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How to drive in Russia

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Driving in Russia is considered to be a real challenge. But skilled drivers can still manage, provided they have a valid driver's license and they are aware of road traffic regulations. In fact, Russian roads are known for their poor condition and lack of maintenance. What's more, only a minority of drivers actually sit the exam, with many paying to receive their license without learning how to drive. This is why travelling by public means of transport is recommended for foreigners who have just settled in the country.

Exchange your driver's license

If you intend to stay for a long while in Russia and wish to drive a car for your own personal use you will be able to drive with your national driver’s license.

Make sure to verify, beforehand, if your home country has signed the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Only driver’s licenses from countries which have signed this convention are recognised and accepted in Russia.

Obtain a driver's license

If you do not already have a driver’s license and wish to buy and/or drive a car in Russia you will need to obtain a Russian driver’s license. It comes in handy to have a good knowledge of Russian to obtain a Russian driver's license since all related tests are in Russian. However, for the theory exam, it is possible to bring a translator along with you. To obtain a Russian driver's license, the following documents are required:

  • a completed and signed application form;
  • your original passport;
  • any document proving that you are staying in Russia for more than 12 months;
  • a medical certificate proving your ability to drive (priced from 3,000 to 5,000 Russian roubles); and
  • proof that you have passed the theoretical test.

Note that you have to undergo at least 50 hours of driving lessons over 2 to 6 months with a registered driving school before proceeding. Preparation without using a school for sitting the driving exam was annulled in 2014. Preparation could cost between 35,000 and 50,000 Russian roubles which includes about 130 hours of theoretical preparation and around 50 hours of practice with an instructor. Driving schools count in academic hours i.e. 45 minutes. You will usually spend 45 minutes at a time for one session of theory and 90 minutes for one session of practice. You will also have to pass the theoretical test on computer (free) and a driving test (free). The final test will be carried out by the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate (GIBDD) which is also free. If you failed, re-sitting the tests will cost 500 Russian roubles to re-sit the theory and 1,000 Russian roubles to re-sit the driving test at the school, and 1,000 Russian roubles to re-sit the theory and 1,500 Russian roubles to re-sit the driving test with the GIBDD.

Once you have passed the final examination, your Russian driver's license will be issued after the payment of a fee, amounting to 2,000 Russian roubles. Your new driver's license will be valid throughout the duration of your stay in the country and may be renewed if you are planning to stay longer.

 Useful address:

Mezrayony Otdel Gasudarstvenovo Tehnicheskovo Osmotra Registracy e Exzaminaciony raboty (GIBDD)
6th Radialnaya 2, Moscow,
Tel: (495) 327 9947

Speed limit

Speed is limited at 110 km/h in city outskirts and at 60 km/h in the city center. In Moscow, however, you should not exceed a maximum of 30 km/h. In the capital city's outskirts, you are allowed to drive at a maximum of 90 km/h.

 Good to know:

Russians drive on the right side of the road. Hence, you will have to be very careful if you come from a country where you have been driving on the left side of the road. But you can still find cars with the steering wheel in the left side. These are imported from Japan and are quite popular, especially with foreigners.

Traffic controls

Traffic controls generally occur during the day. Russian drivers tend to be less careful at night when the police is less watchful. They often burn red lights and take road turns at 180 degrees. However, safe driving is highly recommended to foreigners. You should also pay attention to safety distances.

Parking lots

It may be quite difficult to find parking lots in major Russian cities. To date, parking is free of charge for unlimited time, except in high standing shopping malls, airports and major arteries. You may have to be very patient and especially careful if you manage to find parking space. Avoid scratching nearby vehicles.

Road infrastructure

Many Russian roads are in a poor condition due to climatic conditions: extreme heat in summer and really cold temperatures in winter. Asphalt is easily damaged while maintenance is quite non-existent. You will have to adapt your vehicle to the present road infrastructure.

Road signs

Russian road signs are known to be misleading. In fact, all road signs are in Russian. Hence, you will find it difficult to drive if you do not read and understand Russian. Moreover, road signs are quite rare in some regions. You might easily be lost if you are new to the country. If you are planning a long road trip, make sure to get a road map in a language you understand. You can also equip your car with a GPS.

Dai dorogou dourakou

“Dai dorogou dourakou” is a Russian proverb for fast drivers. If someone just behind you has switched on his vehicle's headlight flasher, it probably means that he is waiting to overtake. You are advised to go on the side and put security first so “Dai dorogou dourakou” (give way to hurried drivers).

 Useful link:

GIBDD

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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