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  #1  
Old 25 Sep 2008
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Russia-Bribes and Hassle Alert

July and August in and out through borders of Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, with NO problems. Into Russia at Kerch, east end of Crimea.

Group of 10 very experienced riders held for 8 hours at Russian entry. Told paperwork for bikes was incomplete. Chief Border officer wanted $1,500 (US), $150 (US) per bike. Finally settled for $1,000 (US) after 7 hours. Outrageous. We all had bad vibes even for our age group of 50's and 60's. And the handwritten paperwork, hours...wow. We remain impressed at the "old school" techniques for a country that claims otherwise. The Russian border mafia made out very well considering the average wage is very low, (extremely low!) by western standards. Without our interpreter we would have had a bigger problem for sure.

OK, then 15 km in and stopped at highway check station, who did not accept International Drivers License of one rider because it lacked a stamp under "Motorcycle". Stamped in adjacent box..you know what I mean.

Used the US State license with motorcycle endorsement and then paid the $150(US) cash settlement after 3 hours being detained.

On to Sochi, where the Russian fat cats and vacationers "hang". The hotel (The big one!) parking lot manager wanted $400(US) to park the 10 bikes fort 2 1/2 days. Bikes were not even in the parking/auto lot but under a veranda. Finally settled for $50(US) after 2 days.

Georgia entry cancelled...that Russian problem again, back to Turkey by ferry.
Cheers.
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  #2  
Old 25 Sep 2008
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Sorry for all the problems, but a couple of reactions. I rode through Russia this summer and currently live in Moscow.

1) I went through the crossing at Kerch this summer, but the other way. No problems or bribes other than a pretty long process of filling out the paperwork. I have heard of similar problems at this crossing in the past, though.

2) You shouldn't have expected any different in Sochi; as you say, it is where it fat cats hang out and they throw money around like confetti. Even elsewhere in Russia, "high end" facilities are in short supply and often demand premium prices.

3) I probably rode through about 7k kilometers in Russia, and almost all of the cops were very friendly and/or professional. I speak Russian pretty well, and when they found out we were riding all the way through Russia, they almost never even asked for any kind of documents. Also, we tried to stay off the major highways, where there is more traffic and more cops. Only place I had to pay a bribe, and where the cops in general where a pain, was in Bashkiria (Bashkortistan), which is some kind of mini-republic inside of Russia.

I understand that lots of people have problems in Russia but want to make sure that people are aware that not everyone has these issues. I highly recommend travel through Russia.
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  #3  
Old 25 Sep 2008
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Sorry for that

I'm sure, cops and customs are one of few factors that make people like or dislike country, but here, in Russia you mast forget about that! Here you mast remember - ACAB! You choosed the wrong route, road to Sochy is not the best way to see Russia, next time, please ask someone local for advice, in that region I can suggest you lots of interesting distinations.
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  #4  
Old 25 Sep 2008
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Tenpdx, I think with the upset between east / west at the moment things are bound to be fraught on some of the border crosings -I don know but from your use of language I am guessing your american if so not the most popular race with russia at the moment with all the us government interference in russian politics and ex soviet states - and this will filter down to border guards and police. I have to say I really like russia and have not had any real hassle when entering/ leaving or travelling there. However I have heard of several large groups of motorbikes really getting stung so maybe it a group thing - I travel only with my wife on pillion. I have to say that I have cancelled a three month trip I had planned that included a lot of time in the russia, ukrain and the stans for next year - simply because i get the feeling there could be a bit of agro with the authorities so I am heading elsewhere instead that is until the relevant governments settle themselves down and behave (Mine is british and just as interfearing as the us.) Sorry to hear you have had such a bad experience of russia though because it really is a facinating country with lots to see and once you get to know the people they really are nice to be with.
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  #5  
Old 25 Sep 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tenpdx View Post
July and August in and out through borders of Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, with NO problems. Into Russia at Kerch, east end of Crimea. Group of 10 very experienced riders held for 8 hours at Russian entry. Told paperwork for bikes was incomplete. Chief Border officer wanted $1,500 (US), $150 (US) per bike. Finally settled for $1,000 (US) after 7 hours. Outrageous. We all had bad vibes even for our age group of 50's and 60's. And the handwritten paperwork, hours...wow. We remain impressed at the "old school" techniques for a country that claims otherwise. The Russian border mafia made out very well considering the average wage is very low, (extremely low!) by western standards. Without our interpreter we would have had a bigger problem for sure.
OK, then 15 km in and stopped at highway check station, who did not accept International Drivers License of one rider because it lacked a stamp under"Motorcycle". Stamped in adjacent box..you know what I mean. Used the US State license with motorcycle endorsement and then paid the $150(US) cash settlement after 3 hours being detained.
On to Sochi, where the Russian fat cats and vacationers "hang". The hotel
(The big one!) parking lot manager wanted $400(US) to park the 10 bikes fort 2 1/2 days. Bikes were not even in the parking/auto lot but under a veranda. Finally settled for $50(US) after 2 days.
Georgia entry cancelled...that Russian problem again, back to Turkey by ferry.
Cheers.
Let me get this straight...10 of you guys showed up at the border at the same time and expected expedient processing of your paperwork without bribes?

