Driving in Russia is not recommended. Roads are in very poor condition—even major highways near Moscow are full of potholes—and in some places there is no pavement at all. Roads are marked only with Cyrillic and/or international symbols. Along with poor roads, you must be willing to deal with the bribe-hungry traffic inspectors who may target a foreigner, and repair stations are few and far between. Although in the last few years there has been much improvement in safety, there is still a risk of highway robbery or car theft, especially if the driver is a foreigner. Do not stop to help motorists whose cars appear to have broken down, even if they wave at you for help—this is a classic ambush technique. Never leave anything of value inside your car. Renting a car is not too expensive; you can manage for about $60 per day if you look around well. Gasoline is comparable to American prices at about $1 per liter.
In light of these concerns, you may wish to hire a car and driver rather than driving yourself. There are many companies that provide this service. Hiring a driver is about 500R per hour and up, and about USD $200 per day or more, depending on the car. Some taxi companies charge by time while some charge by miles. English-speaking drivers may cost more.
If you do choose to drive, note that your own driver's license is not acceptable in Russia. You'll need an International Driver's Permit and, if traveling into the country by car, an international certificate of registration of the car in the country of departure. You'll also need a certificate of obligation (which should be registered with customs at the point of entry; consult your rental company about this) if you have plans for driving a rental car in over the border. International Driving Permits (IDPs) are available from the American and Canadian automobile associations and, in the United Kingdom, from the Automobile Association and Royal Automobile Club. All of these documents will need to have a certified Russian translation, which you can obtain at a Russian consulate or embassy before you leave.
Because service stations are few and poorly stocked, it's recommended that for long distances you carry a complete emergency repair kit, including a set of tools, a towing cable, a pressure gauge, a pump, a spare tire, a repair outfit for tubeless tires, a good jack and one or two tire levers, a gasoline can, a spare fan belt, spare windshield-wiper blades, and spark plugs. You should also have a set of headlight bulbs and fuses, a set of contact-breaker points for the ignition distributor, a spare condenser, a box of tire valve interiors, and a roll of insulating tape. There is no national emergency service to call, but if you're in the Moscow area, consider joining the Angel Club, an autoclub that offers some emergency services.
Angel Club 495/747-0022 www.angelclub.ru