Drive Me Crazy

Alan Broach Issue: Section:

Driving in Russia (if you are insanely brave)

Having reached the glorious position of semi-retired I have more time to reflect on the joys of living in Russia. In my very first article for the Fire (way back in 2009) I touched on driving here and would now like to expand on this. Partly this is due to a friend advising that he intends to drive from London to Toronto via Russia, Mongolia and China (and good luck with that Graham).

Some years ago I was listening to a BBC radio program. The 2 presenters were discussing where on the planet one would least like to drive as a foreigner. They suggested Rome, Naples, Mexico City, a few parts of Asia and the Middle East. Then they opened up the phone lines. Caller after caller said ‘Moscow”. The presenters had obviously never been here so were surprised. Anybody who has been here would not be.

I drive in Moscow, or to be more accurate, the 160 kms from our Moscow apartment to our dacha (see previous) and back. Sadly a long time ago I realized that if you cannot beat them you have to join them. At first my wife proudly proclaimed that I had reached the level of “nastayachi voditel” roughly translating as a local Russian driver. However, she recently promoted me to “Dzhigit”. This is an interesting word originally meaning a skillful horseman from the Caucasus but now has the connation of a brave, but not particularly law abiding, man.

So if you are coming to Russia and are thinking about hiring a car here are a few tips on how to survive:-

  • Don’t hire a car
  • If you do, remember that driving and talking on a mobile phone is obligatory (and no hands free nonsense)
  • Smoke, preferably while talking on the phone (you steer with your knees)
  • Eat an apple (preferably while smoking and talking on phone)
  • Play with SatNav
  • Never slow down or stop at pedestrian crossings (you will be rammed from behind) just try to mow down as few pedestrians as possible
  • Buses and minibuses do not move over, you move over
  • Obeying traffic lights is a good idea (but only when traffic police are about)
  • Don’t drink any alcohol. They have zero tolerance and they enforce it
  • There are no speed limit signs anywhere so just drive a bit slower than the nearest fastest car
  • The hard shoulder and pavements are the equivalent of the inside lane in the US and Europe
  • Never let anyone out from side roads and block crossroads whenever possible
  • If you do weaken and let someone out they will not thank you.
  • Have Russian pop music (truly dreadful) blaring out of all speakers
  • There are no left turns in Moscow (see previous) but that does not mean the car in front won’t turn left anyway
  • Most Russian drivers never passed a driving test (just paid a bribe to get a licence) so they learned to drive by playing Grand Theft Auto 47
  • Throw all rubbish and cigarette ends out of car windows
  • The roads outside major cities are terrible but slowing down for potholes is for wimps

If you follow the above you should fit right in.


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