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How to travel to Russia without supporting the Russian Government?

So I would love to visit Russia, and I would NOT talk about politics there, but I don't want to support the current regime. Is there anyway to do this? I don't know how many Russian airlines, hotel chains, etc, are privately owned vs. Government owned in Russia. Any advice would be appreciated!

Posted by
2575 posts

Given that you need a visa to visit, I am thinking that is the first crossing of the line. I appreciate the effort, but sometimes we have to let our ethics win. Some countries, the lines between government and privately owned anything may be a challenge to research and are too blurry to be 100% about. What has your google searches come up with? Or perhaps delve into a travel guide like Lonely Planet, Bradt, or Moon Guide - something European that doesn't mind discussing politics?

Posted by
20569 posts

Personally, any visit to Russia is supporting Russia.

Posted by
6537 posts

Easiest way to go to Russia is to limit yourself to seeing St. Petersburg, and catch a cruise ship going into there for two days' touring. That way you don't have to jump through hoops to be "invited" into the country and obtain an expensive Visa.
St. Petersburg must have 50 different tour companies, and they're fantastic operations. St. Petersburg is just stunning in beauty.

Posted by
8 posts

OK, thanks for the replies! I hope I haven’t been inappropriate at all, as that was never my intention.

Posted by
5311 posts

Remember that any purchase of goods and services — on the open market, that is — will entail the payment of VAT tax, which goes into the government’s coffers. So hotel rooms, meals, souvenirs, entrance fees, all of these things will provide some funds to the government (as will your visa application fee).

This is true of anywhere you travel, of course. Most of your money goes to private enterprise (local or foreign) or cultural organizations or the like, and some goes to the local, regional, and/or national government.

Posted by
123 posts

When we were planning our trip to Scandinavia last year we toyed with the idea of going to St. Petersburg. When I researched what would go into getting a visa, we said no way. $400 fee for each visa plus 4-5 months, and we had to send our passports to the Russian embassy (could be consulate, I don’t remember). No way was I going to send our passports into the hands of the Russians. So, we watch travel videos of Russia instead.

Posted by
896 posts

To the OP, nothing wrong with your question! I too have the same feeling! It seems natural to me that some citizens from other countries have the same concern about visiting the USA.

Posted by
5017 posts

This is always a complicated, difficult-to-answer, and personal question. Always has been, always will be.

Russia. Cuba. Turkey. China. North Korea. Burma. Hungary. Egypt. Israel. Even the United Kingdom. Heck, even the United States. There are lots of governments around the world that one may disapprove of to various degrees. Where do you draw the line? If you forgo your tourist visit to any of these places to demonstrate your disapproval of their government, what impact does that have? I don't know and I don't think anyone else does either. There are no bright lines. Everyone needs to make the choices they are comfortable with.

Personally, I'd probably be OK with visiting Russia. I can't think of any place that I would "boycott" because my doing so would send a message to that government I don't like. I can think of a small handful of countries that I would probably skip because I'd worry that my big, unfiltered mouth might get me (or more likely, local folks I interact with) into trouble...I've made way too much noise and fuss upon arrival in a repressive country before and know myself capable of doing silly things that I might regret.

No easy answers here. Other than Canada and New Zealand -- they're probably OK. Maybe.

Posted by
589 posts

IMO...Travel and politics are a personal decision. I know people who have visited Vietnam and others who wouldn't step into that country even if it was the last place on earth. Same is true with China, Cuba and other places of a similar past and present. I really don't care much about any countries politics except here in the US. If I did, it would be very difficult to buy any food and goods in this country since we are such a global economy. Go where your heart and mind take you. It will only affect you in the end.

Posted by
203 posts

There is really no way you can visit Russia without supporting the Russian government to some degree, whether that is fees to apply for a visa or paying the government taxes. However, I would take a different view of this. If you spend money there, you will likely help Russian people that are in need of varying degrees of help. Branching out and communicating with others is what makes travel wonderful. Don’t let governments and politicians keep you from traveling to places you want to visit.

