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Female solo travel in Russia | Top Tips and safety

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Female solo travel in Russia can seem a little scary at first, especially if you aren’t used to travelling alone.

In general, Russia is a relatively safe country for travellers, including solo female travellers.

It’s especially safe if you’re travelling as a tourist to large cities, (such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, or if you are doing the Trans-Siberian train route.

Female solo travel in Russia

Tallinn to Moscow by train | A guide to riding the rails to Russia

Travelling solo in Russia is something that has intrigued me for a while, I had built up quite the imaginary picture of the world’s largest country.

In my mind, it is a beautiful but bureaucratic land of imposing Stalinist architecture and stern, humourless people. It both fascinated and daunted me at the same time.

I travelled alone from Tallinn to St Petersburg by train and then onto Moscow to give myself a travel challenge.

Is it safe to travel to Russia alone?

Getting myself around Russia was a fabulous and yet ever so slightly overwhelming experience. When you solo travel as a female you are wholly reliant upon yourself.

There’s no one to check ‘Is this the right train? Is this grey looking soup edible? Will the train guard ever return with my passport?

You have to survive on your street smarts, common sense and frankly, unshakeable faith in humanity, especially as a solo female traveller. It’s one of the best travel life lessons going.

Is Russia safe to travel?

Another reassuring thing for female solo travellers is that as of July 1, 2014, there is a large presence of tourist police in Moscow.

This is a tourist initiative of the local authorities to improve the image of the city.

The police aim to provide support to foreign tourists in the Russian capital.

It consists of special security patrols and information in English for foreign tourists visiting the city.

Travelling to Russia is as safe as visiting any other European country. Of course, petty crimes such as pickpocketing are still very common, which is no different from any other tourist destination.

female solo travel in Russia

Take the usual travel safety precautions and exercise caution in crowds. Also, be careful not to fall for any common travel scams or obvious tourist traps.

We actually talk about travel scams on my weekly podcast – Travel Goals. Subscribe now and catch up on all episodes.

Female travel in Russia

Despite having almost no common sense, even after over 15 years of solo travel, I managed to travel solo in Russia without incident.

Admittedly there were several challenges and difficulties, but nothing that was too overwhelming.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge travelling to Russia then I would seriously consider booking an organised Russia trip.

Especially if you are new to travelling or travelling alone. This isn’t because travelling is dangerous, it’s that travelling in Russia can be tricky if you aren’t used to travelling.

This is about convenience and taking the hassle out of your travels. Especially as travelling to Russia includes added complications like applying for a tourist visa.

If you do want a travel challenge and solo travel to Russia, I have compiled a little list of solo travel top tips.

This is so that you can get around Russia hassle-free and have the solo travel adventure you deserve.

From visas to vodka, here are my top tips for female solo travel in Russia.

guide to female solo travel in Russia

Apply for a Russian Visa through a specialist agency

Before you book your solo Russia trip, you will need to first sort out things like a Russia Visa, where you plan to visit in Russia and where you will be staying?

Travelling to Russia is definitely not suitable for ‘on a whim’ style of travelling.

Applying for a Russian visa

There is a fair bit of admin and paperwork to get through before you set foot in the country. You definitely need to check the visa requirements of your home home country before booking your trip

Since 2019, St. Petersburg can be visited with free E-VISA, unless you are travelling by train. Which is kind of annoying?

If you are a UK citizen planning to travel to Russia, then you will need to apply for a tourist visa before you travel.

Russian Tourist visa for UK

For British citizens, You’ll need to get a visa from the Russian Embassy before you travel.

Current processing times, according to the UK GOV website, are up to 20 business days for standard service, or up to 3 business days for urgent service.

I’m not going to lie, applying for a Russian visa can be a bit of an ordeal. I would strongly advise applying for your visa through a specialist agency such as Real Russia.

They will guide you through the process and check for any mistakes in your paperwork before sending you off to Russia Visa application centre to submit biometric data, (scanned fingerprints). 

