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I'm have been thinking about a hiking trip to Siberia for a while. This could be a month long thing.

I'm a Finnish national, and have prior experience on the environmental conditions from here, and from several similar trips to Canada.

However, I'm not sure if this sort of movement is allowed in Russia? Is travel by foot across remote forested areas legal, and possible with an ordinary visa?

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  • there are tons of restricted areas there, especially along the border with China, Mongolia and Korea
    – littleadv
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 1:02
  • I have followed a blog of someone doing it, he started walking in the Netherlands and did not turn home till he reached the middle of China, but that is so long ago his posts have disappeared from the web.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 9:11
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    The problem it that you need an invitation and hotel receipts. I would check online on some hicking organization if you can get them. Remote russia is also less friendly to people which behave in a unconventional way: "they must be spy, nobody else will do such things" Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 11:13
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    What do you even mean by a "hiking trip to Siberia"? It's not exactly a small place.
    – Peter M
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 16:19
  • I have hiked from Europe into Siberia and back in September 2019, and it was amazing. However, by now there's a war. Many countries recommend against unnecessary travel to Russia. Apart from ethical concerns, it might be hard to get travel insurance, and travel insurance is a requirement for a tourist visa.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 16:14

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Hiking in general is legal in Russia, even on a tourist visa. However, the biggest obstacle is the requirement to register yourself at a place of accomodation. If you're staying in the wilderness, there's no one to register you. The Russian laws regarding foreigner registration are difficult to understand, often confusing, and there is a lot of conflicting advice to be found in the internet. As always in case of Russia, there could be a big difference between a written law and an actual practice.

I'm no expert on Russia, but I would advise spending a night in a hotel in the beginning of your trip, getting automatically registered. When checked by the police a month later and hundreds of kilometers away, having some registration will be much better than having no registration at all. The same applies to leaving Russia, because Russia is known to detain foreigners who committed any immigration-related violations, even very minor ones and even when attempting to leave the country voluntarily. Not being registered is such an offence.

That being said, given the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that Westerners are now subjects to increased attention from the Russian authorities, I would advise you to reconsider your plans to visit Russia. I'm not suggesting the entire Russia is a hostile war zone, but in case you do anything that can be remotely considered an attempt at espionage (such as straying too close to a resticted area - there are many of them in the Russian wilderness, sometimes entire towns!), you could end up in way too big trouble.

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    There are many restricted areas but Russia also happens to be a very big country. There’s plenty of land to hike without a single restricted area in sight. It would be easy for OP to lookup the map of restricted areas and avoid getting closer than 100km to them.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 15:49
  • But is there a reliable map of restricted areas? Maybe some are so secret the government doesn't tell people where they are.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 16:29
  • @StuartF there is a partial list here (in russian): goingrus.com/info/ru/get-russian-visa/… Any military area (and areas around) are also restricted, and those are obviously not mapped or listed anywhere.
    – littleadv
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 22:39
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Hiking by foot is generally allowed unless you are in restricted areas (there are many of them, most are close to borders or to military bases, but it is hard to say exactly without knowing where your destination is). And you will need to register at the accomodation upon arrival (the most easy way is to stay at a hotel for some time).

But if you are really planning this trip these days please be ready to elevated attention to your personality from "government-related" officials like police, border guards, FSB, etc. As you may know, Finland is officially included by Russia into the list of "unfriendly countries" so a visitor which is from one of them is by default subject to additional checks / whatever. It is especially true if you are traveling into more remote areas where you can be the only visitor from the West and therefore you can draw additional attention by the local police / intelligence officers, and the consequences could be unpredictable.

I would recommend you to watch the video of Real Bald and Bankrupt (the traveler called Ben from England who speaks Russian) on Youtube where he showed how he was detained in Birobidzhan (Far East of Russia) by the police. He also wrote some details on Instagram about his detainment and how he has managed to escape the jail but I can't find it at the moment.

On the contrary, the vast majority of ordinary people in Russia do not care that much about you being from abroad / from "unfriendly" country and I wouldn't expect that anyone would report something to the police. It is not usual for Russians to report something to the authorities because the common trust in authorities (especially in its low-level parts like local police offices) is traditionally low since the Soviet times. Also usual people are generally friendly to foreigners, especially in more remote / rural areas. You can also see it in Ben's videos.

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In fact, hiking in Russia is absolutely legal. There are not so many forbidden territories. Usually this is a 5 kilometer zone from the state border. One needs to have permission from the border service to visit it. In addition, there are a lot of protected natural areas or reserves. A special permit is required to visit them, but i think it is typical for any country. There are a couple dozen of closed strategic cities (usually it is a small towns with nuclear facilities), entry there also requires permission. The fears about the increased attention of the authorities to foreigners is an exaggeration. There are several foreigners working in our laboratory and they have never been stopped by the police with any questions over all the years of work. The greatest danger in Russia is natural factors. The vast territory and remoteness of most routes often do not allow tourists to be evacuated quickly in case of any trouble. In addition, the number of brown bears has increased dramatically in Siberia over the past decade. Bear attacks on humans occur annually. It is difficult to advise anything in case of a meeting with a bear... In any case it is a good practice to have a satellite phone with you on the route. In addition, it is necessary to notify the rescue service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations about your journey plans and route schedule.

In the summer, when fires are raging in the Siberian taiga, the authorities may impose restrictions on visiting forests. At this time it is better to refrain from hiking and especially not to make bonfires. There have been cases when hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest were burned out in the taiga due to the carelessness of tourists.

In addition, it should be borne in mind that crime rate in Russia has been continuously decreasing for the last 15 years. Now even the republics of the North Caucasus have become safe for tourists. For example, Chechnya is one of the safest regions of the country, where crime has decreased many times, and gangs of Islamic militants disappeared a long time ago. Last year I visited the mountainous regions of Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan and Chechnya and did not encounter even the slightest hint of danger. However, there are territories where you can run into trouble. For example, this is the Republic of Tuva. There are some regional features that should be studied before going there.

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    I wonder if getting a tourist visa would be difficult these days. The foreigners working in your lab are presumably not tourists. Tourist visas need proof of insurance and travel insurance policy may exclude countries for which there is a travel warning; many western countries warn against travel to Russia at the moment.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 16:19
  • Russia is nowhere near as dangerous for tourists as Yemen or Afghanistan, but it's not safe either. Foreigners working in your lab probably speak Russian, don't look like clueless tourists and their police registration is in perfect order. That's a different story. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 16:05
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    I looked at the current statistics. It turned out that in USA in 2020 there were more than 739 robberies and 2797 attacks per 1 million of population per year, while in Russia there are 256 robberies and 52 attacks. The same with the rape 384 vs 24. In the United States, the crime rate is rising (with the exception of robberies), and in Russia it is falling. At least Russia is a much safer place than the United States, despite the fact that the United States has issued a warning about the danger of Russia. habr.com/ru/post/647585
    – Fram
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 1:57
  • First, any statistical information from Russia could not be fully trusted. That has been proven many times. But you're right, crime in the USA is worse than in Russia. In Russia, the main danger for western tourists (apart from natural hazards) is mistreatment from the authorities. They are frequently fined, detained or deported for no reason, especially if they stray ouf the big touristy cities. You can find many reports on the Internet. As a Russian citizen, of course you haven't witnessed that. Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 5:41
  • If you are trying to back up these generalizations with the only known case of Mr. bald and bankrupt, then he was detained for a very definite offense, as he told in his latest video from the city of Birobidzhan. By the way, he was detained for only a couple of hours, and then given an order to leave the country on his own, which he did.
    – Fram
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 5:57

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