Our Top 10 Safety Tips for the 2018 Russia World Cup

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia will draw thousands to experience the excitement and atmosphere of the World Game. Here are our top 10 tips to ensure your visit to Russia is a safe one.

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April 2018 - Russia Travel Safety Update

Following the expulsion of Russian diplomats by several countries (in response to the biochemical poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in England in March 2018) government travel advisories are warning tourists of possible tensions and anti-Western sentiment in Russia ahead of the World Cup. the advice is to monitor the situation closely and keep up to date with news and travel alerts. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid protests and commenting on the political situation.

1. Russia Visa Requirements & Other ID

While traveling in Russia, you must always carry your passport as police will conduct random checks. A photocopy will not be accepted and penalties apply if you don’t comply.

World Cup Fan ID

If you're heading to the World Cup games, you're in luck; your FAN ID is not just your entry into game venues, it’s also your visa into Russia.

Travelers with FAN IDs can use it to enter and exit Russia on multiple occasions, along with other valid identification recognized by Russian authorities. Spectators also get free public transport on match days during the World Cup.

The FAN ID is valid for 10 days prior to the start of the first World Cup match and 10 days after the final World Cup match. This gives travelers the opportunity to explore more of Russia before or after their football fix.

If you plan to stay in Russia before or after the valid FAN ID time period, you will need to apply for a visa. Don’t outstay your welcome, as severe penalties apply. Your passport must also have six months' validity after the expiry of your FAN ID if you are only planning to stay in Russia during the World Cup.

Visas for Russia

Russia doesn’t muck around when it comes to visas, so it’s important you have a valid visa and passport organized before you travel. There are a small number of countries which don’t require one – however most travelers will – so check your country’s travel advisory and local Russian consulate for more information on how to apply for a Russian Visa, before departure.

You cannot obtain a visa on arrival and, if you arrive without one, you will be detained, fined or deported. Your passport must have six months' validity after the expiry of your visa, and must be in good condition. Get your visa organized early before departure to minimize the risk of delays and time to fix any potential mistakes.

You will need a letter of invitation for your visa; this is generally obtained from your accommodation. Sometimes there is usually a small fee involved. Check your visa when you receive it, you won’t be able to travel on it if the information is not correct and you won’t be able to change it in Russia.  

Migration Cards and Registration

Upon arrival, you'll receive an electronic migration card and it’s important to keep this with your passport as you will need it to exit Russia. You'll also need to register within 24 hours each time you move to a new city within Russia.

Most hotels and guest houses will do this for their guests; however, you'll need to check with the landlord or operator. It's your responsibility to make sure you've been registered by the accommodation provider. Smaller hotels and private apartment operators may charge you a small fee.

If an accommodation provider refuses to process your registration (legally they have to), check out this advice from Irena at Russiable on what to do if you end up stuck in that unfortunate situation.

2. Money in Russia

The local currency in Russia is the rouble, and if you plan to use cash, you'll become good friends with it. It's illegal to pay for general transactions in Russia using any other cash but the rouble.

You can buy roubles before departure, and it’s probably a good idea to have some on you when you arrive. If you're planning to exchange once you get to Russia, you should only use US dollars or euros, and only change at reputable foreign exchange outlets located in hotels or banks.

It's illegal to change money via street vendors. If you plan to withdraw money from an ATM, it’s best to do it during the day at a bank. Plus, if you're paying by card, always keep your card safe.

3. Getting Around Safely in Russia

Public transport is free for all spectators for the World Cup carrying a FAN ID.

Most Russian cities have a number of transport options, with bigger urban centres like Moscow and St Petersburg also having a metro. Public transport in the major Russian cities is easy to use, cheap and runs frequently. However, there is some fun to be had with deciphering the many signs written in Cyrillic and getting cosy with the locals during peak hour.

Whether you're walking around or catching transport, always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings. Catch a licensed taxi rather than walking alone where possible especially at night.

4. Discrimination & Racism in Russia

Russia has an issue with discrimination and racism especially if you are LGBTI and/or are of Asian or African descent. While homosexuality is legal in Russia, it is still frowned upon, including public displays of affection.

There have been cases of violence towards LGBTI people including torture and murder. Despite this, Moscow and St Petersburg have a lively gay and lesbian scene.

