Guide to Driving In Russia - Drive Safe in Russia
Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Russia?
There are two difficulties with renting a car in Russia. One is that it is particularly expensive compared to other parts of the world and the other is that the traffic can be horrendous, especially in Moscow where entire motorways can come to a standstill. Avoiding the rush hour is a must.
Outside of the main cities the rural areas present their own difficulties and roads there are often poorly maintained with few road markings. Russia hopes to invest a lot of money into building roads and it needs it; to date there is no motorway connecting Moscow and St Petersburg. If you do not speak Russian then it is advisable to have a guide as the countryside can be quite dangerous. Car hire Russia can offer chauffeur driven vehicles.
If you plan to enter Russia from one of the many surrounding countries discuss this with your rental agents and make sure that you have applied for the appropriate visas well in advance. Driving in Russia takes plenty of forward planning. If you are driving in some of the more out-of-the-way parts of Russia it is usual for highway patrol police (GAI) at regular roadblocks to ask for a bribe from drivers with an international licence plate. In fact there are so many driving rules that you will probably have broken one of them and it saves a lot of time just to pay up. Police also have the power to issue on the spot fines at all times.
Seat Belt Laws
It is mandatory to for all passengers to wear seatbelts in the front seat and back seats.
Drinking and Driving
Because of a terrible road safety record, mainly due to alcohol, Russia now operates a zero tolerance of alcohol before driving. The punishments are severe and can include incarceration in a Russian jail. Do NOT drink and drive in Russia.
Must Have Documents
There are plenty of documents that you must carry when driivng. You need both parts of your licence, and international driving licence, your vehicle registrtaion documents and an international version of it if travelling outside of the English speaking areas. You'll also need your insurance certificate. It's worthwhile carrying a copy of your passport with you too.
You may find that on entering Russia from certain countries you'll need to pay an additional Road Tax.
- 60 km per hour in built up areas
- 90 km per hour outside of built up areas
- 100 km per hour on motorways
If you have held a licence for under two years you should not go more than 70 km
Minimum Driving Age
The minimum driving age is 18 but if you're renting a car you'll find that many car hire companies will need you to be up to 25 years old and with some driving experience.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
It is illegal to use radar detection equipment in Russia, not just for driving! Drivers have been accused of espionage when caught using them so don't even consider it!
On the Spot Fines
On the spot fines are levied for all minor traffic violations. You'll receive a ticket and be told where to pay the fine - usually at a bank. Whilst the police could in the past collect fines in cash, this is now illegal but you may find that in rural areas, the police may ask for a bribe to let a traffic violation pass.
Child Safety Rules
Child safety is only just gaining recognition in Russia. There are proposals for legislation on child safety seats but nothing binding at the moment. For now it is up to you to ensure you have the correct restraint system for children although if hiring a car, let us know the age and weight of your children and we'll ensure a suitable system is fitted.
A minimum of third party cover is needed. At some border crossings you'll be expected to purchase additional insurance. If you use a green card it must bear the letters RUS on it to be valid.
Rules of the Road
Russia has many rules and regulations for drivers, note the following to avoid trouble with the traffic police:
It is illegal to pick up hitchhikers
You must drive with dipped headlights during the day
It is illegal to drive a dirty car if it means the registration number is obscured
In winter you must have winter tyres fitted and carry snow chains
You also need to have the following things in the car;
A warning triangle in case you break down
A first aid kit
A fire extinguisher
Russia has one of the world's highest rates of alcohol related accidents and that is why there is a zero tolerance policy to drink-driving. The law is often broken by locals so remain aware of the actions of other motorists.
There are no specific laws for towing in Russia but just make sure your intentions are clear and that the tow bar or tow rope is suitable.
There are fixed speed cameras in Russia but they are outnumbered by the mobile variety. If you get caught by a fixed camera, the ticket will be sent to the registered address of the car and if this is a car hire company, it will be forwarded on to you. Otherwise you'll get a ticket there and then and have to pay it within a certain time at a location specified on the ticket.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
Whilst you'll see the law regularly flouted, you must not use a mobile phone without a hands-free kit in Russia.
Despite many attempts to regulate parking in Russia, it is very haphazard and disorganised. Most Russians park where they like for as long as they like.
The transport ministry tried to introduce paid parking but it was rejected by the public. Private car garages opened only to remain empty on account of their charges. Some still operate, especially in the cities, and they are the safest place to leave your car.
The only vehicles likely to be cautioned for bad parking are those belonging to foreign nationals and hire cars. As long as you are sensible with your parking you should have few if any problems.
Special dispensation for disabled drivers is non-existent in Russia but as everyone seems to park where they like, it's not hard to get a more convenient parking space near your destination
Motor Way Signs
Motorways are designated by numbers.
- Good Morning - Dobraye utra
- Goodbye - Paka
- How are you? - Kak dila?
- Pleased to meet you - Ochen priyatna
- Yes - Da
- No - Net
- I have broken down - Ya razbil
- Where is the police station? - Gde politseyskiy uchastok ?
- I have a flat tyre - U menya yest' spustilo koleso
- I have been in an accident - Ya byl v avarii
- Where is? - Gde nakhoditsya?
- Where can I buy petrol? - Gde ya mogu kupit' benzin ?
Traffic lights use European conventions. What you may be unaware of is that you cannot turn left at an intersection unless it is governed by traffic lights - another safety measure introduced to cut road deaths.
There are some toll roads in the Barnaul and Pskov Region and on the Pechori state border. Russia intends to introduce more toll roads but the planning is taking some time.
The fire service is on 01, the police are on 02 and the medical services are on 03.
What to do in an emergency
If you are involved in an accident or your car breaks down, you must contact the police as well as a break down organisation. Do not move the vehicle in the meantime unless it is dangerous to keep it where it is. Take a photograph of the scene if it is safe to do so. Your car hire company should give you free breakdown cover.
As of May 2014, the price of unleaded petrol in Russia is 56p a litre with diesel around 4p cheaper.