Local police & Documents, Moscow
It's always good to know what's going on.
Check with local press, or better still, with locals, if there are any events scheduled for those districts you are planning to visit.
For example, if Mayor Sobyanin inaugurates a new metro station, you can expect a lot of functionaries and an even huger lot of law enforcement.
This police sqaudroon is on watch as a folklore fair gets into operation in the Red Square
I'm not sure exactly what was going off at the time but one morning I was walking down the main street of Tverskaya towards the Kremlin.
As I was crossing a side street a guy in front of me dropped something. I was going to pick it up and chase after him but a guy from behind me picked it up before I had a chance. Perhaps it was an attempted scam but anyway the guy who picked it up asked me, in Russian, if I'd dropped it - I assume it was Russian as I was going with the body language not the words. I noted that it looked like a wad of money in a clear plastic envelope.
So I shook my head, pointed to the guy in front and then kept walking.
Almost immediately a smart-suited guy, who incidentally looked like Putin, appeared and stopped all three of us in the street, producing a very genuine-looking, hologramed ID and announced he was a policeman - this too in Russian.
I didn't have a clue what was happening but it wasn't a threatening situation and the policeman did have a very authoritative, commanding, manner. He said something else which I didn't catch but which resulted in the other two producing their identification documents. He then turned to me, switching to reasonably good English and asked for my passport.
I duly produced it and he turned straight to the visa page, where my immigration slip was pinned, and then checked my photo page taking careful note that the pic and I matched - well, as much these things do.
He was keeping his eye on the other two and barked something at them, indicating a couple of uniformed policemen who had now arrived and were keeping a close eye on things without butting in.
He asked what I'd seen and I explained that I saw the man drop something and then the man behind pick it up and ask if it was mine. "So, that man," he pointed, "dropped the money?"
"And that man picked it up?"
He gave me back my passport. "OK. You can go."
Needless to say I did and I didn't bother hanging around to see what was happening, nor to take any pics. I'm still not sure exactly what went on, whether I'd been the intended victim of a scam or not.
But I was definitely glad that I'd brought my passport out with me.
Civilised parking is 60 - 80 roubles/hour within the Garden Ring; you can enjoy old free ways outside it - so far.
If you fail to use one of the many ways of payment developed by our inventive mayor, your car will be towed away. I always see these impressive trucks outside my office in the morning, they must be having a good harvest throuout the day!
The fine is 2500 roubles, and you will spend a about week checking all penalty parking-lots for your car.
Foreigners applying for work permits must now undergo tests for HIV/AIDS, leprosy, syphilis, chlamydia and all those other nasty things your Drill Sergeant and your mother warned you about.
Tests can only be carried out at state clinics, which means you cannot be tested at home by your own doctor before you go to Russia, and as far as the new rules are concerned tests cannot be done at any of the private clinics around Moscow like the European Medical Center or the American Medical Center where many foreigners and ex-pats have coverage.
The new rules are based on a decree signed in April, 2003, but it is just now being enforced.
Foreigners applying for residency permits will have to undergo these tests in area where they are registered. We are told that the tests may take up to three days nevermind that the clinic near you may not be up to the standard that you may be used to unless you come from somewhere else in the developing world.
I would suggest you get more information from your visa provider or by contacting the American Chamber of Commerce or the Association of European Businesses. The Federal Migration Service is responsible for introducing and enforcing the new regulations.
In any case, good luck and play safe.
Ok, this was one of the concerns I had before visiting Moscow. We indeed see a couple of Asian people getting stopped and being asked for there documents. What I and my travel friends did was make photocopies of our passport's and Russian visa page. Even though your suppose to walk around with the original's. The staff at the front desk at our hotel even advised us if we got stopped by the police not to give them any original documents. Instead to go ahead and show them the copies and also the police registration paper the hotel gave us. I also asked the hotel concierge to write down on a piece of paper in Cyrillic " If there is a problem let's call the US Embassy, I have the number on my cell phone" And the concierge said if I showed any corrupt police this the paper the corrupt police most likely would walk away, and not waste his time !!!!
And we didn't get stopped in the 3 days we were in Moscow, so be smart about it, and you'll be fine !!!!
