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Russia; the Kola Peninsula. Travel essentials.


Super Moderator
Feb 24, 2010
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OK so this is not really a thread about our trip per se; it's intended to be more general than that covering some of the dos, don'ts and never, evers for those deciding to have a go at travelling to Northern Russia either solo or with an outfitter such as Geko. Lorin and Toby, feel free to jump in and post alongside.

1. You have to get an Autorourism visa. It's probably easiest to use one of the companies out there who are 'supposed' to make the process easier for you. You will have to go to London to see them and to visit the consulate in person. Your passport and visa will be posted back to you.

2. Get vehicle insurance (green card typically) BEFORE you enter Russia. You cannot get insurance in Russia for a non Russian vehicle or without citizenship. When they say you can get it at the border, they mean on the Finnish or Norwegian side. The only time you are like to be asked to show insurance is if you are involved in an accident.

3. Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted but do check your provider for non UK currency transaction charges. Some small fuel stations may only take cash

4. Fuel is plentiful and cheap @ 48p litre and is good quality.

5. Filling jerry cans is strangely not permitted in some places. But just do it until someone stops you

6. You have to pre-pay for your fuel and you get change back for that which you don't dispense.

7. Phones and SIMS don't work so buy a local SIM and add some extra credit. They are ridiculously cheap, but if you use data / calls on international numbers etc it will disappear in seconds.

8. WiFi is available in many places and is free but you may be blocked from seeing certain websites like Paypal

9. There are plenty of small supermarkets and shops all well stocked but don't expect decent fresh bread. Cigarettes are insanely cheap as is Vodka and around £3.00 bottle and beer around 50p

10. Roads alternate between excellent tarmac and absolutely no road at all. If you have any cheap suspension parts on your truck, bin them and fit top quality. Buy two sets because you will have to change them again when you get home.

11. Maps. Simply unavailable to buy anywhere. Some maps are available to down load here and proved to be very accurate even though they were 1940's

12. Expect to find no go areas for non Russian residents. You will get a polite but firm 'Niet, turn around'. The signs are usually posted too late to do anything so don't bunch up at the check point!

13. There are a great many gun, fishing and outdoor shops selling camping kit and suchlike including the typical screw top gas canisters for the Jetboil style stoves. Much cheaper than the UK too

14. Expect no one to speak English anywhere and you'll do fine.

15. Take all original documents. You can get away with copies of a V5 but make life easier and take originals

16. Don't joke with the Russian border guards. It's not worth the effort.

17. Your vehicle will be searched thoroughly on entry and exit with their main focus on pharmaceuticals. Under NO circumstances take anything stronger than Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. You will be held as an international drug smuggler.

18. It's likely that the Russian border exit team will ask you about the quantity of fuel you have in cans. There is supposed to be a 10L limit. But it appears that this is only imposed by the Finnish side as you leave Russia. The Russians made a great song and dance about this but clearly had no mechanism to confiscate fuel. The Finnish guards expressed no interest at all but did confiscate two small potatoes.

19. Don't bother trying to download and complete any entry forms before you arrive. Have your passport and V5 to hand. If you make a mistake filling in the entry form, you will have to start again. Even the smallest error will result in the form going in the bin so listen to what is being said and read any examples they might show you. Be patient and don't try to short cut any of their processes.

20. You may encounter some police check points. They will want your vehicle permit, passport and immigration card. Do not lose any of these! Learn some very basic Russian such as Hello, thank you and goodbye. It really does oil the wheels. Don't offer them sweets.

21. Register your VISA when you get over the border. Booking a basic hotel for the first night is a good move. The staff there will process your paperwork for you and do the necessary things.

22. Expect the incredible amount of interest in you and your convoy to stop as soon as you cross the border. Russians keep themselves very much to themselves and rarely acknowledge you or your convoy. They're not rude; they're just conditioned to mind their own business. No one wants to go to the Gulag.

23. Please drive on the right

24. The central route up through Finland to Kirkennes is a faster road but with many more cameras and speed limit changes. The Eastern border is much quieter but not as pretty. However, progress is more relaxed.

25. When in Finland visit Motonet. It's like Halfords on steroids as is Karkkainen. You can get everything from a tie wrap to a rifle. It's mad. Plan for a good hour at each one.

26. Avoid spending any money at all in Norway. It's extremely expensive. A coffee and a sandwich is £10

27. Stock up on booze before Finland. Prices are off the charts with a can of beer being around £4.00 Spirits are only available from a government outlet. Bottle of Bells is around £30. Fill your boots in Russia.

28. Wildcamp wherever you like as long as it's not on a roundabout or in someone's garden. There are many places to park up without being approached.

29. If someone passes you a loaded AK 47, accept it graciously and try not to hit anyone.

30. Sat phones and GPS seem to work perfectly well despite rumours of some military blocking.


Well-Known Member
Mar 7, 2010
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23. Please drive on the right

if there is a road, and with headlights on at all times

Don't offer them sweets.

Whisky goes down well with any military you may encounter.

Under NO circumstances take anything stronger than Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. You will be held as an international drug smuggler.

This is from experience, if you do have any medications with you ensure that you have a prescription or some other documents of authorisation.

Wildcamp wherever you like as long as it's not on a roundabout or in someone's garden. There are many places to park up without being approached.

In Finland, Norway and Russia

We had no problems taking various fresh foodstuffs like cheese, meat etc into Russia despite warnings that it was not allowed, however all of these items are plentiful in the larger towns. Russians dont only eat cabbage & beetroot!

Try the local kebabs from roadside vendors in the towns, very cheap & delicious

Good quality hotels are also cheap for that bit of luxury like showers!

Dont expect to find many restaurants for eating out (other than in the hotels), we searched / wandered about looking for about 1 1/2 hours in vain in Murmansk, eventually found one and got a taxi there, excellent food, and again very reasonably priced (Tundra restaurant).

If you find the Irish pub in Murmansk, don't expect it to have any Guinness


Well-Known Member
Jun 12, 2013
All good info and nice to be updated :thumbup:
I was able to get insurance on the border but that was a different border and 12 years ago so it would be interesting to know if that is now the situation on all borders.
Having had my bank card cloned in Ukraine I now use cards as little as possible abroad, I just use it to draw out cash at atms only using the ones at banks and check them for attachments first.
If I do use a card I have a Monzo prepaid card so at least my losses are limited, it also has some of the best exchange rates you can get. Always carry more than one bank/credit card in case one gets blocked!!