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Travel To Moscow And The Former CIS  
User currently offlineDFWLandingPath From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 211 posts, RR: 0
Posted (9 years 4 months 13 hours ago) and read 1816 times:

I ask this as a generic question relating to a personal one. How safe and easy is travel to Russia and the former CIS? I'm an American and can't quite figure out what letters I need in order to get a visa and where to get them. Anything in general to be concerned about?

My personal example is that I will finish classes in England on the 16th of December and want to go somewhere for a few days before traveling back to the states. I figure, why not Moscow in the winter? I may be 19 and using my own funds, but my parents still aren't to wild about the idea.

Oh, and I don't speak any Russian.

Cheers,
DFWLandingPath

23 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineLY7E7 From Israel, joined Jun 2004, 2259 posts, RR: 19
Reply 1, posted (9 years 4 months 13 hours ago) and read 1809 times:

As long as your'e staying in Moscow and/or St. Petersburg (some other major cities as well) and willing to spend a lot of money you may be safe and enjoy the trip very much.

Otherwise I'd suggest to choose another destination.



2 things are endless: ignorance and space
User currently offlineWhiteHatter From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (9 years 4 months 13 hours ago) and read 1813 times:

Go to Latvia or Estonia.

Otherwise Google is thataway ===>

and this looked promising

http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1006.html


User currently offlineSoyuzavia From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 594 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (9 years 4 months 12 hours ago) and read 1794 times:
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Don't pay much attention to negative aspects of the US State Department travel advisories. Take everything they say with a grain of salt.

They lost what little credibility they had after they listed Ural Airlines as being an airline that US citizens should avoid due to 'safety' concerns, when in fact, what led to their being listed is that an Ekaterinburg consulate staffer got a bug up their arse because Ural cancelled a charter flight from Turkey, and put them on another airline's flight instead.

Moscow and St Petersburg, and probably all Russian cities (except maybe for Grozny) are safe, and it is possible to do them on the cheap. Like everywhere you travel, just use your head.

About the visas and letters of invitation

http://www.russianembassy.org/CONSULAT/TOUR-VIS.HTM
http://www.visahouse.com --> this is a reputable company.

And what to do...

http://eng.moscowout.ru/


User currently offlineUN_B732 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 4289 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (9 years 4 months 10 hours ago) and read 1774 times:

I respectfully disagree. Moscow at night is very dangerous, and many locals refuse to go out alone for a fear of being robbed in the city. Muggings are commonfold, and even children are burglars.
-UN



What now?
User currently offlineLY7E7 From Israel, joined Jun 2004, 2259 posts, RR: 19
Reply 5, posted (9 years 4 months 9 hours ago) and read 1761 times:

Quoting UN_B732 (Reply 4):
I respectfully disagree. Moscow at night is very dangerous, and many locals refuse to go out alone for a fear of being robbed in the city. Muggings are commonfold, and even children are burglars.

Exactly.



2 things are endless: ignorance and space
User currently offlineSoyuzavia From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 594 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (9 years 4 months 9 hours ago) and read 1754 times:
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UN_B732, there is not a single large metropolis in the world which isn't dangerous in one way or another. Even small towns can pose dangers to the unfamiliar. But the key to staying safe is good old fashioned common sense. Use your head. Familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Don't look like a tourist.

Walk around any large city in the world alone at night with a camera around your neck, wearing an "I'm a stupid tourist" t-shirt, showing 'wealth', and you are a target.

In Moscow, a tourist's biggest threat would probably be the traffic. After that, would probably a police officer looking for a small bribe.

DFW, check out http://tinyurl.com/e2sgg for what is what. Don't let a few negatives outweigh the positives.


User currently offlineAvek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4406 posts, RR: 19
Reply 7, posted (9 years 4 months 9 hours ago) and read 1751 times:

Quoting DFWLandingPath (Thread starter):
I may be 19 and using my own funds, but my parents still aren't to wild about the idea.

Russia and most of the CIS (with the exception of the Baltic states) are simply NOT countries that a 19-year-old Westerner should be visiting independently - the region is VERY dangerous, even within the largest cities. Not to mention that tourism to the area is rather expensive, and transport become unreliable during the winter months.

Honestly, if you want to blow some money for a trip after your studies, go to Morrocco, Tunisia, or even the UAE, assuming you've already done the likes of France, Germany, Italy, etc. You'll have a great time and a MUCH better chance of avoiding trouble.



