Russia has closed its borders due to Coronavirus since March 2020. However, there are some ways to travel to Russia especially if you are a national of the countries that are exempt from the entry restrictions. In this article, we explain who can travel to Russia and what are the legal procedures you have to fulfill after you enter.
Step 1. Check the Allowed Countries List to Travel to Russia
Currently (as of 25/12/2020) Russia allows entry only to both the citizens
and the residents
of the following countries and only by air
(link to the corresponding Russian law N635R
You may still be able to travel to Russia if you are
- a close family member (a spouse) or if you have
- an urgent legitimate medical reason.
- a student studying in Russia (you need to contact your university to get permission to travel)
- have a permanent residency in Russia
There are also some other ways to travel to Russia if you want to see your friends or loved ones, which we explain here on our Russian #loveisnottourism page
It is important to note that you don't have to be a national of the country above to enter Russia. However, you do need a residency of that country (a document that allows you to stay in this country for longer than 90 days: e.g. a temporary long-term residency permit). Also, this works only if you travel to Russia by air. You cannot cross the border by car, by train, by boat, or by train — you won't be allowed to enter. So if you absolutely need to travel to Russia you could become a resident of one of the countries above (e.g. if you are an EU citizen you could become a resident of Switzerland, if you are a US citizen, you could become a resident of UK) and, provided you stay in that country for longer than 14 days, you could then travel to Russia legally.
Note, that the airline clerks usually use this IATA map
to check the regulations and it has a pretty up-to-date information on all the restrictions around the world.
Step 2. Get a Russian Visa
If you fulfill the requirement above, you can get a tourist or business Russian visa to travel to Russia, following the standard procedure
. You will first need to get a visa support document online
and then use it to apply for the visa in one of the visa processing centers
in your country of residence. If you already have a Russian visa, you can enter Russia using that visa as well.
Step 3. Get a Negative Covid PCR Test
You will need a negative COVID-19 PCR test issued not earlier than 72 hours before your arrival. This test can be in English or in Russian. If it is in any other language you need to translate it to Russian and have a notary proof of that translation. This notary proof can be ordered at the Russian consulate when you obtain your visa.
The test that you take should not be the antibody or express test, it should be a PCR test (which is taken with a swab from the mouth or nose area). Also, while the regulations are not clear on that, it is better if your test is actually _taken_ not earlier than 72 hours before your arrival time. The regulation says "issued", but it's better to be safe and to bring the most recent test you can.
Even though the regulations for entry state 72 hours we recommend you to have a negative test that is made about 44 hours before you arrive. This gives you time to check into a hotel, because they might not accept you with a negative PCR test made more than 48 hours before your actual check-in (we're allowing about 4 hours for all your travels and additional tests upon arrival).
Step 4. Flight Procedures: Residency + Negative Test Proof
Before you fly to Russia you will need to prove that you are a resident in the country you're flying from, before you board the flight. So make sure you bring all your residency documents that prove that you are actually a resident in that country. Also, bring your negative Covid-19 PCR test. We also recommend not to use any connecting flights as the Russian authorities might not let you in if you have changed your flight in a country that is not on the allowed countries list.
Step 5. Arrival Procedures: Covid Test Upon Arrival in Russia
Once you arrive in Russia (most likely through an airport), you have 72 hours to take an obligatory Covid-19 test.
You can make the test directly at the airport (plan an extra hour for that) or in one of the city labs: Invitro or Gemotest. Gemotest
is English-speaking friendly and you can order their service online
. The test costs 3000 R (€35) and you will usually get the results within 24 hours (if you pay the express fee, which is worth it). One good thing about the tests in Russia is that they take the swabs in the throat, not in the nose, so it's not too painful or invasive.
Before you obtain a negative test result you will need to go on quarantine. So, for instance, if you made your test at the airport, you have to go on quarantine until you get the negative test results by email (usually the next day). If you made a test at a lab, you have to be on quarantine before and after. If you obtain a positive test result you have to stay on quarantine for 14 days.
Step 6: Obligatory Self-Isolation and Quarantine in Russia
Before you obtain the negative results for the second Covid-19 PCR test you made upon arrival in Russia you have to be on self-isolation and quarantine. This is an obligatory requirement and the fines are quite high: from 15000 to 40000 RUB (€170 to €450). Also, there is an advanced surveillance system in Russia which uses your SIM card's location and credit card transaction details, plus the data that you provide when you enter Russia (e.g. where you are staying), so if you break the quarantine self-isolation requirement you are very likely to be found out and fined. If anybody is infected because of you breaking the quarantine rule (provided it can be proven), you might have a criminal charge taken against you.
Once you obtain the negative Covid PCR test result, you can stop your self-isolation and quarantine. In that case, we recommend that you carry your negative test result with you in case there's a routine document check (unlikely). If you obtained a positive test result, then you will have to stay 14 days on quarantine.
Note, that most hotels will not let you in without a negative PCR test result. They might accept the test that you made in your country of origin, but some hotels might only accept the newer, Russian test. So you need to plan for a plan B for the period that will pass between the test you will have made in Russia and the time you obtain the new, updated results (usually 24 hours). We advise you to stay with friends or rent an AirBnB apartment — at least for the first couple of days — or check with your hotel if they will accept you with a negative PCR test made in the country you're traveling from _before_ you will have obtained your Russian one. Usually they should be fine with that, but you need to check with and warn them. Also, make sure your first test is made not earlier than 48 hours before you are checking in as the hotels have different regulations and they might simply not check you in if it's older.
Step 7: Enjoy Russia
Now that you've passed all the steps, feel free to enjoy Russia. Note, that if you travel to some regions the local hotels may have a requirement to see a recently made negative Covid-19 test. The Russian-language Telegram group "Nu che narod, pognali"
usually has all the up-to-date info on the restrictions, so you can use DeepL or Google translate to read through the info there before traveling to another region. Or simply make another test, just in case, before you travel (it's not so expensive and is very fast).