Travelling with a laptop
The two most important things you need to know about bringing and using your laptop in Russia are your home country customs regulations and the Russian internet networks that appear challenging to some people that travel to Russia.
Your Home Country Regulations
Prior to leaving home you need to find out what regulations on taking a laptop through customs in your home country exist. Although it may seem that taking your own computer back home should not present any difficulty at all, you will be surprised how many computer owners are faced with the necessity to pay a duty on their own laptops trying to bring them back to their home land. Indeed, it is your own responsibility to foresee and prevent such difficulties. When you go on a trip, no-one really cares what you are taking out of the country for your personal use, including the laptop.
Yet, when you come back, most of the time you will be asked to present a proof of prior ownership showing that you had bought your computer prior to leaving your home country. Otherwise, customs officials will assume that you purchased your laptop during your trip abroad and may impose a duty on it as on other goods purchased elsewhere. Therefore, you should either possess some proof of ownership or register your laptop (or any other valuable item, for that matter) with your country’s customs service before your departure. Documents that fully describe the item – for example, sales receipts, insurance policies, or jewellerвЂ™s appraisals – are all acceptable forms of proof.
If you travel from the USA, you should fill out the Certificate of Registration (Custom Form CF 4457) that you can get at your nearest US Customs Office (you will also need to take your laptop for inspection there), or consult the US Customs & Border Protection web-site for information how to obtain it (www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/forms/).
Taking Laptop Through the Russian Customs
The good news is that you do not have to worry about paying duty on your laptop when taking it through the Russian customs. Surprising as it may seem, laptops are not dutiable according to Russian customs regulations. It does not mean, however, that you should not declare your laptop when entering Russia вЂ“ yet doing so will not entail any additional expenditure on your part.
When you are leaving Russia, you may be asked by customs officials to turn on your laptop, so that they make sure you do not take any top secret materials out of Russia. To be honest, not every laptop owner is asked to do this, yet вЂ“ hypothetically вЂ“ such a possibility exists. Therefore, you would be well advised not to appear in front of a customs official with a notebook several minutes before your plane is due to leave вЂ“ unless you want to make Russian customs officials suspicious of you a few minutes before your plane’s departure.
Using Your Laptop in Russia
Some other points are worth mentioning as regards using your laptop while traveling in Russia.
First, it is 220 v AC voltage in Russia. Although most notebooks come with an adaptor, you may want to check whether yours is ready to take in such voltage. Also, you will need a European power plug with two pins. Be sure to get one at home, as you may spend hours trying to find a US-European plug adaptor in Russia.
Second, you will need a phone line adaptor, as many Russian apartments are equipped with outdated phone-line devices unable to connect to your modemвЂ™s jack. For that you should get an RJ-11 adaptor for the Russian plug, preferably, with two RJ-11 sockets. This way, you will be able to connect both your modem and the telephone itself to the phone line not having to switch back and forth every time when using internet. Such RJ-11/Russian adaptors you can easily buy at every radio, electric- or home appliances store in Russia.
Internet in Russia
To send emails home you will need to choose your ISP in Russia and not forget to change the SMTP server in your e-mail client program. Internet in Russia is still a luxury and you may have to pay as much as USD99 for unlimited broadband access during one month. As for DSL, cable, and other faster kinds of internet connection, those are still a rarity and will cost you a pretty penny.
Your best bet is to buy an internet card with pre-paid hours of dial-up access. This way you will be able to use your laptop from your hotel room or anywhere there is a phone line. Wi-Fi hot spots are starting to appear in multiple locations around Moscow and St. Petersburg, however, dial-up access is still the preferred method of internet usage in Russia.
You can find numerous internet cards in most Russian cities today that vary in price, quality of connection, and terms of validity. Most of these cards are valid for one month starting from the day of their first use and will expire irrespective of whether you have used up your time or not. There are other longer cards that are valid anywhere from 3 months up to the end of the calendar year, but to get those you would have to travel to their issuing ISPвЂ™s office. In case you are traveling to St. Petersburg, we recommend either Webplus (up to 20 pre-paid hours), Sovintel or Peterlink cards.