Amazing Moscow, the capital of Russia, is a bucket list destination for many people. The Moscow Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral are two of the most iconic sights in the world.
However, it would be a mistake to think Moscow is limited just to those two sights. Moscow is a city of amazing culture, which you can take in at the iconic Bolshoi Theatre or some of the city’s many bookstores.
Learn more about the city’s communist history at Red Square and Lenin’s tomb. When you need a break from it all, Moscow will surprise you with its many parks, including the popular Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure.
There are so many things to see in Moscow that you would need a lifetime to truly get to know this sprawling metropolis.
However, before visiting a new place, it is always a good idea to research more practical concerns such as safety in addition to which sights you should see. But don’t worry — our travel experts did the hard work for you. Let us be your guide!
Is Moscow Safe to Visit in 2023?
Right now, Moscow is not safe to visit due to the ongoing war with Ukraine. The political situation is tenuous, and there have been situations of the government targeting foreign citizens.
Although Moscow has a low crime rate, that doesn’t mean the city is safe as long as the political situation is the way that it is. Most foreign governments tell their citizens to avoid all parts of Russia right now, including Moscow.
For example, the United States tells its citizens not to travel to any parts of Russia, putting the country under a Level Four travel advisory.
This warning is echoed by other countries such as Australia and Canada. The main reason these countries cite for telling people not to go to Moscow is the war with Ukraine.
After years of a low-scale conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Most observers think the Russians planned to take over Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine quickly, but the war has been going on for over a year now with no signs of stopping.
Although most of the fighting is occurring in Ukraine, with just a few bombing forays in Russian border regions far away from Moscow, the war has impacted the situation in the Russian capital as well.
Foreign sanctions mean that there are shortages in the capital and foreign banks and cards don’t work. In response to the sluggish war effort, the Russian government has become more repressive.
Men were conscripted, often against their will. The government responded violently to protesters against the war, and some people have been charged with treason for criticizing the war. Freedom of speech was already declining in Russia, and the war is just making that even worse.
It is a mistake to think that as a foreigner you would be free from the growing repression due to the war. If there is any possibility you might be seen as having Russian citizenship, you might be forcibly mobilized.
Since the war, the Russian government has detained several foreign citizens in a transparent ploy to use them as leverage with Western governments, such as the American basketball player Brittney Griner and the American journalist Evan Gershkovich.
Besides the threat of war and repression, Moscow has a moderate crime rate that has been increasing since the war.
Common crimes include:
- Bag snatching
- Armed robbery
The city has also seen several terrorist attacks recently that took many lives.
Crime in Moscow
Compared to other big cities and the rest of Russia, Moscow’s crime rate is actually not that bad. While crime does occur, it is frequently petty in nature and not often violent.
English-language crime statistics for Moscow are not always easy to find, but once you do locate them, they are promising. As of 2017, the Moscow Oblast had an intentional homicide rate of 6.9 incidents per 100,000 people.
Although this is slightly higher than the national average, most of these homicides occurred in the other cities that make up the Oblast while the city of Moscow itself has a much lower homicide rate.
In 2021, Moscow had over 143,000 total crimes recorded. Although this is the highest number in Russia, that makes sense because Moscow is also the most populous city in Moscow.
Most of these crimes were incidents of theft or other property crimes, not violent crimes. Most people living in Moscow feel relatively safe. According to Numbeo, the level of crime in Moscow scores a 35.68 out of 100 on the crime index, which is low.
The only crimes for which people reported moderate levels were minor property crimes such as vandalism and theft (although most people are concerned about corruption and bribery).
The feeling of safety is backed up by expat blogs that say Moscow feels very safe although it is a massive city. However, the war in Ukraine looks as if it is changing the feeling of safety in Moscow as well.
News reports say that the rate of armed violence has increased all over Russia, including Moscow. Moscow saw a whopping 203% increase in crimes involving weapons in 2022. Although the overall crime rate took a dip, the violent crime rate increased.
There are a few reasons why people think violent crime in Moscow has increased. The war in Ukraine means that there are more weapons floating around, making it easier for someone who wants an illegal weapon to obtain one.
There have also been violent attacks against government facilities such as military recruitment offices, although most of these attacks are happening outside of Moscow.
This is showing that people are getting restive with the war in Ukraine and the general situation in the country. The situation in the country is allowing criminals to act with more impunity, such as the attempted kidnapping in broad daylight of a Moscow businessman.
Although Moscow’s crime statistics used to be good, most of those statistics were gathered before the war. As the war continues to destabilize Russian society, the crime situation in Moscow will become even more unpredictable.
In most previous years, petty theft was the primary concern for visitors to Moscow. The capital city was plagued by gangs of pickpockets and thieves, often groups of children and teenagers.
