Russia is by no means a dangerous country to visit. On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of visits go without a hitch – assuming that you avoid such flashpoints as Chechnya and the Ukranian border. However, given that the Russian language and culture is somewhat alien to many foreign visitors, and taking into account the vagaries of the Russian landscape and climate, it is just as well to bear a few things in mind which could help to keep you safe, comfortable, and healthy during your trip! Emergency Services In the unlikely event that you should experience an emergency situation while in Russia, knowing the emergency services numbers could be vital. Since 2012, Russia has used ‘112’ as a catch-all emergency phone number – although the system is not quite up and running in remoter regions. In such areas, there is a series of five simple numbers which can be used to access specific services. These are as follows:
- 01 – Fire service
- 02 – Police
- 03 – Ambulance
- 04 – Gas service
- 05 – Anti-terrorism squad
Beware The Water Perhaps the health hazard which trips up most foreign visitors is something relatively innocuous: the tap water. Even Russians do not drink Russian water directly from the tap. The pipes in St Petersburg in particular are very old, and poorly maintained. It’s fine to shower in or to boil and make tea from, for example, and it shouldn’t cause you any problems if you ingest a splash or so. However, drinking a mug of the stuff might make you feel a bit sick, which could put a bit of a damper on your vacation for a day! For drinking, and for things like brushing your teeth, use bottled water instead. Luckily, bottled water is not hard to come by in Russian cities. Be Careful Around Traffic If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, particularly in Moscow, it’s a very good idea to make sure that your travel insurance covers car accidents – even if you’re not planning to drive a car! Russian traffic is notorious for being something of a law unto itself, and driver behavior leaves something to be desired. Driver arrogance is often blamed for Moscow’s chronic traffic jam problem and high number of annual road rage incidents. Pedestrians crossing the road would do well to be aware of the risks with interacting with Russian traffic. Pedestrians do not have right of way in Russia. Unfortunately, if you are hit by a vehicle you may wake up in hospital to find an angry driver demanding your insurance details for damaging their car. The law, furthermore, would support the driver – being injured by a car is generally considered the fault of the pedestrian for being stupid enough to walk out in front of the car in the first place. If you’re going to be walking by traffic, therefore, be very aware of what’s going on around you. It’s not unknown for cars to come up onto the sidewalks if the drivers feel that it may aid their journey! Know Your Vodka Beware of any vodka which doesn’t have a label. Russians are well known for their love of vodka – and some of them aren’t too picky about what they make it with. Bootleg vodka can be cut with anything from shoe polish to medical disinfectant, and causes the deaths of many Russians each year. This doesn’t mean that you have to refuse every shot of vodka offered you. After all, it wouldn’t be a real trip to Russia if you didn’t sink a few vodkas! Just make sure that you know where the vodka has come from before you throw it down your throat. Better still, buy it yourself from a reputable dealer. Russian liquor stores are crammed full of good brands of vodka which will give you the Russian vodka experience without doing more than the usual amount of damage! Communicate Effectively Finally, here are a few phrases which may help you in the event of an emergency:
- Pomogitye! – Help!
- Pozar! – Fire!
- Vor! – Thief!
- Militziya! – Call the police!
- Vracha! – Call a doctor!
- Skorooyo! – Call an ambulance!
- S Vami vsye normalno? – Are you ok?
- Mnye noozyen vrach – I need a doctor
- Mnye plokho – I feel sick
- Gdye blizayshaya aptyeka? – Where is the nearest pharmacy?
- Eto srochno! – It is urgent!
- Zdyes bolt – It hurts here
- Mozyetye pomoch? Can you help me?