Many people assume that wild camping in Russia is illegal for anyone who enters the country on a tourist visa.
And the truth is, Russia does expect tourists to register where they are staying during their duration of their holiday in the country. This registration is done by the hotel, hostel, etc, where you have paid to stay the night.
Of course this hasn’t stopped tourists in the past from wild camping in Russia, and no wonder – this place is stunning, with vast swathes of incredible remote landscapes that seem tailor made for camping. From huge forests, to pristine lakes, it’s a nature lover’s paradise.
Camping in the Russian wilderness – an incredible experience, although there are some dangers (read on below).
So how to get around the rules of wild camping in Russia as a tourist?
Well first of all, wild camping in Russia is actually legal.
Therefore any issues for a tourist around camping in Russia comes from a lack of registration at a hotel, rather than the actual activity of wild camping itself.
Which, at least, takes away one potential problem!
But what about the problem of registering? It’s not as though you can pitch up a tent, and then announce to nature that you would like to be registered for the night with the Russian authorities here…..
Camping enthusiasts have, however, found a few ways around this.
The first, is to register at a hotel, or more likely a hostel, and ask to be registered there for a few days while explaining that you plan on camping for 2/3 days of that time.
You’ll probably have to pay for the days that you are registered, and not all hostels will be willing to do this. However do make sure that where you choose to be registered is close to, and/or in the region, you plan on camping in.
That gets around the registration problem, and if you are confronted by police while camping, you can at least explain that you have registered in the nearest city, and in the region. Which shows a respect for the local laws, even if it’s a slight loophole.
The second is to be upfront and register yourself at a local police station. This is the surefire way to make sure you are not going to get in any trouble by being found out while wild camping. However this approach may run the risk of the police telling you a straightforward no. If that’s the case, don’t argue, accept it and don’t camp.
The third is to do it anyway. Tourists have said in the past that they had no problems wild camping in Russia if they did it only for a day or two at a time, and made sure they registered somewhere frequently. Typically 2/3 days unregistered across your trip can be passed off – for example as traveling overnight on a train, staying with some friends that you made and so on. Basically you may not even be asked about it.
However if it’s clear you are a hiker, or cyclist (for example doing the trans Siberian route), then it has been reported in the past that officials have been fine with many days unregistered because it’s obvious where and what you were doing – i.e. camping as you did the route. A lot of this comes down to common sense, and Russian officials being satisfied you were legitimately carrying out the activities of a tourist.
The fourth is to get in contact with a tour provider in Russia, and register with them across your trip, letting them know that you plan on camping. This of course, could end up being expensive….
Some general rules around wild camping in Russia
So you’ve decided to go ahead and free camp in Russia, you have your registration sorted, or maybe you are a cyclist who is making their way across the country.
There are a few things to bear in mind however:
- Avoid camping in urban areas, or near urban areas. Tourists and cyclists have reported being robbed in the past, so it’s best to stay remote and hidden. That also avoids unwanted attention from officials.
- Wild camping is illegal on church land, private land, and near reservoirs.
- In the same vein – put your tent up at dusk, and down at dawn. Don’t stay in the same place more than one night.
- Expect to be offered a place to stay if you’re cycling or hiking in rural parts of Russia! The people can be very welcoming and are often happy to lend a bed for the night.
- Have a mosquito net or spray handy – they can get quite bad from place to place.
- Some nature reserves may forbid wild camping – always try to find out beforehand, and ask if you’re unsure.
- Campfires are usually tolerated apart from hot summer months when there’s a risk of wildfires.
- Parts of Russia have bears and wolves, as well as other animals and bugs that could cause you harm – research, ask, and learn about the area you want to wild camp in before wild camping!