Medical Help and Prescription Medication in Russia
Do I need travel insurance for Russia for medical emergencies?
- Travel Insurance: Travellers are advised to buy an insurance policy which is suitable for the activities they have planned. This generally requires you to pay upfront for treatment but be reimbursed afterwards.
- State Healthcare: State healthcare is free for those whose countries have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Russia. The quality is generally OK in large cities, but you will require Russian language abilities or a translator.
- Private Healthcare: Higher quality healthcare, facilities and English-speaking staff. Private healthcare is more comfortable for travellers but at a higher cost. Check with your insurance provider before using private healthcare services.
- Emergency Treatment: Free to everyone regardless of citizenship or insurance. Accessing the Russian ambulance service or emergency hospital treatment requires no payment.
- Pharmacies: They stock a wide range of products and are open late in big cities. Some painkillers and antibiotics can be purchased over the counter. For ease, make a note of the generic Russian name of the medicine and bring a Russian speaker.
- Travelling with prescribed medication: Bring enough to last your whole trip. As a precaution, check if your medicine is sold in Russia, find the generic name, and transport it in original packaging with a prescriber’s note. Ensure that your medication is legal in Russia by checking with the Russian embassy.
Travelling to Russia is no more unsafe than travelling to any other European country. But accidents or illnesses do happen, and it is wise to be prepared to ensure that you have the safest and most comfortable trip possible.
Travellers to Russia are not necessarily allowed to access state healthcare. You should check whether your country has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Russia. Regardless, tourists are advised to purchase travel insurance. In most cases, you will pay upfront for any treatment and be reimbursed after your trip. You should also choose a suitable insurance policy, for example, one including ‘activities’ cover for those planning winter sports or outdoor pursuits. We would recommend buying travel insurance from the following provider.
Healthcare is provided free to all Russian citizens and is accessed through state hospitals and clinics. State health services can only be accessed for free by foreign citizens whose countries have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Russia, otherwise you will have to pay.
Healthcare in Moscow, St Petersburg and large cities is generally ok, where there is more funding, higher numbers of specialists and better facilities. Health services in rural or provincial localities can be of much lower quality, although it is unlikely that you will be travelling in these places. If you do decide to receive treatment at a state doctor, you should either have good knowledge of the Russian language or bring a Russian-speaking friend with you.
The best healthcare and highly qualified specialists are available in the private sector. If you want more flexible appointments, higher quality facilities and English-speaking staff, private medical treatment is recommended. Of course, this will be pricier. Expect to pay 2,000 - 3,000 roubles for a doctor’s consultation or dental check-up (around $35 - $55), 5,000 roubles for a specialist appointment ($85), and 10,000 - 50,000 roubles for further treatment, tests and examinations ($180 - $900). Overnight stays at private clinics will run into the hundreds of euros. Please make sure to check the terms of your insurance; many policies only cover state healthcare unless agreed beforehand with your insurance provider.
Medical appointments in Russia
There are a number of ways to find medical care in Russia: personal recommendation, an internet search, or by contacting your embassy or insurance provider. Appointments are usually made a few days in advance by visiting or phoning the clinic. Same-day appointments can also be arranged for urgent situations. You will need to show your health insurance before receiving treatment, and will usually pay upfront and be reimbursed by your insurance later, unless your provider has a pre-arranged agreement with the clinic. Doctors are able to refer you to specialists and provide prescriptions if necessary. For helpful information and phrases about doctors’ appointments, visit this website. https://blogs.transparent.com/russian/how-do-i-get-medical-care-in-russia-part-i/
Emergency care is free to everyone regardless of citizenship or insurance. In an emergency situation, tourists can call an ambulance free of charge. The emergency operator number is 112 and you ask to be connected to the ambulance service. Be aware that the emergency operator is Russian-speaking. In hospital immediate treatment will be provided free of charge, but post-emergency treatment must be paid for.
Pharmacies stock a wide range of products which can be accessed over the counter or with a prescription. In cities, pharmacies can be found everywhere - look for the green cross and sign ‘аптека’. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours a day. Some medicines which can usually only be accessed through prescription in the West can be bought over the counter in Russia, for example, some antibiotics. Before visiting the pharmacy, make a note of the generic name of the required medication in Russian. It is also recommended that you bring a Russian speaker with you to the pharmacy for ease of understanding. This is a useful article for Russian medicines for common ailments, and useful phrases at the pharmacy. https://www.rbth.com/lifestyle/327543-medicines-buy-russian-pharmacy
Travelling with prescribed medication
If you take regular prescription medication it is important to bring enough to last your entire trip, as you may not be able to find your medicine in Russia. As a precaution, before travelling you should find out if your medication is sold in Russia. Check if there are any equivalent medications available and make a note of their Russian names, in case you need to visit a pharmacy.
When travelling with prescription medication you should keep it in its original pharmacy packaging, and a prescriber’s letter with the generic name of the medication may help with border control checks or in the case of lost medicines. You must ensure that your medication is legal in Russia. Various types of psychotropic, sedative, or painkiller medications are not permitted. You can check this website (in Russian), https://rg.ru/2008/01/16/veshestva-dok.html or contact the Russian embassy. If travelling with controlled drugs, for a short trip you will need an apostilled prescriber’s letter, and for longer trips (3 months or more) you will need to obtain an export licence. This website is helpful for general advice https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/43/medicines-abroad, but for more information consult the Russian embassy.