They say that football is an art. So is traveling to the biggest nation on the planet during the world’s largest single-event sporting competition.
More than three million football fans will descend on 11 cities between 14 June to 15 July.
Hotel rooms will be scarce, prices will go up, and – as with any major international event – the onslaught will make traveling more complex than usual.
Add to that, a concern among some travelers about the impact of diplomatic relations on their visit. While it’s true that political relations with certain countries are about as warm as January in the Russian village of Oymakyon (the coldest inhabited place on earth), most Russians are like anyone else: Happy to leave politics to the politicians. The average visitor can expect a hero’s welcome at the global mega-event.
But first, swot up on these tips and score a hat-trick on security, legal, and cultural know-how. Whether you’re visiting as a business traveler, a fan - or both - you’re bound to have a fun experience.
1. Get your docs in a row: Check that your passport is valid for a minimum of six months after the expiry date of your visa or FAN-ID, and keep scanned copies of your passport and travel documents in the Cloud, in case you lose your belongings.
Visa requirements for the World Cup are different from standard tourist and business visas. For more information, visit the Fan ID page.
Keep your passport with you at all times, and hold onto your immigration card. You’ll need it to leave the country.
2. Make sure to register: Hotels and guest houses will register you upon arrival, but make sure to check. Absolutely all foreign citizens must be registered within 24 hours of entering the country, effective until 25 July.
If you are staying somewhere residential, check that your host is prepared to register you at the local office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. You will not be able to register anywhere else. Bring along a photocopy of your passport and visa, or FAN ID.
You must register in each new city that you visit, and make sure to check for the latest updates.
3. Planes, trains, and automobiles: If you haven’t already booked, you will need to get creative to circumvent the mass movement of fans, organizers and teams.
If possible, arrive a day early. If you’re having trouble getting a flight, try an alternative airport with high-speed train access. For example, you could fly into Krasnodar and get a six-hour train ride to the host cities of Sochi and Rostov-on-Don. Also, consider lesser-known airlines, such as Utair, Ural Airlines and S7.
The rail network is mostly reliable in Russia, particularly between major cities such as Moscow-St. Petersburg, Moscow -Nizhny Novgorod, and Krasnodar-Sochi.
Russian Railways begin ticket sales 90 days before the date of the trip, but be aware that train staff are unlikely to speak English. You can show your match ticket, at their ticket office, to travel to the next city for free.
Car rental companies and taxi services are well-developed in Russia, and public transport is free to all spectators carrying a FAN ID.
Uber works in 16 cities here, too.
4. Travel between matches: Go between games for a higher likelihood of getting plane and train tickets. Use the match schedule to find dates during which to avoid the crowds. (hyperlink match schedule:http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/index.html)
5. Pack smart: Make sure that the contents of your suitcase won’t get you in trouble. Certain medicines, such as those containing codeine and barbiturates require a doctor’s note.
If you’re going to buy antiques like icons, samovars and rugs, get a certificate from the Russian Ministry of Culture.
When it comes to non-prescription drugs, just say nyet. And, don’t buy vodka from anywhere other than a major supermarket. Anti-freeze kills.
6. Stay safe: In addition to the usual precautions like keeping your doors locked, and cash out of sight, take extra care during the World Cup. Foreigners are more likely to be the target of airport scams, petty crime, and credit card fraud.
Only change money at banks, hotels and recognized exchange services, and don’t pay for anything using foreign currency. It’s illegal. You could get in rouble-y big trouble.
Be careful where you snap your selfies. Certain military buildings, and even airports, are off-limits for photography.
Finally, equip yourself with the numbers you might need ahead of time. If you need an ambulance, dial 103. The number for emergencies is 112.
7. Protect yourself online: Avoid making yourself the target of identity theft or fraud by equipping your devices with the latest security updates and tracking apps. Turn off file sharing and avoid using public WiFi, especially to access online banking.
Regardless whether your hand luggage contains presentations in your company colors, or face paint in your team colors, you won’t regret being in Russia during this historic event.
Blog Author: Marc Redfern, Director Global Partners Network, Europe and Central Asia