While traveling in Russia, you must always have your passport on you, as police will conduct random checks. A photocopy will not be accepted and penalties apply if you don’t comply.
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 ID’s can use the identification to enter and exit Russia on multiple occasions along with other valid identification recognised 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 added bonus of soaking up some of the local culture and sights around Russia before or after they have had 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 6 months validity after the expiry of your FAN ID if you are only planning to stay in Russia during the World Cup.
Russia doesn’t muck around when it comes to visas so it’s important you have a valid visa and passport organised 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 consultate before departure for more information on how to apply for a Russian Visa.
You cannot obtain a visa on arrival and if you arrive without one, you will be detained, fined and deported. Your passport must have 6 months validity after the expiry of your visa and must be in good condition. Get your visa organised early before departure to minimise 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 the accommodation you are staying at e.g hotel. 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.
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 if you're staying in other accommodation, 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.
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 just to get you started once 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 in sight.
Public transport is free for all spectators for the World Cup carrying a FAN ID.
Most Russian cities have systems combining a number of different transport options, with bigger urban centres like Moscow and St Petersburg having a metro service too. 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.
Russia unfortunately 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 by a large portion of cross section of locals including public displays of affection.
Sadly, there have been cases of violence towards LGBTI people including torture and at worst, murder. Despite this, Moscow and St Petersburg have a lively gay and lesbian scene.
Foreigners from Asian or African countries have reported instances of harassment and assault towards them, mostly carried out by neo-Nazi ring wing types. Despite this, there are many expat Asians and Africans living, working and studying in Russia.
Where there are crowds, there are usually petty criminals. Russia, like other countries, 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 any of your ID.
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:
Standards of healthcare vary throughout Russia, and not all medical staff you encounter 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 with a new tattoo or sleep with that new Russia lover you met at a local bar after a game; Russia has an increasing issue with HIV/AIDS and there is also a chance you may contract Hepatitis B or other nasties.
And should you need an ambulance, dial 103.
Russia’s weather can be varied and unpredictable. One city can be sun kissed and another can be four seasons in one day. Pack clothing for all seasons so you don’t end up sitting there at a game like a drowned rat.
The World Cup will definitely have a party atmosphere especially at night and visitors will likely 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, be aware of potential drink spiking and avoid unlabelled bootleg vodka.
Disturbing public order and public intoxication are offenses in Russia which can see you fined, experiencing some Russian jail hospitality and deported.
As the World Cup will be spread 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 enquiries and maintain proper public behaviour.
Security at the stadiums will be tight including screening areas, bag searches and detectors. There are also restrictions in place for items allowed into the stadiums and it’s best to 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.
Football is a passionate game and it has passionate fans which sometimes can result in incidents of violence and hooliganism.
During the 2016 European Championship, things got a bit heated between Russian football fans and English football fans in Marseilles, France; with violent clashes before and after the game leaving several people injured, French riot police dispersing tear gas, property damage and the local metro system 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 pin point troublemakers is through the FAN ID system as it is needed to gain entry to games.
Always be aware of any security announcements and potential for violence to break out.
Your safety and those who you are with is the greatest priority. Get away if possible from the location 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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