We left last week’s fumble through the red tape at the point where visas became involved. Without reproducing our governmental site in detail here, it’s worth going over some of the other relevant hoops and hurdles.
Aside from the infamous visa – which has to be registered within 3 working days of arrival – there is still the other obvious thing to deal with: your passport. What is not so obvious is the requirement that it must have at least 6 valid months left from the expiry date of your Russian visa. It doesn’t end there. You also have to register with the local office of the Federal Migration Service to finish. This applies to anyone staying for over 7 working days. This is usually handled as a matter of course by major hotels for all foreign nationals, but if you’re staying at a private residence, it’s the responsibility of the property owner. . .
Now, just because it’s his or her responsibility doesn’t mean that it will automatically be done. We have laws, but there’s still criminals – right? It’s worth checking with the host/FMS/tour operator that everything is in order – being caught with incomplete or incorrect documentation can mean seriously bad news.
To complete the set, an obligatory migration card is also required. This two part item is filled in electronically or manually at an airport’s border control upon your arrival. After signing, one part is retained by the immigration officer while you keep the other. This is to be produced upon demand with your passport if you’re ever stopped by the police. It’s also a good idea to have a few copies of your documentation in your possession in case the worst happens and something goes missing. If you lose your half of the card, then expect to be fined and delayed: seemingly the local remedy against any and all careless transgressions.
It’s also a good idea to have enough extra resources to (hopefully) dig yourself out of a hole should misfortune strike. So, things like: enough cash to get you back to your hotel, written contact details for the above establishment (in Cyrillic and English), similar details for your travel company rep/fixer and for any useful persons as applicable, tube & road maps, your embassy’s details, a Russian phrasebook and so forth.
A mobile phone is worth considering but it becomes somewhat complicated due to roaming surcharges on foreign calls, or even calls from outside the Russian region in which the SIM is registered. You may also have to provide your travel documents to buy the phone in the first place. Apparently one provider, Yota, is trying to level things out with a multi-regional flat rate which should make the issue more manageable. Either way, the procedure requires a little investigation – and perhaps local assistance too.
Returning to the issue of cash, it’s worth remembering that corrupt practice amongst the police is unfortunately relatively common, with the traffic police being the worst of the lot. For easy targets such as innocents abroad; this usually means pressure/demands for money over paperwork ‘inconsistencies’, supposed transgressions or even for the return of your documents if you have handed them over. I’ve heard some real horror stories! Does it go without saying that an outraged, antagonistic response to such ‘authority’ is just about the worse thing that you could possibly do? It should. You may have to hand over some cash – unless you’re willing to take on the Russian police, on their own turf and terms. Not a good idea.
The short answer to most of the above issues and arising concerns is to ask your trip organiser, in this case, Russia Experience, about the appropriate protocol before you depart.