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Welcome to Russia this summer: a few legal tips for a foreign football fan

As the FIFA World Cup begins, CMS Russia’s Valeriy Fedoreev gives fans a few tips on visiting his home country, and kicks off our World Cup series of articles on sports issues.

It’s nearly here! For the first time in its history, Russia is hosting the most exciting sport event on the planet - the FIFA World Cup. We are very excited and getting ready for that. We welcome football fans from all around the world and will do our best to make this World Cup something to remember.

In this brief article, I want to give to those fans who plan to visit Russia for the World Cup games a few legal tips that might help them to stay out of trouble and make their Russian trip enjoyable.

During the World Cup, foreign football fans will enjoy a visa free rule. No visa will be required for fans entering and exiting Russia starting from 4 June to 15 July 2018. If you enter Russia within this period, you just have to show your valid Fan ID together with the tickets to the matches at the border. Moreover, if your trip to Russia goes through the territory of the Republic of Belarus, you will not need a visa for Belarus either. So, you have a wonderful opportunity to visit not only Russia but also the beautiful country of Belarus without a visa. 

If you travel to the Cup with your family or with a group of friends in your own bus or another vehicle, which has more than eight passenger seats, then please remember to install in this vehicle a special navigation system called ERA-GLONASS at the border crossing. Otherwise, the vehicle will not be allowed into the host cities. 

After you reach your destination in Russia, you will be required to register with Russian migration authorities within three days of your arrival. Usually, if you stay in a reputable hotel, there is nothing to worry about. All major hotels do the migration registration for their clients. But if you will be residing in a small hotel or a rented apartment, please remind them to register you. The good thing is that if you stay in each host city for three days or less, then the registration rule will not apply. Similarly, the registration requirement will not apply if you are travelling between host cities and your stay in each city does not exceed three days. For example, if you visit Moscow for 2-3 days, then travel to St. Petersburg for 2-3 days, after that travel to Kazan for 2-3 days and then back to Moscow for 2-3 days, you will not have to register in either of those cities. To be on the safe side, please always keep your train or airplane ticket with you, confirming that you have arrived in the relevant host city less than the three days ago. In case of questions from the local police, you can show them the ticket arguing that the three-day registration period in the relevant city has not yet expired.

Russia has set up 728 additional trains, including overnight trains, transporting fans back and forth between 11 host cities. You can use those trains for free, but only if you have your Fan ID and the tickets for the relevant matches. But hurry up! The number of seats on the free trains is limited. If you need a free ticket you can book it here http://welcome2018.com/en/free-transport/. Also, there will be free public transportation on the match days taking fans from the airports and train stations to the stadiums, fanzones and other Cup venues. Just look for the busses with the World Cup logo and enjoy the free rides. 

Don’t forget to bring your Fan ID along with match ticket to get inside the World Cup stadiums. When entering the stadium, please be aware that certain items, which we often use in our daily life, may be prohibited at the stadiums. For example, the list of items which you should not bring with you include selfie-sticks, large bags, containers with liquid, umbrellas longer than 25cm and other items.

Generally, rules of expected behaviour inside the Russian stadiums are very similar to the rules set for spectators in other countries. The violation of most of those rules may lead to administrative fines and prohibition to visit football matches. Foreign fans may be deported from Russia. 

Please remember that alcohol consumption, including beer (except for non-alcoholic), in public areas in Russia is generally prohibited. So, do not drink beer or other alcoholic beverages in Russia on the streets or in places like parks, on the subway, train stations, airports, etc. In public areas, drinking alcohol is allowed only in cafés and restaurants. 

Alcohol consumption in Russian stadiums is also generally prohibited. But let me reassure the beer-loving fans. During the World Cup, the sale and consumption of beer produced by the official FIFA sponsor will be allowed both at the stadiums and in the fanzones.  However, be aware that those fans who drink too much may potentially run into legal troubles. A person appearing in public places in Russia with extreme visible signs of strong alcohol intoxication may end up in a police station. Although based on the previous Confederation Cup experience, in most cases Russian police have been quite friendly to intoxicated foreign fans. In known cases, they simply shepherded the foreign fan quickly into a taxi back to their hotel.  

Smoking in public areas in Russia is also prohibited. If you want to have a cigarette at the stadium, airport or in other public places, just look for special areas designated for smoking. When using public transportation other than on a match day, always keep a valid ticket/pass for the specific type of public transport during the whole trip. The violation of any of these simple rules may result in an administrative penalty imposed by the police. Even though the penalties for these violations are rather minor (usually small fines) the important thing to remember is that two or more of those minor penalties imposed on a foreigner may lead to deportation from Russia.

You must never consume or possess drugs in Russia. Illegal consumption of any drugs (even the light drugs permitted in some other countries) or refusal to undergo a drug test, if required by the police, may lead to an administrative arrest for up to 15 days and compulsory deportation from Russia. Illegal possession, acquisition or transportation of any drugs in small volumes will also lead to an administrative arrest with compulsory deportation. The same actions involving large volumes of drugs may lead to serious criminal liability. 

If you’re thinking of buying some souvenirs or objects of art, please remember that specific customs rules may apply to items which are more than 50 years old. Additional customs formalities, like customs declaration and the "red" channel rule, will apply if you carry cash with you of more than USD 10,000 or its equivalent in any other foreign currency. There is no customs limit applicable to the amount on a bank card which you can bring with you. So, if you want to avoid this additional issue with Russian customs, I recommend you don’t bring too much cash into the country. There are plenty of ATM machines on the streets and the all major bank cards are accepted just about everywhere. 

Following these simple legal rules will help you to stay out of trouble and make your Russian World Cup experience unforgettable. So enjoy your stay, cheer for your home team, travel and see as much of our wonderful country as you can. 

Have fun at the World Cup 2018 and may the best team win!


Valeriy Fedoreev