Local police & Documents, Moscow
Passport police in the city harasses people on a regular basis. I was told they are mostly after Georgian immigrants. Nevertheless I was stopped entering the subway near Red Square. I only had a copy of my passport which the officer said was insuffient and urged me and my friend to step into his office. My friend's dad was ahead of us and we argued with the officer for a minute, showing him our photocopied papers. Luckily my friend's dad was with us and he had a cartouche from the U.S Embassy (I think it is some official RF/Moscow thing) which he displayed and said that we were his sons. The officer let us go immediately. I have a strong feeling we would have had to pay to get rid of the guy otherwise. I had been told that a photocopy of the passport would be sufficient but I guess this guy wanted a bribe and made up his own rules.
All foreigners must have their visas registered within three days of arrival. If you don't look like 'guy whitie,' or are carrying big bags and are wearing a t-shirt that says 'kiss me, I'm a tourist,' there's a good chance that the cops will stop you and ask for documents. They love to do this around Red Square and at the train stations, but they also do it on the subways. Choice targets for random document checks are people from the Caucasus - Georgians, Armenians, Ossetians, and of course, Dagestanis and Chechens. Because the city is a magnet for whores from poor parts of Russia, attractive women walking alone late at night are almost always hit up for a bribe - people in Russia carry an internal passport (sometimes in addition to Russia's 'foreign' passport) that has to be stamped and in the case of these girls usually isn't. People from the Caucasus people look like Jews or Italians, so if you're Jewish or Italian looking, the cops will target you. Have your hotel stamp your visa or you'll get stuck paying a bribe - try to shoot for 100 or 200 rubles (3-7 dollars.) If you're staying with friends, get your visa stamped at the Hotel Asia - they'll do it for 10 dollars for up to 3 months and don't require you to stay there. Again, the whole system is a scam so pretend you know the drill.
Quite simply, the Moscow police stop anyone who isn't 100% white or anyone who doesn't look Russian.
I'm half Sri Lankan, and although I'm British (see picture!) I suppose my tan, shaved head and military style rucksack probably made me look like a Chechen rebel, but nevertheless I was stopped two or three times a day in Moscow and asked for my documents.
Incredibly, I was not stopped once in St.Petersburg when I returned in 2003 - maybe the tan faded?
Make sure you have at least photocopies of your passport and visa with you at all times. The police in Moscow tend to stop you here more than in St Petersburg. They will ask you to produce your documents and can get quite nasty if you are unable to do so.
The Moscow police can always been seen stopping people and wanting to check their papers. For this reason, you should always carry around your passport. I've only been stopped once and I was with a Russian friend. On my last visit, I was told by the hotel that a photo driving licence was not considered good enough identification. I don't like carry my passport around but I would strongly advise anyway that in this country, you do just that.
When you arrive in Russia, the hotel will take you passport in order to register your visa. This is standard procedure and nothing to worry about. If you need your passport back quickly, they can normally register the visa in about one hour
always have your passport with you, a specially when traveling the metro. but if you make a photo of the militia near the kremlin, and they spot you, it will cost you your film!]I was lucky, i had a digital camera, and he did not know i already took a couple.
I do think it is a great pic!
There's something you have to be careful with in Moscow-our police...if you'll drive somewhere they like to stop you(just becouse of nothing) to check your drive-license or if you made a mistake -to get money from you!Than expensiver car you have than more chances to be stopped by police!!!Its their main way to make money!!!and they are doing good!
Others have warned about walking around Moscow without your passport and visa. But, my business associates have had the police on the street TAKE their passport and refuse to return it unless my fiends paid the police $100 cash! It is pure extortion.
To combat this, and yet be 'legal', I leave the original documents in the hotel safe and I carry COPIES of the documents with me.
I am sorry to write this, but it was an experience friends of mine made during our Moscow trip.
When returning from a bar one of them felt the urgent drive to get rid of his vodka in a quite common way... therefore he looked for a tree not too far from the road and did what he had to do. Suddenly a police car stopped and demanded a 100$ fine.
You cannot really negotiate with them unless you know a little bit of Russian. Fortunately one of them could and reduced the amount to 100 rubels. Be aware that police recognises you as tourists immediately and they will observe you carefully. They know where to get the money from. So be aware!
Moscow police are quite corrupt. They do bother tourists sometimes and try to make an excuse of your papers being incorrect in order to get a bribe. My advice is to stay calm and ask them to take you to the police station and say that you would like to ring the embassy also. Usually they will let you go. The most notorious area is around the Red Square. Once we were walking at 11 pm through the square and were stopped by a policeman and asked for our papers. They were OK. Then he asked us if we could speak english, I said yes. Then he read a sentence from a piece of paper offering us a tour behind Lenin's tomb where there were some busts along the Kremlin wall. I politely said no thanks and walked on. It is incredible, the lengths police will go to for money.
Always take your passport with you - police (militsia) in Moscow is horrible. If you are a girl they will try to get a date saying you owe it to them because they let you go withoout documents. If you are a man you will be let off only if you pay. So, taking your passport may save you time and trouble.
Foreign Ministry introduced fast-track 3-day visas to Russia starting Feb. 1, 2002
In the experiment, which is to last one year, citizens of the 15 Shengen Agreement countries, Britain, Switzerland and Japan are able to order 72-hour visas through selected tourist agencies two days before arrival.
Tourists can collect the visas apon arrival at Sheremetyevo and Pulkovo airports and four entry points in the St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad regions.
The visas are administred by 29 tourist agencies, including eight from Moscow.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR PAPERS!!!
It is most important you have your passport and visa on you at all times. The police can randomly pick people off the street and ask to see your papers.
A catch 22 is when you check in the hotel you must turn in your papers over to the front desk. The hotel gives you a 'hotel pass' with your information on it. It is good to bring this card with you as well, for the police ask for it sometimes. It takes about one hour for the hotel to process you, and then you can get them back.
Being from the West you might have to pay a fine for not having your passport with you. You may not be so lucky if you are from a satellite nation such as Chechnia, Slovokia or Ukraine. I saw five guys taken away in a military jeep for not having proper visas. Who knows what happened to them. For all I know they are mining for salt out in Siberia.
Most of the police were very kind and would help you with your questions.
Rumor has it crime is high in Moscow. I did not see it. When in the tourist areas you are safe. I feel more uncomfortable in NY at night then I did in Moscow.
When you arrive to Russia..... the first thing to do is REGISTER your VISA and take with you the passport always>>>>>> The Police can check your Documents at any moment. There are places like in any city where you should be careful,use your common sense and you should have not problems........
Hotels in Moscow usually requires the visitors to leave their passports at the counter for registration. It is perhaps better to get your passport back as soon as the hotel management has finished with the registration as passport checks by police do occur.