And what made you think you would be able to cross into Georgia from Russia....ignoring the recent hostilities...I'm curious?

This is Russia...things are different and inconsistent...keep a low profile, smile, shake their hands when you greet them...and more often than not, things will go fine.

The Russian people are amazing...especially the Russian biker community...but dealing with the Russian gov't...hmm.
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  #6  
Old 25 Sep 2008
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Edde
You kind of echo my thoughts. A large group of affluent western travellers (by the sound of things some of them Americans) arriving at the Russian/Gergian border at a time when Putin is shouting at Bush for supplying arms to Georgia and Bush is shouting at Putin for invading his candidate NATO country.... probably not the best start . It could only really go downhill after that
I don't condone the bribes but I think it could have been avoided if handled delicately. The sad thing is having paid up such substantial amounts the next poor biker that comes through is going to suffer too..... after all what have the border guards got to lose now.
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  #7  
Old 26 Sep 2008
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I must add that I felt an air of arrogance within the original post. Almost demanding by right, based on "highly experienced", ages, wealth?, etc.

Possibly the Customs guys did too and, human nature being what it is anywhere, decided to respond in the only way they can.

Although more elderly than his group, and riding alone, I have not had their troubles in entering Russia 3 times by bike in the last 15 months. Nor in riding over 10,000 miles while there, including the same Black Sea coastal areas.

Sure I get stopped for documents checks regularly, but that is just a frustrating fact of everyday life in Russia. It happens just as much when I drive a locally registered car.

Make sure your documents are in order and valid, and be polite, then no problem - even if you speak no Russian, like myself.

Odd that one of them was happy to try to travel without the correct stamp on his IDP. Did he check first? -
-if not, more fool the traveller.
-if so, what a swaggering arrogance that he did not bother to get it corrected before departing and thereby was quite happy to jeopardise his own journey and that of his companions.
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  #8  
Old 26 Sep 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony P View Post

Possibly the Customs guys did too and, human nature being what it is anywhere, decided to respond in the only way they can.
?????
If the paperwork is REALLY incomplete, shouldn't they have been kept OUT/sent back to have it rectified?
We've all met officials who demand bribes, and these disgusting specimens of rotting offal are not motivated by patriotism/upholding the rule of law. "Delicate" handling is limited in it's effectiveness when somebody bent has decided to use you to enrich himself/herself.
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  #9  
Old 28 Oct 2008
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^Well said.

Lets not all jump on the bashing bandwagon now. This guy signed up for this website just so he could give future riders a warning about his experience. It is too often the case with Horizons that the "high post count" members are looking for any chance they can to jump on the "low post count" members. This discourages new people from joining and takes away from the comraderie that we have here.

When the original poster mentioned that the riders in his group were in their 50's and 60's it was obvious that he was referring to the fact that they were laid back and not in a hurry to go, but that waiting 7 hours at one border was rediculous.
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  #10  
Old 29 Oct 2008
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I was stopped several times heading into Moscow a few weeks ago, but everytime, I managed to get off all attemps to charge me the inflated fines. One being 50euro! At first I was really nice to them tell them all about my trip and how far i had come, but after the fourth time in one day within 2 hours and a 50euro fee, I just saw red, and rambled at them, that i do not have any money, who has 50 euros in there pocket?? I refused to bater with them. They finally told me to go.

