Russia with a dog – all you need to know before the trip

Last updated Feb 8, 2020 @ 3:38 pm

Russia was the first country out of the EU and EEA zones that we have traveled to with Fabio, our dog. All because of the e-visa that allowed us to visit first St. Petersburg, and then Kaliningrad. We were excited and, at the same time, uncertain of what to expect. We started researching the requirements well before the planned trip. All in all, traveling to Russia with a dog is relatively easy. Let us take you through the whole process. Step by step, you will learn how to prepare your pooch for the trip to Russia, how does the border crossing look like, and how is it to sightsee Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg with a dog.

How to bring a dog to Russia: Import Regulations

Before going to Russia with a dog, you need to fulfill some requirements. If like us, you and your dog live in the European Union member state, and you keep his or her passport up-to-date, you have no reason to worry. In case you come from outside of the EU or EEA areas, your dog most likely does not have the passport, so you will have to use another type of documents. The easiest way to find out what steps you should follow is by contacting the Embassy of Russia in your country, as well as the local Veterinary Board.

St. Petersburg with a dog: a small, mixed-breed dog, wearing orange harness, blue collar and blue jumper, in front of the entrance to the mosque.
Fabio and the Saint Petersburg Mosque

These are the sources we have researched, contacted or used to confirm the validity of published information:

Pet Passport

This point refers to the EU and EEA dogs only. Pet Passport is a very convenient document binding all the vaccinations, deworming treatments, and clinical examinations. The document is official and can be easily verified as all the information shall be introduced into the European computer system, as well.

Transponder (microchip)

A pet microchip is the best way to identify your dog. Being a responsible pet parent, you most likely had your pooch chipped already. The reason is that a transponder is useful even if you don’t travel abroad together, as it is the easiest and fastest mean of finding lost dogs. However, if your dog does not have this tiny device under his skin yet, make sure it is inserted BEFORE the vaccinations so that you don’t have to repeat them too soon only because you are bringing your dog to Russia.

Rabies vaccination

Another obvious point. Rabies vaccination is most likely compulsory in your country anyway, so I bet you keep it up-to-date. However, when traveling to Russia with a dog, you need to remember two things.

First and foremost, we know there are a number of countries that consider rabies vaccine to be valid for two or three years. Norway and Spain, where we lived before, as well as Estonia, where we live currently, are all among them. On the other hand, many countries, including Russia, do not accept such rules. Therefore, our best advice would be to vaccinate your pooch once a year if you’re both travelers. We do so and avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.

Secondly, in case this is your dog’s first vaccination ever, or first after inserting the microchip, you need to wait 21 days before entering Russia. The same applies if you miss the booster due date. Remember that puppies cannot be vaccinated before they are three months old.

Other vaccinations

Apart from rabies, Russia requires your dog to be vaccinated against a few other diseases. They are not mandatory in many countries, but vets usually advice to have them done for the pooch’s health’s sake. Same as rabies, different countries have different strategies, and in some, it may be popular to vaccinate dogs every other or every three years. But, again, if your pet travels, you better keep with once-a-year-strategy, as we do. Here is the full list of additional vaccinations required to enter Russia with a dog:

  • canine distemper,
  • hepatitis,
  • viral enteritis,
  • parvovirus and adenovirus infections,
  • leptospirosis.

In most of the countries, all of them are combined in one vaccination. Just to be sure, double-check that with your vet. The one that is most likely to be excluded is leptospirosis. Fabio did not get it with his first vaccination as it is, apparently, not that popular in Poland. Next year, when we had him vaccinated in Spain, the vet got terrified we hadn’t had it done before, as leptospirosis is quite common there, and it is very dangerous. From then on, we always ask our current vet for this one specifically. Next time in Poland, Fabio got it as a separate injection. In Estonia, it was included in the combo.

Clinical examination

Before entering Russia with a dog, you need to schedule an appointment with your vet to have a clinical examination. It sounds very serious but there is nothing to panic about since it’s a standard procedure. Your vet will ask you whether the pooch is healthy, and will perform a basic examination consisting of stethoscope checkup, taking your dog’s temperature, and checking his eyes, teeth, and ears in search of any alarming symptoms.

As for the date of the clinical examination, we found various versions but decided to trust the Estonian Veterinary and Food Board, whose consultant informed us it should be performed up to five days before entering Russia.

TIP: Don’t schedule the medical examination EXACTLY five days before the trip. We, for example, planned to enter Russia on Friday, and even though we crossed the Estonian border that day, we got to the Russian checkpoint after midnight on Saturday. Had we had the examination done five days in advance, it would have already expired!

Veterinary certificate for dog exported into the Eurasian Economic Union

This certificate, together with the clinical examination, were only two things we had to take care of specifically for the purpose of going to Russia with a dog. It is the next step after the clinical examination. In our case, it was issued by the Veterinary and Food Board of Estonia. You should look for a respective institution in your country of current residence. By the way, both me (the official owner) and Fabio are from Poland, and this is where his passport was issued. However, since we live in Tallinn, Estonia, we applied for the certificate here, with zero problems.

