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Russia is the largest country on Earth, and is a fantastic country for hitch hiking. It is well ingrained within the country's culture, and it is a much more comfortable way to see the country, compared to taking the train. Despite the popularity of hitch hiking compared to other countries, people will still be surprised by what you are doing. Especially if you are (and look like) a foreigner.
It is possible to cover vast distances per day when hitching, greater than 1000 km if you are lucky, but generally only when using major M roads in Western Russia or Siberia through Trans-siberian railway mainline.
Do not expect all M roads to be dual carriageways – sometimes even a major road is a narrow, unpaved muddy patch. Generally speaking, the further East you go, the worse the road condition gets. But even on main connections in less remote areas, for example from Moscow to Kazan, the road is not always in good shape in connection with the huge traffic, travelling will take much more time than in Western Europe. There are real motorways, though, marked with a green sign of an autobahn same as in Europe. Standards are improving too; there is an ongoing policy of funding the rebuilding many roads in Russia, which will bring standards to a much higher level.
In spite of the country's size, there are very few roads, there is little ambiguity in where you could be going, when hitching from a given location. In areas about 50 km from cities you may just stay on the road and you will get rides with high success which other cities the roads go to.
In mostly all bigger book stores in Russia one can find the Автоатлас России (Auto Atlas Russia) which is perfect for hitchhiking Russia. Including gas stations, DPS stations, even traffic lights along main roads. The atlas also includes city maps and maps of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the Baltic states as well. Price is 377 RUB (July 2009).
Also, there are maps almost completely presenting full infrastructure of some cities including public transportation system at 2gis.ru. November, 1st 2009 there were 22 cities: Астрахань, Барнаул, Бийск, Екатеринбург, Иркутск, Казань, Кемерово ,Красноярск ,Курган, Нижневартовск, Нижний Новгород, Новокузнецк, Новосибирск, Одесса, Омск, Пермь, Самара, Тольятти, Томск, Тюмень, Уфа, Челябинск. U can use on-line version or download installer and use maps off-line. Also there is opportunity to use 2gis on Windows Mobile platform and even on usual cellphone with Java MIDP-2 engine (needs internet access). A more modern alternative is Maps.me, as it has offline maps and shows gas stations. (Most platforms)
Another alternative Application to MapsMe is Yandex Maps. It's like Russian Goole maps. You can download offline maps there and find every address or public transport. (July 2019)
Also, there is a possibility to get a lift by talking to drivers on gas stations. You will not be misunderstood but since there are almost no highways and you can point your thumb anywhere, wasting time on a gas station waiting for cars is not preferred unless there is heavy raining, or the spot is bad etc. If there are two of you one can hitch on the road and the other one ask people on nearby gas station; that really might bring you a lift faster. But the “default” method of hitchhiking in Russia is still thumbing on the roadside. If you don't speak the language, thumbing is better - as people will just drive towards your direction and you can join them.
Do not write places names on cardboards – nobody in this country cares to read them. Or, if you still want to use the paper, write a region number instead of the name (see below for a list of reg numbers). Because you can get dropped off and immediately hitch onwards on nearly all roads in Russia, using a sign is never necessary and in fact the community recommends against it. Again, in spite of the country's size, there are very few roads, there is little ambiguity in where you could be going, when hitching from a given location.
You must take a raincoat (it sometimes rains in summer and very often in autumn), good shoes, a warm jumper for summer (the winter starts in October), some cash (and not credit cards or cheques), perhaps a tent with a sleeping bag.
