Is it really that risky to take a GPS unit to Russia?
May 11, 2007 10:06 AM   Subscribe

This travel advisory from the State Department website, dated 1998, states that the use of GPS units is highly regulated in Russia and that it is risky to bring one unless it is fully documented. Now, GPS units are a lot more common today than they were in 1998. Do I really have to worry about this? I am planning a multi-country trip and I could mail myself the GPS ahead of time to my post-Russia destination if I had to. I am an amateur photographer and I use the unit to tag the location of photos I have taken.
posted by matildaben to Travel & Transportation around Russian Federation (9 answers total)
Here's your article, you decide if you want to shell out for the full text (no clue what the full things says, the except seems to indicate that you should be fine).
posted by anaelith at 10:17 AM on May 11, 2007

I know that in some countries (Syria for example) the government can't get GPS units for their troops (either because of sanctions or finances or both) so they "confiscate" them from travelers and comendeer them for military use.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:32 AM on May 11, 2007

You could call the Russian Consulate in Seattle and ask them.
posted by rtha at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2007

You should also hook up with one of the forums at Degree Confluence Project... their photo index has tons of pictures of GPS's being used in Russia, so there should be accurate answers among the peopel there.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:42 AM on May 11, 2007

I remember hearing this same thing before I went to Moscow in February. The customs declaration form asks about radios and is so vague it could be talking about cell phones. To me it appeared to be written long before GPS and cell phones were common enough devices. It was confusing since they say you need to fill out a delcaration for you camera, phone, computer, etc but you don't actually have to go through the red declarations line. We didn't know any better and asked the customs inspector at the red line, she saw my form with a camera, a cell phone, ipod and other stuff and laughed at me and said to go through the green line. This goes against the advice in some sites and the Lonely Planet guide. I was expecting some Soviet style rifling through of my bags but it was about as painless as going through customs Canada.

My colleague from work had his GPS receiver with him, went through the green "nothing to declare" line and wasn't bothered at entry or exit from Russia.

I'm not suggesting you do anything to violate Russian law -- including failure to , so checking with the consulate is a good idea.
posted by birdherder at 11:20 AM on May 11, 2007

rtha, I've been to the Russian Consulate (to get my visa). I don't think anyone speaks English there and they are not very helpful in the first place.
posted by matildaben at 12:30 PM on May 11, 2007

the reason behind the warning.

this was 10 years ago, but hey YMMV
posted by kanemano at 3:07 PM on May 11, 2007

The State Department's hotline is actually extremely helpful. I called them once when my vacation was almost thwarted by a military coup (!) and they answered all my questions. Try giving them a call: 1-888-407-4747.
posted by chickletworks at 7:07 PM on May 11, 2007

The only evidence I have is anecdotal, but when I was working in Siberia last year, the local staff refused to carry our GPS system with them on trips to the field (we were building a gas pipeline). They were afraid of imprisonment.

We took them anyway, and there were no problems. There were also shops selling them and mapping resources. IMO, your most likely problem is having them used as an excuse for a bribe request by some local police.
posted by claudius at 9:38 PM on May 11, 2007

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