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Is it Safe to Travel to Colombia?

Vibrant, diverse and alluring, Colombia is a fascinating blend of history, culture and natural delights overflowing with glorious wonders for all travellers. Its story, beginning with indigenous people, dates back thousands of years with many settlers, civilisations and immigrants bringing their varied influences throughout its past.

Colombia has attracted huge fame for its coffee and music. Its natural beauty, stunning mountains, beaches and tropical rainforests are world-renowned. It has a rich cultural history and it is considered one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

The only country in South America to have islands and coastlines on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, Colombia’s population exceeds 50 million people. The Caribbean Sea is to the north of the country and borders are shared with Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil. Further territories owned by Colombia are actually in the continent of North America.

Although it has at times had a reputation of being a riskier place to travel to than other countries, the vast majority of trips to Colombia are trouble-free.

Despite this, Colombia is still considered to have high-levels of crime, so it is important to be aware of your surroundings and take appropriate precautions.

It is, as always, vital that you receive the most up-to-date advice before booking to travel or arranging to visit certain parts of the country. Travellers should always ensure they are comfortable with the regions they will be visiting and what is involved in going to them.

Health Concerns in Colombia

Before travelling to Colombia, you must seek medical advice from your GP. They will be able to give you the very latest information and advise you on what vaccinations you may require. An appointment should be made at least eight weeks before your trip and further information can be found on the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website.

If you are on long-term medication, clarification should be sought as to the legality of your medication in Colombia, and whether you will be able to acquire anything you need when in the country. It may otherwise be necessary to take plentiful supplies of medication with you, although it will be vital to check the limits of what you can and cannot take.

Travellers are always advised to be up to date with vaccinations before visiting a country and that is also the case for Colombia.

All travellers should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid before a visit to Colombia. For some people visiting certain regions, vaccinations against Rabies and Yellow Fever may be appropriate. Dengue fever and malaria are also present throughout the country, and there is a risk of Zika transmission, so all precautions should be taken against potential mosquito bites.

It is vitally important to have comprehensive insurance cover when travelling to Colombia. Medical facilities in the country vary widely in quality.

Public health facilities, particularly those in smaller cities or more rural regions, are generally poorly funded and badly-equipped. Services, including emergency attention can be unreliable and difficult to come-by in quieter areas, while public hospitals may lack the resources and supplies to treat some conditions.

In the larger cities, you are likely to find private health facilities which will offer good quality care even for more complex issues. However, not all insurance policies will cover such care, so you should be careful when making your choice.

Medication can generally be found in pharmacies in large cities, though more complex treatments may be unavailable in rural areas. Prescriptions may be required to attain certain forms of medicine.

san-andres

Food and Water

Eating and trying local delicacies is a huge and important part of travelling somewhere new to many people. It does, however, bring risks and dangers with it. That is not a reason to miss out, though, and by following simple suggestions it is still possible to taste the delights that different countries have to offer.

Due to having had such a varied history and cultural influences affecting the country across the years, Colombia’s food has understandably developed a unique blend of recipes and flavours. Its biodiversity also means it has a stunning assortment of ingredients to choose from.

To make the very most of the delicious food that Colombia has to offer, it is important that you stay healthy. Following simple rules will help you to do so.

Eating in trustworthy restaurants, particularly those often frequented by tourists, reduces the risk of illness. Ensure food is well-cooked and you are happy with how you feel it has been prepared. Fruit, nuts and vegetables washed with treated water, or where you have removed a protective layering yourself are a good option. Treated dairy products should also be safe.

Undercooked and underprepared meat should be avoided at all costs. Uncovered or unwashed food, as well as food using raw ingredients are more likely to cause illness and should therefore be avoided. If you are in any doubt, it is best to move on and choose to eat something somewhere else.

Sometimes when you are abroad, it is tempting to eat the same food that locals do, particularly street food. If locals are choosing it, it is almost certainly delicious. However, as a tourist, you should show great caution here. The locals eating at such places are likely to have digestive systems used to eating from different conditions to a visitor.

A useful tip is to think about where many tourists are eating as the vendors are more used to serving food prepared in conditions more friendly to visitors. This means that you don’t miss out, while reducing the risk of catching something that could see you fall ill.

