Complete Escape from Tarkov Beginner's Guide
Escape from Tarkov, also known as EFT, is a hardcore first-person shooter that features elements of RPG games (levels and passive skills) and an incredibly complex looting system. In this game your main goal is going to be gearing up your PMC, loading into a raid-- killing other PMCs/Scavs, looting & questing and then trying to extract out of the raid. For most new players this is going to be a daunting task due to the huge learning curve (as there's no in-game tutorial). In this Escape from Tarkov Beginner's guide you'll be able to find a lot of useful information that every new player will be looking for during their first 100+ hours of EFT.
Table of Contents
The difference between a PMC and a Scav
In Escape from Tarkov there's two types of characters that you can play: PMC and Scav.
PMC-- the main character. PMCs by default have no gear on them (other than the melee weapon and secure container). You'll have to gear the PMC depending on a few things: budget, map and quests and keep in mind that all the gear you put on the PMC will be permanently lost on death if it was not insured/placed in the secure container.
Scav-- short for Scavenger, is an armed civilian that always has a randomly generated loadout. Scavs can be other players or A.I., usually the A.I. scavs will spam voice lines and will not shoot at you (unless you shoot at them first, they're bosses' guards or you're a PMC). You can load into a raid as a Scav every ~20 minutes (some hideout upgrades lower the timer) and any loot you extract with will go into your stash where it can be sold, used for quests or PMC loadouts.
PMC - Bear or USEC?
As of 2021, when you've just bought the game and loaded it up for the first time (or there was a patch wipe) you'll have two faction options to pick from for your PMC: Bear (Russian) and USEC (American). These factions used to be purely cosmetic but the faction that you pick now will determine the starter gear that you'll get in your stash. Generally speaking, the starter gear between the two factions is very similar but If I was a new EFT player, I'd pick the USEC. The USEC's main gun "M4A1" has much lower recoil and will be much easier to use than the BEAR counterpart "AK-74M". Though, in the hands of an experienced player, the BEAR is a much better choice due to the BP ammo being a lot better than M855.
Every time you've got access to a Scav, run a Scav raid. I can't stress enough how important this is going to be for you as a new player. Scavs at the very least always have a gun with some ammo, allowing you to transfer the same gear onto your naked PMC and grant you a "free" PMC raid-- provided you survive the Scav raid first. Additionally you can also get armor, helmets, headsets and other expensive things such as LABS keycards & keys. LABS keycards usually cost about 150-200k roubles which can easily be enough money to make two-three budget PMC loadouts so if you ever spawn with it, run out to extraction.
Other valuable items most of the time have a purple background so if you get any, I'd suggest hiding and checking the price on a market price-checker site so that you know if you should head out to an extraction point. When I was a beginner I extracted whenever my Scav inventory was worth at least 150k roubles as that was enough to fuel two PMC runs.
When you're playing as a Scav you'll want to do exactly what the name suggests-- scavenge. Find and loot dead PMCs around the map and play without gear-fear as you can get a new Scav for free every ~20 minutes. A thing to note is that as a Scav you can't progress any quests, but you can loot items that are used as a quest turn-in so playing a Scav can be insanely helpful in making your PMC life easier.
Unless you know what you're doing, avoid fighting other PMCs as a Scav because you'll lose the fight most of the time and you're better off staying safe, looting and getting out with the loot so that you can upgrade the hideout and get PMC gear.
Basic PMC Loadout
Don't go into a raid without a gun, just don't. Always take at least a pistol with you. Escape from Tarkov is incredibly realistic, even one pistol shot to the head will take out a fully geared PMC if they don't have a good face shield. I've killed multiple PMCs with 500k+ roubles worth of gear with just a lucky pistol shot to the head, and have been killed the same way. These are the most popular beginner weapons that are really cheap/easy to get and don't require any additional parts to be decent:
- Grach, Colt, Glock and Beretta pistols.
- PP-91 Kedr
- Vepr Hunter
I'd single out the SKS to be the favorite in this list. It's incredibly cheap, uses crazy good (yet cheap) ammo and comes with a decent sight on it. Even though this is a mid-long range gun, it's semi-automatic and hip fire on it is surprisingly good. If you find yourself in a close range fight, instead of aiming down the sights just hip fire the SKS, unload the full mag into the enemy and they'll be dead no matter what kind of armor they're using. Prapor level one sells the SKS for 22k roubles and the 7.62x39 PS ammo for 91/u which means that you don't even need to have Flea Market unlocked to get this build going.
