LivingTravelMoscow travel and safety tips

Moscow travel and safety tips

When you visit Moscow, you are visiting one of the largest and most expensive capitals in the world. While you must adhere to certain travel tips no matter where you travel, a visit to Moscow will require special considerations that are not necessary in other Eastern European capitals.


Pickpockets are on the lookout for foreign visitors who appear careless with their belongings. They can do elaborate tricks to separate a person from their wallet, or they can swipe their cash and credit cards with nimble skill. Be especially careful in tourist areas, such as Arbat Street and crowded places such as the subway. Don’t expect a backpack to be a safe bet; instead, invest in something you can grip close to your body or buy a money belt. Always diversify, keeping some money in a separate place so that if it is stolen, you have money elsewhere.


Be judicious when taking pictures. Taking photos of the police or officials is a potential way to attract unwanted attention from members of the police, who won’t mind asking for your passport. Also avoid taking photos of official-looking buildings, such as embassies and government headquarters. In addition, citizens on the street may not want their photo taken, and it is better to ask politely if they detect a potential subject. Professional photography (for example, with a tripod) may require special permits and documents, but amateur photography is widely practiced without problems in Moscow.

However, keep in mind that museums may charge a fee for photography or ban it altogether.

It used to be that photography was forbidden in the Moscow metro (as in the St. Petersburg metro), but it is allowed to take photos in the “people’s palaces” and in the subway cars.


Because pickpockets are a real danger, it is best to avoid carrying your passport with you. However, please have a photocopy of your passport in case the police detain you for any reason, who may request to see it. Also, photocopy the page on which your travel visa and any other documents related to your stay in Russia appear.


When visiting landmarks like Lenin’s Tomb, it is important to pay the necessary amount of respect. Security is tight for this novel Moscow attraction, and the long lines can tempt you to fidget or make jokes. Just block the no-nonsense attitude of the guards to be part of the experience, and for God’s sake keep your hands out of your pockets and a smile on your face!

Customs regulations

If you are shopping for art or antiques, be sure to shop at a dealer who can provide you with the necessary forms to take the purchase out of the country. Save these forms and your receipt to show customs agents before leaving Russia. Please note that items over 100 years old cannot leave the country.


Any traveler in a single destination for three days or more will have to register so that the government can monitor where its guests are at all times (even Russian citizens have passports for domestic travel and must follow their own registration system). Hotels will generally register for you, which will require you to surrender your passport and visa. These will be returned with the necessary registration documents. You may incur a fee for this service, as large hotels charge a minimum and smaller hotels charge significantly more.

If you are staying in a Russian home, registration must be completed at the local police department.


To avoid frying your electronic devices, make sure you have a US to Europe (220v) converter with a two prong round adapter. One of the first things to do when you check into your hotel is to charge your devices, which may have run out of battery during your trip. It’s best to buy one before you travel in case you can’t find one when you arrive.


Visitors to Russia are cautioned not to drink the tap water. Water should be boiled before drinking, although showering is safe and the amount used to brush your teeth is generally not harmful. Mineral water is widely drunk, especially in restaurants, and if you prefer not to drink sparkling mineral water, you should order “voda byez gaz” (still water).

Dress for Orthodox churches and cathedrals

If you plan to visit Orthodox churches or cathedrals while in Moscow, you should pay attention to how you dress. Dress requirements for Orthodox churches include covered legs and shoulders. Women must have their hair covered and men must remove hats.

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