Russia and its neighbours, known collectively as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), are alluring destinations in part due to the vast unexplored wildernesses and vibrant cultures that make up the region. From the urban scramble of Moscow to the wild steppes of Central Asia, the region brings a wide variety of risks worth understanding. If you (or someone you know) is travelling to Russia or the CIS states and you would like comprehensive custom-made travel security advice and regular intelligence updates, please get in touch!


Disclaimer

The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd (England & Wales registered company number 10953024) is intended to help you navigate a dangerous world, but is not intended to replace common sense or entirely remove the risks associated with travelling. Unforeseen circumstances are an inevitability with travel and as a result not everything can be planned for. While we endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we live in a rapidly changing world where not all risks can be predicted or mitigated against. By making use of the information provided to you by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, you acknowledge that any dangers you are exposed to by travelling are faced at your own risk. The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd should not be considered a recommendation in favour of any particular destination. As an England & Wales registered company, interaction between How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, the general public, and clients will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the England & Wales and shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England & Wales.


How Dangerous is Terrorism in Russia and the CIS?

Russia and the CIS states are not immune to the growing global terrorism threat, and have suffered a number of attacks in recent years. The chances of being caught in an attack depends significantly on which countries and cities within the region you are visiting, and what sort of traveller you are. For the cautious traveller, there are simple steps you can take to better protect yourself and advice to follow in the event of being caught in a situation. Get in touch to find out if our travel safety and security advice is right for you.


How Safe is Travel to Azerbaijan?

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and the solicitation of bribes are the most common risks in urban Azerbaijan. Baku can be especially problematic for muggings after dark and on public transport, especially in entertainment areas popular with foreign visitors. Corruption is especially common in Azerbaijan, and visitors may encounter demands for bribes from members of the security services.

The Nagorno-Karabakh region should be avoided due to the ongoing military conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Entering Nagorno-Karabakh without the permission of the authorities is considered a criminal offence. While a cease-fire has been in effect since 1994 there are regular exchanges of gunfire across the front lines and tensions remain high. The region remains heavily mined, and it can still be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads and to enter abandoned buildings. Travellers heading to Nagorno-Karabakh should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects.

Azerbaijan is a somewhat conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Belarus?

Low risk – Travel

Crime rates in Belarus are low due to harsh penalties and strict policing, however petty crime can still be a problem. It is not uncommon for foreign visitors to Belarus to be subject to surveillance by the security forces, and as such you should expect your phone calls, emails and activities to be monitored. Travellers should also be extremely cautious around military and security infrastructure, as taking photos or loitering around these areas can be deemed suspicious.

Road safety is a significant concern in Belarus, and travellers should approach overland trips with caution.


How Safe is Travel to Kazakhstan?

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Crimes ranging from pick-pocketing and scams through to muggings can pose a significant problem in Kazakhstan, especially in urban areas after dark. Corruption is also an issue, and travellers may encounter demands for bribes from police and other security services. Individuals may also pose as police officers as part of a confidence scam, and travellers should politely insist on seeing identification before handing over belongings or cash.

It is not uncommon for foreign visitors to Kazakhstan to be subject to surveillance by the security forces, and as such you should expect your phone calls, emails and activities to be monitored.

Kazakhstan is a somewhat conservative country, and as such lone female travellers and tourists from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Kyrgyzstan?

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Violent crimes are unfortunately common across Kyrgyzstan, especially after dark. Bazaars and marketplaces are known hot-spots for petty crime such as scams and pick-pocketing, particularly Osh Bazaar in Bishkek, where tourists are regularly specifically targeted. Taxis have been repeatedly implicated in crimes against foreign visitors, and the use of a reputable car service is advised.

Although officially illegal, bride-kidnapping remains common, particularly in rural areas of the country. Foreign female travellers have been targeted in the past, and as such should seek advice prior to travel.

There are occasional military clashes along the disputed Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border, and the area should be approached with extreme caution. Tensions also persist along Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border, and there have been a number of security incidents and exchanges of cross-border fire. Some border areas are mined, and it can be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads and to enter abandoned buildings. Travellers heading to border areas should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects.

It should be noted that at the time of writing all Kyrgyzstan airlines are banned from operating in the European Union due to failures to meet international safety standards.


How Safe is Travel to Russia?

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Petty crime is a problem in urban Russia, and can range from pick-pocketing and scams through to drink-spiking and robbery. Recent years have seen reports of criminals posing as police officers in order to scam or rob foreigners, and you are advised to politely request identification or to be accompanied to the nearest police station if you suspect a police officer is not genuine.

The Russia-Ukraine border and Caucasus region should be avoided where possible due to heightened military activity, terrorism risks and general lawlessness. Terrorism is a particular concern across Russia, and travellers should remain mindful of what to do in the event of an attack.