By double clicking a gun you can see all of it's parts aka mods. All of the gun parts can be swapped out while you're out of a raid, in your stash but some-- such as scopes can be swapped out in-raid as well. I wouldn't worry about gun parts as these are very expensive and inaccessible for new players, though a simple Reflex sight would make your aiming a lot of easier on the SKS, Vepr Hunter and ADAR.
Ammunition can get incredibly expensive very fast (high-end loadouts use like 60k roubles on 30 bullets) so you'll want to primarily focus on selling all the expensive ammo you find and buy PST Gzh for pistols and Kedr, 7.62x39 PS for SKS, M855 for the ADAR, 5.45x39 PS for AKs and M80 for Vepr Hunters.
Even the most "basic" cheap armor can save your life against enemies that use bullets with low penetration so it is always advised to wear some kind of armor. For example, having a high ricochet chance helmet will save your life a lot of times so the investment is very much worth it. The absolute best-performing budget version of armor will consist of the PACA Soft Armor and the SSh-68 helmet. In particular, the SSh-68 helmet is the best bang for the buck helmet you'll get for a while as it outperforms any helmets in the ~70k roubles range.
Do note that if you run the PACA Soft Armor you'll need to also get a cheap rig for the gun mags unless you're using the SKS (place the PS SKS ammo in the pockets and you're good).
If you prefer to run with an armored rig instead, try the 6B5-16 Zh-86 "Uley" Armored rig with the SSh-68 helmet instead.
Sound is arguably the most important thing in Escape from Tarkov and finding an in-game headset that complements your real headset is going to be crucial for your survival. When an enemy is crouch walking or sneaking even the slightest glass piece on the floor could give off their location so carefully test and find a headset that works for you. The best budget headsets are currently the Peltor Comtac 2 and Gssh-01.
There's a few types of medication: Injectors, Injury Treatment, Medkits and Pills. There's a lot of different items in each of these categories and I'll quickly go over what each of these do. As a beginner, avoid using injectors (stims), they're expensive and have side-effects so you're better off selling them. Injectors will boost your character stats, provide an anti-bleed buff, passive regeneration and higher carry capacity for x amount of time.
The Injury Treatment items are very important, these consist of: surgical kits, splints, bandages, hemostatic and balms. Surgical kits such as the CMS and SURV12 are useful as they allow you to fix dead parts of your body, I'd recommend always having one of these two in your secure container. Splints are used for broken bones, bandages for light bleeds, hemostatic for heavy bleeds and balms are used as a painkiller that lasts longer than a pill.
The Medkit department has quite a few choices. Each of the medkits offer different levels of treatment and have more durability. Salewa is most commonly used as it can heal up to 400 health, along with both light and heavy bleeds allowing you to not bring a hemostatic if you're on such a tight budget.
The Pills offer three choices: Analgin Painkillers, Augmentin Pills and Ibuprofen Painkillers. After a thousand of hours in Tarkov, I've never went into a raid with an Augmentin or Ibuprofen, these are really expensive and I'd always opt to sell them rather than use them. The Analgin Painkillers are more than enough, providing you with 4 painkiller uses for only 5000 roubles. If you're rocking a high-end loadout just use a Balm or Vaseline and keep Analgin as a backup instead.
How to add meds/food to the quick use bar?
A lot of new players don't know about this, and it's a huge time saver. Instead of having to open your inventory every time you want to heal up or eat/drink, open the inventory once, hover your mouse pointer over the item you want to quick slot and press a number from 4 to 9 on your keyboard. This will add the desired item, such as a salewa to a quick slot. Clicking a number (without having inventory open) will start using the item located on that quick slot.
Hydration & Energy
Hydration and Energy are the most common causes of death for new players. Always bring food and water into a raid if the PMC's hydration and energy levels aren't maxed and use them there instead of the stash (so that your metabolism levels up). When your Hydration and Energy levels are max but you're entering a raid I'd still recommend taking something like Pineapple Juice or Milk as a budget-friendly backup food in case you don't run into any food during a raid.
A great tip that I've learnt from Pestily is to always drink all the food and water that you don't want to keep during a raid as it is topping off the hydration and energy level for free (always keep some backup food in your inventory).
The pouch slot holds the secure container. There's a few secure containers in the game, some are from the more expensive versions of the game and some are from questing. The default (cheapest) version of the game gives you a secure container with 4 slots. The items placed within a secure container are never lost, even if you're dead! Use this to your advantage, keep expensive items such as keys or medication in there so that you never lose them.
