouble and fail to find someone who speaks English well enough to help you, look for the nearest hotel – they all speak English at the reception.
Talk to the hotel staff, your apartment host, your tour guide, or a nice waiter in the restaurant and ask them for advice if you have any doubts about going somewhere or trying something. Remember that one of the main reasons why we travel is to meet other people, after all!