In Russia you should drive on the right-hand side of the road. Distances and speeds are measured in kilometers. To covert miles into kilometers you multiply by eight and then divide by five. For example 50 mph is 80 km/h.
In Western (European) Russia driving on the right poses no problem as all cars are left-hand drive, however, in some parts of Eastern Russia many vehicles are right-hand drive having been imported from Japan (and therefore designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road). You should be mindful that other drivers may have reduced visibility.
Russian is the main language of the Russian Federation and is the only language that you should expect to be spoken throughout the country. In large cities you will find some English spoken and hotels catering to western guests will usually have an English-speaking member of staff.
The number to call for emergency services is 1-1-2.
Russian roads are typically uneven and pot-holed, particularly outside of cities.
During the summer months the days are extremely long, with only a few hours of darkness (this is very marked in St. Petersburg). It is important that you are aware of how long you have been driving for and do not drive to the available light.
The Russian Federation is the largest country in the world and contains many long, straight roads. When driving along these roads be sure to take regular rest breaks to reduce fatigue and fill up with fuel whenever possible. Remember – it may be a long time before you find another fuel station.
The vast majority of roads outside of cities are unlit and this can make it difficult to see and be seen during the hours of darkness. You should carry a high visibility vest in case you break down. Additionally, it is mandatory to carry a fire extinguisher and first aid kit in your vehicle.
Standard legal speed limits are:
- 20km/h in some residential zones (as signposted)
- 60km/h in built up areas
- 90km/h outside built-up areas
- 110km/h on expressways
Visiting motorists who have been driving for less than two years must not exceed 70km/h.
Be aware that local speed limits may be in operation so you should pay attention to road signs. The speed limits listed are a general guide and are maximums in ideal conditions. Often it will not be appropriate to drive at those speeds so use your own judgment.
Speed limits must be strictly adhered to.
Finding Your Way
You are advised to plan ahead if you intend to drive in Russia. Buy a map in your native language before you leave your home country so you are able to plan your route.
In some areas of the country you may struggle to find people speaking any other language than Russian and many street signs outside of the major metropolitan areas are printed only in Russian.
Fuel stations can be found in all towns and cities. In more remote areas you may have to travel up to 200-300 km between filling stations. If you plan to travel in remote areas it is suggested that you plan your route to take in towns (where you can fill up) and carry a spare fuel canister in your vehicle.
Unleaded petrol (92,95 and 98 octane) and diesel (called ‘Solyarka’) are available.
Do not expect to find water or air at filling stations.
Generally, opening times for filling stations are 6am to 10pm but some in major cities and on highways open 24 hours.
Credit cards are accepted at some filling stations but do not assume that they will be accepted at them all.
There is a small number of toll roads in Russia.
License and Documentation
To drive in Russia you require (and should carry at all times):
- Your passport with a valid Russian Visa
- Your driving license along with an International Driving Permit
- The registration document of the vehicle you are driving
- (at least) Third-Party insurance valid in Russia. If you are hiring a car this will be provided by the car hire company. If you are driving your own car then you will need to purchase this before entering Russia. It can usually be bought from petrol stations near the border of the Russian Federation.
If you are planning to drive your own vehicle in Russia then you should submit the vehicle details to the Russian Authorities when applying for your visa.
If you are stopped by the police you may be asked for any of these documents.
Car Hire – Payment
When hiring a car you will be required to provide a credit card for payment. Checks, cash and debit cards are not generally accepted as any charges relating to your use of the vehicle such as parking or speeding fines can be charged to the credit card. VISA, MasterCard and to a lesser extent American Express are all widely accepted. It is always best to ring ahead if you have any queries.
Often the price quoted for hiring a vehicle won’t include all applicable taxes or insurance waivers. You will usually have the option of paying extra to reduce the amount payable by you should you be involved in a collision or damage the vehicle in any way. Always ask when hiring a vehicle what the total costs will be.
In addition to the charges for renting the vehicle you will also be required to submit a security deposit in the form of a ‘hold’ on an amount of money on your credit card.
Sounding the horn is forbidden except when to do so might prevent a collision.
It is forbidden to carry unauthorized passengers or to pick up hitchhikers.
You must carry a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, spare bulb set and emergency sign or red light in your vehicle at all times.
Every vehicle must display registration plates and stickers denoting the country of registration.
You must use dipped headlights during the day outside built-up areas and could be fined for not doing so.
You must not speak on a mobile phone (without a hands-free device) while driving.
Personal Security – Report an Incident
To report a collision, you can dial the emergency police number 0-2 from a landline or the standard emergency number 1-1-2 from a mobile phone.
Your Actions – Speeding
You must always abide by the speed limit.
Slow right down in towns and built up areas, particularly during school leaving times.
On rural roads, slow down for curves and avoid passing / overtaking.
Ensure that you maintain at least a four-second gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front. This is your braking distance in a crisis.