Travel Consideration: Russia

.Russia, Russian Federation Official Info

Listing # RA-1024489


Details of Travel Consideration: Russia, .Russia, Russian Federation Official Info
Details for Travel Consideration: Russia

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Russia is a nation undergoing profound political and economic change. Recent economic difficulties include many bank closures. Travelers cannot access money easily, if at all, via credit card advances or wire transfers even at major hotels. While good tourist facilities exist in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other large cities, they are not developed in most of Russia, and many goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Travel to the Caucasus region of Russia is dangerous. The Department of State recommends Americans not travel to Chechyna and adjoining areas and if they are there, to depart immediately. Travelers may need to cross great distances, especially in Siberia and the Far East, to obtain services from Russian government organizations, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, or one of the three consulates in Russia: St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok.



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All Americans traveling to or transiting through Russia must have a passport and visa. The Russian visa, unlike that of most other countries, is considered an entry and exit visa. Travelers who arrive without a passport or entry visa may be subject to large fines, days of processing requirements imposed by Russian officials, and/or immediate departure by route of entry (at the traveler's expense).

Visas, other than for transit purposes, are issued based on support from a Russian individual or organization - a sponsor. It is very important to know who the sponsor is (usually a tour agency or hotel) and how to contact the sponsor, as Russian law allows only the sponsor to apply for replacement, extension, or changes to your visa. The U.S. Embassy cannot act as a sponsor. Travelers should verify their sponsor before departure from the United States.

All foreigners must have an exit visa to depart Russia. For short stays, the exit visa is issued along with the entry visa and is only valid until the date listed on the visa. All travelers who spend more than three days in Russia must register their visa through their hotel or sponsor. Visitors who overstay their visa's validity, even for one day, or who neglect to register their visa, may be prevented from leaving. Errors in dates or other information on the visa can occur, and it is helpful to have someone who reads Russian check the visa before departing the U.S.

Any person applying for a visa for a stay of more than three months must present a certificate showing that the individual is HIV-negative. The certificate must contain the applicant's passport data, proposed length of stay in Russia, blood test results for HIV infection, including date of the test, signature of the doctor conducting the test, medical examination results, diagnostic series, and seal of the hospital/medical organization. The certificate must be in both Russian and English and valid for three months from the date of medical examination and blood test.

It is not necessary for travelers to have either entry or itinerary points in the Russian Federation printed on their visas. All travelers must continue to list on the visa application all areas to be visited and subsequently register with authorities at each destination. If travelers in Russia experience entry and exit visa problems they and/or their sponsor must contact the nearest Russian visa and passport office (OVIR) for assistance. Due to the possibility of random document checks by police, U.S. citizens should carry their passports and registered visas or photocopies thereof. Failure to provide proper documentation can result in detention and/or heavy fines.

There are a number of closed cities throughout Russia. Travelers who attempt to enter these cities without prior authorization are subject to fines, court hearings and/or deportation. Travelers should check with their sponsor, hotel or the nearest Russian visa and passport office (OVIR) before travelling to unfamiliar cities and towns.

For information concerning entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Russian Embassy, Consular Section, 2641 Tunlaw Rd., NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel (202) 939-8907; website), or the Consulates in New York, San Francisco, or Seattle.

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Due to continued civil and political unrest throughout most of the Caucasus region of Russia, the Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the areas of Chechnya, all areas bordering Chechnya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Stavropol, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya and Kabardino-Balkariya. United States Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to these areas and American citizens residing in these areas should depart immediately as the safety of Americans and other foreigners cannot be effectively guaranteed. Throughout the region, local criminal gangs routinely kidnap foreigners, including Americans, for ransom. U.S. citizens have disappeared in Chechnya and remain unaccounted for. In December 1998, four foreign hostages were decapitated by their captors. Close contacts with the local population do not guarantee safety. The U.S. Government's ability to assist Americans who travel to the Northern Caucasus is extremely limited.

Acts of terrorism, including bombings, continue in large Russian cities. These bombings have occurred at Russian government buildings, hotels, tourist sites, residential complexes and on public transportation. While Americans have not been singled out in these attacks, travelers should be alert for unusual behavior, unattended luggage in public areas, and other common indicators that something out of the ordinary is in progress.

Travelers should be aware that in Russia certain activities, which would be normal business activities in the United States and other countries, are still either illegal under the Russian legal code or are considered suspect by the FSB (Federal Security Service). Americans should be particularly aware of potential risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, and production facilities or other high technology, government-related institutions. Any misunderstanding or dispute in such transactions can attract the involvement of the security services and lead to investigation or prosecution for espionage. Rules governing the treatment of information remain poorly defined. During the last several years, there have been a number of such incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. While the U.S. Embassy has had consular access to these individuals, arrested Americans faced lengthy sentences -- sometimes in deplorable conditions -- if convicted. In the most recent case, the arrested American's health suffered and he has not been allowed to receive independent medical evaluations or treatment despite the Embassy's efforts.

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Crime against foreigners is a problem, especially in major cities. Pickpocketings, assaults, and robberies occur frequently and at any time or place. The most vulnerable areas include underground walkways and the subway, overnight trains, train stations, airports, markets, tourist attractions, restaurants, hotel rooms, and residences, even when locked or occupied. Groups of children are known to assault and rob foreigners on city streets or underground walkways. Foreigners who have been drinking alcohol are especially vulnerable to assault and robbery in or around nightclubs or bars, or on their way home. Robberies may occur in taxis shared with strangers. Travelers have found it safer to travel in groups.