Live life to the fullest.
User currently offlineAvek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4406 posts, RR: 19
Reply 8, posted (9 years 4 months 9 hours ago) and read 1748 times:

Quoting Soyuzavia (Reply 6):
Don't let a few negatives outweigh the positives.

There aren't just a FEW negatives involved with Russian travel - more like a few DOZEN. There are much safer places to go where a great time can nonetheless be had.



Live life to the fullest.
User currently offlineSoyuzavia From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 594 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (9 years 4 months 8 hours ago) and read 1737 times:
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Quoting Avek00 (Reply 8):
There aren't just a FEW negatives involved with Russian travel - more like a few DOZEN

There are a few DOZEN negatives to travelling to any large city.

There's a difference between being cautious and paranoic. Don't put the kid off totally. The very fact he wants to go to Moscow during the winter shows he is out for some adventure.

But you know, with Moscow being totally unsafe and all, it makes me wonder how the many people who independently travel to Moscow and take photos which are later uploaded to airliners.net, make it home alive?  Wink


User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (9 years 4 months 8 hours ago) and read 1751 times:

Quoting WhiteHatter (Reply 2):
Go to Latvia or Estonia.

I'd agree with that - although I've never been to Russia, so not talking from experience of the country, but I have been to both Latvia and Estonia.

Personally I preferred Estonia - Tallinn is a great city. Riga (Latvia) is full of British stag parties, which is great if you're looking for that kind of thing, but if you're looking for a great, cheap city to explore that has historic Russian connections, head for Tallinn.



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineAvek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4406 posts, RR: 19
Reply 11, posted (9 years 4 months 6 hours ago) and read 1727 times:

Quoting Soyuzavia (Reply 9):
The very fact he wants to go to Moscow during the winter shows he is out for some adventure.

...or not fully aware of the risks and expense involved.



Live life to the fullest.
User currently offlineSoyuzavia From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 594 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (9 years 4 months 5 hours ago) and read 1722 times:
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Avek00, I put my life at risk every day when i get out of bed -- I can trip over and crack my head open on the tv cabinet. But yet, I get out of bed every day, and I don't crack my head open. Why? Because I don't have shit lying around on the floor which I can trip over. Same thing with travelling. Don't put yourself into a dangerous situation and you will likely come out smelling like roses. Sure, there is a chance that shit can happen, no matter what precautions one takes. This is an exception rather than the rule.

You know, Mercer HR has Moscow at 180th (odd) on it's list of 'safe' cities -- a big part of this ranking is because of the theatre hostage situation, and the metro bombing. Sure, there are dangers in Moscow, but as a tourist, one more than likely is not going to be going to those parts of Moscow which are the scenes of most trouble. There are dangers on the tourist trail of course -- e.g. Arbat Street is fine during the day, but stay away from the area at night. But hey, other cities are the same -- it's fine to go into Central Park in NYC during the day, but how many people would walk thru there at night? Should you stay away from New York because of that?

Yes, Moscow is an expensive city -- one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world -- but it needn't be expensive if one is on a budget. There are hostels which are frequented by 'western' backpackers -- if one isn't looking for a hostel, there are cheaper hotels such as Hotel Ukraina available. I don't see a 19 year old student looking for the Baltschug Moscow experience.

Anyway, if I was a 19 year old and only had a few days to spare, St Petersburg would probably be a much better choice -- more cultural than Moscow by far.


User currently offlineAvek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4406 posts, RR: 19
Reply 13, posted (9 years 4 months 5 hours ago) and read 1721 times:

Quoting Soyuzavia (Reply 12):
You know, Mercer HR has Moscow at 180th (odd) on it's list of 'safe' cities -- a big part of this ranking is because of the theatre hostage situation, and the metro bombing. Sure, there are dangers in Moscow, but as a tourist, one more than likely is not going to be going to those parts of Moscow which are the scenes of most trouble.

No, it's because of the near-total failure of the Russian Government to adequately address the country's deteriorating security environment.



Live life to the fullest.
User currently offlineAR1300 From Argentina, joined Feb 2005, 1740 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 1694 times:

Quoting UN_B732 (Reply 4):
I respectfully disagree. Moscow at night is very dangerous, and many locals refuse to go out alone for a fear of being robbed in the city. Muggings are commonfold, and even children are burglars.

Are you sure you are not talking about Argentina??

