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Russian Driver License: How to Apply, Renew, and Exchange

Russian Drivers: A Guide to Driving in Russia

Driving in Russia can be a rewarding but challenging experience for many drivers. Whether you are a tourist, an expat, or a resident, you need to know what to expect from Russian roads, drivers, and authorities. In this article, we will explore some of the aspects of driving culture, rules, and regulations in Russia. We will also provide some tips and advice on how to drive safely and enjoyably in this vast and diverse country.


Russia is a huge country with a population of about 146 million people. It spans across 11 time zones and covers more than 17 million square kilometers. Driving across Russia can take you from the European plains to the Asian mountains, from the Arctic tundra to the subtropical coastlines. You can encounter a variety of landscapes, climates, cultures, and languages along the way.

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However, driving in Russia is not for everyone. You need to be physically fit, mentally alert, and legally eligible to drive. The legal driving age in Russia is 18 years for cars (16 for motorcycles) and you need a valid driver's license to drive. If you are a foreigner staying in Russia for less than six months, you can use your foreign license along with an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a certified translation. If you are staying longer than six months or have a residency permit or work visa, you need to exchange your foreign license for a Russian one within 60 days after arriving.

The road system in Russia is also quite complex and varied. There are federal highways (M), regional roads (R), local roads (A), and rural roads (P). The quality and maintenance of these roads can vary greatly depending on the location, season, and traffic. Some roads are paved and well-lit, while others are unpaved and poorly marked. Some roads are toll-free, while others require payment. Some roads are congested with traffic jams, while others are empty and isolated.

Driving Culture in Russia

One of the most distinctive features of driving culture in Russia is the widespread use of dash cams. Dash cams are small cameras mounted on the dashboard or windshield of a car that record everything that happens on the road. They are used by many Russian drivers as a way of protecting themselves from false accusations, insurance frauds, police corruption, or legal disputes. Dash cams can also capture some amazing or shocking footage of accidents, crimes, natural disasters, or other events on the road.

Another aspect of driving culture in Russia is the prevalence of jokes and memes about driving. Russians have a rich tradition of humor that often reflects their history, politics, society, and everyday life. Driving jokes are no exception. They poke fun at various aspects of driving in Russia, Continuing the article: Driving humor in Russia often reflects the attitudes and experiences of drivers who have to deal with various challenges and risks on the road. Some of these challenges include traffic jams, poor road maintenance, police inspections, and accidents. Traffic jams are a common problem in major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, where drivers can spend hours stuck in traffic. Poor road maintenance is another issue, especially in rural areas where roads can be unpaved, potholed, or flooded. Police inspections are also frequent and sometimes arbitrary, as drivers can be stopped and fined for minor or nonexistent violations. Accidents are another hazard, as Russia has one of the highest rates of road fatalities in the world, with more than 18,000 deaths in 2019.

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  • A Russian cop pulls over a man for suspected drunk driving. Blow into this tube please so I can detect if youve drunk anything today. The man blows and the results come up negative. The cop says: Sorry, sir, there must be something wrong with the device. Let me try it. He blows into the tube and the results come up positive. He says: Damn, I knew I shouldnt have drunk that vodka this morning.

  • A Briton, a Frenchman, and a Russian are standing and staring at a portrait of Adam and Eve. Look at their calm, their reserve says the Briton. Surely they must be British! Nonsense! Replies the Frenchman. They are beautiful. Surely they must be French! The Russian finally speaks, They have no clothes, no shelter, only an apple to eat, and are being told this is paradise. They are Russian.

  • A factory worker in a Western country shows his house to his Russian colleague. - "Here's my room, this one is my wife's, this is my eldest daughter's, that's our dining room, then the guest bedroom..." etc. The Russian guest nods and says, after a pause: - "Well, it's basically similar to mine. Only we don't have the internal walls."

These jokes show how Russians cope with the difficulties of driving and living in Russia by using humor as a way of expressing their frustration, irony, or resilience.

Driving Rules and Regulations in Russia

If you want to drive in Russia, you need to follow some basic traffic rules and regulations that may differ from those in your home country. Some of the key traffic rules in Russia include the following:

  • You must drive on the right-hand side of the road.

  • The driver and all passengers must wear seatbelts.

  • Using your mobile when driving is illegal (without a hands-free kit).

  • You must not drink and drive. The legal blood alcohol limit is zero.

  • You must give way to pedestrians at crossings.

  • You must use dipped headlights at all times.

  • You must not overtake or turn across a solid white line.

  • You must not enter an intersection if you cannot clear it.

Some of the main differences between driving in Russia and driving in other countries are:

  • The speed limits in Russia are lower than in many European countries. The general speed limit in residential areas is 20 km/h (12 mph), while in other urban areas it is 60 km/h (37 mph). Outside built-up areas, the limit is 90 km/h (56 mph), increasing to 110 km/h (68 mph) on expressways.

  • The parking rules in Russia are stricter than in many European countries. You can only park on the right-hand side of the road unless otherwise indicated by signs or markings. You cannot park within 15 meters (49 feet) of a pedestrian crossing or within 5 meters (16 feet) of an intersection. You also cannot park on bridges, tunnels, underpasses, or railway crossings.

  • The toll roads in Russia are fewer than in many European countries. There are only a few toll roads in Russia, mainly around Moscow and St. Petersburg. You can pay by cash or card at toll booths or use an electronic transponder system called Platon for trucks over 12 tons.

  • The car insurance in Russia is cheaper than in many European countries. You only need to have third-party liability insurance to drive legally in Russia, which covers damages to other people or property caused by your vehicle. The minimum coverage is 400,000 rubles (about 4,000) per accident. However, you may want to get comprehensive insurance for extra protection.

  • The vehicle inspections in Russia are more frequent than in many European countries. You need to have your vehicle Continuing the article: inspected every year if it is older than three years. The inspection checks the technical condition, safety, and emissions of your vehicle. You need to have a valid inspection certificate (called a TO card) to drive legally in Russia.

  • The road signs in Russia are similar to those in many European countries. They use the same shapes, colors, and symbols as the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals. However, some signs may have text in Russian only, so you may need to learn some basic words or use a translation app.

If you are a foreign driver who wants to drive in Russia, you may need to prepare some things before you hit the road. Some of the tips and advice for foreign drivers are:

  • You need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a certified translation of your foreign license if you are staying in Russia for less than six months. You can get an IDP from your home country's automobile association or embassy. You can get a certified translation from a notary or a translation agency in Russia.

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