A short guide to travelling to Russia in 2024
A trip to Russia required solid preparation in the best of times, so please read the following lines carefully before booking. Interestingly, some recent developments have made travel actually easier. The recent emergence of e-visa is one of these developments.
E-Visa and Paper Visa
Electronic visas are valid for up to 16 days and for one entry only. You can apply for an e-visa without additional documentation either at the website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs or use our own Russian visa application form (service fee applies). Only nationals from these countries can apply for an e-visa.
For travel beyond 16 days and for nationals not eligible for an e-visa, you need to check your options with your nearest Russian consulate. Liden & Denz provides a comprehensive visa service in cooperation with the Russian consulate in Bern, Switzerland. We are authorised to provide visa handling services including medical insurance and supporting documentation for all EU nationals and residents of Switzerland of any nationality.
Travel to Russia
Most Western countries have stopped flying to Russia (and have banned Russian airlines from entering Western airspace), but there are workarounds, especially if you travel to St.Petersburg. Frequent bus services from nearby Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga connect the imperial capital with the outside world. Gdansk, which is near Kaliningrad, offers an alternative bus route. Kaliningrad airport connects to all major airports inside Russia. It is very easy to book online bus tickets with specialised operators like Luxexpress, Ecolines and others. Both St.Petersburg and Moscow are accessible by air with direct flights from Istanbul, Belgrad, Dubai and further hubs in Asia and Africa.
International credit cards do not work in Russia. Please try to book and pay for as many services as possible (such as hotels) before travelling to Russia. Take enough cash of a major currency with you. Amounts over the equivalent of USD 10000 need to be declared at the border. Once in the country, you can either exchange your currency into cash Rub or open very easily a bank account for non-residence that includes a local debit/bank card. That will take no longer than 48 hours and can be done online, sometimes even before leaving for Russia. Ask us for a short-list of banks we recommend.
The Internet works as everywhere else. As roaming charges will be high, we highly recommend a local prepaid SIM card in case you stay longer than just a few days. You will need your Russian mobile number to set up apps for taxi, food delivery, local banking and many other online services.
All Russian borders are controlled by the FSB and while foreign visitors usually pass the border without a single question asked, you are likely to become a “person of interest” if you have recently visited Ukraine or are a well-known blogger with a digital footprint that may or may not contradict with some of the more draconian laws issued since 24.2.2022. If you turn out to be a person of interest, the authorities can check your social media profile and your postings on your mobile phone or on your notebook. In that case you might be in for additional questions or you might even be refused entry. We have not heard of any arrests of foreign nationals at the border unless you carry drugs (which is a very bad idea anyway).
Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin are blocked in Russia. WhatsApp, Telegram, VK are fully accessible. You can still check your social media on Insta but only by using a VPN, which you will probably need anyway as quite a few online services are not available any longer in Russia (like airbnb, booking.com etc). Which services are blocked seems arbitrary and is hard to predict. The use of a VPN service inside Russia will not get you into any legal trouble.
In the unlikely event you come across an anti-government demonstration, don’t take any pictures, turn around and walk away. Keep your passport and visa with you at all times. Apart from that, the streets are very safe and despite the geopolitical tensions, you don’t need to fear negative comments, even if your home country participates in Russian sanctions. Just do not enter in any public debates with people you do not know.
Check the often scary worded travel warnings from your government before embarking on a trip. If you are not scared, welcome to Russia!
There is no shortage of food, restaurants and bars are full and busy till late. Domestic travel by metro, train and air transport works smoothly, as usual.
We are here to help
Contact us at [email protected] for updated information and use our normal emergency numbers if you are stuck at the border.