When it comes to water, tap water is only safe to drink in Bogota. In all other parts of the country, you should drink bottled water. Tap water should not be used for brushing your teeth or cleaning fruit and vegetables ready to eat, except for in Bogota.

cocoa-picking

Crime

Crime rates are a problem that Colombia are trying to tackle, though rates remain high despite improvements in security. Criminals linked with the drugs trade, including armed groups, carry out serious crimes in the country including kidnapping for political and ransoming purposes, money laundering and racketeering for extortion and prostitution.

In major cities, street crime remains a problem. Violent muggings and incidents of pickpocketing have occurred. To reduce the chances of becoming embroiled in an attack, you should stay vigilant and avoid more deprived areas of cities. Limiting the value of the possessions you are carrying and travelling during the day further reduce the chances of a robbery.

Taxis should only be used when pre-booked, and it is wise to seek advice from reputable locals, such as hotel staff, before making a booking. Fake police are known to operate in some cities to carry out scams on tourists. Short-term kidnappings, where people are taken while the criminals extract money from bank accounts, do occur and people have been seriously hurt and even killed after resisting such attacks.

Terrorism

It is considered very likely that terrorists will try and carry out attacks in Colombia. Drugs, organised crime and terrorism are inextricably linked in the country. Much of the terrorist threat within Colombia comes from the National Liberation Army (ELN), dissidents from demobilised guerrilla groups.

Attacks may occur with very little warning and may be indiscriminate. While tourists are not usually the intended targets, public areas and events may be targeted. You should always be vigilant and ready to follow the advice of local security forces.

Armed gangs are most likely to operate in areas significant to the drugs trade. It is vitally important that you research the areas you intend to travel to and take the advice of security personnel when you are in the country.

Family Travel Safety (Colombia with Kids)

Colombia has so much to offer people of all ages. From stunning beaches and wildlife, to fascinating history, culture and people, there are activities to appeal to everyone.

Popular options include holidays close to the Caribbean coast where snorkelling and scuba diving will gain the interest of young travellers, or more adventurous trips to some of the more rural areas or larger cities of Bogota and Medellin. Learning about Colombia’s coffee history on tours or visiting some of its most famous museums are captivating experiences for the whole family.

Colombia is a safe place to travel as a family, providing you take usual precautions that you would in Colombia as well as those you would expect when travelling anywhere with children.

Before you go, ensure that the whole family are up to date with vaccinations. Pack carefully, ensuring you have enough sun cream and that children have hats to protect their head and necks from too much sun exposure. Carefully consider the potential impact of altitude on the people in your travelling party, as well as factors such as travelling times.

If you are worried about taking care of the children while working out logistics, you could consider travelling with a tour company or a guide to reduce some of the stresses. This also allows you to concentrate your attention on the children rather than worrying about where to head next!

colombia-mountain trekking

Family Travel Safety (Colombia for Women)

People’s individual experiences influence how they see a place and the safety of people travelling to it. The majority of people have a trouble-free trip to Colombia, and that includes female travellers and those travelling on their own.

A good way to avoid falling into a dangerous situation when travelling anywhere, though, is to be aware of things that may happen so that suitable precautions can be taken.

Female travellers should be aware of their surroundings and of their possessions, as pickpocketing is fairly common. Great care should be taken with valuables and it is sensible to only carry a small amount of money.

Colombia does still have a very machismo element to its society in some parts. This has its benefits to women in the chivalrous attitudes of some men, but an overflow of it can lead to cat-calling and unwanted attention that may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable to some women. Avoiding walking alone, at night or in certain areas of cities may help to limit experiences of this.

Drugs have been used to subdue and temporarily incapacitate unsuspecting victims. They are known to have been administered through food, drinks, cigarettes, aerosols and paper flyers. Criminals use this to leave their victims vulnerable to crimes including robbery and sexual assault. When in Colombia, you should never leave drinks or food unattended, or accept anything from strangers that could potentially be used in this way.

It is important to find balance in understanding the potential dangers for female travellers in Colombia. They are present, can be very serious and should therefore not be underestimated. However, it is also important to remember that the vast majority of people experience no troubles and leave only with incredible life-long memories. All usual precautions possible to protect yourself as a traveller should be taken.

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Tips for Staying Safe in Colombia

Buy the Right Insurance

Always make sure you are covered for any specific activities that you are planning, or may end up doing, when on your travels. A wide range of insurance policies exist, but it is wise to make sure that you take out the most comprehensive cover you can.

