Jan 9th, 2007, 04:14 PM
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judlar is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 05:02 PM
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Being in the travel business (and specializing in Russian travel) I read every State and Commerce Department safety bulletin, Kroll and other private security companies, Warden report, etc. concerning Russia (specific incidents and issues are not always listed on the general web sites; there are more detailed and frequent bulletins and security briefings available). In addition, I regularly converse with American and Russian diplomats, security experts, members of think tanks/NGOs, the press, investors, and other people who are very well informed. The consensus is that there is no absolutely safe place in the world, and that Russia faces some serious challenges, but as far as safety for a Westerner in Moscow/St Petersburg, there is no more risk there than other world cities. Western Europe--France, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain--had many terrorist incidents/assassinations in the 1970s and 1980s, but people still visited its major cities, mostly without incident. Even New York City in the 1970s-1980s was far more dangerous a place than the tourist areas of Moscow and St. Petersburg today. As for ‘micro-level’ security issues, pickpockets are frequently a problem in both cities, especially in St. Petersburg during the summer (there were some high profile incidents last year). Frankly, most first-hand (and reliable third party) accounts I am aware of happened as a result of drunkenness on the part of the victim. Despite its party atmosphere, Moscow especially is not the place to lose control of yourself unless you have a reliable person with you (as well as a driver). I have heard of more and more incidents regarding Gypsy cabs (as few are licensed) and really recommend that people arrange a driver in advance or use an official cab (which is surprisingly pricey-the cabs in Moscow start at 250 rubles or around $9).

I find the US State Department's website to be comprehensive:

If there are particular concerns that you personally have you should discuss them with someone who knows Russia well (a travel advisor or agent, or even call the US Consulate).

When we work with clients going to Russia we give them a brief discussion on safety issues, most of which are common sense things which anyone living in a major city knows. We also give them a cell phone (with a Russian number) as an additional safety net, should they feel concerned and need to call their hotel or local contact people.
Marc_David_Miller is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 06:35 PM
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check this post out:

We found both cities safe and would definitely recommend.I also recommend:
Tuni01 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 06:40 PM
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I had no problems in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but I was with a group.

Mark Miller knows what he is talking about.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jan 9th, 2007, 11:46 PM
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I've had no problems in Moscow, St Petersburg or any other town in Russia and I always travel independently, additionally I lived there for a year working. But I know it doesn't mean it couldn't happen.
Odin is offline  
Jan 10th, 2007, 11:10 AM
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Have been to both independently and had no problems at all.

HOWEVER, the tourist infrastructure is not as developed as it is in Czech republic, Hungary, for instance - and you really are better off not living on the economy. That is - take a cab versus the bus, tram or subway, stay in an upscale, centrally-located hotel - and if you're hesitant ask the concierge to organize a tour.

(We didn;t do tours - but took boat and train ourselves as well as getting ballet tickets at the box office - but it depends on your confort in usual precautions in large cities.)
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 10th, 2007, 12:10 PM
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we spent several days in moscow and st p this past summer as the bookends of a river cruise. we had no problems using the subways-ride the circle line in moscow for art and murals and get on and off-walking the central downtown parts of both cities but found that in the subways, particularly st. p. where you wait in front of an narrow, 10 foot wide bay for the train rather than an open platform, that gypsy children could swarm you and try to pickpocket you. wear a waste or next wallet, shield any small camera you have with you and be on the alert.
artnuvo is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 05:19 AM
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I know Russia pretty well, as I lived in Moscow for 4 years in the late 1990s and have visited since then, and I've never encountered a problem with crime. As others have said, just take the usual big-city precautions: be alert, and keep cameras, laptops & other valuables out of sight. One other tip: if you are flying into Moscow and traveling independently, try to line up transportation from the airport in advance. Otherwise you will be thronged by gypsy cab drivers who will do their utmost to take you to the cleaners. By contrast I never had any trouble with gypsy cabs in the middle of Moscow ... my sense is, the really unsavory guys try to snare unsuspecting tourists at the airport, whereas the ones in the middle of town are more often ordinary Ivans looking to make a few rubles on the side. However, it's probably not a good idea to flag down a gypsy cab if you don't speak a little Russian, which will make you seem less-vulnerable, not to mention making it possible to explain where you are going and negotiate a price.
mlaffitte is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 10:20 PM
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My recommendation would be to hire a private guide for at least your first day in each city. Many are recommended on this forum. They will advise you of all safety concerns of which you should be aware during your stay, and recommend the best transportation options, along with all sorts of other tips and recommendations.

