Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate General Vladivostok does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VLADIVOSTOK AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Russia-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Vladivostok, with a population of just over 600,000 people, experiences moderate levels of crime compared to other major Russian urban centers. The police are able to deter many serious crimes, but petty crimes occur with some frequency. Petty crime remains a common problem. Pickpockets are active, although to a lesser degree than in Moscow or St. Petersburg, on public transportation, at shopping areas, and at tourist sites. Thieves commonly target wallets, cell phones, computers, tablets, cameras, and high-value items.
While residential break-ins and thefts occur, these typically take place during daylight hours when the residents are not at home. Confrontational home invasions with residents present are not common.
While legal private handgun ownership is limited and well-regulated by police, unlicensed firearms remain in circulation. Pneumatic/Traumatic weapons, a non-lethal means of defense, are also regulated by police but have been used in crimes. Individuals have died from injuries received from pneumatic/traumatic weapons, although officially declared non-lethal.
Automobile theft occurs with low figures for recovery or prosecution of criminals. A portion of Vladivostok’s economy involves car importation, vehicle customization, and the sale of car parts. Stolen vehicles are generally transported out of the city or broken down into parts. The use of an alarm system or anti-theft device is strongly encouraged. Thieves are particularly interested in visible currency, GPS navigation systems, iPods/iPhones and other loose valuables. Theft of valuables from cars remains more common than theft of the actual cars. At night, utilize a garage or secure parking lot, if possible. If one is not available, leave your vehicle in an illuminated area. Residents and visitors are encouraged to remove all valuables from their vehicles, even if parked in a guarded parking lot.
Incidents of credit card, Internet, and ATM fraud are common. Travelers should be especially cautious when using ATMs for indicators of device tampering, card readers, low-profile video cameras and for individuals loitering in the immediate area. Visitors are encouraged to use only reputable ATMs inside major hotels, at large supermarkets, or in card-reader secured vestibules inside brick-and-mortar banks. Use of ATMs located outside of buildings is strongly discouraged. In addition, care should be taken when accessing financial information or purchasing items via local Internet. Credit cards are accepted by most retailers and dining/entertainment establishments. Large-scale hotels are generally considered safe for credit card use.
Other Areas of Concern
There are several closed cities and regions in Russia. If you attempt to enter these areas without prior authorization, you may be subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. You must list on the visa application all areas to be visited and register with authorities upon arrival at each destination. The list of restricted areas is subject to frequent changes, so travelers should check with their sponsor, hotel, or the nearest office of the Ministry of Interior before traveling to unfamiliar cities and towns.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions and driver safety norms differ significantly from those in the U.S., especially outside of major metropolitan areas. Road conditions in Vladivostok and throughout the region are poor. Asphalt quality varies widely, and roads outside of cities are often poorly illuminated. In addition to ice and snow concerns in winter, poor road construction results in numerous and dangerously large potholes on major streets. To avoid even small potholes, drivers commonly make violent, unexpected lane changes without signaling or checking other lanes. Collisions are common. In the Russian Far East, many vehicles are right-side drive, even though they are driven on the right side of the road. This affords drivers limited visibility on two-lane roads.
Roadside checkpoints are common and are ostensibly to detect drunken driving, narcotics, alien smuggling, and firearms violations; however, they are sometimes used by traffic police to extract cash bribes in the form of fines. The Russian Federation has expanded the use of camera enforcement for traffic and parking violations.
Exercise great care near traffic while walking, as vehicles sometimes fail to yield to pedestrians.
Russia practices a 0.16 mg BAC policy with regard to alcohol consumption while driving. For 2016, the maximum punishment is a two-year suspension of a driver’s license and fine of 30,000 Rubles. For a second violation (within a 12 month rolling period), it is three-year suspension, 300,000 Rubles fine, and imprisonment up to two years. An intoxicated driver may be detained until s/he is deemed sober. In addition, refusal of a medical test for DUI is considered negatively in court proceedings.
When driving, adhere to all local driving regulations. Avoid excessive speed and, when possible, do not drive at night outside of major cities. In rural areas, it is not uncommon to find livestock crossing roadways. Construction sites or stranded vehicles are often not marked. Sometimes cars have only one working headlight, and many cars lack tail lights, while bicycles seldom have lights/reflectors. Be prepared for sudden stops. Learn your route from an auto club, guidebook, or government tourist office. Some routes have heavy truck and bus traffic, while others have poor or nonexistent shoulders; many are one-way or do not permit left turns. Even thoroughfares marked as major routes on maps can be two-lane roadways. In some areas, roads are practically nonexistent. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
If an accident involves bodily injury, then the vehicles should not be moved. However, there are circumstances that may involve only minor property damage, no injury, and no claims from either party. In these cases, it is possible to move the vehicles so as not to obstruct traffic, and both drivers may file insurance paperwork without traffic police being summoned.