In Colombia, it is also important to consider the level of medical care your policy will cover. Because the standard of healthcare varies greatly, it is worth ensuring that your policy will cover you for private healthcare and any treatment that you may require. This will give you peace of mind should something really unfortunate occur.

Learn the Language and Customs

Learning the language of the country that you are travelling to has so many benefits. It provides opportunities for you to engage with the culture and locals, as well as helping you to communicate in any necessary situations that may require a simple grasp of the language (for example, calling the emergency services).

Columbia is a country that due to past and present problems has some strict prohibitions, particularly surrounding drugs. This may cross over into medications that you may be taking to the country with you. It is important that you always know of any such prohibitions before travelling so that you can avoid any inadvertent offences.

Knowing of local customs not only allows you to strike up friendships, but also avoid causing offence by accident. As customs may be general across the country or specific in certain regions, it is worth the time reading up about them before you travel.

Be Vigilant at All Times

Remaining vigilant will help to ensure that your trip is remembered for wonderful reasons. Keep your possessions close and not on show, use reputable companies for activities, travel and eating and be wary of strangers approaching and offering to sell you things.

Colombia is a country with so much to offer, and it can be a safe place to travel as testified to by the majority of the near two million visitors it receives each year. But, as with anywhere around the world, it is safest when travellers take all the reasonable precautions they can.

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If you’re travelling to Colombia, then stay safe and keep covered in the event of an accident by taking out a comprehensive travel insurance policy with Navigator Travel Insurance. 

Is it Safe to Travel to Cuba?

The Republic of Cuba, comprising the island of Cuba, Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos, is found in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet. Its main island, Cuba, is the largest in the Caribbean and the second-most populous with over eleven million inhabitants.

Cuba has been inhabited for thousands of years, first by the Ciboney Taíno people until Spanish colonization in the 15th Century. It remained a colony of Spain until 1898 when it was occupied by the United States, gaining nominal independence as a de facto United States protectorate in 1902. Cuba’s 20th Century history includes political radicalisation, social strife, coups and times under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Corruption and oppression led to Batista’s ousting in 1959 and communist rule being established under Fidel Castro. Since 1965, the state has been governed by the Communist Party of Cuba.

Due to its varied history, Cuba is a diverse country and its culture has been influenced by customs from across the globe. Its primary influences are of Spanish and African in origin. Cuba is considered part of Latin America.

Much of Cuba’s reputation is built on its kind, friendly people with warm, beaming smiles. It has unique flora and fauna, including the Cuban crocodile, over 350 species of bird and over 100 species of palm trees of which one, the Royal Palm, is a national symbol. The country’s natural beauty extends to its famous beaches. With over 3,500 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the beaches are known for varying in colours, from brilliant white to volcanic black, and for the pristine clear waters lapping gently over them.

For a relatively small country, Cuba is brimming with World Heritage Sites, fine architecture and world-renowned sights. From Old Havana and its fortifications to the stunning and graceful city centre of Cienfuegos, which features French-inspired architecture, Cuba is overflowing with staggering history and beauty. Classic American cars are a common and sought-after sight, while its music is known across the globe and a sound synonymous with the country.

Cuba’s fame is further boosted by its exports. Believed to be among the very best in the world, Cuban cigars are renowned worldwide for their quality. Rum has through history been a hugely important product of the country and continues to contribute significantly to the economy. Its reputation is built on it being lighter, smoother and crisper than other rums in the Caribbean and it is further enhanced by its use in cocktails. Mojitos, daiquiris, the Cuba Libre and the canchánchara have all made a name for themselves around the world in more recent years, though their popularity in Cuba stretches back centuries.

havana-cuban band

 

Health Concerns in Cuba

If you are travelling to Cuba, it is really important to be aware of the health risks and the relevant vaccinations that will protect you during your visit. Immunisation jabs or boosters may be required, so it is vital that you check any requirements and suggestions in advance.

A fantastic place to start looking when considering your trip and the requirements before you travel is the NHS-run Fit for Travel website. The site features a breakdown of different diseases, the risks associated with it and recommendations for how you should protect yourself.

Anyone travelling to Cuba should be up to date with the vaccines recommended in the UK. Included are vaccines for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and diptheria-tetanus-polio. Anyone with specific medical needs, or who may be at increased risk due to their work or lifestyle choices should consult their doctor for additional information.

