Can you drive in Russia with your national driver's license? If not, what are the procedures to follow? Find out in this article.
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 maintenance. Road signs are also quite erratic. Hence, most drivers overpass existing regulations. This is why traveling by public means of transport is recommended to foreigners who have just settled in the country.
Exchange your driver's license
If you intend to make a long stay in Russia, you will have to exchange your national driver's license against a Russian driver's license within 60 days following receipt of your work and residence permit. Otherwise, your driver's license will be considered as invalid. Documents to be produced to exchange your driver's license are:
- a duly completed and signed request form
- your passport along with the visa stamp issued by Russian authorities
- a medical certificate which you can obtain from a Russian clinic
- a color passport size photo
- the receipt for payment of the driver's license exchange
- your national driver's license along with a notarized translation thereof.
Make sure to verify, beforehand, if your home country has signed an agreement with Russia in terms of recognition of foreign driver's licenses. If this is the case, you will not be required to exchange your driver's license.
Obtain a driver's license
You must have a good knowledge of Russian to be eligible to obtain a Russian driver's license. In fact, all related tests are in Russian and there is no possibility of translation. Thus, to obtain a Russian driver's license, the following documents are required:
- a duly filled and signed application form
- your original passport or any other identity document
- any document proving that you are staying in Russia for more than 12 months
- a medical certificate proving your ability to drive
- proof that you have passed the theoretical test.
Note that you have to take at least 50 hours of driving lessons during 2 to 6 months with a registered driving school before proceeding. This could cost some RR 13,000. You will also have to pass the theoretical test on computer (RR 60) and a driving test (RR 100). The final test will be carried out by the Mezrayony Otdel Gasudarstvenovo Tehnicheskovo Osmotra Registracy e Exzaminaciony raboty (GIBDD).
Once you have passed the final examination, which will costs some RR 500, your Russian driver's license will be issued against payment fees, that is some RR 800. Your new driver's license will be valid throughout your stay in the country and may be renewed if you are planning to stay longer.
Mezrayony Otdel Gasudarstvenovo Tehnicheskovo Osmotra Registracy e Exzaminaciony raboty (GIBDD)
6th Radialnaya 2, Moscow,
Tel: (495) 327 9947
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 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.
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.
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.
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).