Police personnel uniforms are almost indistinguishable from local militia and military uniforms.
If you are stopped and asked for id do comply. They are there for your security after all. They are mostly looking out for beggars and street ruffians (note: people who wander around the street without a destination - so walk quickly and purposely to your appointment)
If money is asked or demanded refuse firmly but POLITELY. Call your local embassy on your mobile if necessary. The bad ones just want a quick buck to complement their low pay and do not want to go through any hassle at the station etc.
Stay away from any and all people in uniform you may see prowling the streets. You may come from a country where you are comfortable going up to a policeman and asking for assistance - my advice is DON'T in Russia. They are not here to help you here and any dealings you may have with them are likely to end in tears - yours.
Russian law requires that you carry your passport with you at all times. And if you required a visa to visit Russia, then that visa must be registered within 3 business days after arriving in Russia. For me, as a busy business traveler, I had to pay a courier to pick my passport and visa up and then drop it back to me as well as the processing fee. In October 2006 the total cost was $75 American dollars. And that happens each and every time you enter Russia.
If you stay at a hotel, they will take your passport and get your visa registered. Since I do not stay at hotels in Moscow, I do not know if there is a fee for that service. I stay at serviced apartments so I have to handle this visa processing on my own.
When you travel to Russia you should make a photocopy of your passport and your Russian visa. You should keep a photocopy in your wallet at all times. And you should have a photocopy with your luggage. Then at least you can document that you are traveling legally in the country.
However, it does not mean that you won’t have to pay off any policeman (yes corruption is alive and well in Russia) that catches you without a passport/visa even if you have this photocopy documentation. It just means they will not hassle you as badly. And when dealing with the Russian authorities, keep rein on your temper, be civil, and pay the 1,000 rubles or whatever the going rate is if you are caught without a passport and visa in your possession or with an unregistered visa. Do not argue or yell at these authorities. Spending time in a Russian cell just cannot be any fun whatsoever.
You will find Russian authorities checking for valid papers at places like Revolution Square, Red Square, Tyverskaya Street, and Pushkin Square. Any famous place normally has authorities checking papers. You can see teams of these authorities working the crowd on any nice day at Revolution Square if you just sit back and look for them.
Red Square and the Kremlin are pretty magnificent but heaving with tourists, Lenin/Stalin look-alikes posing for pictures, crap souvenirs and even a couple of dancing monkeys. Of particular annoyance is the constant presence of Russian police checking VISA validity. Russian Visas need to be registered for every three days spent in a different place; if they are not appropriately registered you are liable to suffer a pretty hefty fine (at worst about US$200) and a lot of hassle. In Red Square (in particular) the number of Russian police ensuring that neglected Visas are found and fined is overwhelming, and in two days mine was checked twice. Of course, being the responsible traveler I am, my documents were all in order but that didn't seem to stop them trying to extract a 'fine'. One guard was convinced that the fact I did not have my VISA registered in Moscow despite the fact I would not be there for three days (and had both my incoming and outgoing train ticket to prove it) still constituted a breach of VISA law. I challenged him on this and muttered an exchange with his colleague in Russia before they both grunted and sent me on my way, but by many accounts some people have not been so lucky and been 'fined' or paid an outright bribe to avoid whatever it is they would have done if you refused. You may find yourself asking, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?". Well, the situation has got to the point where a separate branch of the police are actually employed in order to keep an eye on the notoriously corrupt Moscow street police.
Taken from my blog: http://longwaythere.blogspot.com
I visited Moscow Aug 2006, we didn't realise the need to carry our documents with us and thought it beetter to leave our passport in the hotel safe instead. we realised our error while talking to someone in the queue to see lenin. The police in moscow seem to spend almost all of their time checking peoples documents. we managed to avoid being stopped but saw countless poeple being checked, ripped off and even taken away. they seemed pretty indiscriminate to me maybe concertrating on people they could esilay scare into paying a bribe.