You can access your Stash by clicking the character tab in the main menu of the game. The Stash is essentially free storage space for all the items that you've looted during the raid time on both scav and PMC runs. The items in your Stash will never be lost (unless there's a patch wipe) but the Stash has limited space. To increase Stash space you need to upgrade the Stash from the hideout menu or buy one of the more expensive EFT editions. Additionally, it's possible to buy containers and cases, these act as mini-stashes for certain categories of items. For example the Ammo case can be acquired from questing or bought form Flea Market/Traders, takes up only 4 Stash slots and you can put 49 stacks of bullets in it, saving you 45 squares of Stash space.
Insurance is crucial for minimizing losses when you're just starting out. Insuring an item means that you'll get it back after 24 hours if you ever die with it and nobody else loots it in the raid & extracts with it. It only costs a small percentage of the item's worth and a lot of people never loot the beginner items such as the PACA Armor and SKS so you will almost always get them back. To insure an item simply right click it and press insure & choose Prapor.
It is also possible to bulk-insure items, to do so simply head over to start a raid (pick your PMC) > Next > Choose a map > Next > Next > In the insurance tab click "Insure All" > Insure > Yes > Next to start the raid.
There are eight Dealers (some call them Traders) in Escape from Tarkov. Each of these acts like an NPC, they sell a certain category of items and provide you with different quests. Along with that, each of the traders will let you sell your items to them-- but be careful as some traders will pay more for a certain item than others!
- Prapor - Russian firearms, ammo and mods.
- Therapist - medication, drinks, food and maps.
- Fence - items that other players sold to him, very inflated prices.
- Skier - weapons, ammo, night vision goggles, suppressors and euros.
- Peacekeeper - western firearms, ammo, mods and dollars.
- Mechanic - weapon parts/mods, fully tweaked out weapon build barters.
- Ragman - rigs, headsets, backpacks, clothing and armor.
- Jaeger - hunting ammo, scopes, thermals, fuel, shotguns.
As soon as you unlock them you should start the Prapor and Therapist quests. These two dealers are very important and the quest rewards are quite good. For example, finishing the Prapor "Punisher" questline will reward you with a "Secure container epsilon" which is a sizable improvement over the Alpha container if you're playing the base edition of EFT. Therapist gives a lot of water bottles and medication which always comes in handy for a Escape from Tarkov beginner. You can find all of the dealer tasks on the official wiki.
Level up the dealers
Every Trader except Fence has four Tiers "loyalty levels". Increasing the loyalty level unlocks a variety of new items that can be bought from the trader. When you're just starting out all of the Dealers are loyalty level 1 (LL1), this means they only offer you gear limited to that level. To level up a dealer you need to meet the prerequisites at the top right of that dealer’s menu. These pre-requisites include:
- PMC Level: increased by gaining XP in raids and from tasks.
- Dealer Reputation: your reputation with the dealer is increased by completing their tasks.
- Cash Spent: buying from and selling to a dealer both count towards this counter.
Your PMC will need to be level 10 in order to unlock the Flea Market. By having the Flea Market unlocked you'll be able to start selling valuable items to other players and buying from them. I would always recommend keeping all of your "found in raid" items in the Stash until you've unlocked the Flea Market instead of selling them to Dealers as some items can be insanely profitable on the Flea Market. For example a certain gun could be worth 200k roubles on the Flea Market, while a Dealer would only offer 80k roubles for it.
Items found in raid are the only type of item that can be sold on the Flea Market.
An item is marked as "Item found in raid" if:
- The item was found in a raid and was not brought into that raid by another PMC and the extraction status is Survived (gain at least 200 EXP in raid (by killing or looting) or be in raid for at least 7 minutes before extracting.)
- It was crafted in the Hideout.
- It was obtained as a quest reward.
How to sell more than 3 items at once?
The Flea Market works on a seller-reputation system. Each 50 thousand roubles worth of sales or buys that you do will go towards your Flea Market reputation. Everyone starts at 0.20 reputation and 3 sell slots. To expand the sell slots and be able to put more items up on sale all you need to do is sell and buy more items. At 10-30 rep you'll have 4 offer slots, 30-50 5 slots, 50-70 6 slots, 70-100 7 slots and it keeps increasing, you can check all of the reputation values on the wiki.
There are currently seven maps available in Escape from Tarkov: Factory, Customs, Woods, Interchange, Reserve, Shoreline and Labs. The first six are accessible for both Scavs and PMCs while the Labs map is only available to PMCs and you need the "Labs keycard" to join it. Upon joining, the Labs keycard is used. Labs is the end-game map where all the high level and geared players go to farm experience and equipment by killing Scav Raiders. Along with that, on the Labs map there's rooms locked behind other Lab Keycards which cost multiple millions of roubles (these are not one-time use though).