Mike



They don't call us Continental for nothing.
User currently offlineTrekster From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 1693 times:

I dont think i would want to go to Russia all by my self

Be carefull at the Security points at the Airports, from what i have heard, they like to get bribes from people


User currently offlineAgentM From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 43 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 1689 times:

A buddy and I spent a week in Moscow back in the summer of 2002. Almost all my friends and relatives said the same thing about how I should go somewhere else, and how dangerous it is in Russia.
Yes, there is danger there, and it all comes down to what acceptable risk you're willing to take. Here are the questionable things that happened there:

-Cops: We were stopped a couple times so they could examine our papers (visa and passport). Perhaps I was stubborn or oblivious but some people have said they usually expect you to leave some cash in your documents to make things 'easier'. I don't know how true that is, but since it was near Red Square and not in a remote town I would have been stubborn and asked to speak to his boss. Both times were fine, but it did seem like they were waiting for something that never came their way  Smile

-President Putin was coming down one of the roads near the Kremlin, of course things were blocked off and there were a lot of cops (or military?) around. I quickly pulled out my camera to take a picture and the next thing I knew there was a rifle pointed at me in the distance. My buddy tapped me and suggested I slowly lower the camera. We figured they thought I was pulling out a gun, after I slowly lowered it nothing happened because they probably realized I wasn't packing! In retrospect I shouldn't have been so quick to try and get a shot.

-The prostitutes call your room and make offers. I had fun with that by insisting I should get something for 5 rubles, they would get frustrated and hang up. I kept waiting for the Russian Mafia to come up and kick my ass for wasting their time... Nothing happened so if you stay in a hotel make sure you play some mind games with 'em.

Those are the only things I can remember right now, there may be more, but I'm getting old and the memory is failing. As far as being outside at night... We were out until 11pm-1am half the time and didn't encounter anything bad. Of course in the summer time it's bright outside until close to 11pm.

I would go back to Moscow to visit in a heartbeat, there's a lot of cool things to see in the city. If you decide not to go to Russia, there's always Prague. Prague is much cheaper, it's a beautiful city, and I would say it's safer but then again I wasn't there for a full week.

Oh, if you happen to pick up a street map, make sure you get one in Russian. The street signs are all Russian so it won't do you any good if you got a translated street map. It can also go a long way if you just learned how to sound out their words, a lot of things such as "Internet", and "restaurant" will be easier to recognize. As others have mentioned, try not to look too western.

Let us know how your trip goes if you take it.

-Marc


User currently offlineScbriml From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 12673 posts, RR: 46
Reply 17, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 1688 times:
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OK, let's try and balance the totally over-the-top paranoia displayed by some of the posters here.

I have spent about 10 weeks in Moscow over the last 10 months, and I'll be back there again in August. It's a great place. I have been there on my own, with work colleagues (US and Russian) and with my wife. I have never felt uncomfortable or threatened. Yes, just like any major city in the World, there are parts you shouldn't explore without a guide or local to help you. But, as long as you're sensible, you should be safe.

Not speaking Russian is an issue though. Typically, only the younger, better educated Russians speak English. Signs are difficult if you can't read Cyrillic.

I would think at least twice about visiting Moscow in December though. I was there in March and it was still -12C with 1m of snow on the ground. Not fun sight-seeing weather.

Given your age, lack of Russian and the time of year you want to go, I would advise booking an organised tour where you would have a Russian speaking guide (if they run in December and you can afford it).

Please don't let the fear-mongers here put you off from visiting Russia - it has a lot to offer, and really is nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe. Personally, I wouldn't go there sight-seeing in December!



Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana!
User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6525 posts, RR: 23
Reply 18, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 1679 times:

DFWLandingPath,

Have you considered to go to St. Petersburg on a package tour ? The date you stated would be a good time (should be cold and white outside). "Package tour" would mean that you would not need to take care of anything (execpt maybe the "visa" problem, as you´re American ...).

Alternative spots:
Apart from the already mentioned Morocco, Tunisia (rainy season in December!), UAE (when will Ramadan start this season ?), I could recommend a tour of Southern Spain like Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Gibraltar, Malaga, Granada or similar.
Or go skiing in the Alps ?
But it all depends on you ...

To take into account: 16-DEC onwards will probably already be "high season" for package tours due to the close proximity to X-mas.

