Driving a car in Russia may seem like a daunting idea. Just watching a few dashcam videos on YouTube can kill off any desire to get behind the wheel. The truth is Russian roads are not all that dangerous. There have been a lot of changes in traffic regulations and definitely more law enforcement, so it’s not necessarily more dangerous to drive in Russia than in any other country.
If you’ve rented before and are familiar with particular rental companies, it is best to stick with those. Most large rental companies have offices in Russia. There are usually a number of them located at the airport, so you can rent a car online and pick up the keys upon arrival. Don’t forget to check out offers your airline might have for rental cars as well. Prices depend on the type of car you choose, and as a rule the longer the rental period, the cheaper it will be. It is also typical for a company to ask for a deposit that will be blocked on your credit card.
To rent, most companies will require your passport, a valid driver’s licence and a credit card to make the payment and deposit. Various companies have different age restrictions, but generally you need to be over 21. Do check in advance. Russia recognises the national licences of the countries under the Vienna Convention, which include the UK, Germany, France and other European countries. Countries that are not part of the Convention may still use their license but should be able to provide a notarized translation of the license into Russian. In the case of borrowing somebody’s car, you will also need to think about insurance. The mandatory insurance, called OSAGO, should either have your name on it or have no usage restrictions.
The police often carry out random inspections on the road, so it is nothing to be worried about. Rental companies will brief you on the documents you will need to have with you, and make sure all the papers are sorted. If you are using a borrowed car, there is more responsibility placed on you. You’ll need to be able to present your passport, driver’s licence, insurance and vehicle registration. Also, remember that it is illegal to drive without a seatbelt in Russia, and you are not allowed to consume alcohol at all prior to driving. Even one drink may result in a fine if caught on the breathalyser test.
This is a very important question to ask yourself prior to embarking on a road trip. First of all, you should probably be an experienced driver prior to getting behind the wheel in a different country, especially if you are not used to driving on the right-hand side of the road. Another consideration is where you need to go. In large cities, such as Moscow and St Petersburg, public transport is well developed. It can basically get you anywhere at little cost. Moreover, traffic can be an issue during peak hours. If you’re making your way out into the countryside, however, it can be a sensible idea. Make sure you have a working GPS or a map with you, and note that rental cars can’t leave the country.