Public Transportation Conditions
Most major cities have an established public transportation system that may consist of bus, trolley, and/or streetcar lines. Pickpockets are known to be active on public transportation and can slice through purses, backpacks, and clothing without alerting the owner.
Taxis operate in most cities. The Consulate discourages the use of unmarked taxis (so-called gypsy cabs), as passengers are subject to a higher chance of criminal activity.
Licensed taxi companies provide reliable, safe, and economical services. However, visitors should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Always confirm the cost with the driver before the taxi departs. Travelers are recommended not to enter taxis with anyone but the driver. The cheapest, safest option remains calling ahead and requesting a car from a legitimate dispatch taxi service or Internet application-based service.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Russia’s air carrier operations. Several Russian carriers have participated in the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program, an industry-sponsored safety audit program.
Airport security procedures in Vladivostok involve pre-inspection/screening of passengers and luggage near the main entrance accompanied by a secondary detailed inspection after passport control. There was one instance in late 2015 in which the Vladivostok airport shut down for a period of five-six hours due to receipt of a telephonic bomb threat, subsequently deemed to be a hoax.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VLADIVOSTOK AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There are no specific indications that U.S. institutions or citizens in Vladivostok have been targets of terrorist plans, but there is a general standing risk of U.S. citizens becoming victims of indiscriminate terrorist attacks.
The social and political unrest in Ukraine, as well as economic sanctions in Russia, have led to increased political tensions between the Russian Federation and the U.S. and other Western nations. Demonstrations in front of Consulate Vladivostok did occur sporadically throughout 2016 with various anti-Western themes. All protests were small (6-10 people), non-violent, monitored by police, and concluded peacefully.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VLADIVOSTOK AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
In general, public rallies/demonstrations are sanctioned by the government and monitored by local law enforcement groups. However, U.S. citizens should avoid any public demonstrations, whether properly authorized or not, and avoid any large crowds and public gatherings that lack enhanced security measures.
Vladivostok’s location on the Pacific Rim subjects it to earthquakes and tsunamis.
- In 2016, Vladivostok became the final landfall point for a large-scale typhoon, which did cause significant damage in the areas surrounding Vladivostok.
Grouped townhouses and large apartment buildings are very common housing structures, but many are perched dangerously along steep hills.
Black ice is common during winter, and many roads become extremely dangerous, if not completely unsuitable, for use.
The Consulate notes that the Russian Ministry of Emergency Services has proven themselves highly capable of responding to large-scale disasters.
Certain activities that would be considered normal business practices in the U.S. either violate the Russian legal code or are considered suspect by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). There are particular risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, production facilities or other high technology, government-related institutions. Any misunderstanding or dispute in such transactions can attract the involvement of the security services and lead to investigation or prosecution for espionage. Rules governing the treatment of information remain poorly defined.
Local security services carefully watch foreign visitors and may place them under surveillance. Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage, and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and all personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched without consent/knowledge. Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other business sensitive information may be taken and shared with competitors, counterparts, and/or Russian regulatory and legal entities. OSAC constituents have no expectation of privacy. Telephone and electronic communications are subject to surveillance, which can compromise sensitive information. The Russian System for Operational-Investigative Activities (SORM) permits authorities to monitor and record all data that traverses Russia’s networks. A “SORM Factsheet” is available. Travelers should assume all communications are monitored. All travelers are encouraged to weigh their desire to stay connected with the risks, and take precautions to keep personal information protected.
When utilizing local services for banking, security, and medical treatment, U.S. citizens should ensure that the providers are reputable organizations. Be cautious in the amount of information that you make available to these institutions. It is not uncommon for employees to pass sensitive personal medical, financial, and banking information to criminal elements.
Russia is both a transit and consumer country for Afghan opiates, which are transported from Afghanistan through Central Asia to Russia. According to Russian news sources in September 2015, there was a “particular jump” in the number of crimes committed by people under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. There were no indications of an uptick in these crimes in 2016.
Outside of the Caucasus region, including Vladivostok, kidnappings occur with much less frequency and generally are not a problem.
The quality of assistance from local law enforcement varies. Russian police and security services have been very impressive during large-scale and international events.
- In support of the Asia Pacific Economic Council Summit hosted in Vladivostok in 2012, police created special inter-department/agency task force units dedicated to protecting and responding to the needs of foreign guests. The responsiveness and performance of these task force units was effective.
While most local police precincts do have a translator assigned to them, police officers on the street have a minimal ability to converse in English.
Americans visiting the Russian Federation are urged to abide by local laws and monitor the local news.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Throughout 2016, Consulate Vladivostok received reports of U.S. citizens being detained by the Ministry of Internal Affairs for entering the Russian Federation on the wrong type of visa or failing to register properly. The people who were detained faced legal repercussions, including fines, deportation, or re-entry bans based on fluctuating interpretations of immigration laws. In some instances, it is not clear which type of visa was appropriate for certain activities.