Hidden stashes - new player gold mines
Customs, Woods, Interchange and Shoreline all have hidden stashes scattered around the map. Each of these hidden stashes contains randomly generated items-- these can be anything! Resources, Food, Weapons, Armor... you name it. Running Customs and checking all of the hidden stashes along the way is my favorite way of getting full inventory really quickly-- this is especially useful during early progression of wipes because the hidden stashes can have items needed for quests and they're rarely looted. They are really well hidden so you should use a map to find your way towards the hidden stash locations, you can find the customs ones in the video below.
Escape from Tarkov has several bosses that can spawn on a certain map. The bosses don't always spawn so you're not guaranteed to run into them in every raid. List of bosses and their locations:
- Reshala - spawns on the Customs map in the Dorms, New Gas Station and Scav Stronghold.
- Shturman - spawns on the Woods map near the lumberyard, really popular to farm because of the Ice Rebel Pickaxe.
- Glukhar - spawns on the Reserve map, in and around certain buildings. He uses the Ash-12 and has 6 heavily armored guards.
- Killa - spawns on the Interchange map, patrols the first floor of the shopping mall. His loot is very popular, and expensive.
- Sanitar - spawns on the Shoreline map, guards the Health Resort wings, cottage and pier areas.
Extracting is the only way you can successfully get out of a raid and keep all of your items & loot. To find which extraction points you have, double click "Z". Try to find the exact name of the extraction point on a map from the wiki (or the ones linked below) and walk towards that place. Once you've found the correct spot, a green "Extracting" countdown will appear. Once it's counted to 0 you'll be extracted from the rain. Note that being killed while the counter is active will not extract you from the raid! Always make sure you're extracting while it's safe as some players like to extract-camp others.
Best beginner maps
Customs is by far my most favorite map, and a lot of people really like it as it was reworked very recently. It is really easy to navigate if you have a map open as all of the buildings can be easily identified. The map has great loot and most of the paths you take towards an extract will have a few hidden stashes so you can get some more valuable loot along the way. The only tricky part about Customs is the close spawn points, most of the time on Customs there'll be a person or a team spawning really close to you. Learning the spawn points helps a lot in having the edge over an opponent and winning shootouts. Most of the early game Prapor and Therapist tasks are located on Customs, you'll have to go to the dorms area for some. Getting a few keys in a document case/keytool can be a good way to make money from Dorms.
Woods has also been recently reworked and it's a lot bigger than it used to be. During the early progression of a wipe Woods can be a great area to farm for loot because there's a lot of uncontested loot boxes. The lumberyard has a safe, a car there can spawn a really rare and expensive Labs Keycard and on top of that you can also find Shturman there. Looting Shturman will give you a Shturman cache key which you can use to open his cache in the middle of the lumberyard. He can also drop a Red Rebel Pickaxe which is the most expensive melee weapon in the game, it allows players to extract from the Reserve map REALLY easily, enabling some crazy money-making methods.
Factory is a great map if you have a couple of friends that you can team up with. Due to only 5 PMCs being allowed on the map, if you come into the raid with 3 friends then only 1 enemy PMC will be on the map. Kill him and then your squad can easily farm up sick xp on Scav kills. Note that player Scavs will still be able to join the raid from 18-10 minutes and sometimes the A.I. Scavs start spawning in swarms as well. Factory isn't really well known for any good loot, but the xp gains can be incredible.
Every EFT player has a personal Hideout that is composed of modules which provide your PMC with various bonuses and services. For example you can get faster regeneration of health, energy and hydration. Mine in-game bitcoins for passive income, send out Scavs on missions to gather you items and much more. It is also possible to test weapons inside the hideouts, you'll have to build the Shooting Range module.
I would not recommend spending all of the initial roubles from a new account on Hideout upgrades. Instead, build up your stash and get at least 1 million roubles before starting to spend money on the Hideout, otherwise you'll go broke and have to live from Scav runs for a while.
As you might've noticed from the length of this Escape from Tarkov Beginner's guide, this game is incredibly complex and has a lot of things that you'll need to learn in order to get better. My biggest piece of advice is not to get stressed over deaths and to avoid gear-fear, even streamers with several thousands of hours sometimes die 10 times in a row, that's just the way of Tarkov. This article holds all of the most important information any player should know but make sure to stay tuned for more advanced information such as weapon builds and map guide.