Russian customs regulations are complicated and highly discretionary. 30% duty is required to export personal item(s) worth over US $10,000. Moreover, additional export duties apply to any items determined by customs officials to be of commercial use. Certain items, such as caviar, medications, jewelry, precious or semi-precious stones, or metals and fuel may be exported duty-free in limited amounts. As computers' hard-drives may be scanned by customs officials, it is recommended to present your laptops to customs at least 1,5 hours prior to you departure. The same goes for recordable storage media such as CDs, DVD-RWs, etc.
Buying and Exporting Antiques:
All items which are of historical or cultural value - icons, antiques, paintings, coins, etc. - may be taken out of Russia only with prior written approval of the Ministry of Culture and payment of 100% duty. The process of getting the official approval may last from one to several weeks.
When you are purchasing an antique item be sure to enquire from the retailer about the export status of your purchase. In all cases get an official receipt proving the fact of purchase and clearly indicating price, date and place of purchase. This receipt will later be handy when dealing with the customs official. Bear in mind that payment of the duty does not automatically make your goods eligible for export, and in most cases antique pieces may either be confiscated at the border or you may be asked to return them to your accompanying person. It is best to ask someone you know in Russia to accompany you to the airport. This way should your antique items not be allowed to be taken out of Russia you will be able to leave them with someone you know. This person may later try to get a refund from the unscrupulous retailer.
Taking Money out of Russia
You can bring as much money as you want to Russia. However, taking it out of the country can be tricky. You can take home only US $3,000 (or equivalent in other currencies) without any permission. For any amount over US $3,000 a special export permission is required. It can be obtained at any official currency exchange office unless you had the amount declared when entering Russia and can present your original signed declaration to the customs officer. A convenient way for taking money home is purchasing travelers' checks (like American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, etc.).
Russian Customs Declaration:
When first entering Russia be sure to fill out a customs declaration form. You will need to declare the amount of currency you are bringing into the country, as well as all valuable items you carry (jewelry, icons, art collections, laptops, cell phones, etc.). Make sure that the declaration is officially stamped and signed by a customs officer on entry to prevent difficulties when taking your currency and valuables after your travel to Russia is over.
Remember that a signature by a customs official is not sufficient - you need to get a stamp on your declaration for it to be valid. Otherwise you will not be able to prove that you possessed that diamond ring or a cellular phone prior to your visit. Keep your stamped customs declaration for the entire duration of your stay in Russia - you will need it to prove how much money and what valuables you had with you when arriving in Russia.