Posted by
420 posts

Much of the Russian economy is controlled by a few, your money will be going to them.
Hotels- small family owned ones can be found but it will require a lot of research.
Big chain hotels are owned by the few. As an example most Marriotts etc are NOT owned by Marriott. Marriott just franchises the name, the look, etc. it got out of the real estate business a long way back and became a services company. Many other hotel chains follow the same practice and do not own the hotel their name is on.

Posted by
4865 posts

Its not just the government, is it? The oligarchs and politicians are so intertwined as to make any distinction irrelevant. And in my imperfect understanding, most of the businesses which might appear to be foreign owned, are required to be partnered with Russian owners, or have substantial local control, just as in China. Yeah, this is a great question.

Posted by
10706 posts

I think it would be hard to travel Russia without lending some sort of legitimacy and financial assistance to the government. Generally speaking what few Russians I have known have been really brilliant and wonderful people and its a shame for good people to get caught in the middle of something. Then again, the few I have known got out and came here.... hmmm. I've decided to stay away for the time being, not because of the recent interference in our elections. I figure every country that can does the same. Before I start, believe me, I know my attitude is full of inconsistencies. But like I wouldn't judge you for going, no one really has a place to judge me for not.

People have narrow visions. If we all raced off to Leningrad and it was beautiful (it is) and we had a wonderful time, then the impression would be that its a "normal" country by some generalized standard. Normal meaning the actions of the country as a whole generally reflect the actions of most developed "Western" countries. As long as they are viewed that way they have cover to advance the actions that I find repugnant. So I don't want to be part of giving them that ability. "Them" being the governmental and political and business leadership of the country.

The more normal they appear, wait, lets use the term "mainstream". The more mainstream they appear the more that will go and the more that go the more money will be going to fund those actions that I find repugnant.

So does Putin care if I come? Of course not. Will my decision have any impact at all on the world? Nope. But sometimes its about personal integrity.

But lets not just pick on Russia. There are a lot of places where one should step back and think it through, then go with what works best for you and your conscience and dont let anyone judge you one way or another. Just ignore the "he's worse" sort of arguments. Those are borne out of true ignorance. Study, learn, understand and see where your conscience leads you. If after you go you feel good about yourself, then you choose well. If you dont, then you made a mistake. Sometimes it has to be that way. I know ive made a mistake or two and have regretted. Then again, on at least once occasion I discovered how wrong I think I was.

If you want to know more, then that will require a PM. I have tried to answer your question within the terms of the forum and that leaves it sort of vague.

Posted by
1256 posts

You only punish yourself, and you only live once. Your going, or not going, makes no difference. There's no celestial choir in the sky who will sing your praises, no burning pit to punish you for your "wrong" choice.

Posted by
5552 posts

dave4shmups, have you traveled to other Communist countries?
We have been in several of them, Cuba, SE Asia, also including Russia; and, there is a lot more to Russia than St. Petersburg. We actually were surprised how much we enjoyed Moscow.We wanted to see them, visit their historical areas. That doesn’t mean we approve of their government and hope our visiting is not seen as a sign of approval. We assume some of our money goes to their regime. It’s their country.
On the other hand, we have dropped Myanmar from our “must see” list due to the atrocities being committed against the Rohinga. I know we aren’t being consistent in applying our values to our travel choices though. Do what you feel comfortable doing. We like to see the historical sites most of all.

Posted by
16 posts

We removed a few posts. Please try and keep this thread on topic so that the thread can remain. Thanks!

Posted by
316 posts

There is a way to avoid direct taxation (you could shop VAT-free, with you VAT returned to you on your way out of the country), but there is no avoiding indirect taxes and duties, such as, for instance, excise duty, which is by default levied on anything that can be bad for you (alcohol, tobacco) or the environment (gasoline, other petroleum-derived fuels).

It would appear that, as suggested above, a cruise stopover would indeed be the least "regime-friendly" way to visit the country - you don't pay for accommodation, don't support their retail industry, and minimize any interaction with the locals.