You have to remember, they have no rules for people like us. Please avoid paying - unless you really have too as you ruin it for people like me who come after you.
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  #11  
Old 29 Oct 2008
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Well said!

I entirely agree with Gatogato in his sentiment and have said it elsewhere on this forum, there is an emerging snobbery and elite which will ultimately not maintain or progress the HUBB to a high level. Give some people a break and lets not judge so harshley without at least making some further enquiries into a dubious sounding post. Otherwise, fewer and fewer people will risk starting threads or adding to existing ones and that will only diminish this great knowledge base we have.
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  #12  
Old 1 Jan 2009
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I think they have every right to be angry.

I just read the post... And I agree with the sentiment of the two last posts.
Russia, in my experience wasn't the worst place for dodgy police and border crossings officials although I had to pay some money to cross the border and while there.
It revolts my stomach every time someone in authority use it to gain for himself. I've heard all the excuses yet I don't think any of them condone what these police and custom officials do. They spoil it for everyone and give their countries and countrymen a bad name most don't deserve.
I think it is everyone's duty to try avoid paying.
There are tactics that make the likelihood of paying much smaller and I think that's helpful info, rather than telling someone he has ben naive or arrogant.
These are the strategies that worked for me:

You don't understand them (even if you do). Do not speak their language (even if you know how to). Be polite, smile and wear their patience down without being confrontational. Often, the sad truth is that for every minute they waste with you they are loosing other potential 'customers'. I used to tell them that we have Pesetas in Spain and I didn't know about 'dalars' or 'yuros'; their interest drop to nearly cero on hearing of a currency they didn't know. Lasst resort, take their vehicle licence or other identifiers, call your consulate and they might negotiate on the mobile for you (they will know if they are asking 10 times the worth of a fine and shame them) if you have to pay you're likely to pay a lot less. Contact bikers clubs through HU. They will know mechanics and safe places to park bikes. On borders, come back later when there is a different officer in charge, may be less greedy and also shows your determination not to given something for nothing.
Try to make them laugh or smile. A smile and polite and friendly attitude combined with a refusal to pay confuses most of them because they expect anger; then, they know they also have to negotiate with you.

Remember, if you don't pay, they are less likely to bother the next guy.
If you have any tips on avoiding bribes that worked for you, post them please. Id love to hear them just in case I ned to use them!
I hope this helps.
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  #13  
Old 1 Jan 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodgydago View Post
If you have any tips on avoiding bribes that worked for you, post them please. Id love to hear them just in case I ned to use them!
Produce documents pointing at address, or point at registration plate, saying "Anglia"
Pause for it to sink in. Point again saying "London"
Pause for it to sink in. Point again saying "Chelsea"
Pause and await reply of "Ah! Abramovitch".
After hand shaking, go on your way.

(Often works, particularly away from Moscow)
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  #14  
Old 12 Jan 2009
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Bribery timing

I worked in Kazhakstan (very similar to Russia in some respects) for a while and noticed that towards the end of the month, the frequency of being stopped increased. The number of "offences" I committed increased dramatically!
Just wondering, if possible, whether a trip acorss a border might be better taken near the beginning of a month, rather than the end?
Just a thought...
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  #15  
Old 13 Jan 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodgydago View Post
You don't understand them (even if you do). Do not speak their language (even if you know how to)...
***
Be polite, smile and wear their patience down without being confrontational. Often, the sad truth is that for every minute they waste with you they are loosing other potential 'customers'...Try to make them laugh or smile. A smile and polite and friendly attitude combined with a refusal to pay confuses most of them because they expect anger; then, they know they also have to negotiate with you.
Hmmm, I really don't agree with the first part of this quote, but totally agree with the second part. I've ridden/driven quite a bit in Russia and really have had very few problems. Usually when I was stopped they didn't even ask for documents once it was clear that I was a foreigner on a long trip. For instance, once we were stopped at about 10 am and the policeman wanted to blow us for alcohol!? I expressed surprise, said that we were riding from point x to point y, and he let us go without further delay.

Actually, the best way to say out of trouble with the police is to stay off of the main roads--we tried to keep to smaller roads and it was awesome--the roads are fine, almost no cops or traffic--it just takes a lot longer to get there, but what's the rush?
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