Most travellers to the country should be vaccinated against tetanus, while hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid vaccines are recommended for some travellers, mainly where underlying health conditions, work, accessibility to treatment or lifestyle choices are more likely to pose a risk to an individual should an illness be contracted. It is of utmost importance that you seek advice on this from your doctor before travelling. A comprehensive list can also be found on the National Travel Health Network and Centre site.

Malaria is not normally present in Cuba, unless contracted abroad, but there is a threat of Zika virus and Dengue fever, both for which there is no vaccine. Therefore, precautions must be taken to avoid mosquito bites. The mosquitos that are responsible for Zika and Dengue are known to bite during the day and frequent urban areas, but it is good practice to be prepared at any time of day.

If you will be needing prescription medicine during your trip, you should check the legalities of the medicines you will be taking in Cuba and ensure you have a copy of a letter from your doctor explaining your condition. As many medicines are unavailable in Cuba, if you need over-the-counter medicines, you should first check the most up-to-date advice, then consider taking enough with you to last the duration of your trip.

Medical facilities in Havana are superior to other areas of the country, but specialist treatment may still require evacuation. Any treatment can quickly become very expensive, particularly if involving a stay in hospital, and often the cost may need to be covered prior to action being taken. Medical assistance can be sought through the emergency ambulance number 104. It is vital that you purchase comprehensive travel insurance prior to your trip to ensure you are covered even in worst-case scenarios.

beach cuba

Food and Water

Cuba is a culinary delight with delicious food and exquisite smells. As with many countries around the world, food is an integral part of getting to know the culture and adds to your experience immeasurably. Cuba is home to many unique, memorable dishes and following simple advice allows you to enjoy them safely.

Unfortunately, Cuba’s hot, rainy climate is not only an attraction for visiting tourists, but the ideal conditions for bacteria, viruses and pathogens to flourish. It is extremely important to avoid unwashed, unpeeled fruit and vegetables, raw eggs, undercooked foods and unpasteurised dairy products. While street vendors look appealing and may smell incredible, their standards for cleanliness will be far below those of reputable restaurants and should, therefore, be avoided.

Eating at well-known, respectable restaurants is likely to be a safer option, particularly if they are used to catering for tourists. If you are preparing meals yourself, ensure you thoroughly cook your food and use equipment that has been well cleaned prior to starting. It is also a good idea to carry products like hand-sanitiser with you at all times. Making sensible and careful choices about the foods you eat will help to ensure you have a healthy and happy visit.

Due to an ageing infrastructure, Cuba’s tap water is not safe for tourists to drink. Bottled water is commonly available in areas popular with tourists, and many hotels will have it available for sale. Even tap water that is perfectly safe for locals has been known to cause illness in tourists, so it is best to refrain from drinking tap water anywhere. If you are aware that you will be travelling to an area not frequently visited by tourists, or where bottled water may be hard to come by, it is important that you look at alternatives before travelling, such as a bottle with a built-in filter.

General hygiene measures, such as regularly washing your hands, will also help to reduce the likelihood of illness, and packing medicines that can help should you be unfortunate is always advisable.

eggs ham cuban bread

Crime

Crime levels in Cuba are considered low and gun crime is virtually non-existent. The Cuban government does not release specific crime figures. Car-related crime and muggings have been known to take place from time to time and precautions should be made to reduce the risk of this. Travelling with a reputable tour operator and only using licensed taxis are measures that can be taken to increase your safety. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers may frequent areas popular with tourists, so be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Avoid wearing expensive jewellery and, where possible, leave expensive items in a safe place. Carry a copy of your passport rather than the original and be aware that hi-tech items, such as phones and computers, are highly sought-after by Cuban criminals.

Cuba is a one-party state and there is a high level of social control and strong police presence. Freedom of speech is restricted somewhat, and you should avoid demonstrations or large public gatherings.

Driving standards are variable and strict laws exist. If you are driving and involved in a serious accident, you could be subject to an investigation that may take months to complete. You may not be allowed to leave the country during this time.

havana-street

Terrorism Risks

There is no recent history of terrorist attacks in Cuba, although such attacks can never be ruled out. Travellers should be vigilant at all times.

Family Travel Safety (Cuba with Kids)

Cuba is an astonishing destination for anyone and this is particularly true for children. It is famous for its fascinating culture and has a deeply rich history, so it is an amazing experience for young travellers. Lacking in the advanced technology that they may be used to, it is an opportunity for them to reconnect with the world itself and delve deep into areas of life they may not be as exposed to at home.