In addition, you can be assured that little if any money paid to the local tour companies will find its way to the Russian government - these companies are notorious for "optimizing" their taxes. That said, you will still indirectly support their oil and gas industry - the ship will still fill up with fuel (cheaper fuel is arguably the primary economic reason for stopping at Russian ports of call in the first place)

Come to think of it, why not take it one step further - you can not only avoid supporting the "Regime", you could actively undermine it! Here is the plan:

Most museums and theaters in Russia, as well as the vast majority of public transit options, are heavily subsidized by the government. Ergo, by buying a simple metro card and using it as much as you can or visiting as many museums as you can possibly fit in your schedule, you would be depleting Putin's coffers.

Every little helps! Who knows, maybe it will be your SPB metro token or Bolshoi ticket that will break the camel's back :-)

Posted by
10706 posts

 

I know we aren’t being consistent in applying our values to our travel
choices though.

And as you point out, you dont have to be. It's a personal choice above judgment by anyone or anything beyond your own sense of right and wrong. But if you want to be honest with yourself, do some research first and question yourself.

Hi, I think it will be very hard to go to Russia and none of your money spend will go to the government. This is just how it is. Maybe you can find a non-Russian airline or a privately owned hotel. They still pay tax over the money they received from you.
If you go there you will support the locals with an income. So you are supporting the people, who might not agree with the Russian Government either.
Maybe Airbnb could be an option?

Posted by
1043 posts

One option is to just walk across the border and spend some time in Russia befor going back. If you get a Russian e-visa (free), you can cross the border from Narva in Estonia to Ivangorod on foot, spend a coupe of hours there and then walk back without spending a single ruble.

Posted by
13904 posts

Look at it from the other side. Your tourist dollars are helping to support the tourist industry which provides employment to locals who may be suffering under a regime you don't like (which could be just about any country).

Posted by
11 posts

Personally, any visit to Russia is supporting Russia.

That much is true.
The question, though, was about supporting the Russian Government, which is a bit different.

I do not support the actions of the Russian government, but, in my now-not-so-recent visit I didn't go out of my way to discriminate among businesses based on their form of ownership, and I assume some of them were indeed either state-owned or state-controlled to a certain extent (probably half of credit card terminals we used were Sberbank-branded; trains are run by Russian Railways; public transit is funded by federal and local governments; Airflot is, AFAIK, state-sponsored, etc.).

Other than that - we stayed with our host families (who, incidentally, were not too supportive of Putin's domestic policies), shopping where they shop, going out to places they frequent, and visiting the attractions they recommended.

Someone may see it as normalizing the regime and supporting the Russian government - but, personally, I don't necessarily agree with that take.

Posted by
4 posts

I visited Russia as part of a group tour in 2018, and it was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. Our tour could be classed as an educational tour, so in additional to all the magnificent cultural attractions, we had some lectures by Russian professors on historical topics who were not at all shy about discussing politics, and represented various viewpoints. One thing I gained a better perspective on was the level of suffering the country endured during WWII, which is still very much in their memories to this day. This is just my perspective, but I felt that my modest tourist dollars did more to help ordinary working folks doing their jobs (who experienced severe economic hardship during the 90s) than doing anything to help or not help the government. It's an amazing place to visit.

Posted by
20 posts

Advice, the short answer: do not travel, it’s a can of worms.
The long advice: How do you channel your life here in the U.S. to make sure your tax $$ support only the good causes? Chances are the older generations of your family supported some awful things done by our own government (regime) to other countries — like in Japan, or your own tax money went into almost 20 years of wars our government’s funding. Should native people of Australia advocate against travel to the U.S. because of the genocide of American natives?
Have you already travelled to Israel or France or UK or Turkey, or [fill in the blank country]? My Lord, what have you done!
Take the higher road, stay home.

Posted by
4637 posts

As long as you need visa to visit Russia you will support the Russian government. And then whatever state owned services you use - the same.

Posted by
5552 posts

We used a visa company based in CA for Russia in as we only decided to visit four weeks before we left. It was expensive but look what the US charges citizens of these countries to visit here. It is usually about the same price.
It is their country and their choice of government. We went to see the culture, history and the landscapes.