Is Russia safe to visit in 2024 ?

Is Russia safe to visit in 2024 ?

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Friendly soldiers at the border zone checkpost in Ingushetia. They offered me tea and chocolate while checking my documents were in order. February 2019

My blog is dedicated to travelling in Russia and I’m promoting parts of the country through detailed travel guides and pictures.

However, not so many people are aware of the tourist potential of Russia, their idea of the country is often limited to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Baikal lake, empty steppe and DANGER.

Moscow is shown more than ever as the perfect city to start a new life away from the West. “Expats” (mostly white immigrants with traditional values in my opinion) are heavily promoting their new ideal life on Youtube, showing how well stock russian supermarkets are, what the new russian Macdonalds taste like …

Alright, nothing bad with showing the the reality of Russian daily life in the country’s biggest city but keep in mind these people have a good salary, way above average, they don’t worry about inflation like the babsuhka selling her homegrown vegetables in the street’s corner.

Now, if we watch or read western medias, that’s a different story : terrorit attack, forced mobilisation, front line, Putin’s propaganda … Travel forums are sometimes worse : “you will get arrested by the FSB at the border”, “it’s impossible to visit Russia now”, “Russia is so dangerous for westerners” …

Who’s right and wrong between the expat and his pretty slavic wive, the western newspaper with its scary headlines or the often-ignorant american sharing his point of view on a country he’s never even set a foot in ? (no offense american readers)

Is Russia safe to visit in 2024 ?

Here is some sort of analysis, which, from a travelling perspective, aims to show you what the situation is nowadays for tourists going to Russia, including which regions are safe and unsafe, plus a few extra tips on solo female travels or more.

Disclaimer : I do not take any responsability if you get mugged in a dodgy neighborhood or decide to hang out in the “new russian territories” and get hurt. You’re responsible for your own actions.

Reading time : 10 minutes

Is it safe to travel to Russia now? The current situation, media & the FSB

Foreign Governements & Social media’s POV

As said previously the internet is filed with all sorts of opinion about travelling to Russia right now. Western governments strongly recommend not to go, even though diplomatic representatives never left the country, and amateur geopolitical experts on social medias basically tells you that you will end up in a russian gulag even though they’ve never even been to Russia themselves.

Then you have the actual tourists (me included) who went to visit Russia recently claiming they felt safe and welcomed in the country and end up being labelled as “pro-Kremlin, pro-Putin, russian propagandist” and so on …

Funny enough, nobody called me a pro-Berdimuhamedov when I went to visit Turkmenistan, pro-MBS when I travelled to Saudi Arabia or pro-Macron for being a french citizen. Why is Russia so different then ?

My trips to Russia have absolutely no political motivations and for 99% of the foreign tourists going there neither.

For me “being safe” when travelling anywhere means : not getting mugged nor harrassed, not putting a chair to block my hotel room at night, not getting kidnapped nor caught up in a gunfight and not getting arrested by the police for no reason.

In my years of travelling around Russia, including the so-called dangerous North Caucasus republics, none of the above never happenned. And I’ve never heard of any foreign tourists getting hurt in Russia either. Have you ?

The media about Russia

Everytime the western mass medias talk about Russia (even before 2022), it’s not to show the colourful orthodox churches, the mountains of the Great Caucasus or Siberia’s wilderness.

Instead, they only mention the negative stuffs : terrorist attacks, fraudulent elections, propaganda … Nothing new here, it’s been going on for ages. Of course they heavily rely on stereotypes : bad roads, drunkars, low-rank police corruption … They insist on making Russia and Russians looking very different from Westerners, they insist on portraying the country stuck in the past with poor infrastures etc.

Breaking news : it’s bullshit. I dare say on some levels, Russia works better than my home country, France.

A few example : The trains are running on time 99.9% of the time (the opposite of the french SNCF), you can transfer money to someone’s bank account with a simple phone number (let’s just say the french bank banking system is “complicated”), Yandex maps is thousands time better than Google maps (for real !) …

Of course, no country is perfect, but tourism-speaking, I think Russia has good infrastrures : public transports to pretty much anywhere, hotels or guesthouses even deep in Siberia etc. It is possible to travel anywhere you want in Russia (some place require a large budget though) despite being such a massive country. If you’re looking for authentic travels, that’s a great destination to add to any bucket-list.

