Last Updated: December 4, 2009 15:20 EST
Valid: January 12, 2010 6:48 EST
1. RECENT UPDATES
The level of Travel Warning in this report has not changed.
Section 2 (public transportation) and section 9 (pedestrians) have been updated.
See our Global Issue page for information on the H1N1 Flu Virus.
2. WARNINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Exercise normal security precautions Exercise high degree of caution Avoid non-essential travel Avoid all travel
Most Canadian visitors to Russia do not experience problems.
Russian officials are screening travellers arriving on international flights in response to the H1N1 flu virus outbreak. Passengers displaying flu-like symptoms may be subject to further medical examination and quarantine. Moreover, travellers arriving from Ukraine by train are questioned and subject to a body temperature check and random medical examination.
Terrorist incidents, including those perpetrated by criminal gangs, can occur throughout Russia, including in Moscow. Foreigners have never been directly targeted, however, there is a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Canadians should be cautious in public places, particularly on public transportation, and at events where large numbers of people gather. They are further advised to monitor local news reports and to follow the advice of local authorities.
There has been a significant increase in the number of Canadians fined or detained for failing to provide proper documentation to Russian authorities. Except in cases of lapsed tourist visas and evacuation, intervention in entry and exit requirements by the Canadian consular officers is limited. Canadians should carry their original passport, entry/exit visa, and registered migration card at all times, due to the growing frequency of identity checks by Russian authorities. For further information, see Sections 4 and 8 below.
Exercise normal security precautions Exercise high degree of caution Avoid non-essential travel Avoid all travel
OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan as well as to the regions of Budyonnosky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kurskoy, part of the district of Stavropol Krai. Canadians in these areas should leave. Canadians contemplating travel in these areas despite this warning are taking serious and unwarranted risks. The ability of the Embassy of Canada in Moscow to render assistance is severely limited or non-existent.
Since the beginning of summer 2009, these regions of the North Caucasus have witnessed a new rise in terrorist attacks. Suicide bombings occur on a regular basis, mostly in the republics of Chechnya and Dagestan. Targeted assassinations have also taken place. Therefore, the security situation continues to be unstable and dangerous. Unexploded mines and munitions are widespread. Kidnapping for ransom is also common.
There are strict controls on the movement of foreigners and journalists. Special permission is required to enter Chechnya.
Foreigners are particularly vulnerable. Several journalists and local aid personnel have been killed or kidnapped. Well-marked aid convoys, driven by local staff, have been targeted and destroyed.
Exercise normal security precautions Exercise high degree of caution Avoid non-essential travel Avoid all travel
OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to the republics of Karachai-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria (including the Mount Elbrus region) and North Ossetia.
Due to the recent conflict in Georgia, ongoing tensions remain in regions bordering this country, which may have an impact on the security situation in the republics of Karachai-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia. The main border crossing is presently closed, and traversing at other crossing points is uncertain.
OFFICIAL REGISTRATION RECOMMENDATION: We offer a registration service for all Canadians travelling or living abroad. This service is provided so that we can contact and assist you in an emergency abroad, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, or inform you of a family emergency at home. Registration can be done on-line or by contacting a Canadian government office abroad. For more information, see our FAQs on Registration of Canadians Abroad.
3. SAFETY AND SECURITY
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. Travellers are responsible for their own personal safety. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely advice in its Travel Reports. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. Canada will assist Canadians in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at the individual’s personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources, which can limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability are high.
Violent crime occurs. Crime against foreigners is a serious problem. Harassment and attacks on foreigners, especially of Asian and African descent, are prevalent. Some victims have died in the attacks. An increase of these attacks is noticeable around April 20 of every year. Canadians should exercise extreme caution in crowds and places frequented by skinhead groups, including open markets.
Food and drinks should not be accepted from strangers, and should not be left unattended in bars, nightclubs or restaurants. Only bottled drinks should be ordered in order to maintain control of the situation. Cases of drugging followed by robbery and assault have occurred.
Pickpocketing, assaults, and robberies occur frequently and are often committed by groups of children and teenagers. Many techniques are used to distract the victims, including those that encourage people to be helpful. If such situation occurs, the best option is to walk away quickly. Travelling in groups with reputable tour agencies may reduce the risks of being targeted. Vulnerable areas include underground walkways, public transportation, tourist sites, restaurants, transportation hubs, markets, and hotel rooms and residences, even when locked and occupied. There are reports of criminals posing as police officers, particularly in St. Petersburg. “Real” policemen wear a visible personal ID number on their uniforms. To reduce the probability of becoming a victim, it is recommended to avoid showing signs of affluence and to ensure personal belongings, passports, and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Bogus checkpoints may also be set up in rural areas in order to commit robbery. Sometimes, traffic police can stop motorists to collect on-the-spot cash bogus fines.