Warm, welcoming and with activities to excite and entertain children, Cuba is a destination that should appeal to families. Its low crime level and relatively low threat from mosquitoes given its climate make the focus always turn to the people and their hearty smiles rather than anything problematic. Beaches, watersports and wildlife spotting are activities that can easily be enjoyed by all the family too.

Cuba’s care for children is evident in its education system, with an enviable system in place that has led to exceptional literacy rates among the country’s adults. This heartfelt approach extends to visitors, who are always appreciated and welcomed.

One thing to consider prior to travelling is what provisions you will need for your children. Specific items considered necessary in other countries may not be available for purchase, and the food may be very different from what your children are used to. If you know that this is likely to cause problems for your children, it is best to prepare in advance and consider what you can take with you rather than assuming that you will be able to purchase things once in the country.

Family Travel Safety (Cuba for Women)

From a safety perspective, Cuba is as good as it gets when travelling abroad, especially for women. Chivalrous machismo means that men will want to take care of women and will go out of their way to protect and help females. However, the excess of this, is that Cuban men can pursue women relentlessly. While local women may be used to this and give back as good as they get, this can be quite a shock to women not used to such forwardness. Ignoring such comments can be a start, but there is no substitute for learning some phrases in Spanish that can make your position crystal clear.

Typical tactics such as wearing plain and modest clothing will also help. If you are interacting with locals, such as through dancing or conversation, do not be afraid to make them aware of what is and what is not acceptable. However, Cuba is not a typical travel spot and is not a common spot for solo travellers. For this reason, there are few hostels and therefore fewer travellers in a similar position to keep you company.

Female sanitary products are not easily accessible in Cuba and some, such as tampons, are non-existent. It is, therefore, important that they feature on your ‘to pack’ list and are not forgotten.

cuban woman in doorway

Tips for Staying Safe in Cuba

• Buy the Right Insurance

It is obligatory for foreign travellers to Cuba to have medical insurance, so you must purchase a policy before travelling and ensure you have proof of this if it is requested upon arrival.

Furthermore, you should make sure that your policy covers you for any activities that you are planning on doing while in the country. Some policies may have exclusions, while you may find one that is better suited to your needs through more extensive research.

Remember to purchase a policy that covers you for medical evacuation should it be required. If you are travelling between June and November, Cuba’s hurricane season, ensure you are covered for any possibilities that may entail from being caught up in a natural disaster.

• Learn the Language and Customs

Cuba is quite a unique country and will in many great ways be so different from your homeland. However, this means it is vital that you learn some of the customs before travelling and that you ensure you will not accidentally involve yourself in something that could cause you bother.

Seeking up to date advice is always a good thing to do. More than this, it is a good introduction to what you can expect during your visit.

Cubans are renowned for being friendly people. Making the effort to speak to them in their language, even if you are limited, will always be well-received and appreciated. As well as this, learning particular phrases prior to your visit will help you in certain situations and will avoid ambiguity.

• Travelling Around

The roads in Cuba are not renowned for their safety. Laws can be strict around drivers, and while it is possible to drive on a UK Passport for six months, the conditions are likely to be very different from what you are used to. Rented cars have also been known to be targeted by criminals looking to take possessions off people.

Licensed taxis are generally a reliable method of getting around. You are advised against walking to and from places after dark.

A safe way to travel is with a reputable tour operator who will be able to inform you directly with good ideas, safety tips and things to avoid. It is important to remember that Cuba has a very good record of safety for travellers, but accidents and unfortunate events can happen, so you should guard against complacency, be vigilant and ensure that your trip is remembered for all of the incredible things that you will be doing!

If you’re travelling to Cuba, then stay safe and give yourself peace of mind with a comprehensive travel insurance policy with Navigator Travel Insurance.

Is it Safe to Travel to Russia?

Russia is the largest country on the planet, stretching all the way from Europe in the west across Siberia and Central Asia to the Pacific Coast in the east.

It’s a huge, multicultural country, but a country that can be difficult to travel around. While the vast majority of Russia is safe to travel to, some border areas might be disputed or prone to violence, while remote cities might simply be unused to seeing tourists, particularly tourists from abroad.

But risk the language difficulties, brave the vast distances that await you between destinations, and take on the dangers and annoyances of being a foreigner in what can be a very enclosed culture, and you’ll find that Russia is not only an exciting place to travel to but an immensely rewarding one too.