My advice is to never approch a police man, never make eye contact unless you have to and give them a wide birth thats exactly what the russians do. in central moscow they seemed to wait for the tourists to come to them rather than come chasing down the road to you. we walked by the former KGB building now used by the new secret police and got some very nasty looks I read later that was probably not wise and we were lucky I hadn't try to take any pictures :D
Moscow is faily safe as capital citys go certainly safer than london or new york so don't let the poilice put you off. don't carry too much cash and if you need to you just pay the police off normall no more then £20 from what i read and heard. aparantly the police are very low apid and extorsion like this is part of their salary.
As soon as you arrive at the international aeroport in Moscow you are shown a great example of russian burocracy: we needed 2 hours to pass the passport control(another example will be the Lenin mausoleum).Actually I was surprised but, I thought it can happen, may be that more than one flight arrived at the same time.The best was when I got back to the airport to leave Moscow, so there was no visa to control and so on and, anyway a queu of 1 hour was there to wait for me, 1 hour of queu just to check who was leaving the country as there was no lagguage nor metal detector control at that point.So, in Moscow you really need to be at the airport 3 hours in advance if you want to be sure to take your flight, at least if you are leaving from airport Sheremetevo 2.
I arrived in Moscow for a 4 days short trip with a legitimate 7 days visa issued by the embassy in Dubai. The first look that the lady in the immigration table gave me was "you are not welcome" and then asked me silly questions about whether my visa is original (issued by their embassy) and my passport is original (issued by Govt of India), and then inspite of having a refreshing look of dozens of visa's already there from my previous travels to other european countries, referred me for double verification to the immigration police...
Though I had my contacts waiting for me outside the airport, I wanted to see how far this goes before I either decide to call them for help or take the next flight back to Dubai or call my embassy in Moscow, my passport and visa was re-scrutinized including the reservation letter I was carrying of a 5 star hotel in Moscow, and then I was asked and re-asked my reason for visiting Russia...!!!
Only after I explained to the immigration officer there (fortunately he was a nice guy) that I am an Indian national who has multiple buisnesses in Dubai, Hong-Kong and UK, and shoed him my business id as well as visiting card, I was let to pass through immigration and step into Russia after exactly 90 minutes of my arrival. My friends outside was nearly crazy with what could have happened to me inside thoughts..!
A bit of advise for anyone, specially people of Indian and asian origin visiting Russia. Be ready to face the same that I did, as there were at-least another dozen of people with me who also went through the same session as I did, some of them not as lucky as I was finally.
Everyone I met that had been to Russia said to watch out for the police. I had no problems with them anywhere I went. If you keep to yourself and mind your own business you should have no problems. In Red Square there are plenty of local kids walking around with open cans or bottles of beer and this is accepted or tolerated. I wandered around a bit on my own and had no problems with anyone. Even a cripple on the subway that was looking for a handout said nothing and kept on moving.
Always have copies of your passport (and visa) in your luggage, in your wallet, in your purse. Take several and keep them in different places. If you loose your real passport this will make it easier to replace. Always carry your passport with you! Moscow is the only place I have ever been asked for my passport/visa on the street.
Beware of fake cops! There are a few fake (and real) cops out there who will ask you for your passport, then demand money to give it back. You can't tell who is real or not, there are so many different uniforms on the street. If the officer is real, he will usually salute you as he approaches to ask to see your papers. If the guy has a gun in a holster he's probably real, if he's carrying a machine gun, he's probably real.
A passport can be replaced, you can't. Give it up, get a new one.
Beware the Turkey Drop
Also, if someone hurries past you and drops a wad of cash, just keep walking, DON'T pick it up, period, even if you are just trying to help. Just keep walking. His partner will be along shortly to try and share it with you or some other excuse. DO NOT TOUCH IT! It will somehow come out badly. This happened to me one block from the Moscow Marriott, I was previously warned by our counterintelligence unit, and I travel quiet a bit, so it was actually strangely amusing to watch it unflod.
We saw somebody beating up an old lady and when we went to grab a police men, everyone stopped us saying the police will just make matters worse and ask for money. Around red square the police were constantly pouncing on student-aged tourists asking for passports and extracting bribes whenever possible. In a way, I prefer mofia-dominated Saint Petersburg to corrupt-police dominated Moscow as the mofia mostly leave tourists alone.