Note about “alternative medias”. If they report a different version of the government’s narrative, they too are labelled as “sponsored by Moscow” or “russian propagandists” … take my governement for example : They banned over 20 Telegram channels last February reporting about Ukraine-Russia and Donbass, they blocked Rumble in the country because the video platform refused to take down some channels reporting on the conflict. So much for the country of “freedom of speech”, hey ?

I like to have the opportunity to hear different versions of a topic and make up my own mind about it, that includes getting news from various point of views.

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Moscow military Parade. 8th of March 2021

Getting arrested by the FSB

You might have read online about people getting questionned by the FSB at the border or even Youtubers such as famous Drew Binsky “getting arrested”.

One of the FSB’s job is to watch the borders of Russia, if the border guard sees stamps on your passport he find unsual he might call some officers to dig up a bit. It’s not unsual. If you have nothing to hide what is the problem to answer a few questions about the purpose of your visit in a separate room ? I don’t see any, they do their security job.

Of course we, Westerners, are not used to that. There’s no borders between european countries for example and, nobody cares if you’re a sex tourist in Thailand. They stamp you in the country, no questions asked. Why would they ask anything anyway ? Tourism = money. Russia has never been and probably never will be a trendy tourist destination.

I think we, Westerners (white people mostly – I’m white), with our powerful passports are used to go anywhere without anybody never questionning our motives : it’s called priviledge.

Now back to the vloggers “getting arrested” in Russia. They did not get arrested, merely questionned. They should’ve been more well-informed. Going to the border zone areas in Russia requires a special permit. In some places, flying a drone is illegal. If a regular police officer tells you to stop recording then stop. Simple as that. Breaking the country’s rules can get you in trouble anywhere in the world. Russia is no exception.

To be transparent with you I was questionned by the FSB twice, once in Bryansk oblast after the Ukrainian border, taken to a side room for an hour or so, they asked questions about my trips to Central Asia mostly, they called my friend in Moscow to verify my story and then one of the officer gave me a lift to the next town because I was hitchhikng in the middle of winter. Not so scary experience to me.

The second time was in a small village in Chechnya. How did they found me ? I guess through my phone. I just got signal after a couple of day out of it. I got interviewed in the local school director’s office. Their main concern was what a solo 26 years old french girl doing in the middle of a chechen village? I was just hanging out with the local friendly babushkas ! Again, not so scary experience.

I had done nothing wrong, I was totally allowed to be where I was at these moments.

As controversial as it can be, Russia is a safe country for tourists in general, even in 2024. Of course, because of the conflict (call it what you like, but I want my next russian visa approved) between Russia and Ukraine, areas with ongoing military operations and territories around them are not safe to visit. It’s not about being cautious, but basic common sense.

The Checkpoint on the road in the North Caucasus
A major checkpost on the highway crossing the North Caucasus. From Kabardino – Balkaria to North Ossetia – Alania. Summer 2019

Safety in Russia by regions

Generally speaking for the whole country, you will see metal detectors and guards at entrances of all shopping centers, metro stations, train stations and bus stations (maybe not in provincial towns for that one). Year-around.

There are also checkposts on the roads/highways from time to time. They are mostly on the sideroads checkposts (not like the one from the picture above) and stop cars/trucks as they please to check documents. Some regions like the North Caucasus republics have more checkposts for safety reasons.

Moscow & Saint Petersburg

The two capitals of Russia are totally safe to visit. I’ve never heard of pick-pockets (nobody wears their bags in front of them in the bus like you would see in Paris for example), you will most likely have to put your backpack/suitcase through a scanner when entering the metro, you regularly see police on patrol etc.

Now you might think “but what about the Crocus terrorist attack from last march 2024 ?” According to Statistica, there has been 15 terrorist attacks in Europe since 2021 including 5 in France, 3 in Germany, 2 in Sweden. Not too that scale but apparently my country is the highest at risk of a major terrorist attack in Europe, and still one of the most visited country in the world. Just saying.

Border regions with Ukraine

The border regions with Ukraine and Donbass are not totally safe despite not being where military operations happen. The oblasts of Bryansk, Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh and Roston on Don are to be avoided in my opinion.

Multiple times the past months missiles and drones sent from Ukraine have landed there and made casualties among civilians. Of course it didn’t made head news on Western TV. The airports in these regions are closed, but you can still go by trains or bus if you wish.

The North Caucasus

It’s safe to travel the North Caucasus now, including Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia : it’s 2024, not the 1990’s anymore. If it was not, the central russian government would simply not let tourists cross the borders from Georgia & Azerbaijan, land into the international airports of the region nor board trains and bus to it.