To inspire your journey, here’s everything you need to know about staying safe while travelling in Russia.

moscow at night

Health Concerns in Russia 

There are a number of health concerns that tourists will need to take into consideration before travelling to Russia and whilst they are travelling through Russia.

Anyone planning on travelling to Russia needs to be up to date when it comes to their travel vaccinations. Before visiting, you will want to look on the excellent Fit For Travel website, which is run by the NHS and keeps up-to-date information on both vaccinations and health concerns within the country.

You will also want to book an appointment with your GP or with a travel nurse, as they will be able to advise you on your vaccination history and on any boosters or extra immunisations that you may require.

At a minimum, anyone travelling to Russia will need basic vaccinations such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio, Diphtheria, and Tetanus. You may also want to consider the Rabies injection, especially if you’re travelling to remote regions.

Unfortunately, the quality of healthcare in Russia lags far behind that of the rest of Europe, and local hospitals and medical services are not up to the same standards as the West.

While you will find a few excellent private facilities in big cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg, on a more regional level it can be hard to find quality medical services in an emergency. For travel in Russia, you need to be covered by specialist insurance that can evacuate you to the best facilities in the country, particularly in a severe emergency.

Healthcare for foreigners isn’t free in Russia, so you will always need adequate travel insurance, as there are few reciprocal healthcare agreements.

In remote areas like Siberia, you may want to consider taking medical equipment such as syringes with you, because these can be difficult to come by in isolated areas. With a high rate of HIV in the population, you do not want even the smallest chance that needles are being reused.

Food and Water

Russia isn’t exactly renowned as a foodie destination, and the country is perhaps best known for its Soviet-style canteens that could have been in use, unchanged, for decades.

While this is very much a generalisation and there is, in fact, a huge range of cuisines to be found across Russia, it can be said that in general food hygiene standards are below Western levels.

For starters, it’s advised that foreigners don’t drink tap water. Most of the locals won’t drink the tap water either, unless they can’t afford not to. The tap water is not up to standard in most locations, with the exception of cities such as St Petersburg and Moscow, and it can lead to illness and stomach problems. At the very least you’ll want to filter the water, while in more remote areas you will want to stick to bottled mineral water where possible.

You’ll also want to be careful where you eat. While most upmarket restaurants will have high food standards, this won’t be universal. If it seems unclean or risky, then it’s not worth eating if you’re only in Russia for a short time. You don’t want to spend your holiday fighting food poisoning.

But Russian food can be excellent, and it’s not all Soviet-style soups and gulag goulash. In fact, it’s very diverse and each region has its own unique dishes.

You’ll find many delicious types of dumplings, stuffed with meat or vegetables, across the country, while staples such as potato salads, chicken salads, and pork or chicken cutlets are always a safe bet.

You can also indulge in a variety of ex-soviet cuisines from surrounding nations, including delicious food from Georgia and the Caucasus, or excellent rice dishes such as Plov, from Central Asia.

Of course, no trip to Russia is complete without sampling the local vodka. But be careful and only drink from reputable sources, because illicit, home-brewed spirits passed off as vodka are all too common and far too dangerous to drink.

russian-bosch

Crime

Russia has an unfortunate reputation when it comes to crime, and particularly when it comes to crime against foreigners. Unfortunately, this reputation isn’t exactly unwarranted, so when travelling through Russia you will need to keep your wits about you.

Petty theft and opportunistic crime can be a real threat, and you need to keep your valuables safe in your hotel room and on public transport such as trains.

In certain areas in cities, you will also want to be wary, especially at night, when you could become the victim of muggings. Research the neighbourhoods in advance, and make sure your valuables are well insured.

Scams can also be a big problem, especially in touristy cities such as Moscow, and you’ll be wise to avoid taking taxis, but rather to use ridesharing apps or public transport such as the metro where possible.

Try to avoid any trouble with the police or government officials, because it’s unlikely that they will be on your side. All too often you might find yourself having to hand over substantial bribes in order to get assistance, or if you happen to have committed some sort of minor infraction.

While violent crime is rare, it’s still an issue, particularly if you don’t look Russian or speak Russian. Racism and xenophobia are rife across Russia, and unfortunately, this can be a big problem for tourists.

