Last updated July 31, 2020

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Fall 2020 — Yellow

We’re hearing good things from our local friends who are living in and traveling around Russia, but right now there are limitations about foreigners crossing borders and entering the country. Officials unexpectedly announced this week that airports and flights will re-open over the next 2-3 weeks. We expect that schools will be back in session at the start of the school year in September — we’re anxiously awaiting official updates about a few things for this country.

Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching. Each of these components help us determine when we’ll be able to send volunteers to Russia again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know).  Also, this info changes often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently.

Getting There

Starting 1, August 2020, the Russian Federation will start allowing entry to nationals and residents of Tanzania, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Travelers from these approved countries will need to travel with proof of a negative COVID-19 test (issued 72 hours before arrival). We’re hoping to see more and more countries added to Russia’s list of travelers, or see the nation roll out a “test-upon-arrival” strategy which would allow more travelers.

Since March, Russia has had some pretty tight border restrictions that are currently still in place, but are loosening up with announcements like this. There are a few hopeful glimmers regarding some more flights opening up which we’re watching for, but right now, most foreigners aren’t allowed in.

Since the country is restricting visits from foreigners, Russian visas aren’t being processed (the two kind of go hand in hand, right?). We’re hopeful that once flights and tourism resumes, visa processing will be quick to follow.

As of mid-July, flights are opening again …. kind of. For now, only selected categories of people are allowed into Russia but this is a step in the right direction. It looks like Russia is requiring proof of a negative test or test-upon arrival, which is a good direction to move towards.

Daily Life

Moscow’s case numbers have been down. March reports had virus numbers on the low end of things, with major cities going on a strict lockdown. Numbers continued to rise with a peak in May. Since then, infection rates have been on the higher end, with a slight decline so far as we’re entering July.

Testing in Moscow and other urban centers is robust and widely available, with workers in some industries having mandatory regular testing. The healthcare system in urban centers is good, with private hospitals offering good quality care.

As of August 4th,  Russia has 129 active cases per 100,000 which is significantly lower than current cases in the United States.

Because it’s currently summer break, schools aren’t in session. We are anxiously awaiting word on whether schools will open in September.

Right now, museums, the circus, and indoor dining aren’t currently options for locals. Things are opening up however, with the opportunity to shop around, dine outdoors, and visit parks and beaches. We’re expecting a few updates in this section as we watch infection trends.

Out & About

Just like at home, there are some precautions to take even though lots of aspects of life have opened right back up. Masks are not required while in the street, but masks and gloves are still required on public transport, stores, and in public buildings. Most schools and businesses are now allowed to operate fully which is something we love seeing. 

Masks in certain places, social distancing, and limiting capacity are all things you’ll run into on a visit to Russia right now.

We have heard great things from our local friends about travel in Russia, with a handful of our Local Coordinators traveling around the resort towns, enjoying beach days, and visiting some of our favorite spots in Russia. Right now, it’s looking like inner-country flights, train trips, and bus rides are all a go. You can soak up everything from dreamy mountain lakes to sandy beach towns, plus all of our go-to cities in this huge country!

As things stand now (and the direction Russia is moving), if we were able to send volunteers, they would likely need to stay in Russia for their semester. Plan on a seaside resort trip to sunny Sochi, falling head over heels in love with St. Petersburg, and soaking up the European charm of Kaliningrad. Nizhny Novgorod isn’t to be missed either — same with charming towns along the Golden Ring. There’s a lot to see in Russia, that’s for sure. 

Okay, now what?  Should I still apply for Russia

If you’re thinking “that’s all really good to know, but what does that mean for me?” we have some good news to share: time is still totally on your side.

We’ve seen policies change without notice that have made the difference between us thinking we’ll need to wait longer and helping us determine that a Fall 2020 semester in that location is something we’re pretty optimistic about. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. Departures for Fall 2020 are still weeks off and a lot could be decided before departing … and even more could change for Spring 2021 volunteers. 

So we say start your application now so that you’re ready when the time comes. We are going to need volunteers who are ready to go right when things change for the better, which is why we think it’s a good idea to have your application in (even if things potentially look uncertain right now). Time really is on your side.

We’re also here for all of your questions. We’d love to talk about deferring to a later semester if things still need more time or finding a country right now that’ll be a good fit for you. You can bet that once things open up, you’ll be the first to know!