It is advisable to use only registered taxis and to refuse that strangers share the taxi. The price should be negotiated before getting in the taxi. While travelling by train, it is preferable to store valuables in a safe place and not leaving the compartment unattended. The door should be secured from the inside.
Organized criminal groups remain active throughout Russia, especially in main cities. Credit card fraud is one type of fraud. Extortion and corruption are common in the business environment, including foreign businesses. Protection money may be demanded under threat of serious violence. Extortion attempts should be reported to Russian authorities and officials at the Embassy of Canada in Moscow.
Internet Relationships Frauds
Fraud has been reported over the Internet by victims developing friendships or romantic relationships and becoming entangled in financial issues. Canadians should remain vigilant and be aware that neither the Embassy of Canada nor Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is in a position to help recover lost funds or property in such cases.
Rallies, protests and demonstrations sometimes occur in Russia. Canadians should avoid all crowds as they may turn violent without warning.
General Safety Information
Electricity shortages often occur in regions of the Far-East.
The main emergency phone numbers are 01 for fire, 02 for police, and 03 for ambulance.
4. ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. All countries or regions have special requirements for persons intending to reside for extended periods (usually more than 90 days) or who plan to work, study, or engage in non-tourist activities. To obtain information on specific entry requirements, contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) to be visited. Violations of entry and exit requirements may result in serious penalties.
The following information on entry and exit requirements has been confirmed with the Russian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is the traveller's responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Russian Federation and its consulates for up-to-date information.
A valid Canadian passport is required for Canadians intending to visit Russia. The passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected departure from Russia.
Russian Visa Requirements and Registration
It is imperative that Canadians contact a Russian Embassy or Consulate to make sure they are aware of all entry and exit requirements pertaining to their stay in Russia (prior to arrival, in Russia and upon exiting the country). Many steps and details have to be met in order to comply with Russian entry and exit requirements, which can change on short notice.
Russian Tourist Visa: Required (for those staying in commercial accommodations)
Russian Guest Visa: Required (for those staying in private accommodations)
Russian Business Visa: Required
Russian Student Visa: Required
Russian Transit Visa: Required (including for Belarus)
Russian Exit Visa: Required
Processing time for all types of visas requires at least 15 working days.
As several cities and regions are closed in Russia, travellers should seek authorities’ permission prior to entering a closed city or region. Failure to do so may result in arrest, fines and/or deportation. In their visa application, travellers should list all the cities they intend to visit and register with the authorities within three working days of their arrival at each destination.
Canadians are required to carry originals of all their travel documents at all times, such as passport, entry/exit visas, registered migration card. Failure to do so may result in heavy fines and/or detention. Replacing these documents is extremely difficult and can significantly delay return to Canada.
Russian Tourist Visa
Sponsorship through a travel agent is required. Travel agents work with local travel agencies/companies in Russia, who act as sponsors for tourist visas. Extensions are not permitted. Holders of expired visas face heavy fines upon departure. In cases of expired tourist visas, lost or stolen Canadian passports, only the visa-sponsoring travel agency is authorised to apply for a new tourist visa on your behalf. Canadians are also required to stay at a hotel. The hotel will register the visa (generally for a fee). If a Canadian wishes to stay in a private accommodation, they must obtain a “guest visa”.
Russian Guest Visa
Canadians who wish to stay in private accommodations must obtain a "guest visa". The host must obtain an official invitation (Priglashenie) from the local UFMS (local Russian visa and passport office) and send it to the guest in Canada. The guest must bring the invitation and his or her passport to a Russian Embassy or Consulate, where the visa will be issued.
Russian Business Visa
Sponsorship by a Russian individual or organization is required. It may take up to three months for the host to obtain approval for sponsorship from the Ministry of the Interior. Any subsequent changes (i.e., replacement or extension) to the original visa must be done by the sponsor. A business visa is not a work permit.
Foreign journalists should be aware that they cannot work in Russia without a special "accreditation" issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Russia. The accreditation can only be obtained through a formal request addressed to the Press Office of the MFA by the Embassy of Canada in Moscow regardless of who is the inviting Russian sponsor. Journalists should submit, well ahead of planned travel and prior to their Russian visa request:
- a copy of their passport
- precise travel dates to cities where they wish to do reporting,
- the invitation letter of the Russian sponsor,
- the events they wish to cover,
- their Canadian journalist I.D.,
- a detailed description of the subject matter of their proposed reporting and
- indicate at which Russian Embassy or consulate they will be applying for their visa.
