This guide was written prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area’s volatile political situation.
While popular media often portrays Russia as having a high level of criminal activity, it’s important to distinguish fact from fiction. Expats should realise that these seedy stereotypes are just inaccurate generalisations, and foreigners who take the appropriate precautions usually enjoy a crime-free stay in the country. That said, it’s still important that those moving to Russia are aware of the potential threats.
Theft, scams and extortion in Russia
Theft and extortion are the most common crimes against foreigners in Russia. Most petty and opportunistic crimes occur in areas associated with public transport, underground pedestrian crosswalks, and popular tourist attractions. Expats should be mindful of their belongings when in these locations.
ATM-related robberies and fraud are also something of a problem in major cities. Expats should be mindful about which ATMs to use; those found in reputable banking institutions are usually best. Car burglaries also occur, and expats should make a habit of removing any items of value from plain view in their vehicles.
Russian scammers have become creative, and even police impersonations have been reported to various embassies. A good practice is never to show a wallet or passport to anyone until asked to do so by someone with proper accreditation.
Police corruption in Russia
Expats will need to be wary that police officers may be less law-abiding than they expect, although this is not always the case.
If stopped by a police or traffic officer and made to feel victimised, note the officer’s name, badge number, patrol number and where and when the incident happened.
Racially motivated crime in Russia
There have been reported incidents of crimes against ethnic minorities, which are a concern. Verbal assault and spitting are the most commonly reported offences, although reports of physical assault and extortion are also cited. This bigoted behaviour can largely be attributed to extremist nationalist groups. Although intimidation tactics and demonstrations occasionally occur in Russian cities, expats should note that these actions are uncommon, and most expats won’t experience them.
Terrorism in Russia
A number of terrorist attacks have occurred in Russia over the years. Government buildings, transport infrastructure, airports, hotels, entertainment venues, residential complexes and schools have all been targeted.
Driving safety in Russia
Accidents are frequent, and road rage is common in Russia. Extreme weather exacerbates the situation, causing ‘black ice’ and dangerous conditions. Foreigners planning to drive in Russia should always drive defensively, maintain patience in all situations, and always carry proper documentation, including their passport and visa.
►For more on adjusting to expat life in Russia and Russian cultural etiquette and norms, see Culture Shock in Russia.
►See Healthcare in Russia for an overview of the Russian healthcare system.
'You get used to living with a degree of danger. You need to watch carefully where you are going as holes are often unguarded, and be extremely careful crossing streets as cars seem to come from many directions at once. Just avoid disputes with angry people and try not to have dealings with the police.' Read more about safety in Rob's interview.
Are you an expat living in Russia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Russia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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