Last updated October 26, 2020

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Spring 2021 — Blue

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. Airports opened recently and Russian consulates in the US began processing visas in August after being closed for months. Schools are back in session as of September and locals are returning to riding the metro, attending the theater, and visiting favorite tourist destinations. We’re anxiously awaiting official updates about a few things for this country for our Spring 2021 semester.

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

Since 1, August 2020, the Russian Federation started allowing entry to nationals and residents of some countries (though not including the US).. Travelers from these approved countries will need to arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test (issued no more than 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.

Russian consulates in the US have started processing visas again! Since ILP volunteers are required to have a visa before entering, this was a major obstacle to re-opening programs there for Fall 2021. Only some visa types are being processed as they catch up on their backlog but we expect that by October or November, the visas the ILP teachers need will begin being processed, which is great news for Spring 2021 and later semesters.

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. 

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 October 26th, Russia has 245 active cases per 100,000 which is significantly lower than current cases in the United States.

Russia’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said the Gamaleya Institute, a state research facility in Moscow, is completing clinical trials of a vaccine and paperwork is being prepared to register it. He said doctors and teachers would be the first to be vaccinated and that will be before the end of 2020.

The Russian ministry of education has announced that schools are opening in September for the normal school year. As in the US and most countries, reopening schools meant some temporary closures for schools that had outbreaks. We expect that will be the case everywhere for the foreseeable future.

Things are opening up, with the opportunity to shop around, dine outdoors, and visit parks and beaches.  As of July 13, nearly all businesses, schools, and universities are allowed to operate. And as of August 1, theaters, movie theaters, and concert halls reopened (with limits on the number of people that can attend).

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 Spring 2021 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 Spring 2021 are still weeks off and a lot could be decided before departing … and even more could change for Fall 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!