There has been an increase in the harassment of and attacks on foreigners particularly those of Asian and African descent by "skinhead" groups, individuals, and, in a few cases, by local militia in some urban centers. Travelers, particularly those of Asian and African descent, are urged to exercise caution in crowded and places frequented by "skinhead" groups, including the various "rynoks" or open markets in all cities.

Demonstrations are frequently held in front of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates. While these demonstrations have been peaceful and controlled, it is best to avoid such gatherings.

Extortion and corruption are common in the business environment. Organized criminal groups target foreign businesses in many cities and have been known to demand protection money under threat of serious violence. Many Western firms hire security services, which have improved their overall security, although this is no guarantee. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable. Since the mid 1990's, several American business people have been attacked, kidnapped, and even killed. U.S. citizens are encouraged to report all extortion attempts to the Russian authorities and to inform consular officials at the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

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Medical care is usually far below Western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies. Access to the few quality facilities that exist in major cities usually requires cash payment at Western rates upon admission. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates maintain lists of such facilities and English-speaking doctors. Many resident Americans travel to the West for virtually all of their medical needs; such travel can be very expensive if undertaken under emergency conditions.

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While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Russia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Inclement weather and lack of routine maintenance of roads and vehicles make road conditions throughout Russia highly variable. Drivers and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution to avoid accidents, which are commonplace. Travelers may which to take extra precautions when hiring local drivers. Heavy alcohol consumption is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Traffic police sometimes stop motorists to extract cash "fines," and bandits occasionally prey on travelers.

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature.

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After extensive joint reviews with the Federal Aviation Authority of Russia (FAAR), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded under its International Aviation (IASA) Program that the FAAR oversees and licenses Russia's air carriers in accordance with international safety oversight provisions.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Air travel within Russia can at times be unreliable. Flight schedules are sometimes subject to last minute changes. Russian-based airlines are striving to improve the quality of service although they generally fall short of western standards.

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After extensive joint reviews with the Federal Aviation Authority of Russia (FAAR), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded under its International Aviation (IASA) Program that the FAAR oversees and licenses Russia's air carriers in accordance with international safety oversight provisions.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Air travel within Russia can at times be unreliable. Flight schedules are sometimes subject to last minute changes. Russian-based airlines are striving to improve the quality of service although they generally fall short of western standards.

GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEMS (GPS)

The importation and use of Global Positioning Systems and other radio electronic devices are subject to special rules and regulations in Russia. In general, mapping and natural resource data collection activities associated with normal, commercial, and scientific collaboration may result in seizure of the equipment and/or arrest of the user. The penalty for using a GPS device in a manner which is determined to have compromised Russian national security can be a prison term of ten to twenty years. In December 1997, a U.S. citizen was imprisoned in Rostov-na-Donu for ten days on charges of espionage for using a GPS device to check the efficacy of newly-installed telecommunications equipment. He and his company believed the GPS had been legally imported and were not aware that Russian authorities considered nearby government installations secret.

No traveler should seek to import or use GPS equipment in any manner unless it has been properly and fully documented by the traveler in accordance with the instructions of the Glavgossvyaznadzor (Main Inspectorate in Communications) and is declared in full on a customs declaration at the point of entry to the Russian Federation.

All radio electronic devices brought into Russia must have a certificate from Glavgossvyaznadzor (Main Inspectorate in Communications) of the Russian Federation. This includes all emitting, transmitting, and receiving equipment such as GPS devices, cellular telephones, satellite telephones, and other kinds of radio electronic equipment. Excluded from the list are consumer electronic devices such as AM/FM radios.

CELLULAR TELEPHONES

To obtain permission to bring in a cellular telephone, an agreement for service from a local cellular provider in Russia is required. That agreement and a letter of guarantee to pay for the cellular service must be sent to Glavgossvyaznadzor along with a request for permission to import the telephone. Based on these documents, a certificate is issued. This procedure is reported to take two weeks. Without a certificate, no cellular telephone can be brought into the country, regardless of whether or not it is meant for use in Russia. Permission for the above devices may also be required from the State Customs Committee of the Russian Federation.

COMPUTER EQUIPMENT

The State Customs Committee has stated that there are no restrictions on bringing laptop computers into the Russian Federation for personal use. The software, however, can be inspected upon departure; and some equipment and software have been confiscated because of the data contained in them, or due to software encryption, which is standard in many programs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

State Customs Committee of the Russian Federation
Russia 107842 Moscow
1A Komsomolskaya Place
Telephone: 7-095-975-4070
Department for clearance of items for personal use:
Telephone: 7-095-975-4095

Glavgossvyaznadzor
Russia 117909 Moscow
Second Spasnailovkovsky 6
Telephone: 7-095-238-6331
Fax: 7-095-238-5102

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After extensive joint reviews with the Federal Aviation Authority of Russia (FAAR), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded under its International Aviation (IASA) Program that the FAAR oversees and licenses Russia's air carriers in accordance with international safety oversight provisions.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Air travel within Russia can at times be unreliable. Flight schedules are sometimes subject to last minute changes. Russian-based airlines are striving to improve the quality of service although they generally fall short of western standards.

Contributed By RealAdventures Support

After extensive joint reviews with the Federal Aviation Authority of Russia (FAAR), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded under its International Aviation (IASA) Program that the FAAR oversees and licenses Russia's air carriers in accordance with international safety oversight provisions.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Air travel within Russia can at times be unreliable. Flight schedules are sometimes subject to last minute changes. Russian-based airlines are striving to improve the quality of service although they generally fall short of western standards.





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