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Russian-American Relations: safe to travel?

I'm planning a tripto the Scandinavia area this summer (mid-June) and would like to visit St. Petersburg and Moscow. I've been to Moscow before (2010) and I'm not really concerned about safety in regards to things like pick-pocketing or robbery (I know it's an issue, I see a lot about it, it's just not what I'm interested in right now). I am more worried about the visa process, and if it's wise overall to visit Russia right now. Has anyone been recently, or know someone who has? Is the feeling toward Americans particularly hostile? Your thoughts are appreciated!

Posted by
3458 posts

We are making a similar trip this coming Autumn ( St Petersburg . Scandinavia , and back to France by the end ) Not having been to Russia before , I can't comment on personal interaction with Russian Nationals , but , people are people , after extensive travel in Europe , I would be VERY surprised to encounter any negative sentiment in that regard . As far as safety is concerned , that is a personal decision , and mine is that we live in an unsettled world and don't think there is any particular danger with which to be concerned . In addition , since I am long in the tooth ,and have long dreamed of seeing faraway places , I don't have time to waste . St Petersburg has been at the top of my list for decades , so it's now or maybe never . As you , I have no concern over things like pickpockets , good judgment and common sense do prevail , as they do here at home in New York City . The worries about the VISA process are exaggerated in my view . I have assembled the paperwork with relative ease , and since the Russian Consulate in NYC is virtually down the street ( in a manner of speaking ) , I will deliver the documents directly in the next week or two . Go to this site for detailed basic information about obtaining the VISA . it's the Russian Consulate in NYC http://www.ruscon.org/main_ENG.html -----PM me if you need help

Posted by
5784 posts

I have no concern over things like pickpockets....

Are tourist safer from petty crime in countries with authoritative regimes?

The President of the company I worked for travelled in Spain in the early 1970s in search of business opportunities. Franco was still in power and local police walked their beats with loaded submachine guns. Our Company President said that one could safely leave packages in plain sight in unlocked cars. Apparently the police procedure was to shoot first and ask questions later. Under those rules, potential criminals avoided any appearance of unlawfulness.

Posted by
16883 posts

We have several tour groups scheduled to visit St. Petersburg this summer, as usual, and have not heard of any new wrinkles to the already-tedious Russian visa procedure. We don't handle the visa process; one agent that our tour members often use is http://www.passportvisasexpress.com/.

Posted by
8984 posts

I have no concern over things like pickpockets

Not that the pickpocket problem is Russia is any worse than other places in Europe, but losing ones passport in Russia is a nightmare! Getting a replacement from the US Embassy is a breeze but getting the Russian visa replaced is a bureaucratic abyss that could leave you stranded for a couple of weeks and cost you big bucks. Russia is the one place you need keep your passport firmly in your money belt or secured in the hotel safe.

Posted by
3458 posts

Well as I said , common sense and good judgment , are the key issues . Certainly , if you hang out a flag ( have a wallet , for instance , sticking out if a hip pocket , as an extreme example ) that's pretty stupid . I always utilize an under clothes moneybelt for sensitive documents . Extreme paranoia about pickpockets was the issue , sorry if I was vague about that . Edgar -- I don't think the type of central governance would have a bearing on this one way of the other , could you explain ?

Posted by
5784 posts

Edgar -- I don't think the type of central governance would have a bearing on this one way of the other , could you explain ?
My old boss' early 70's observation regarding the Franco dictatorship in one example. Here in the current day US, we have a hot debate over police use of force, deadly force in particular. In a government not of the people, police action rules can give potential criminals second though at to consequences. Personally, I prefer a government that will ask questions first and shoot as a very last resort.

The second consideration is how a government treats minority groups. Here in the current day US, we are having a discussion as to the racial or ethnic profiling such as New York’s stop and frisk. In a less “correct” society, one can remove racial or ethnic groups with reputations for petty crime or persons without having a community discussion.

Posted by
3458 posts

Edgar , Thanks for the explanation , Ilja also clarified this point . Well , I hope I didn't leave the impression that I was supportive of Russia's policies in that regard . I was only viewing the issue of petty theft in St Petersburg in the same context as I would in any other major city ( like New York , or Paris -- which seems to have acquired an exaggerated reputation for this ) . As you , I also would prefer a government that asks questions first , and shoots only as a last resort , Unfortunately ,we seem to be going in the opposite direction .

Posted by
5784 posts

If you would like the American government's assessment on Russia or other foreign countries, check the State Department website:
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings.html

Currently the Russian Federation is not on the travel warning/alert list. For example, State Dept suggest staying away from parts of Ukraine:

Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to
eastern Ukraine. Despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement in
September 2014, violent clashes between Russia-backed separatists and
Ukrainian forces continue in parts of the eastern regions of Donetsk
and Luhansk, resulting in thousands of injuries and deaths. In
addition, Russian military forces continue to occupy the Crimean
Peninsula and are present on the eastern border of Ukraine. This
supersedes the Travel Warning for Ukraine dated August 29 to provide
updated information on the security situation in southern and eastern
Ukraine.

Other State Department general advice and cautions:
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/russia.html

CRIME: Incidents of unprovoked, violent harassment against racial and
ethnic minorities regularly occur throughout the Russian Federation.
The U.S. Embassy Moscow and Consulates General continue to receive
reports of U.S. citizens victimized in violent attacks by "skinheads"
or other extremists. Travelers should exercise caution in areas
frequented by such individuals and wherever large crowds have
gathered. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, South
Asian, or East Asian descent, or those who, because of their
complexion, are perceived to be from the Caucasus region or the Middle
East. These U.S. citizens are also at risk for harassment by police
authorities.

Posted by
12040 posts

If two countries have less than amicable relations, the hosility of the public is usually directed towards symbols of the enemy's government or authority. Things like embassies or certain businesses/institutions strongly associated with the other country, like McDonalds for the US (despite being a locally owned and operated franchise) or synagogues as a convenient stand-in for Israel. Tourists are usually left alone. Acts of violence usually are planned well in advanced, and the very ephemeral nature of tourism makes individual travelers a low-yield target.

Despite what I think of Mr. Putin's regime and the dark path I think he's led his country, I have generally found Russians on an individual level to be some of the warmest , most welcoming people on the planet. Just remember to politely refuse the drink they may offer you. It never ends with only one, and they can likely drink you under the table. I've made this mistake on multiple occassions.

The biggest concern for travel in Russia hasn't changed despite the souring of the international climate- corrupt officials and policeman.