Traveling to Russia
In addition to welcoming 32 international soccer teams, in June 2018, Russian authorities predict an influx of over 1 million visitors. Given the invasion of soccer fans from around the globe, doubts surround the ability of Russia’s law enforcement and security services to protect visitors to the 11 host cities. Yet the tournament’s organizers and the Russian government often point to the lack of a significant event during the Confederations Cup in 2017 as a testament to the country’s ability to ensure the security of large events. Consequently, the only remarkable news from the tournament should come from the endeavors of the players on the field. Nonetheless, if you find yourself in Russia for a sporting event, or on a business trip, what steps should you take to make your trip an uneventful one?
Research your destination.
While its population of just over 144 million is far less than the United States, in terms of land size, Russia is the largest country in the world. Consequently, the people, cultures, and threats vary widely. Before embarking on your trip, visit the websites of the S. Department of State, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Canadian government for the latest assessment of the safety and security environment in Russia.
Obtain the correct visa, passports, and migration cards.
Well in advance of your trip, familiarize yourself with Russia’s visa and immigration laws. For example, you must obtain a visa for entry prior to your trip. US citizens may apply for a business visa that remains valid for three years and allows for multiple entries to the country. For multiple entry visas, it takes the Russian government between four to 20 days to process an application. You can also apply for an emergency visa; processing an emergency visa takes three days, but the fee is $540, which is double the standard fee. Once in the country, you must carry your passport and migration card—a paper document provided by the police upon entry to the country—at all times.
Recognize that terrorism is an ever-present threat.
From time to time, terrorists target large cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Volgograd. Bear in mind that terrorists don’t limit themselves to a particular type of target, with previous attacks involving public buildings, markets, tourist sites, and the transportation system. Short of remaining in your hotel room for your entire trip, avoid high-profile events with large gatherings of people, as they present terrorists with an enticing target.
Don’t let your guard down in public.
Wherever people live and work, crime becomes an issue. To maintain your situational awareness and avoid becoming a victim of petty crime, don’t use your phone in public. Make sure you know the address of your hotel and how to get there from wherever your schedule takes you. And be on your guard when dealing with local police. Unfortunately, when victimized by crime, Russian authorities sometimes lack a willingness to help US citizens. And in isolated circumstances, law enforcement officers may harass or engage in extortion.
Leave the driving to someone else.
Driving conditions vary widely, with many roads in disrepair or becoming impassable during adverse weather, especially outside of major cities. And while there’s an ample supply of taxis, many lack an official license and may significantly overcharge foreign visitors. Instead, hire a prescreened driver, whose extensive local knowledge and experience helping foreign business travelers can provide you with peace of mind. A dedicated driver also helps ensure your productivity by avoiding traffic bottlenecks and making sure you arrive on time for every meeting or event on your schedule.
Consider special advice for LGBTQIA and minorities.
Throughout the country, there’s a degree of discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual LGBTQIA community. Minorities sometimes attract unwanted attention from narrow-minded individuals as well. Avoid attracting attention to yourself in public, and if subject to verbal or physical attack, move as quickly as possible to a public area or building such as a hotel or restaurant.
Given the decades-long tensions between the United States and Russian governments, traveling to Moscow and beyond requires careful preparation. Notwithstanding the threat of terrorism and crime that exists in every major business center, the underlying differences in Russian and American cultural and business practices requires a willingness to conform to a different way of life for the duration of your stay.
For additional information on how to prepare for international travel, click here.To learn about FirstCall’s security services, contact us today at:
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