Two documents needed when traveling to Russia with a dog: European Pet Passport and the certificate for dog exported into the Eurasian Economic Union.
Pet Passport and the veterinary certificate

The certificate was issued on spot. It took about 30 minutes in total, and Fabio was not needed in person. We had to produce his passport, my identity document, and fill out a form concerning our visit to Russia (date of entry, border checkpoint, means of transport, etc.). The cost was about 12 euros, to be paid afterward, by electronic transfer.

Traveling to Russia with a dog: border crossing

Both times we have been to Russia with our dog, we traveled by our car (with e-visas in both cases). It is a van, and Fabio has a spacious cage on board. By now, we haven’t decided to fly with our pooch, as we are afraid he may be a little too big to be accepted in the cabin. Fortunately, Russia is only one country away from where we live.

Saint Petersburg

The first time we have visited Russia, we drove from Tallinn to St. Petersburg and we used the checkpoint Narva – Ivangorod both ways. We were a bit stressed about the border control but still got surprised it took over six hours.

Black mixed-breed dog, wearing a blue collar, looking at the canal on Neva River in Saint Petersburg.
Fabio and Neva River

At the Estonian checkpoint, nobody seemed interested in the fact that we travel with a dog. Javier mentioned it a few times to the customs official, just in case there was anything wrong with the documents. They refused to check the papers but asked to take Fabio out of the cage. When he was halfway out, the nice man said: “Ok, I see the dog.” That was the whole control.

About four hours later, we got to the Russian checkpoint. We felt completely lost, didn’t know the procedure, and weren’t sure whether we should receive any document for our dog, similar to the ones for each of us or our car. Therefore, I asked the customs workers whether they wanted to check Fabio’s passport, first in English, and then in Russian. To my astonishment, I was ignored in all the cases. They were thoroughly checking the inside of the car. Fabio was barking at them, but they couldn’t care less.

On the way back, we decided not to talk about our dog on both Russian and Estonian checkpoints, as the car was needed open anyway, and everybody could see and hear Fabio clearly. They all remained unbothered.

Kaliningrad Oblast

Second time going to Russia with a dog, this time a bit wiser, we decided not to nag the customs officials about Fabio and observe how the situation develops. This time our destination was Kaliningrad Oblast. We entered Russian territory through Lithuania, using Panemunė – Sovetsk checkpoint. On the Lithuanian side, our dog was unnoticed.

The Russian side of the border is a different story. Finally, the control we were waiting for! The moment our car was opened for a checkup, the customs worker asked who is the owner of the dog and whether we have documents for him. We were then asked to wait a moment for another official to assist us.

Five minutes later, a very nice lady with a big smile on her face approached us. She asked for Fabio’s passport and meticulously checked the inside of the document. Next, I was asked to take the dog out of the cage, and his microchip was read with a special device. I produced the veterinary certificate, but the lady said she did not need it. Instead, she took both mine and Fabio’s passports and disappeared for a moment inside the office. Soon after, the documents were returned, and we could all enter Russia. I must admit it was a super nice experience. Everybody was kind, they loved Fabio and were calling him by his name, saying he was a good boy.

Small black mixed-breed dog on the wooden pier in Zelenogradsk in Kaliningrad Oblast.
Fabio on the pier in Zelenogradsk, Kaliningrad Oblast

We left Kaliningrad Oblast using Russian – Polish checkpoint Mamonovo – Gronowo. The Russian officials were not interested in our dog, again. On the Polish side, however, we were asked to hand in his passport together with ours. This time, it was just a glance.

Visiting Russia with a dog

Having discussed import regulations and the border crossing process, let’s proceed to the most important questions:

  • How is it to visit Russia with a dog?
  • Is Russia a dog-friendly country?

There is no short answer here. Like any other country in the world, Russia has both pros and cons when it comes to traveling with a dog. By now, we have only visited its European part, and, unlike many would suspect, it is not much different from the EU member states. People who were passing us by would either smile to Fabio or not react to him at all. We did not experience any kind of antipathy.

Visiting Saint Petersburg with a dog

The very moment we started sightseeing St. Petersburg, we noticed many dog owners walking their pooches. The dogs were well taken care of, most of them wearing fancy clothes. What I am trying to say here, is that both the people and their pets were behaving no different than in any other big urban area in Europe. Furthermore, we didn’t spot a single stray dog during our long weekend in the city.

Small mixed-breed dog dressed up in an orange raincoat, sitting next to a lion statue with golden wings, on the Bank Bridge in Saint Petersburg.
Fabio on the Bank Bridge in St. Petersburg

Although we have not attempted to enter any restaurant with Fabio, we bet there are both dog-friendly places serving food as well as such, where the pets are banned. We did enter one of the mobile network points with our dog, though, as we needed to buy a SIM card. None of the consultants said anything about the pooch, and we got what we needed with no problems.

We did face a problem at a metro station, though. The guards informed us in a very kind manner, that a dog can only travel in a container, and carrying Fabio on our hands is not a solution. We did not try any other mean of transport and decided to walk everywhere.