These thieves would often target tourists because they saw them as easy, lucrative targets. Places frequented by foreigners were and still are common targets for pickpockets.
The Australian government lists several hotspots for crime in its travel advisory, including popular tourist sites such as Red Square, markets such as Izmailovsky Market, and the metro.
Others warn tourists that even Moscow’s airport is a popular location for thieves, with many travelers being relieved of their passports before they even step into Moscow itself. Anywhere where there are crowds, keep an eye out for potential pickpockets.
Keep your valuables close to your body by placing them in a front pocket, money belt, or zipped travel bag. Storing valuables such as phones and wallets in backpacks or tote bags is unsafe as those are easily accessible to thieves.
Scams are also very common in Moscow. Some scammers draw their victims in before they even arrive in Russia through online dating services.
Beware of any overly friendly acquaintance that you meet online and that immediately asks for money. Common in-person scams include someone posing as a police officer and robbing you.
Police checks in Moscow are common, but always ask to see an ID before complying with anyone’s search request. Beware of any other distraction tactics thieves may use.
One common tactic popular with Moscow’s pickpocket gangs was the wallet scam, when thieves would drop a wallet in a public place. When an unsuspecting tourist would try to return it, they would accuse the tourist of stealing it and demand money.
Taxi cabs are also common perpetrators of scams.
The UK government warns that unlicensed taxis sometimes look exactly like official taxis but end up robbing their passengers. The best way to stay safe when taking taxis is to ask your hotel to book a taxi for you or to use a ride-hailing app.
Violent crimes have also affected tourists in Moscow. Unfortunately, assault is one of the most common. The Canadian government warns its citizens about the possibility of racially motivated assault in all of Russia, including Moscow.
Amnesty International produced a report about the troubling prevalence of hate crimes in Russia, collecting incidents such as the 2003 suspected arson of a university that hosted many foreign students.
If you or a traveling companion are of African or Asian descent, you will be at elevated risk of assault in Moscow. Another common form of assault in Moscow is drink spiking.
Be careful when going out to bars and clubs, especially if you are a woman. There have been situations where criminals spike people’s drinks then rob them or even sexually assault them before leaving them outside in the Moscow cold.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There are a few neighborhoods in Moscow that tourists should probably avoid. Solntsevo is a neighborhood that has a reputation for lots of organized crime, so it’s better to stay away.
Other districts that have higher rates of crime are Maryino, Perovo, and Golyanovo Districts. Most of these districts are far away from the center so you probably won’t wander over by accident.
You should also avoid Garage Valley, a massive slum right near Moscow State University, and Bitsevski Park, which was home to a very prolific serial killer. Komsomolskaya Square, in front of one of the city’s train stations, is a hub for mostly low-level crime such as prostitution.
There are a few areas in Moscow that are safe during the day but should be avoided at night, such as the city’s many underpasses which are frequent haunts for robbers after dark.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other safety tips to keep in mind if you do go to Moscow:
- Drugs are highly illegal and the penalties for usage are strict. Drug raids often target foreigners, so make sure that all your activities are above board.
- Ever since the 2013 “anti-gay propaganda” law limiting freedom of expression for LGBT individuals, Russia has gotten more homophobic. Although Moscow is the most gay-friendly place in Russia, official discrimination and violence by street vigilantes is still common.
- Terrorist attacks in Moscow happen with some frequency, so keep an eye out when you are in public places.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions you may want to know the answers to before going to Moscow:
Is it safe to go to Moscow now?
As of 2023, it is not safe to go to Moscow and it will not be safe until after Russia’s war with Ukraine is over. The risk of arbitrary detention and state repression is too high.
Is it safe at night in Moscow?
Moscow has a busy nightlife, so as long as you are walking in busy streets, you should be fine. However, you shouldn’t walk alone at night, especially in quiet streets where there are few passersby to help you.
Can I travel to Moscow as a tourist?
It is very difficult to travel to Moscow as a tourist now. Most major airlines suspended their flights and many governments stopped diplomatic relations due to the war in Ukraine, making it difficult if not impossible to get a visa.
Are tourists still going to Russia?
There are some tourists still going to Russia, mostly from countries that maintained diplomatic relationships with the country. However, the numbers have declined steeply following the war in Ukraine.
Is Moscow an expensive city?
If you do go to Moscow, be prepared to take a hit to your budget. Moscow is a very expensive city, the world’s most expensive according to some metrics. Sanctions have now made it harder to obtain certain goods, driving up their price.
So, Should You Travel to Moscow?
Moscow is a beautiful city, but it’s probably better that you save your visit for after the war in Ukraine. Right now, the risk of state repression and arbitrary detention for foreign citizens is too high, and crime is rising due to blowback from the war.
However, there are thousands of other safe places to travel in 2023, and you can bet that we’ve created guides to the majority of them. Check out our favorite places to travel today!