It is not uncommon for foreigners to become victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion by law enforcement and other officials. Police do not need to show probable cause in order to stop, question, or detain individuals. If stopped, obtain the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number and note where the stop happened, as this information assists local officials in identifying the perpetrators.
The U.S. Consulate recommends against the payment of bribes. If you find yourself in this situation, immediately inform the police that you wish to contact your Consulate. Report all incidents of police detention or harassment to the U.S. Consulate’s American Citizen Services office at telephone +7 423 230 0070 Mon-Fri during normal working hours (0900-1700) or after hours at +7 4232 710 067 (after-hours and weekends).
Crime Victim Assistance
If U.S. citizens become victims of crime, they should contact the police by dialing 02 (or 102 from cellular phone). Police attempt to provide English-speakers when possible, but travelers should not assume that an English speaker will be available. Travelers are strongly encouraged to locate a Russian-speaking friend or colleague who can assist them in their interaction with police.
U.S. citizens should report all crimes immediately to the police and to the Consulate’s American Citizen Services section.
Police (Emergency): 02 (102 from cell phone)
Police (Non-Emergency): Varies by location (002 for traffic police)
Fire: 01 (101 from cell phone)
Ambulance: 03 (103 from cell phone)
The MVD is the central law enforcement body. State Inspection for Traffic Security (GIBDD) is the MVD entity responsible for the regulation of traffic and investigating traffic accidents.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) is Russia’s main domestic security agency. The FSB combines functions and powers similar to those exercised by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
There is a private security business sector in the Russian Far East. As with any business venture, care should be taken to choose a reputable company when selecting a security service. American companies are encouraged to thoroughly vet all local hires.
Medical facilities are available in the Russian Far East, although the quality has been below Western standards. Medical personnel in hospitals are generally well-trained, but equipment and facilities limit their capabilities. Only a limited number of doctors speak English. The Consulate notes that new facilities, opened in 2014, have changed this dynamic to some degree.
Both municipal and private ambulance services remain substandard. Ambulance response time in Vladivostok is typically very poor, and transport to the nearest hospital can take considerable time due to traffic conditions. Most ambulances are poorly-equipped and are staffed by individuals without English skills and who lack Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training akin to that found in the U.S. or Western Europe. Only a select few special ambulances possess life support and stabilization equipment with staff proficient in its use. Ambulances generally serve only a means of transportation to a hospital.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Falck Medical Center; 77 Ulitsa Zhaporozhskaya; Main/Dispatch - (423) 279-0790; Office - (423) 279-0146, (423) 246-4647
Russky Island Medical Center; FEFU Campus, Building #25, Ayaks village, Russkiy island Main/Dispatch – (423) 223-0000
Primorsky Krai Clinical Hospital #1; 57, Aleutskaya street; Admission department-(423) 245-75-53
City Ambulance Service; Cell phone: 030; Landline phone: 03; 155, Okeansky prospect
City Clinical Hospital #2; 57, Russkaya street; Admission department (423) 232-63-46
The City Trauma Outpatient Clinic #1; 7, Utkinskaya street; (423) 245-86-89, 240-03-86
ALENKA --Pediatric outpatient service; I’licheva Street, BLDG. # 4; (423) 238-86-25; (423) 240-54-38
City Clinical Pediatric Hospital; 27, Ostriakova prospect; Admission department (423) 245-66-60
Available Air Ambulance Services
International SOS Medical Clinic; (4242) 46-29-11; (4242) 47-49-11 (Yuzhno-Sakhalin)
International SOS Russian 24/7 Hotline; +7 (495) 937 5760 (Moscow)
Visitors are strongly encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance prior to traveling to Russia.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Russia.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is currently no active Country Council in Vladivostok. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Vladivostok or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate Vladivostok
32 Pushkinskaya Street
American Citizen Services public hours are Mon-Thurs from 1400-1630, and Fri 1000-1200. The U.S. Consulate is closed on all Russian and American holidays.
Consulate Contact Numbers
Consulate Operator: + 7 423 230 0070 (normal business hours) or +7 4232 710 067 (after-hours and weekends)
Regional Security Office: + 7 423 230 0070 ext. 4504 (Office)
Consular Affairs: + 7 423 230 0070
Embassy Moscow: http://moscow.usembassy.gov/
Consulate St. Petersburg: http://stpetersburg.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Yekaterinburg: http://yekaterinburg.usconsulate.gov/
For the latest security and other information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found, as well as important information for Americans who face emergencies abroad. U.S. citizens are reminded to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). In case of difficulties registering online, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
Russia Country Information Sheet