Trains, Boats, etc
taken from a post on squattheplanet forum:
"In Siberia, it is apparently common and easy (and ALLOWED) to hitch-hiking on cargo ships and freight trains, in the unit. Trains are not manifested ahead of time, but instead are done on a day-to-day basis (CHAOS?!). This means that you show up at the 'yard' (really only a load/unload with a siding or two), and ask the workers or security for the engineer/brakeman lounge. Sometmes the security will hassle you, but if you simply explain that you are a traveler, it's totally allowed! So, ask around, find a train going your way, find out when it leaves, and ask if you can hop on. You ride in the unit, which while heated (Siberia is fucking cold), has no toilet, so don't drink too much, and take a pregame dump. Ride to where you're going, simple as that! Also, every yard has a cafe for the workers, and food is apparently wicked cheap. Boat-hitching is apparently similar. Ask around, get permission, get on, and go! The only significant problem would be the language barrier, but people are absolutely THRILLED to meet travelers, especially ones from foreign lands (remember, Russia is HUGE). Additionally, it's possible to stay for a night at monasteries all over Russia. If you want to stay longer, they will usually ask you to help out with chores. I REALLY want to try this!"
Hitchhiking in Russian is called автостоп (avtostop). It literally means “car stopping”, and is basically the only word understood as hitching (i.e. travelling by getting lifts for free). A more colloquial word for it is "попутка" (poputka). When people ask you anywhere in Russia: "куда ты едешь?" (Kuda TjIE edesh?)[where are you going to?] you should answer: "я еду автостопом" (ya yedu avtostopom), then they will ask you another question and this time you say the name of the city. It might be better and more polite to ask "Вы могли бы подкинуть меня в направлении ..." (Vy mogli by podkinut menya v napravlenii ...), which means "Could you give me a lift in the direction of ...".
Level of speaking English is rather low especially among people older than 40 and even not all young people speak it with a sufficient level. You might ought to learn Cyrillic script for your own convenience. It is quite simple for a person familiar with English or Greek alphabet and is learnable in 2-3 days. People, their friendliness and mentality differ much from part of Russia they are from (there are many national republics and indigenous nations), and also from the type of town (for example, notorious "monogorod" - monotowns) and by their social status.
In spite of popular belief about the dangers of Russia, and perceived problems with the police, as a hitch hiker you will more than likely have no problems in the country. Police will usually not bother you at all, especially when they know you are a foreigner (except at the border - that is another matter). You should also avoid drunk people and people who look aпgressive or look like "gopniks". and as long as you take the usual precautions, you will not find yourself in danger from any person - the cold however, in winter time, is a much bigger issue. Being offered copious amounts of alcohol can also be a problem!
Some consider Russian roads are not among the safest on Earth; this might or might not be true. The concentrartion of dashing driving is higher than in Europe. Many drivers and their passengers do not fasten their belts outside cities, but you always may do it for yourself.
Its common knowledge Russians like to drink vodka, but you will unlikely meet a drunken driver unless you go deep into some village area; driving drunk is heavily penalized in Russia so majority of people don't want to run the risk if there is at least a single police checkpoint on the road (on all the major roads, there are many). But, just in case you encounter a car with a drunken driver inside – wave him away and wait for a sober one.
If the area feels unsafe you might want to hitchhike from police post to police post. The police posts situated on all highways with intervals of about 100 km. These posts, commonly called "ДПС" (Post DPS), are good places to hitchhike since cars will drive by slowly, and police is always close. Local hitchhikers swear on these police posts. You can also ask the police officers to help you get a ride which really might work. Be prepared to be asked for your ID or even run a cell-phone check (verification that your cell is not in the stolen cells database), though.
The southern provinces of Russian Caucasus like Dagestan, Chechnya (worldwide most victims), Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria have problems with terrorists and land-mines and it could be very dangerous for travelling there for both foreigner and for Russian from Central Russia. These areas better be avoided.
Small towns might have a small chance of being a little dangerous if the person differs much from locals, especially in the night. Villages and big town are completely safe.
Girls and solo-hitching
Many Russian girls do hitch alone, and still scary stories seldom hit the news lines. It does not at all mean that the country is free of perverts, and almost all of the solo-travelers (not necessarily girls) will tell you accounts of some sexual harassment they have encountered while hitching. 99% of such encounters end OK with nothing more serious then words but if you do not want to be asked for sex – or to hold a camera while somebody is masturbating – consider finding a travel buddy. Somehow, Russians are still very amused by foreigners, and many report that solo traveling even extremely long distances, like Central and Eastern Russia, for a foreign girl who speaks some Russian is absolutely safe since she is treated like someone ‘from the outside’ by virtually everyone. Keep in mind that being a foreigner you are somewhat protected from some issues that Russian hitchhikers face on the roads.
