Although most tourists will not be subjected to the nerve gas attacks that Russia favors for political opponents, the adventurous woman traveler does need to be concerned about harassment, rape, terrorism, and other crimes (pick-pocketing, mugging, and scams) as well as racism and general hostility to Westerners. It’s unfortunate for those of us who’d love to go see the Winter Palace, Hermitage Museum, etc., but with a Global Peace Index (GPI) ranking of 151 (out of 163) and World Economic Forum rating of 45 (out of 141), the data indicates there are far better places to go if you prefer a non-hazardous trip. Russia ranks number eight on the Eight Most Dangerous Countries for Women Travelers.
Of special concern to female soccer fans is the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Russia this year and thus becomes a prime terrorist attraction for ISIS. The British government has put together special safety tips for the occasion, adorably titled “Be on the Ball.” Unfortunately, it’s not just soccer fans that need to be concerned, since there is an overall concern with terrorism. For example, in April 2017, terrorists set off a bomb in the St. Petersburg Subway, killing several people. There is also street crime targeting visitors, such as criminal gangs colluding with police, fake cops stopping tourists and then robbing them, as well as various scams focused on tourists.
The Brits recommend avoiding all travel to within 10 kilometers of the border with the Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts along with Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky, and Kursky in Stavropol Krai as well as North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia, and Kabardino-Balkaria (including the Elbrus area). The Brits also advise against all but essential travel to within 10 kilometers of the border with the Ukrainian Kharkiv Oblast.
Other countries offer similar warnings. The New Zealand government cautions visitors to Russia about terrorist attacks on public transportation and racist crime against those who appear to be non-European. The US State Department lists Russia as “Reconsider Your Need to Travel” for most of Russia with some areas listed as “Do Not Travel “due to terrorism and harassment of foreigners by police.
As if things weren’t bad enough, Russian police sometimes ignore serious crime; in fact, if you’re American they’re unlikely to be impartial or to look into it. The State Department recommends against ever watching a stranger’s luggage or picking up money that appears to have been dropped since that’s a great way to be accused of theft and then extorted for bribes.
If you must go: Sochi has urban attractions and the Akhun Mountain to visit. Yes, we know, the list is short; we’d be happy to add to it but scouting around doesn’t reveal happy tourists extolling areas where there aren’t serious travel warnings. Russia is big, so if you know of a great spot, tell us.
Conclusion: Perhaps you are thinking it would be better to go where a woman can travel freely and safely, if so, please refer to our 10 Safest Countries for Women Travelers, Best Countries in Africa, Best Places in Oceania, Best Countries in South America, and Best and Worst of North America.
Photo: Credit: Sergei Vedyashkin, Moskva News Agency, The Moscow Times
Photo Caption: Theft and Robbery Account for 42 Percent of Crimes in Russia