Traveling to & from Russia by car, motorcycle or hitchhiking

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 03 Apr 2011)
If you happen to be traveling from one of the Baltic states, Finland or Sweden, then driving your own car to Russia may be a good option. There are many tourists traveling by car from these countries, as well as a steady flow of second-hand cars imported to Russia from Germany. All this means that the customs regulations are quite straightforward and the infrastructure on the road is good. However, this also means longer queues at some border crossing points.

Russian-Estonian Border / photo by jboyes@FlickR

Russian-Estonian Border / photo by jboyes@FlickR

Generally, it is better to avoid traveling through Belarus and Ukraine as it is the main route for trucks and second-hand car importers. Besides, you will have to deal with more border regulations on the way. However, if you decide to go this way, keep E30 motorway which crosses Brest and Minsk (Belarus) and then passes through Smolensk in Russia and finishes in Moscow.


Best Border Entry Points

The best is to enter Russia through the border with Latvia, Estonia or Finland, as all of them belong to same economic area (EU), which means less hassle. The shortest route from Poland to Russia avoiding Belarus (and thus transit visa hassle) is to travel through Kaunas (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) entering Russia near Pskov.
If you are traveling from Finland, Nujimaa/Bruschnishnaya control point is usually quite fast, while Valimaa/Torfjanak usually has longer queues. The border between Latvia and Russia is usually not too busy, but it depends: sometimes you can get through the border in 20 minutes, sometimes you might have to wait 2 hours.
The petrol and diesel is easily available in Russia and there are generally 4 types on sale: 95 ("devyanosto pyaty" - that's what you use for most foreign cars - unleaded), 92 ("devyanosto vtoroi"), 80 or 76 (for old Russian cars), and diesel fuel. The 95 petrol is about $0.7 US per liter, diesel is about $0.6 US per liter, so it is about twice less than in Europe and more expensive than in USA. There might sometimes be problems with the quality of the fuel, so it's better to use petrol stations that have some sort of brand name (BP, TNK, LukOIL are among the best ones).

Documents, Insurance & Car Registration in Russia

To travel in Russia by car or motorcycle you need (according to the Russian authorities):
• your personal passport with valid Russian visa, original;
• your driving licence, original, and an international driving permit - DP 1949 (in UK you can get it at selected Post Office branches for £5 in just 5 minutes) or by post through The Automible Association (AA);
• the registration document on your car (a document that proves you are the owner of the car with all the information about the owner and registration - called "techpassport" or auto-passport in Russian), original;
third-party insurance valid in Russia (can be purchased at petrol stations just before the border or if you want to save money and time at the local office or affilliate of a Russian insurance company (such as Ingosstrakh, Rosno, etc.), for example, in Latvia it can be bought at most Parex Bank branches).

The standard price is about $40 for cars and $80 for campers and caravans.

of these documents should be translated in Russian (except for your visa, insurance, and International driving permit that will be in Russian, anyway). Your visa does not need to have the information about your car, but it's recommended, so when you apply for your visa support, submit your car details as well.

Fire extingiusher and first-aid kit are mandatory.

If you are a Russian citizen with a foreign driving license, you need to apply for a temporary driving permit while you're in Russia. There's some weird loophole that allows the Russian police to fine you if you're a Russian citizen driving on a foreign driving license, even though you have the international driving permit. This is not very clear, so it won't be always the case, however, if you plan on driving in Russia regularly on the foreign driving license, stop by the local GIBBD office to ask them about the latest regulations.


Temporary Permit for a Vehicle

If you are traveling to Russia with your own vehicle, you will get a temporary permit from the customs to be able to use the car legally in Russia. It is usually given for 10 days, but you can extend it at local customs offices. In order to extend your temporary car permit, you should first have your visa registered (see more information on this topic at our Russian Visa section), and then go to one of the customs offices.

In Moscow the customs office where you can extend your temporary permit located at BUTOVSKI TAMOZHNIYA PUNKT at KILOMETRE 26 of the WARSHAWSKE SCHOSSE - thats outside the MKAD by around 5 kilometres. Going out from Moscow the office is on the right hand side on the territory of a company called SOVTRANSAVTOEXPEDITIA (or something like that) There is a nice large white sign in Russian at the turning point (Thanks for this information to Dittrich, who posted it on our Talk Lounge forums).
In St. Petersburg it's located at Schosse Revolutsii, #114 (North-East).

Car info can be entered onto migration card / photo by Adybov.Ru
Car info can be entered onto migration card / photo by Adybov.Ru

The temporary car permit can be extended for 1 year maximum, but usually it is extended for 3 to 6 months, depending on the type of your visa. It will never be extended for a longer time than your visa registration is valid.
If you need assistance, the company called InterAutoCenter provides car registration services to foreigners in Moscow, they might be able to advise you on the other cities as well.