There are many, many licensed, very reasonably priced private guides (most are college students, and all must comply with rigorous requirements, including a seperate license for each sight).

A guide is worth every penny. Not only for being taken around/all over, but for their extraordinary knowledge, and commentary in English. Many have web sites, now, and if they are busy your dates, will recommend someone else just as reasonably priced and capable.

Note also that licensed tour guides are able to get you into places by making appointments or otherwise skipping the lines.
djkbooks is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 09:43 AM
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My reply is to djkbooks: Do you have any information or direction on how you would go about hiring a guide?
dolivera is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 10:30 AM
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Guides in Russia jump the lines by offering a tip to the relevant individual at places like The Hermitage. Some of us might refer to this as a "bribe". Whatever you call it, it is not making an "appointment" at mega sites like The Hermitage, although they may do this at smaller sites such as the Yusupov Palace (where Rasputin died). While this entire system might be viewed as morally reprehensible, waiting in lines wastes much time.

By the way, I went to Russia on an elderhostel tour (one week Moscow/one week St. Petersburg) and our guide was quite up front about what was going on. Please note that there is a two price structure for everything in Russia. Foreigners pay much more than Russians. That is the way it is and do not get get upset about it. There was one time when I paid the Russian price, but that was when I had to wait a bit to go on a canal boat tour (due to a bunch of Russians with reservations who clearly had drunk their lunch) and the person was being nice to me.

By the way, if you don't speak some basic Russian, try doing a series of Pimsleur Russian before leaving so that you can ask basic questions. Please note: I do not have any financial interest in Pimsleur. I have used it for Russian (I studied Russian in high school briefly but remembered almost nothing) and Italian. I am now working with it for Latin American Spanish as well as Rosetta Stone. It is worth the money. Knowing some basic Russian is useful if you go off on your own to do things because very few people in Russia speak English and the signs are all in Cyrillic. An English language city map is totally useless in Russia. The only English directional signs I saw were a couple just around the Kremlin.

I always find it very satisfying to get around by myself rather than being herded all the time.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 06:26 PM
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Define safety. Try to relax. Take the trip, the post your observations. I predict safety will be absent. Relax, take a deep breath and have a good time.
CiaoLeone is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 09:50 PM
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In St. Petersburg, we engaged Olga (who was highly recommended on this forum), who was magnificent in every way. She was able to jump the lines with her LICENSE, not cash. Not only must guides be licensed, they must also have a seperate license for each venue.

Her website
djkbooks is offline  
Jan 13th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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Whatever DJKBooks says, the guides always "tip" to get to the head of the line. I do recommend that you have no Russian language skills, that you engage a guide for at least one day to get your feet wet--and to get into The Hermitage without waiting in line. All the guides basically handle the lines the same way--whether they are with groups or individuals. Aside from the line at The Hermitage, unless you are doing something unusual, most of the sites are easily accessible to people walking in by themselves. What a guide provides is commentary in English if you have no knowledge of Russian and/or have limited knowledge of Russian (that's where I fall). If you can understand the names of the stops on the Metro and/or match them with the signs, you can easily get around that way in either Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Obviously, what you want to do on your trip depends on how self confident you are about dealing with things in a language you do not speak. Moscow and St. Petersburg are no more difficult to get around for non Russian speakers than any other place in Europe. As with all these destinations, keep your wits about you and your money hidden (mine was in an underarm pouch). My camera was threaded through one of those photographer's vests as well as a belt. If anyone tried to steal my camera, they were going to have to take me with it. When I went "off tour", I had no difficulty getting around on my own to see the special sites I wanted to see that were not included.
FauxSteMarie is offline  
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