The Ultimate Guide to a €35 Russian Visa without an Agency for Most EU Citizens (except UK, Ireland and Croatia, among others)
Most Russian embassies in the EU don't require you to submit an application through a visa center/travel agent or to complete any additional steps, but it's very important to check the respective embassy's website for their particular requirements.
1. Get an appointment at the respective embassy of your choice. This is the biggest hassle of the entire process as appointments are usually booked out for at least two months ahead... You'll find a link to the online appointment booking system on the embassy's website - it'll look something like http://paris.kdmid.ru/queue-en/. Record the appointment details.
2. Two weeks or so before your appointment, book accommodation through this website's affiliate link to Booking.com. They give free tourist invitations to anyone who books using their affiliate link - it's important to follow the link to Booking.com from their website. As it's Booking.com, you can give them a fake credit card (using a fake CC number generator of course) and you don't actually have to stay at the places or pay for them in advance. But you do need the reservations. Alternatively, you could also get an invitation through the many websites which offer it for as low as €10 (look up Fortuna Travel) - but the steps above will get you one for free. Recent reports seem to suggest that the agency is getting wary of suspicious free visa support request, so if you're going to Russia for longer than a week, you're probably better off coughing up the €10.
3. Once you've managed to successfully book accommodation through Booking.com, fill out this form. They should send you scans of the invitation to your e-mail. Print those out.
3a. If you need a visa for over 30 days, then you have to get a "Business" visa instead of a tourist visa. It's Russia, so white lies are not out of the ordinary here... To get a business visa, you'll need a more expensive invitation (usually between €45-80), but the visa fee remains the same and the same visa support companies issue these. For visas up to 180 days, a simple stamped letter over email is enough, but this really depends on the embassy. For a 1-year visa(although it's valid for a year, one entry can only be 90 days), you'd need a formal invitation initiated by the company via the Russian Migration Service, which is much more expensive and can take up to a month.
4. Fill out this form exactly as you've filled out the previous form. This is the official Russian form which you'll submit to the embassy. Print it. Sign it. Glue a passport photo onto it (3.5x4.5cm size).
5. Get travel insurance which has at least €30,000 cover. Print a confirmation. If you're good enough with photoshop you can give them something legit looking. You'll also probably need this at the Russian border.
6. Go to the embassy for your appointment with all the paperwork (printout of the invitation, the official Russian form with your signature and photos and confirmation of insurance). Pay them €35. Wait for the visa.
7. Have fun in Russia!
IMPORTANT: Every embassy and every nationality is different! Check the embassy website before following these steps as there may be extra requirements not covered here!
Starting from July 1, 2019 people from many countries can get electronic visa to enter the Far Eastern Federal District and the Kaliningrad Oblast. The e-visa is free and lasts only for eight days. Rules for these visas can be found on the official website .
Russian number plates contain a region code, that indicates the origin of the car and possibly the drivers destination. You can write it on a cardboard instead of a place name and use while thumbing. See Russian plate numbers for a list.
- Story about hitchhiking from Rotterdam to Vladivostok (English)
- Story about hitchhiking from Hamburg to Lake Baikal (English)
- Stories about hitchhiking around remote Siberian regions (English)
- Russian hitchhiking website (Russian)
- Russian backpacker & hitchhiker's forum (Russian)
- Academy of Free Travel, Moscow based hitchhiking club (Russian)
- Livejournal 'Vpiska' community, mostly (Russian) but (English) speakers are also welcome
- Russian hitchhiking communities. (Russian), but you can ask questions and get replies in (English)
- Hitchhiking in the Russian far east (English)
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