Are you joining the celebrations at this year’s World Cup matches in Russia, or are you planning to visit this intriguing destination later in the year?
Russia can seem very similar to the UK and Europe in terms of technology and infrastructure, but there are differences in culture and safety precautions that aren’t quite what we’re used to. These tips aren’t intended to make you nervous, but they’re important to be aware of for a hassle-free trip. As always, information and preparation are your best bet.
Before You Go
It’s unlikely that anyone will be considering travel to dangerous border areas, but here’s a reminder – just in case!
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all travel / all but essential travel to the following:
- Within 10km of the border with the Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts
- Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai
- Within 10km of the border with the Ukrainian Kharkiv Oblast
- North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria (including the Elbrus area)
Most travel insurance policies – including Safe Journey – won’t cover you if you visit these areas, so if you’re going to explore the region you should ensure that your route avoids these entirely.
There are some road borders which can’t be used, e.g. Belarus – read the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) full list if you’re planning to drive into Russia.
Travel insurance is important for every trip, and a busy event such as the World Cup is no exception. Make sure you’re covered for all possibilities and don’t be caught out by limited cover or exclusions for important items such as terrorism or natural disasters. Check your policy carefully and top up if necessary.
Make sure you have all medication that you take regularly or that you may need, but check before you go that none of these are prohibited in Russia.
When You Arrive
As you’re probably aware, if you have a Fan ID for the World Cup that automatically entitles you to a multi-entry visa.
This does not mean you don’t need a passport though!
You’ll need your Fan ID, passport and valid match ticket to enter every match, and it’s a good idea to keep these on your person – in a money belt or inside jacket pocket, not in an open pocket or backpack.
NB: Don’t throw away your Fan ID after a match, as you’ll need to present it when you leave Russia too. These can be replaced if lost or stolen, but we imagine the queues will not be fun.
If you don’t have match tickets or are travelling after the World Cup, you must apply for a visa before you depart.
You’ll also receive a Migration Card when you arrive in Russia – you have to keep half of it throughout your visit and present it again when you leave. Losing this can incur fines so keep it safe!
FSF cautions travellers to declare any electronics, expensive jewellery, large sums of money, items which may look like antiques, and other valuables to prevent issues with these items when you leave.
As always, key safety precautions are vital at busy airports and stations:
- Report any suspicious items or behaviour immediately
- Minimise time in public areas (before check-in / after luggage collection)
- Never leave your own luggage unattended
- Keep your passport, money, tickets, etc. safely on your person
- If there is a problem, remain calm and leave the area if it is safe to do so
When In Russia
The FCO has warned that travellers should be aware of increased tensions between the UK and Russia: “You’re advised to remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publicly on political developments.”
We believe it’s unlikely that there will be unprovoked incidents during the World Cup as police will be on high alert, but it’s also important to avoid any arguments or typical “football fan incidents” as these could have serious consequences. Remember the altercations at Marseilles in 2016?
You should also be aware of tensions between Russia and other countries such as Ukraine. There have been some calls to boycott Russia 2018, and while we sincerely hope there are no demonstrations or attacks, you must be alert at all times.
LGBT+ travellers have been advised to avoid “overt displays” while in Russia. The Mirror warns fans not to “be gay in public” and reports that while LGBT+ supporters don’t have to stay away, you should be aware that attitudes in Russia are very different. Displays of same-sex relationships can lead to discrimination or violence, and police are unlikely to help.
Racism can also be an issue in Russia according to The Telegraph, and you should report any racist chanting or confrontations right away, as police have been told to prevent racism during the World Cup.
On a more positive note, you’ll find that Russia is a fascinating place to visit and most of the locals are very welcoming. You won’t always be greeted with the smiles you’d find in the USA or Europe, but don’t take it personally. Police are even less likely to seem friendly, but they’re just doing their job so be polite and respectful – rather have a laugh with people you know.
To enhance your safety:
- Only use official taxis
- Don’t buy tickets from unofficial/illegal vendors
- Don’t carry more money, jewellery, etc. than you need
- Be aware of pickpocketing and theft, but don’t try to fight off an attacker as this can put you at greater risk. FSF advises that it’s better to lose a few possessions than compromise your safety, but you must report any crimes as soon as it’s safe to do so.
- Look after your drink carefully in a bar or club, as drink spiking has been reported and has resulted in theft and serious attacks.
Be alert on the way to and from a stadium, and while you’re there – as you would at any large event.
A few pointers for the World Cup matches specifically:
- Don’t take a flag or banner unless you have applied to do so (and the application has been approved)
- Stick to your designated area at the stadium and don’t shout at, push, or insult rival fans – even if they started it.
- We all enjoy a few drinks, but it really isn’t a good idea to get drunk before, during or after a match as it increases other risks.
- If sections of fans are kept behind after a match to avoid crowding the exits, don’t try to jump the queue. Sit back and relax – everyone will get through eventually.
- Security will be tight so don’t carry anything that may look suspicious.
- There will be checks for drugs and other prohibited items at the stadium and at airports, stations, etc. Don’t take a chance as the penalties are severe.
Terrorism In Russia
The terrorism threat level is classified as “very likely” by the FCO, and attacks have taken place in recent years – including the April 2017 suicide bombing on the St Petersburg metro.
Numerous attacks in Moscow, St Petersburg, and other cities have been intercepted/prevented by police, and the majority of these were set to target public transport or crowded areas.
According to the FCO, “Although there’s no indication that British nationals or interests have been specific targets, attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should be vigilant in all public places, including major transport hubs, tourist sites and crowded areas; and particularly where access isn’t controlled, for example at open-air events and markets. Previous attacks have targeted transport infrastructure.”
Make sure your travel insurance policy covers terrorism – you can top up any time before you depart with comprehensive terrorism cover that includes the option to cancel if there’s an act of terrorism anywhere within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks before departure – read our policy wording for inclusions, exclusions, terms & conditions to find out what you get from just £5.17pp for a single trip of up to 8 days.
For more information on travel, matches, and general World Cup advice, read the FSF’s official guide.
We wish you a safe journey and a fantastic World Cup 2018!