Travelers to Russia and especially those planning to lead groups abroad should take note that Russia has recently passed new legislation that bans hostels in residentially-zoned buildings.
Many Russian cities have seen a boom in recent years in hostels opened in former communal apartments as Russia’s tourism sector has developed. However, some long-term residents of these buildings have been vocal in their concerns about noise and security with their new commercial neighbors.
As many as 40-60% of Moscow’s hostels and 80% of St. Petersburg’s hostel capacity is expected to be affected by the new legislation. The federal law gives hostels until this fall to comply, but some city and local authorities are demanding faster action from hostels in their jurisdiction.
This is likely to affect travelers. First, over the next few months, hostel supply is almost certain to decrease, driving prices for hostels and other accommodations up. Second, it is possible that sudden changes to hostel location, format, and availability may occur. Make sure to give accurate contact information when making your reservation so that the hostel can contact you if such changes happen.
Mini-hotels will be also be affected by the new legislation. However, there appear to be more options for mini-hotels to stay in business by switching to other legal categories such as “serviced living space” or by using other legal loopholes.
The legislation is broad enough that Airbnb rentals are also likely to be affected. Airbnb rentals were already complicated by Russian registration laws, which require Airbnb operators to visit a government office to obtain registration for each resident staying with them. Many declined to do so, despite being required to perform this service by Russian law, to avoid a paper trail that would likely alert the tax authorities to a valuable income source. Thus, as many Airbnb locations are currently unregulated and effectively operating under the table, the locations themselves may well remain operational. However, owners will be less likely to want register occupants, meaning that Airbnb will be an increasingly unworkable option for international travelers.
Educators bringing groups of students to Russia are welcome to contact SRAS for further advice and information.