Any journalist wishing to travel to controlled areas (such as Chechnya) will need a second separate permission for entering the area.
Russian Exit Visa
Canadians wishing to leave or re-enter Russia during an extended stay require an entry-exit visa, which must be obtained by the sponsor after the arrival. The Embassy of Canada cannot act as a sponsor.
Health Entry Requirements
All foreigners planning to travel or reside in Russia for longer than three months must provide a medical certificate of a negative test for infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The certificate must: a) contain passport particulars (full name, date of birth, passport number, and country of residence) and HIV test information (date of test, test results, signatures of the doctor who performed the test and the person examined); b) indicate the length of the intended stay in Russia; and c) be valid for three months from the date of testing.
Russian Migration Card
A migration card must be completed upon arrival in Russia. They are usually distributed on flights and trains entering Russia or at points of entry. The cards sometimes run out, even at major international airports. It is the traveller's responsibility to obtain a migration card and fill it out. Holders of multiple-entry visas must fill out a new card every time they enter the country. Part "A" of the card is deposited with immigration officials upon arrival. Part "B" is held throughout the stay and should be shown to the police, together with the passport and registered visa, upon request and must be submitted to border officials upon departure. The migration card is also necessary to register at hotels. Loss of cards can result in fines or serious departure delays. Travellers must register their migration card within three working days of their arrival in Russia. The three days include the days of arrival and departure.
Customs Declaration Form
Upon arrival in Russia, travellers must fill out a customs declaration form, go through the red customs line, and have the form stamped by a customs official. Without the stamp, any undeclared currency and valuables, including items that could be considered antique, may be confiscated upon departure. Furthermore, currency exceeding the amount stated on the declaration form will be confiscated if the traveller has not obtained an official bank receipt authorizing the clearance of these sums. The declaration form must be kept until departure. Upon departure, a second customs declaration form must be filled out and the two forms must be presented to a customs official. Individuals who fail to declare in writing any amount of currency in their possession may be detained and face criminal charges leading to incarceration, in addition to the confiscation of undeclared currency and valuables.
Departure from Russia
Canadians must confirm their departure of the country with Russian authorities within the two days following their arrival. These steps can be taken by your host or your employer. Failure to register will result in a fine, and travellers could experience problems when trying to re-enter Russia at a future date.
See Sections 8 and 9.
A Certificate of Canadian Citizenship is not a travel document. A Canadian passport is the only reliable and universally accepted travel and identification document available to Canadians for the purpose of international travel. Canadian citizens returning to Canada who present other documents, such as a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, birth certificate, provincial driver’s licence, or foreign passport, instead of a Canadian passport, may face delays or be denied boarding by transport companies.
Selling, altering, or allowing another person to use your passport is a criminal offence. It could lead to the laying of charges and imprisonment if convicted. It could also lead to the denial of future passport services.
Special and diplomatic passport holders should verify all visa requirements for this and other destinations, as they may differ from those that apply to regular passport holders.
Any adult travelling with children may be required to show evidence of parental/custodial and/or access rights. Foreign and Canadian authorities may also require evidence that the adult has the consent of the parents, legal guardian, and/or the court to travel with the children. Some countries or regions may not permit children to enter or, in some cases, leave the country or region without proper documentation such as a letter of consent or a court order.
5. CANADIAN GOVERNMENT CONTACTS
You can obtain consular assistance and further consular information at the following addresses:
Russia - MOSCOW, Embassy of Canada
Address: 23 Starokonyushenny Pereulok, Moscow, 119002, Russia
Tel.: 7 (495) 925-6000
Fax: 7 (495) 925-6004 or 7 (495) 925-6025
Russia - VLADIVOSTOK, Consulate of Canada
Address: 306-46 Verhneportovaya, Vladivostok 600003, Russia
Tel.: 7 (4232) 49-11-88
Fax: 7 (4232) 49-11-88
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in Moscow and follow the instructions; or you can call toll-free the Emergency Operations Centre at 810-800-201-41012 (this number may not be accessible from all locations) or collect call (613-996-8885).
For calls originating inside Russia the “7” should be replaced by an “8”.