While most visits will be trouble-free, persons of colour might find it harder to travel around Russia and may even be confronted by right-wing groups. Avoid the streets during demonstrations and avoid nationalistic holidays or days of importance to these ultra groups, who are tolerated far too liberally across the country.

the-kremlin

Terrorism Risks

Russia has often been hit by terrorist attacks in the past, and most governments advise that tourists should be wary of future attacks, as they are all too possible in the current political climate.

Russia is a vast nation, and certain border areas are off-limits or have an increased risk attached to them. These include the border regions with Ukraine, including Crimea and other disputed areas where there have been conflicts in recent years.

The Caucasus regions, such as Dagestan or Chechnya, are also dangerous for foreigners to visit, as there is a huge risk of terrorism here due to ongoing ethnic and religious conflicts in these regions.

But terror attacks aren’t necessarily isolated to these disputed regions and, historically, disgruntled groups have attacked busy urban areas, including Moscow. While the chance of being caught up in one of these attacks is no greater than anywhere else in the world, you do need to be aware of the threat and keep abreast and informed of ongoing political events that might make such incidents more likely to occur.

honor-guard

Family Travel Safety (Russia with Kids)

Russia is not one of the most popular family travel destinations and, for many, it’s often seen as a country that’s best left to experienced travellers.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. In fact, Russia can be an eye-opening experience for families. It will be a challenge though, and you’ll need to be prepared to speak the local language to get by and to keep an eye on the kids.

But in the cities, you’ll find that the kids are perfectly safe, just as in any other European city. There are plenty of family-friendly attractions to visit, from zoos to amusement parks, and Russians will be welcoming to families in shops and restaurants.

There are lots of parks to enjoy with the children and plenty of iconic sights that they will remember for years. In winter though, make sure that the family wraps up warm, and be careful of the cold chill if you’re travelling with really small kids. In summer, the heat can be oppressive, so be careful too. You’re best travelling in spring or autumn if you have the children in tow.

Family Travel Safety (Russia for Women)

Russia is becoming more and more popular a destination for solo female travellers, because women are starting to realise that it can be a safe country to visit.

Russian society is, in many ways, very inclusive when it comes to gender equality, in large parts thanks to the equality policies of the Soviets. But that doesn’t mean that old prejudices and traditions don’t still arise.

Women need to be particularly careful walking around at night, as Russians can be notoriously drunk in the late evenings, whether you are in a remote village or the capital city.

Women also need to be wary in bars or clubs and be careful of drinks and unwanted advances. The same goes for trains, especially long-distance journeys.

But common sense and common travel acumen aside, women will find that travelling in Russia can be both an exciting and enlightening experience.

For foreigners, regardless of your gender, Russia is a destination that will always be a challenge, but that’s just part of the intrigue and part of the fun. Be prepared with a bit of forward planning, a few Russian phrases and the right insurance and you should have a safe trip as a female traveller in Russia.

girl-Russian costume

Tips for Staying Safe in Russia

Buy the Right Insurance

When travelling to Russia, it’s incredibly important that you purchase the right insurance before you leave your home country.

Russia can be an unpredictable place to travel. While the chance that you will become the victim of crime or suffer an accident is low, you want to be prepared for the worst.

Make sure that your insurance covers you for evacuation, particularly for healthcare, and make sure that you are covered in remote regions.

Be careful where you travel to as well, because some areas, such as the border with Ukraine or Chechnya, are considered to be no-go zones by many governments. Your insurance may then become invalidated if you travel to these areas of high risk without checking with your provider first whether you are actually covered.

Learn the Language

Russian is a notoriously difficult language to learn if you are unfamiliar with it, especially as the language uses the Cyrillic script rather than the Roman alphabet.

Even in big cities, few people speak basic English, so learning the language is a must when visiting Russia. At the very least, learn the Cyrillic alphabet, so you can decipher place names when you are on the road, and make sense of train and bus tickets.

It also helps to learn a few common phrases such as please and thank you, while having a phrase book or a translation app will help immensely too.

Know the Laws

The Russian law might not always be on the side of the tourist and, unfortunately, corruption is endemic across the corruption.

That means that you will want to be aware of the local laws before travelling and, in particular, minor laws such as whether you can cross roads on foot or drive on your home license.

This is to avoid being held at the mercy of unscrupulous police officers who might try and take advantage of you for seemingly innocuous infractions.

If you are travelling to Russia in the near future, please see our Russia page for more details on the type of cover we offer. Can’t find the information you’re looking for? Please call us on 0161 973 6435 or email sales@navigatortravelinsurance.co.uk.