If like me you aren’t exactly a ‘details person’, then I would totally enlist the help of professionals.

Getting a Russia visa

Pay attention to your personal items

Big cities in Russia tend to be quite safe, I never felt unsafe at any point wandering the tourist areas of St Petersburg and Moscow.

As a solo female traveller, I followed the usual precautions and stuck to well lit, public areas.

You will find lots of police officers patrolling streets, in metro stations and security guards manning the doors of shopping centres.

Keep your valuables safe

That said, when travelling alone, it’s always smart to make sure you keep your valuables safe.

To keep your valuables secure, I recommend taking an anti-theft backpack with you. Check out my City Break Packing Guide for more information.

Make sure to not leave purses/phones/expensive sunglasses out on show unless you want to make a pickpocket’s day.

Also be sure you carry around your passport, in case you are asked to produce it by local authorities.

Walking alone at night in Russia

Ladies, whilst public areas in Russian cities are largely safe, it’s not generally a good idea to be mildly intoxicated when walking alone at night.

No matter where you travel, always trust your gut, be aware of your surroundings and maybe consider not wearing earbuds while walking around in a city at night.

female solo travel russia

When I was in St Petersburg I got a bit ‘carried away’ with the vodka when I was out having some Pelmeni, [Russian Dumplings].

I found myself wandering around, humming Bonnie Tyler, before then stumbling upon a late-night cat café.

It’s not often I find myself in a Russian city at midnight with a cat on my head, but at least I was safely inside and having a sobering black coffee.

I don’t want to be a killjoy, just go easy on the booze if you are going to walking alone after dark.

You want to be fully aware of your surroundings, rather than drunkenly convincing yourself that you could successfully scale a lamppost.

Get decent travel insurance

Having comprehensive travel insurance for your solo Russia trip is an absolute must.

Check out World Nomads for insurance designed for travellers. You can get travel insurance for durations of 1 week to a year with World Nomads.

Their cover includes a huge amount of eventualities and medical support should you get sick on your travels.

Trust me, it’s scary to get sick when travelling alone, so the last thing you need is not having decent travel insurance when things go wrong.

Why risk travelling without insurance when you can get peace of mind at a reasonable cost?

Those medical bills abroad can add up significantly guys, make sure to cover yourself for those travel fails.

Navigating Russian Metro systems

The metro systems of Moscow and St Petersburg are fast, efficient and cheap ways of travelling around the city.

For female travellers, the metro systems in St Petersburg and Moscow are probably one of the safest parts of the city, day or night.

Brightly lit, plenty of security personnel and cameras, never short of people. Take the usual precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

However, be aware that signs in the stations are only in Cyrillic, this can cause quite a bit of confusion when attempting to navigate the metro system as a solo traveller.

This is where a Russian phrasebook, Google translate app, or basic knowledge of the Russian alphabet would come in super handy.

I managed to get myself lost multiple times whilst trying to get across Moscow via metro.

The upside was that I got to see many of the spectacularly decorated stations, almost like underground, hidden art spaces in a busy commuter environment.

Beware rip off taxi drivers in Russia

It’s important to always be aware of taxi scams and overpriced taxis as a female solo traveller.

People can take advantage when you are travelling alone, so you need to be on your guard.

When I arrived in St Petersburg my Russia Travel guide stated that a taxi to my hostel should cost around 300 Rubles.

At this point, it was midnight, I was very cold, hungry and tired. Approaching a taxi that was right outside of the station, I was informed that a taxi to my hostel was 1500 Rubles.

I knew this wasn’t the case and as I walked away the irate taxi driver started shouting varying amounts.

I no longer felt comfortable getting in their taxi, so I used Google maps to navigate my way to the hostel. It was thankfully only a 20-minute walk.

Avoid taxi scams

Russia isn’t the only place this has happened; many European taxi drivers have also quoted me outrageous amounts for journeys I know are around 5 minutes by car.