6. TRAVEL HEALTH
The Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO) report on disease outbreaks that occur throughout the world. For the latest travel health advisories and related information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Travel Health Web site.
The Public Health Agency of Canada strongly recommends that your travel plans include contacting a travel medicine clinic or physician six to eight weeks before departure. Based on your individual risk assessment, a health care professional can determine your need for immunizations and/or preventive medication and advise you on precautions to avoid disease. Travellers are reminded to ensure that their routine (childhood) immunizations (e.g., tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and measles) are up to date.
Standards of medical care may differ from those in Canada. Treatment may be expensive, and payment in advance may be required. Travellers are advised to arrange for medical insurance prior to departure. Prescription medications should be kept in the original container and packed in carry-on luggage.
The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that travellers who become sick or feel unwell on their return to Canada seek a medical assessment with their personal physician. Travellers should inform their physician that they have been travelling or living outside of Canada.
7. ADDITIONAL HEALTH INFORMATION
There has been an increased incidence of rabies in the Moscow region.
Tap water should be avoided.
Tick-borne encephalitis occurs in wooded areas from spring to autumn.
Standards of medical care may differ from those in Canada. It is recommended to carry a sufficient supply of medications, as shortages of basic medical supplies are common outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. A few quality facilities exist in major cities and usually require cash payment upon admission.
8. LAWS AND CUSTOMS
You are subject to local laws. A serious violation may lead to a jail sentence. The sentence will be served in local prisons.
Canadians arrested or detained have the right to contact the responsible Canadian government office (embassy, high commission, etc.) listed in Section 5 above. Arresting officials have a responsibility to assist you in doing so. Canadian consular officials can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
The procedures required in legal proceedings or police investigations may be different from the procedures in force in the Canadian legal system. Canadians wishing to undertake such proceedings can expect to face long delays and additional efforts in order to resolve their case. The Government of Canada cannot intervene in ongoing legal proceedings in other countries or regions, unless requested to do so by local authorities. Such requests are rare.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. There is zero tolerance for drinking and driving.
Homosexual activity is legal, however, caution is advised when displaying affection in public as intolerance still remains.
Traffic police have the right to stop motorists and impose fines for traffic violations only. Although they can also conduct identity checks on foreign pedestrians they have no authority to impose fines. The same is true of police in the underground METRO. Only the special police of the Federal Migration Bureau have the authority to remand, arrest and impose fines on improperly documented foreigners. If stopped in the street and requested to pay a fine, you should ask the officer's name, ID and ask to contact the Embassy. The Embassy of Canada can provide assistance, including by raising such incidents with the appropriate authorities.
Many Canadians have been subject to identity checks by police, particularly when travelling by subway, train, and bus. Failure to provide proper documentation can result in detention or heavy fines. Photocopies are not acceptable.
Photographs and Films
Photos of railways, bridges, dams, airports, train-stations, police stations, the underground Metro system as well as all official buildings are prohibited. Incidents have occurred at market-places where Canadians have taken photos of market stalls and found themselves remanded to the market police authorities. Cameras, films and all other equipment may be confiscated and fines payable in cash on the spot may be imposed. Any traveller in this situation should contact the Embassy.
Russia has very strict rules on the importation of medication: certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs that are common in Canada may be prohibited in Russia, and large quantities of any medicine will receive scrutiny. Travellers taking prescription medicine should only carry enough for personal use, as well as bringing their prescriptions.
The import and use of electronic equipment are strictly controlled. For example, foreigners have faced charges of espionage for possessing improperly certified GPS (Global Positioning System) devices, such as those used for geological mapping.
A certificate is required for foreigners wishing to export items that have an old appearance (prior to 1945) or that have a cultural value. There are reports of thorough baggage searches by customs officials; foreigners can be arrested, if found with such items. Certificates can be obtained from the Ministry of Culture (http://www.russianculture.ru/defengl.asp).
For the most up-to-date information on customs, Canadians should contact the nearest Russian Embassy or Consulate, or consult the Federal Customs Service website (http://www.customs.ru/en/) prior to departure.
Dual nationality is not recognized. This policy may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. For more information, see our publication Dual Citizenship: What Travellers Should Know.
Dual nationals must enter and leave Russia on a Russian passport. No entry or exit visa will be issued to those travelling on a Canadian passport. If the Russian passport expires prior to travel, Russian authorities in Canada may extend it for entry purposes only. If the passport expires during the stay in Russia, a new one will have to be issued before departing Russia.
