Heading to Russia and not sure what to expect? Allianz Global Assistance shares advice for Aussie travellers

This June, one of the world’s largest sporting events is set to kick off in Russia, with thousands of tourists from around the world set to descend on 11 cities around the Eastern European destination.

With a well-known passion for sport, Aussie travellers will be among those spectators making the trip. However, with political tensions in Russia, and the ongoing threat of terrorism at an all-time high, Allianz Global Assistance (AGA) is advising all travellers to take precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Though Russia has always been a fascinating and mysterious nation to tourists, it does present risks to travellers such as potential threats to their safety and security, civil unrest and political tension, theft, assault, and the limited availability of quality medical facilities.

According to Allianz Global Assistance owned data, medical and hospital expenses has been one of the top three most common claims for Australian travellers in Russia since 2015, which reiterates the importance for travellers to take preventative measures to ensure their safety.

Allianz Global Assistance, Chief Underwriting Officer, Aimee McGuinness says “The Australian Government has advised Australians travelling to Russia to exercise a high degree of caution and we echo this sentiment. Crime, violence and corruption are very real dangers in this destination and we can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring travellers are adequately prepared before they depart.

“The standard of healthcare facilities in Russia is in stark contrast to that of Australia and in the instance that someone becomes injured or falls seriously ill, medical evacuation to receive the necessary care is likely. Costs for overseas treatment and repatriation can become exorbitant so we urge all travellers to purchase comprehensive travel insurance to ensure they’re covered for any issues that may arise.”

If you are already heading to or are planning a trip to Russia this year, here are some tips for you to consider:

  1. Ensure your visa is in order – Visas are an absolute must for all travellers entering Russia and must be secured in advance, as you are unable to obtain a visa upon arrival. Start the application process at least a month before your trip and consider asking a travel agency to help if uncertain
  2. You can be stopped by the Russian police – Police checks on tourists are extremely common in Russia. Carry your passport, visa and migration card on your person at all times[1] – some police officers will not accept photocopies and you can be detained and face a substantial fine
  3. Always book your taxi in advance – They may look official but there are many taxis that are not licensed by local authorities. Only use official taxi companies which can be easily booked at your hotel, hostel and even at airports
  4. Learn your ABCs – It may seem tricky, but learning and understanding the Cyrillic alphabet will repay you in more ways than one. Not only will you be able to navigate the infamous Moscow Metro stations, but you’ll be able to decode street signs and maps, reducing the chance of getting lost. It’ll even help when ordering off menus!
  5. Your personal safety comes first – Aussies know how to celebrate and sometimes we can find ourselves in sticky situations. Try to avoid venturing out on your own, always keep aware of your environment and surround yourself with friends and travel buddies. Violence and theft are common around popular tourist attractions, so if something does happen, the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) in Canberra can be contacted from anywhere in the world – (+61) 2 6261 3305.
  6. Don’t forget your travel insurance – Travel insurance is always a travel essential, but the importance of having 24/7 assistance and comprehensive cover for issues that may arise is heightened for a trip to Russia. Regardless of how healthy you are, unexpected things can still happen and the Australian Government won’t be in a position to pay for your medical expenses or medical evacuation costs. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact your insurer.

[1] Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Smart Traveller http://smartraveller.gov.au/Countries/europe/eastern/Pages/russia.aspx