The key here is to do a little research on distances between the airport/train station/bus station and where your accommodation is.

This way you can roughly calculate how much a cab should cost and you won’t get ripped off.

Be careful what you photograph in Russia

There are many beautiful government buildings and uber-cool structures in Russia. If you are a travel photography fan, it’s a fantastic place to visit.

As a solo traveller, I revel in the challenge of getting solo snaps in new destinations.

be aware that there may be photography restrictions in place, especially if the building is used for military or security purposes.

Tourists have been imprisoned and fined for taking innocent snaps of official buildings if in doubt, don’t post to Instagram girls!

Don’t be afraid to talk to people when solo travelling

Solo Travelling is all about making connections, meeting interesting locals and bonding with other travellers.

Whilst Russians can come across as a bit brusque, I found waitresses, hostel staff and bar staff were happy to chat with me about their country and to recommend local places of interest.

It’s important to te prepared for all sorts of weird and wonderful encounters and travel fails, when on travelling alone.

One travel fail that I had in Russia was when I spent around an hour hunting for a particular restaurant, in -20 conditions.

Making friends when travelling

When I finally got there, it became clear that it was the wrong restaurant and it was full.

The disappointment on my frozen little face must have been evident as a man got up and said I could have his table.

I thought this meant that he was leaving the table but as I sat down he said, ‘Hi I’m Stan. So! What should we order?’

That is the short story of how I ended up going on an accidental dinner date with a divorce lawyer in Moscow.

Overall, I didn’t have any negative experiences travelling solo in Russia. Of course, I faced the usual travel hiccups.

Namely, getting lost, missing metro stops, accidentally spilling coffee on my laptop, airport delays and angry taxi drivers insisting that a 5-minute ride was 1500 Rubles.

However, I never felt unsafe at any point. Part of me is sure that this is due to my ridiculous over-optimism and faith that everything ‘will probably be alright’.

When you solo travel you should always exercise some caution but it shouldn’t stop you from attempting an adventure or talking to strangers.

Keep your wits sharp, your belongings safe and get out there with a sense of ‘badass babe on a mission to explore’ and you’ll be just fine

Always cooperate with Russian train guards

I travelled from Tallinn to St Petersburg by train on what I can only describe as a ‘Soviet throwback’ train.

For those of you who are used to trains with plug sockets, Wi-Fi and fuss-free travel, prepare yourselves for a wholly different experience.

First off, I had some difficulty locating my carriage and indeed seat. No one on the train, including the guards, spoke English.

So I played a train version of musical chairs for the first 30 minutes looking for where I was supposed to sit.

Next up comes the passport checking, the train guard will scrutinize your tickets and passport before taking it away.

Getting the train in Russia

Ladies, this is not the time to panic and start demanding to know where your passport is going?

You are no longer in Kansas doll, this is Russia and if the train guards take your passport, you just have to roll with it. It will be making its way back to you at some point.

On my six-hour journey, I counted 3 passport checks and two rounds of sniffer dogs coming through the carriage.

As a solo traveller. it’s important to comply with the request of passports, documentation checks and bag checks.

It’s a level of security that you might not be familiar with but is pretty normal in Russia.

Tallinn to st petersburg by train

Safety travel tips for Russia

Whilst solo female travel is generally safe, there are still a few safety tips you should keep in mind.

Here are some of my top tips for travelling in Russia and staying safe as a female traveller.

  • Be aware of your surroundings when walking around at night.
  • Pay attention to your belongings in crowded areas.
  • Always carry your passport and visa information
  • If you encounter any travel problems contact your Consulate or Embassy.
  • Make sure your hotel or accommodation has registered your passport
  • Get decent travel insurance

I would really recommend solo travelling to Russia. It’s a fantastic experience and is challenging enough to test you, without being overwhelming.

Woud you solo travel to Russia? Let me know in the comments below.

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