Persons entering Russia with a "repatriation certificate" issued by Russian authorities in Canada or elsewhere may not be allowed to leave by simply showing a Canadian passport. This certificate is valid only for one-way travel, i.e., when returning to Russia.
An old USSR passport can be used to enter Russia, however, a new Russian passport will have to be issued before departing Russia.
It is important to note that the renewal of a Russian passport may take several months.
Men between 18 and 27 years-old may be subject to military service. They should seek advice from the nearest Russian embassy or consulate.
Child Sex Tourism
There are harsh penalties for engaging in sexual acts with a minor (the age of consent is 18). In addition, Canadians may be prosecuted at home for sexually exploiting children while abroad. Please see our publication Child Sex Tourism: It's a Crime for further information on the risks of committing this form of sexual abuse abroad.
9. TRAVEL AND CURRENCY
Road conditions vary and are often poor outside major cities. Traffic regulations are mostly ignored. Road accidents are common, and pedestrians should be particularly careful as they are often implicated. In the event of an accident, the vehicle should not be moved until the police arrive, even if the car is obstructing the traffic. Driving only during daylight hours is recommended.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended.
Air travel to remote locations can be unreliable. Some domestic carriers may not meet international safety standards. Canadians are advised to check if their airline company meets these standards before booking their ticket. Fatal accidents have occurred.
See our FAQ on transportation in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Special Permits/ Restricted Areas
Some areas in Russia, particularly in Siberia and the Russian Far East, are closed to foreigners unless they obtain government permission. For travel outside major cities, it is advisable to contact local authorities to obtain more information. Canadians should note that their visa should include an itinerary in order to avoid delays. Some locations must be specifically mentioned in the visa. An extra fee may be charged to have them included. Upon arrival, registration with local authorities may also be required.
The currency is the Russian rouble (RUB). Travellers must declare amounts exceeding US$10,000 at border crossings and may have to provide information on the origin of the money and its intended use. It is illegal to pay for goods and services in foreign currency. U.S. dollars can be exchanged at numerous exchange counters. Carry crisp bills, as well-worn or used U.S. banknotes may not be accepted. Credit cards, traveller's cheques, and bank cards should not be relied upon as methods of payment or to obtain cash. Traveller's cheques can be cashed at only a few locations in Moscow (e.g., American Express offices). Credit cards and traveller's cheques are not widely accepted outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. ABMs are common in main cities. Credit card and ABM card fraud has increased. Users should pay careful attention when their cards are being handled by others during payment processing.
Check with your bank for information on automated banking machine (ABM) services outside Canada. You can also check the VISA ATM locator page or the MasterCard ATM locator page for the addresses of ABMs around the world. Verify with your financial institution whether your bank card can be used with ABMs abroad. Some countries use chip and/or personal identification number (PIN) technology for credit cards. Check with your bank to find out if your credit card will be accepted abroad. Credit cards and debit cards should be used with caution due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity. ABMs should be used during business hours inside a bank, supermarket, or large commercial building. Leave copies of your card numbers with a family member in case of emergency.
10. NATURAL DISASTERS AND CLIMATE
Parts of Russia are prone to seismic or volcanic activity, such as Chechnya, the Kuril Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Spring flooding and summer forest fires occur throughout Siberia and parts of Western Russia.
11. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Returning to Canada
Health and Travel Insurance: Do not rely on your provincial health plan to cover all expenses if you get sick or are injured while abroad. It may cover nothing or only a portion of the costs. Understand the terms of your supplementary insurance policy. Some credit cards offer their holders health and travel insurance. Do not assume the card alone provides adequate coverage. Carry details of your insurance with you. Also, tell your travel agent, a friend or relative, and/or travelling companion how to contact your insurer. Get a detailed invoice from the doctor or hospital before you return to Canada. Always submit original receipts for any medical services or prescriptions received abroad. Most insurance companies will not accept copies or faxes.
Cancelling a scheduled trip abroad could cost you money. Before cancelling a scheduled trip, you should discuss the matter with your travel agent, your travel insurer, or the airline. The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller.
Adoption: Provincial and territorial authorities in Canada are responsible for authorizing international adoptions. If you are thinking of adopting a child abroad, you must first obtain information about the adoption regulations of the province or territory in which the child will reside. While adoption is a provincial/territorial responsibility, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is responsible for allowing an adopted child entry into Canada. Entry can be refused if the child does not hold the appropriate immigrant visa. A visa may be denied, even if the adoption has already been completed. For more information contact CIC at 1 888 242-2100 (in Canada only), check the CIC Web site or contact your provincial or territorial government.