Some republics have more police/military presence than others, there are also checkpoints on the main roads where everyone must register. I’ve solo travelled for months in every republicss of the North Caucasus, not once I’ve felt unsafe. But then again, you need to be comfortable with police presence, armed men and sometimes crazy driving skills.

I would not recommend for inexperienced traveller though : if you’re an 18 years old girl on your first solo trip, Sochi is a much better destination than Dagestan.

The rest of Russia

For the rest of Russia, wether it’s the far North in Murmansk, deep in the Altai mountains or Vladivostok, nothing to worry about except perhaps nature : flood can happen in the spring went snow melts or fire in the summer burning Yakutia for example.

Crimea

Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 and is considered as a subject of the Federation. Ukraine has threatenend to destroy the Crimean bridge multiple times and is regularly targetting military infrastuctures on the peninsula : war ships and submarines in Sevastopol, military base next to Evpatoria etc.

Many considers Crimea to be in the war zone, I don’t. I’ve been to the peninsula in the summer 2022 for over a month, nothing was happening, only the noises of rockets being sent from Sevastopol to Ukraine. According to my contacts sirens can be heard in the city from time to time, but nothing really serious.

There are trains and buses crossing the Crimean bridge daily but also buses to/from Donbass crossing though the North of Crimea via Mariupol unto Donestk and Lugansk.

The beaches of Southern Crimea are packed with russian tourists every summer, I personnally would totally go back without worrying for my safety.

The “new russian territories”

In september 2022, Russia officially annexed 4 regions of Ukraine after a referendum of the local population. Now, from Russia’s point of view the oblasts of Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporijia and Kherson are part of the Federation just like Crimea. Technically you can go from Russia, but that doesn’t mean you should.

The cities of Donestk and Lugansk are rather far from the front like but rockets and various shells still on up there from time to time.

Before their annexation, the DPR (Donetsk Poople Republic) and the LPR (Lugansk People Republic) have been fighting for their separation from Ukraine since 2014,. Western news called them “separatists backed up by Russia” back then but suddently “the war started in 2022” …

Anyway, if you’re into dark tourism and war zones, know that you can go from Russia, nobody will stop you. Check out the vlog from Britannica, a british youtuber who’s been to Lugansk about a year ago.

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Hitchhiking through the Crimean Bridge. Summer 2022

Is it safe to travel to Russia as a solo female tourist ?

I’m a woman, so I guess it makes me in the perfect position to answer that question. Yes, it is safe to visit Russia as a solo female traveler. I would even add, go for it ! You would not believe how safe you will feel.

Walking alone at night in a city ? You can !
Being harrassed by men ? You won’t !
Sleeping in a common train wagon with 50 other people ? Absolutely no worries to have !

One of the reason I love to travel in Russia is that I feel safe as a solo woman. I’ve never ever been harrassed or catcalled in the street (though I’m probably invisible next to a tall and very little dressed slavic girl wearing high heels), I walk alone at night in cities (my female russian friends don’t even see the problem when I tell them that, it’s normal for them), I hike alone in the Caucasus mountains (I always tell someone where I go of course) etc.

I would recommend Russia to even unexperience solo female traveler, hands down !

Additional tips and information

– Dress modest in conservative regions like the muslim republics of the North Caucasus. Whether you’re a man or woman, dress appropriately to visit a mosque or an orthodox church.

– Get a VPN. Some western websites are blocked in Russia but also for your own online anonymity. Check out my guide to the top 5 best VPN to use in Russia.

– Use Couchsurfing. Russians are super hospitable and love to meet foreigners. A great way to immerse yourself in russian culture.

– Don’t be scared of the FSB. If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about. They don’t go on arresting foreign tourists for fun. Their plate is rather full these days, don’t you think ?

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A russian lady invited to stay at her isba in a small village in Siberia through Couchsurfing. January 2016

Do russian people hate westerners ?

Last but not least, do russian people hate us ? The answer is simple : nope, not at all.

As surprising as it may sound, russian people seem to be so much better than westerners at distinguishing normal citizens to politicians. In fact, I rarely talk politics with people I meet on my travels. They are more eager to show me kind gestures of hospitality rather than share their point of views on the Western sanctions.

Just like us, Russian people ≠ their government.

Conclusion : Yes, Russia is safe to visit in 2024. Stop waiting for the “right time”, take that trip !

I have very little hope this post ends up on Google’s top search results because governments’ security and travel advice pages come first but it would help if you comment and share this post. Thank you !

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