Another issue are the parks, which Saint Petersburg is famous for. Most of them are fenced, and there are signs informing visitors that the pets are not allowed. These are the parks we couldn’t enter with Fabio:

  • Summer Garden,
  • Saint Michael’s Garden,
  • Peterhof Garden (outside of St. Petersburg).
Small mixed-breed dog, wearing an orange raincoat, standing on the sandy beach by Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg.
Fabio in front of Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg

Moreover, there are no-dog signs on the bridges to the small island on the Neva River, where Peter and Paul Fortress is located. We took a risk and crossed them with Fabio anyway, and he did not draw any of the guards’ attention. Thus, although we can’t be sure, it is possible the ban is limited to the Fortress area only. One park dogs are welcome to is the Field of Mars. We noticed many locals walk, play and train their pooches there. Fabio loved the area, too.

Field of Mars: A torch on the ground, in a rectangular holder in the foreground, Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg the background.
Field of Mars in St. Petersburg

Visiting Kaliningrad with a dog

Unlike in St. Petersburg, we did notice many stray dogs in Kaliningrad Oblast. Mostly in the smaller towns, but also in the city of Kaliningrad. However, they did not seem malnourished, and neither of them posed any threat to us, nor Fabio. We were more afraid it would be our pooch who starts a fight than one of the local dogs, anyway.

This time we didn’t use public transport at all, so we can’t tell whether dogs are allowed on local buses or trams. Neither did we enter any restaurant with Fabio. While we were eating out, he was sleeping in his cage in the car parked underground.

Visiting Kaliningrad with a dog: small black mixed-breed dog wearing orange harness and blue collar looking at the river. The tourist part of Kaliningrad in the background.
Fabio sightseeing Kaliningrad city

As for the sightseeing, we visited a few small towns and the main city of Kaliningrad with a dog. The only place where we spotted the no-dog sign was Kant Island in Kaliningrad. In spite of the ban, many locals were walking in the island’s park with their pooches, so we followed the “when in Rome…” rule.

Booking a hotel room in Russia with a dog

Booking a hotel room in Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad with a dog is no different from booking a hotel room with a dog in Berlin, Stockholm or Paris. Some hotels accept dogs, others don’t. It’s as simple as that.

Small black mixed-breed dog sleeping on the grey blanket on the double bed.
Fabio at the hotel in St. Petersburg

When in St. Petersburg, we stayed at a very nice hotel near the Peter and Paul Fortress. We were informed beforehand we would need to pay a deposit of 1000 rubles upon check-in, as well as a daily fee for a dog. In the end, we were not asked for the deposit. The room was clean and cozy, and all three of us loved it.

Small black mixed-breed dog lying down on an arm-chair covered with a black blanket with a dog paw pattern.
Fabio at the hotel in Kaliningrad

The hotel we booked in Kaliningrad did not ask us for any extra fees regarding the dog. We got a room with linoleum instead of the carpet, though. It was, nevertheless, clean and spacious.

Coming back from Russia to the EU country

Last but not least, coming back home. By now, we have not lived anywhere outside the EU and EEA zones, so we cannot tell how would it look like for other countries. If you travel to Russia with a dog and return to one of the EU/EEA member states, you basically don’t need to do anything extra, unless you live in the country that requires the dog to be dewormed before entering. Otherwise, your dog needs to have:

  • a Pet Passport,
  • a transponder (microchip),
  • a valid rabies vaccination.

As of 2020, no titer test is required when entering the European Union from certain third countries, Russia included. We were very relieved once we confirmed this information.


August 4, 2020 at 6:53 pm

Nice blog, well written and easy to understand! We are from UK and visiting Poland and were just considering whether to try and visit Ukraine, Belarus and/or Kaliningrad too. I believe that Ukraine is the only one of these countries listed as high rabies risk, do you know of any further problems we might encounter in returning to EU from Ukraine? We have all the necessary for going to Ukraine (including TITER) but can’t find anything about coming back into EU.

    August 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Hi Jackie,
    Sorry for the late answer. As fas as I am concerned, you should be ok going to Ukraine and back since you have the titer test done. But we haven’t gone to Ukraine with Fabio, so we never researched this country further. Double-check with and with the Ukrainian embassy in UK or British embassy in Ukraine. If we are too late with the answer and your trip already happened, please let us know how it went!

September 19, 2020 at 10:40 pm

Nice blog and very helpful!
One question, when you crossed the border, did you used the green or red channel?
Thanks in advance for your reply!

    September 21, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Hi Marc,
    Thank you for your kind words. Regarding the question, we used the red channel every time entering or leaving Russia. To be honest, we are pretty sure the green one does not exist on road borders between Russia and the EU 😉

November 21, 2020 at 9:28 pm

Thank you for a very well written summary!
As for the question about Ukraine from another reader – I have lived there briefly and I would like to warn about stray dogs (due to economic hardships there for a long duration). I don’t think they are necessarily aggressive – but I am not used to them and thought it was unpleasant when they approached me. I’d give Ukraine a pass for the time being – there are so many problems there right now. If you want to go to a Russian-speaking country that is not Russia, try Belarus instead – it is very well organised and there are no stray dogs there. Hopefully Ukraine’s luck will turn. Sad to hear that Kaliningrad has a problem with stray dogs!

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