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If you want to do it yourself, here's the info that Dittrich posted on our forum – according to him, the process have become much easier and is not expensive at all:

"It took me only 1 hour and cost me 410RBL [$17 - WTR] for forms, duties and "services" and another 250RBL [$10] for photocopies. All in between GBP10 to GBP20. Strictly the duty of RBL100 has to be paid at SBERBANK but they don't have one there. If you persist then they might let you go and see someone in one of their offices who will give you a receipt for RBL100 in return for 400RBL cash. This is what we did.
There is no vehicle inspection now but check the form to ensure they get the reg no and VIN no correct. They stuffed mine up. However this was not a problem at the border on the return trip because the number on the paper was the reg document no not the reg no of the vehicle. They took photocopies of the reg document and that was that.
And finally, we got the certificate extending the temporary import AFTER the closing time of 5pm (5.30pm in fact).
So a big thumbs up to Russian Customs on this. In 2005 I spend a whole afternoon at the customs and paid over GBP40."
Dittrich's forum post on this subject..



Traveling to Russia with a Camping Car

If you decide to travel to Russia with a camping car or a motorhome, you should be aware that there are no special facilities along the way. There are camping sites designed for truck drivers mainly, which have basic facilities (such as toilets, showers, and sometimes water) but they are far from western standard.
However, it's not impossible to travel to Russia with your own camping car. All you need to do is to stick to the main routes and look out for motel / camping site signs along the way.
In terms of safety, you will definitely have to look out more for your camper than if you traveled in Europe, so we recommend to leave your car only at secured sites (or at least arrange with somebody to look after your car for a fee - 100R-200R ($3-$6) per day should be enough).
However, it's not as dangerous as it used to be to travel in Russia with a car anymore. Nowadays criminals found other sources of income and there's lots of police along the way, which creates another problem of frequent police checks. There will be no problems though if your documents are OK.

The easiest way to travel is to cross from Finland or Estonia into St. Petersburg region, which has a few well-maintained camping sites and visit St. Petersburg and Novgorod (which is an ancient and beautiful Russian town about 250 km drive away).
camping near St. Petersburg is Hotel Camping Olgino, which is located 18 km from St. Petersburg on the motorway towards Finland. It received bad reviews from travelers (expensive and the staff is not friendly), but at least it's something. The address is 18 km Primoskoe Shosse (on E18 route), and they charge about €10 /night per car and it's unclear whether there's a charge per person or not, but it might be that it's extra €15 / person / night. Tel: +7 812 633-0205. 
Traveling to Moscow is tricky, because there are no good camping sites for motorhomes close to the city and the traffic is very busy. If you decide to go to Moscow however, it's recommended to arrange parking at a secured site with one of the hotels or hostels in the center of the city.
The way from Europe to Russia through Belarus is also possible. There are a few camping sites along the way (in Brest and near Minsk) run by Intourist, but they are all either hotel car parks or sub-standard sites.
If you decide to undertake a longer journey we recommend you to see the links at the bottom of this page.


The Russian Traffic Police (GIBBD)

The traffic police in Russia is called GIBBD (government inspection of road safety) and is notorious for its flexibility. While the traffic rules in Russia are generally the same as in Europe, you can always reach an agreement with a traffic office on the spot in case your infringement is not really serious. The fine for speeding is $10 US, if you cross the red lights, you'll get your driving license taken and will have to go through the court to get them back. The cameras are installed on the major motorways and city avenues and GIBBD inspectors usually like to hide in the most unimaginable places and then jump out of the trees to stop your car and show you what that their radar detected.
Also, you shouldn't worry if you get stopped even if you think you did nothing wrong: the check-ups are regular and if your documents are OK, the inspector will take 1 minute and wish you a nice journey.


Car Insurance in Russia

You should have a third-party insurance valid on the whole territory of Russia to be able to enter with your car. This insurance is better purchased from a reputable Russian insurance company (such as Ingosstrakh or Rosno, for example). The insurance can be purchased from the Russian insurer representative office or at the petrol stations before the border and at the border (slightly more expensive).
The standard price is about $40 for cars and $80 for campers and caravans.

Ingosstrakh Russia: Email: (Dmitri Zmiy). Internet:

In Latvia, Rosno's insurance can be purchased at most Parex Bank branches.


Relevant Websites

A story of two Americans who crossed the whole Russia, from Magadan (Far East) to Moscow in 1996.

Motorhome Monthly Magazine (UK) published an article on traveling from Poland to Russia and back in July 2005 and August 2005 issues.


Relevant Forum Topics






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