No Need to Dread Intercity Road Trips

It's summer and many people are starting to travel outside Moscow and through Russia in personal cars. The on-road services in Russia are not as good as in the West, but during the last year the situation has changed.

Some time ago the trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg was a real adventure for foreign drivers.

In those days I often advised drivers preparing to make the journey, most of whom had no experience taking long trips in Russia. Some of this advice seems stupid to me now.

There is no longer any need to take extra fuel on such trips -- gas stations are open 24 hours and there's one every 50 to 70 kilometers. All kinds of fuel are available for lower-than-Moscow prices. Yes, the quality of fuel sometimes is very low outside the capital. But you can treat this problem with a variety of fuel treatment liquids -- I prefer STP products, myself -- and you should have several spare cans in the car if you are traveling .

The situation's the same with oil -- there are many private kiosks open round-the-clock on the big roads. At these kiosks it is very easy to find the necessary kind of oil, and it is enough to have a small can (about 1 liter) with you in the car just in case.

Most of these kiosks also have a number of spare parts in stock: fuses, bulbs, different belts, etc. I nevertheless recommend that you have these small but sometimes very important things with you in the car. Experience has shown that if something happens, absolutely everything will be available -- except the particular part you need.

Last year I had said that it is better to travel in the nighttime -- to St. Petersburg, for example. Now I prefer the daytime, for several reasons.

First, in the daytime it is very easy to get some help on the road if something serious happens with your car. There are many small private auto repair shops open during normal working hours.

Second, you don't need to take any food or drinks with you. There are a lot of kiosks and small cafes along the highways. At night, however, some of them are closed and the range of choices becomes minimal.

Third, crime on the roads can be a problem. Although Russia is not the most dangerous place in the world, I still prefer driving in daylight.

And the traffic police are still on the road at night, hunting for money. In the daytime it is easier to avoid being stopped by them.