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Safety & Health

Safety & Health (3)

Russia is a relatively safe place, but sometimes there may be annoying situations.

Friday, 18 March 2011 08:10

Health issues

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Medical facilities range from modern world class to not much higher level than 3rd world.  Citizens of EU countries should bring their medical coverage card because most of Europe has cross-coverage agreements with Russia to honor the national health coverage of the visitor's home country. A common type of visitor to Russia is the Medical Tourist who can have procedures that are very expensive in their home country done under superior conditions in Russia for a fraction of the cost of back home.  Dentistry is also sought by foreign visitors due to the remarkably low cost and quality care.  English and European languages are spoken in most clinics and hospitals.
The major state hospitals have good doctors, but you can use them only in case of emergency. Most of the people need health insurance to be treated at a hospital; however, some countries have reciprocal health care agreements with Russia.

Many pharmacies (called "apteka" in Russian) are opened 24 hours a day and there are also many of them online. Some supermarkets have small pharmacy sections as well, usually opened until 8pm. For many types of drugs prescriptions are required, which can be obtained from a doctor ("retsept" in Russian).

The water from the tap passes international standard tests for health but few visitors drink it due to rumors from years past when the city was a major industrial city with all the contaminants that entails. A new modern state of the art water treatment plant in the city center has brought the levels of purity up to high levels.  The water does in places, traverse 100 year old pipes so it might have an off taste.  All hotels and most cafes and restaurants have water filtration systems that produce good tasting water.  The locals use water for cooking and tea but prefer juice, beer and mineral water over plain water.  However, it is not recommended you drink the tap water.

Friday, 18 March 2011 07:51

Safety tips

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• Except for real necessities, don't carry things you would feel bad about losing, leave everything else of value in the hotel safe

• Some people recommend that you carry only a photocopy of your passport, visa and hotel registration document, leaving originals in hotel safe, but others indicate that a police officer who wants to check your papers may not accept a copy.  If you carry only a copy, be prepared to pay a "fine" for invalid paperwork, if you are stopped.  Being stopped by the police and asked for your papers is a thing that many people from other countries do not understand, or want to accept.  They have the legal right to do that, without any reason other than the fact that they don't like the way you look, for some reason.  No probable cause or reasonable suspicion rules apply here, so if you are going to come to Russia, just be prepared for it.  It actually doesn't happen very often, but it does happen 

• Some people recommend that you carry only one credit card and leave the others in the hotel safe.  This might be good advice, if not for the fact that sometimes, depending upon your credit card company, a credit card won't work.  Generally however credit card payments in restaurants, hotels and most retail stores are fine.  American express is accepted in hotels and most restaurants and many stores, but is the least accepted card, so you will also need a Visa or Mastercard as well.  Some stores, especially smaller ones and markets, will only accept cash, but there are literally thousands of ATM's all over Russia (nearly all being in Russian and English language) so there is no great difficulty withdrawing cash.  Not all debit cards will work in all machines - the best networks for foreign debit cards are Citibank, Raiffeisen and Sberbank, but nearly all ATM's will work if you are drawing cash out of a Visa or Mastercard

• Keep any money you do need in different places on your person

• As in any city, watch out for pickpockets. Reporting incidents to the police is not easy. Few speak English and they are not interested. Don't bet on getting a written report for your insurance company very easily if you do have things stolen. You will probably have to get your hotel to help you with that

• Use extreme caution when crossing streets on foot.  While pedestrians may technically have the right of way, many drivers don't seem to recognize that right, and will "challenge" pedestrians with their cars, coming dangerously close to them, sometimes at high speeds.  For all major roads, use the underpasses that are available or cross at traffic lights

• Be aware that "western" safety standards and practices are not necessarily widely accepted in Russia.  Unmarked tripping hazards on the sidewalk, or flimsy scaffolding which holds several workers and lots of heavy equipment, erected on a busy sidewalk, or heavy equipment operating in the middle of a street or sidewalk, with no barriers separating it from the hundreds of pedestrians passing by, are all common examples of safety hazards that many people simply aren't accustomed to watching out for, because the safety rules in their home country are so much stricter than those in Russia.  You also need to be especially careful about the slippery paths in winter - when the snow melts and then re-freezes, the paths will be like skating rinks.  In winter, it is best to wear rubber soled shoes for traction and a soft rubber at that.  Wearing leather soled shoes for anything other than small dashes from car to doorway (and even then it is risky) could see you have great difficulty walking in Russia

Friday, 18 March 2011 07:51


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There are 2 kinds of phone numbers to call emergencies. The difference is from what telephone you call - cellular or land line.
In emergency, please, contact the nearest Consular Office or the Embassy of your country or Russian authorities.
Free from all land line phones:
• In case of dire need a Firemen - call "01" - "Podzarnyie"
• Police - call "02" - "Militzia"
• Ambulance - call "03" - "SkorayhaPomosch"
• In case of Gassing - call "04" - "Sludzba Gaza"
From the last year, all emergency calls might be addressed to "01". "01" became similar to "911".  Exception - Moscow. There is real "911" emergency phone number here. Made special for foreigners.
From cellular to call emergency is free too. Numbers are the same, but in other cellular companies may differ. For example: "02" -> "020" or "02" -> "002". Check it, ask your friends, when arrive here.
Universal emergency number (from cellulars) - "112"