The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel advisory to Americans planning to attend the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. While noting that there are no specific threats to Americans, the alert cautions travelers about recent terrorist attacks in the region and also advises travelers to consider medical evacuation insurance as “the Olympics are the first large-scale event to be held in Sochi and medical capacity and infrastructure in the region are untested for handling the volume of visitors expected.”
As relates to terrorism, the state department advisory notes that Doku Umarov, the head of the Caucasus Emirate (an organization the United States designated as a terrorist organization in 2010) recently released a video message rescinding prior directions not to attack civilians and calling for attacks on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The advisory cautions visitors to be aware of their surroundings at the event and “remain vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation.” Three recent suicide bombings in Volgograd, 600 miles from Sochi, targeted the city’s transportation system.
With regard to medical care, state department officials have warned that such care in Russian cities differs substantially from Western standards “due to different practices and approaches to primary care.” In addition to medical evacuation insurance, travelers are advised to consider repatriation insurance.
The advisory also cautioned visitors to avoid carrying large amounts of money or other valuables. Since cash may be the only acceptable form of payment outside the Olympic venues, visitors are advised to keep money in hotel safes or divide money by placing it in several locations on their person when traveling.
The state department advisory also makes mention of the recent law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” but notes that Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of the what constitutes LGBT activity.
For those visitors who have not yet secured hotel accommodations, the advisory states “now is the time,” noting that there may be a shortage of hotel rooms and that rates are currently $750 to $1,000 per night.