Anyway: Have fun !
-HT



Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
User currently offlineQANTAS077 From Australia, joined Jan 2004, 5861 posts, RR: 39
Reply 19, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 1675 times:

Moscow is no different to any other big city, i can walk down my own city at night and get the shit kicked out of me for not being a smoker, does that mean i shouldn't visit the place?!?! i think not! just use common sense when travelling, avoid dark and quiet areas with a lack of people, stick to tourist areas etc.

i'm planning on travelling to Russia in the new year, i'll be taking the train from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia or Manchuria on the way back, if it's good enough for backpakers allover the world then it's good enough for me! I think Russia has an incredible amount to offer tourists, just be cautious!

as for some of the central asian countries, forget them, I'm trying to get a visa for Kazakhstan to see the "Progress" launch but its a hard thing finding out about these places and getting visa's!



a true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes, while everyone else believes the smile on your face.
User currently offlineLY7E7 From Israel, joined Jun 2004, 2259 posts, RR: 19
Reply 20, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 1672 times:

The problem in Moscow (or any other Russian city) is more about lack of median priced facilities. You can't travel there on less than seriously sized budget AND be safe.


2 things are endless: ignorance and space
User currently offlineAvek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4406 posts, RR: 19
Reply 21, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 1663 times:

Quoting QANTAS077 (Reply 19):
as for some of the central asian countries, forget them, I'm trying to get a visa for Kazakhstan to see the "Progress" launch but its a hard thing finding out about these places and getting visa's!

Actually, if it's a must to go to the CIS, I'd recommend Kazakhstan over Russia any day of the week. Crime is an issue in Almaty, but not nearly as much as in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the overall security situation is much better (though Kazakhstan is even more expensive than Russia for tourist travel).



Live life to the fullest.
User currently offlineSoyuzavia From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 594 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 1656 times:
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Quoting QANTAS077 (Reply 19):

as for some of the central asian countries, forget them, I'm trying to get a visa for Kazakhstan to see the "Progress" launch but its a hard thing finding out about these places and getting visa's!

Security wise, Central Asia is hot at the moment. But not even all spots in Central Asia are a risk. Kyrgyzstan, regardless of the political instability a few months ago, is still relatively safe -- but there are some regions around Osh which people should be careful. The beauty of Kyrgyzstan now is that visas for a stay of up to 1 month are now issued at the airport upon arrival, without invitation, for citizens of most 'western' countries, Australia included.

As to Kazakhstan, Australians no longer require a visa invitation letter for Kazakhstan. You still need to get a visa from a Kazakh consulate though.

For any travel to Central Asia just contact David at http://www.stantours.com and he will point you in the right direction.

The problem in Moscow (or any other Russian city) is more about lack of median priced facilities. You can't travel there on less than seriously sized budget AND be safe.

Again, total rubbish. There's a great institution in Russia these days which more and more foreigners are using -- home stay. With some of these being in leafy parts of the city. There are plenty of ways to travel cheap and stay safe. All it requires is for the person to do some research -- check out sites such as VT, read Let's Go/Lonely Planet/etc guides -- there is a wealth of information out there for people.

I would think at least twice about visiting Moscow in December though. I was there in March and it was still -12C with 1m of snow on the ground. Not fun sight-seeing weather.

You know, they say you haven't lived until you've experienced a Russian winter. Something I haven't yet done, but am planning on doing soon. Coming from a part of the world where the only time in living memory we have seen snow was one day back in circa 1979 and even then the snow melted some 500m from the ground, it would be an experience.

If I were DFW, I'd be thinking about the costs involved in buying suitable clothing to handle the extremes -- if he doesn't already have it. But you're right, wouldn't make for fun sight-seeing weather, but I can only imagine the Kremlin and St Basils would look stunning in snowy weather.

AgentM and Scbriml, good to see you made it out alive from hell.  Smile


User currently offlineAvek00 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 4406 posts, RR: 19
Reply 23, posted (9 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 1653 times:

Quoting QANTAS077 (Reply 19):
I'm trying to get a visa for Kazakhstan to see the "Progress" launch but its a hard thing finding out about these places and getting visa's!

It will be difficult and EXTREMELY expensive for you to travel to the Baikonur Cosmodrome - it is still deemed a "closed" area by the Russian and Kazakhstani Governments, although limited group tourism is permitted. Check out this website for some more details:

http://www.almata.kz/tourism/tours/index.php



Live life to the fullest.
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