Asian and African visitors have reported instances of harassment and assault, mostly carried out by neo-Nazi types. Despite this, there are many expat Asians and Africans living, working and studying in Russia.

5. Russian Petty Crime & Scams

Where there are crowds, there are often petty criminals. Russia has its share of pickpockets and scammers; keep your valuables close to you at all times and be aware of your surroundings especially in crowds and while on public transport.

Be wary of authorities asking to see your papers or ID. There are crooks who'll pose as police in an attempt to extort money from you while holding your items to ransom. Always ask for identification before handing over anything.

6. Digital Safety While Traveling

Identity theft and fraud are common crimes against travelers, but there are things you can do to keep your information and devices safe from prying eyes and hackers:

  • Make sure all your devices have the latest software and security updates. Turn off any file sharing.
  • Avoid using public WiFi where possible. They are rarely secure and criminals see them as ripe pickings to get your important information. Avoid accessing online banking on public WiFi.
  • Turn off the WiFi signal to your phone when not in use; same applies with Bluetooth.
  • Use a VPN if possible when jumping online.
  • Make sure your device has a tracking app on it where possible. If in the event it is stolen, you may be able to see where it is. Another handy tool is a wiping application. If your device falls into the wrong hands, you can remotely wipe all the data.
  • Use strong passwords and/or biometric (fingerprint) protect your devices. Saves a thief gaining instant access to your information.
  • Consider taking a 'burner' phone you don't care about with you, that way if it is stolen your information is safe on your main phone back home.

7. Staying Healthy & Weather

Standards of healthcare vary throughout Russia, and not all medical staff will speak English. While there are no required vaccinations for Russia, it’s worth being up to date with the routine ones and also getting a Hepatitis A shot.

It’s also not a good idea to let your love of football run skin deep by getting a new tattoo or sleeping with that new Russia lover you met at a local bar after a game; Russia has increasing rates of HIV/AIDS, and there is also a chance you may contract Hepatitis B or other diseases.

if you need an ambulance, dial 103.

Russia’s weather can be varied and unpredictable. One city can be sun kissed and another can experience four seasons in one day. Pack clothing for all seasons.

8. Nightlife Safety

The World Cup will have a party atmosphere especially at night, and visitors will make good use of the fan zones, restaurants, bars and clubs across the 11 event cities in Russia.

It’s a great way to let your hair down and maybe make some new friends along the way. Enjoy your night out responsibly and safely by avoiding intoxication, being aware of potential drink spiking and avoiding unlabelled bootleg vodka.

Disturbing public order and public intoxication are offenses in Russia which can see you fined, jailed or deported.

9. Safety During the World Cup

As the World Cup will be hosted across 11 cities, safety will be a major task for event organisers and Russian authorities. Tourist police will be present in central Moscow where most fans will be based. The officers working in this special division of the Moscow Police speak many languages and will be able to assist tourists with inquiries and maintain proper public behavior.

Security at the stadiums will be tight including screening areas, bag searches, and detectors. There are also restrictions in place regarding what items are allowed into the stadiums, and avoid taking a bag as it will be taken from you until the game is finished.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the stadium so you don’t get trapped in the security queue and miss part of the game. Oh, and leave the vuvuzela at home – they aren’t allowed in.

The number for emergencies in Russia is 112.

10. Avoiding Football Fan Violence

Football is a passionate game and has passionate fans, which sometimes can result in incidents of violence and hooliganism.

During the 2016 European Championship, things got heated between Russian and English football fans in Marseilles, France. There were violent clashes, before and after the game, leaving several people injured, French riot police dispersing tear gas, property damage and the local metro system was shut down.

In the lead up to this World Cup, Russian authorities have visited known football hooligans and threatened them with jail time. One of the ways authorities will be able to pinpoint troublemakers is through the FAN ID system as it is needed to gain entry to games.

Always listen to security announcements and be aware of the potential for violence to break out.

Your safety and those who you are with is the greatest priority. Get away from the location if possible or, if you are stuck in a crowd, go with the flow. 

Check out our article on what to do if you find yourself caught up in a bit of argy-bargy between football fans, and what to do after the event has happened.

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