Russia is a conservative country, and as such travellers from the LGBT community are strongly encouraged to seek further advice prior to travel. Racial discrimination of travellers of Asian, Latin American and African heritage can also be a problem in Russia, and police harassment of minority visitors is unfortunately not uncommon.


How Safe is Travel to Tajikistan?

High risk – Carefully consider necessity of travel

Dushanbe has seen increasing reports of muggings and petty crime against foreign visitors in recent years. Unlicensed taxis are also a problem, and scams against travellers involving inflated fares are common. The police are not considered to be particularly effective in Tajikistan, and corruption poses a significant risk.

There are occasional military clashes along the disputed Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border, and the area should be approached with extreme caution. Travellers are advised to avoid the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast as the area may be closed to visitors at short notice. This region, being adjacent to Afghanistan, sees occasional military skirmishes and clashes between drug-smuggling gangs and law enforcement personnel.

Female travelers may experience harassment and attempts at drink-spiking, and are encouraged to seek further advice prior to travelling. Tajikistan is a somewhat conservative country, and as such travellers from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Turkmenistan?

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Although crime rates are generally low across Turkmenistan, tourists may be targeted for petty crime due to their perceived wealth. Turkmenistan’s police are known to be capable, but can be aggressive in conducting their duties. Corruption remains a problem, and travellers may find themselves targeted for the solicitation of bribes. It should also be noted that a nationwide curfew is in effect after 11pm, and you may be detained if found on the street beyond this time.

It is not uncommon for foreign visitors to Turkmenistan to be subject to surveillance by the security forces, and as such you should expect your phone calls, emails and activities to be monitored. Certain areas of the country such as border regions are designated as restricted zones and require special permission to visit. The borders with Afghanistan and Iran are particularly sensitive, and travellers should seek advice prior to visiting these areas.

Turkmenistan is a somewhat conservative country, and as such female travellers and those from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


How Safe is Travel to Ukraine?

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Crime poses a risk to foreign visitors to Ukraine, and travellers may find themselves specifically targeted due to their perceived wealth. Pick-pocketing is commonly reported in Kyiv, in particular on the city metro. Robbery and armed criminality can also pose a problem in urban areas of the country. Racial discrimination and harassment of travellers of Asian and African heritage can also be a problem in Ukraine.

Several areas of Eastern Ukraine remain effected by conflict between pro-Russian separatist groups and the Ukrainian armed forces. Travellers are strongly advised to avoid the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as the Ukraine-Russia border. The Crimea region also remains annexed by Russia, and travellers should seek further advice if visiting this area. Landmines and other unexploded ordinance poses a risk in conflict-affected areas. It can be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads and to enter abandoned buildings, especially in rural areas, and travellers should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip. If in doubt, steer well clear of any unidentified objects. Terrorist attacks, often linked to the conflict, can take place across the country and in Kyiv in particular. Travellers should familiarise themselves with what to do in the event of an attack.


How Safe is Travel to Uzbekistan?

Medium risk – Travel with caution

Crime continues to be a problem in Uzbekistan, and can range from petty crimes through to muggings and robbery. Scams involving fake police officers have also been previously reported. Corruption is an issue in Uzbekistan, and foreign visitors may find themselves targeted for bribery demands.

Uzbekistan’s border regions are often restive, and tensions persist along the Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan frontiers, which are often closed at short notice. Several border regions are disputed, and armed conflict can occasionally flare up with little warning. Landmines also pose a risk in border regions, and it can be extremely dangerous to travel off of paved roads and to enter abandoned buildings. Travellers heading to rural areas should familiarise themselves with what explosives and landmines look like prior to their trip, and if in doubt should steer well clear of any unidentified objects. The Fergana valley should also be approached with caution due to elevated tensions in the region.

Uzbekistan is a somewhat conservative country, and as such female travellers and those from the LGBT community should seek further advice prior to travel.


If you (or someone you know) is travelling to Russia or the CIS states and you would like comprehensive custom-made travel security advice and regular intelligence updates, please get in touch!


Disclaimer

The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd (England & Wales registered company number 10953024) is intended to help you navigate a dangerous world, but is not intended to replace common sense or entirely remove the risks associated with travelling. Unforeseen circumstances are an inevitability with travel and as a result not everything can be planned for. While we endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we live in a rapidly changing world where not all risks can be predicted or mitigated against. By making use of the information provided to you by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, you acknowledge that any dangers you are exposed to by travelling are faced at your own risk. The information provided by How Safe Is My Trip Ltd should not be considered a recommendation in favour of any particular destination. As an England & Wales registered company, interaction between How Safe Is My Trip Ltd, the general public, and clients will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the England & Wales and shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England & Wales.


Photo credit: Seb Fish