Attending the World Cup is a bucket list item for any true soccer fan. But traveling to Russia and being a part of an event that’s expected to have a $31 billion impact on the local economy carries inherent risks. This is especially true for visitors from Western countries and for high-profile travelers.
If you or your travelers plan to attend this year’s World Cup, you need to be proactive about safety. Reviewing the U.S. Embassy’s general advisories regarding travel in the country is important, but there are several additional precautions you’ll want to take as well, given the nature of the event.
Register Your Trip with STEP
The U.S. Department of State Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service that allows U.S. citizens to register their international trips with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
STEP registration automatically enrolls travelers in important alerts about safety conditions in their destination countries. It also makes the Embassy aware of your location. Should an incident happen while you’re in Russia, the Embassy will only know to look for you if you’ve registered your trip. Scanning your passport at customs will not put you on this list.
Russia has a vested interest in keeping its World Cup incident-free. After all, no one wants to have played host to the international event that made news headlines for some disastrous outcome.
This expected focus on security is welcome, but is expected to result in delays for travelers, due to the extra security screenings and checkpoints required. Plan for extra time for moving around host cities—then consider doubling your estimates to decrease the likelihood of missing a match while you’re held up in security lines or stuck in Moscow’s notoriously bad traffic.
Limit the Sensitive Information You Carry or Share
Russian laws give local police broad authority to seize private property in the event of a perceived security threat. In practical terms, this means that you can have no reasonable expectation of privacy on any devices or materials you bring into the country with you.
If possible, leave personal and business devices, such as your work laptop, at home. ID badges and other unnecessary forms of identification should remain as well. Even itineraries with travel plans beyond what’s necessary for your World Cup trip should be left behind, as this could put information about your future movements into unscrupulous hands.
Think about your social media footprint as well. Posts to these sites can give away your geographic location or identity—even if you don’t state it explicitly. Turn off location services, and avoid posting revealing images, such as your private jet’s tail numbers or a recognizable local landmark. Wait to post pictures until you’re safely back home from the event.
Have a Backup Plan
The best case scenario is that your traveler arrives safely at the World Cup, their favorite team wins, and they go home happy. But we don’t plan for best case scenarios. As difficult as it can be to do, you need to ask yourself or your traveler, if something happened, what would you do?
Consider the following recommendations:
- Carry print copies of U.S. Embassy phone numbers
- Carry print maps with travel directions to each Embassy or Consulate location in Russia
- Carry the phone number of any local emergency contacts you have
- Carry the local phone numbers of any transportation providers you’re working with (or could work with in the event of an emergency)
- Have cash on your person in case your credit cards are shut down
- Store copies of important travel documents securely in the cloud so they can be accessed at the embassy
Remember that the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg has closed. In the event of an emergency, you may need to be able to get yourself to Moscow or Vladivostok.
Be Aware of Event-Specific Risks
Finally, be especially cautious attending U.K. matches or congregating in areas with large groups of U.K. fans (such as bars or restaurants), as specific threats of violence have been issued against English fans. Simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time could cause you to be caught up in potentially dangerous situations.
Given the timing of the event relative to milestones in the U.S. political cycle—such as upcoming primary and midterm elections—the potential exists for state and non-state actors to use the World Cup for political purposes. Being prepared and staying vigilant won’t eliminate these risks, but doing so will increase your likelihood of being able to enjoy the event safely.
If you need a more detailed threat assessment for the event, reach out to your Client Care manager. Or, if you have any other recommendations to add to our list, leave us a comment below.