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Visa to Russia — not such a big deal


Getting a visa to Russia might sound like complete nightmare if you read some of the travelers’ accounts online – they are not always accurate. Russia is not North Korea, and you do not necessarily need to go with an organized tour group and fit all your travel plans within a specific time limit.

Tourist visas to Russia are valid for up to 30 days, and can be issued with single or double entry. If you want to stay longer, consider applying for a business visa, which can be used by people attending conferences, exploring business opportunities, or going on a research trip. This visa takes longer to process, but will allow you to stay as long as 6 or 12 months, with single, double, or multiple entry.

First of all, you need a Visa Invitation. If you know somebody in Russia, they can provide you with a private invitation, which they must obtain as a notarized copy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is a bit of a cumbersome process that can take up to one month, and your consulate will require original documents for the application. So instead, you can get the invitation from a certified agency. It will cost you around $50, and within a few hours scanned copies of a tourist voucher and reservation confirmation will be sent to you by email. When applying for the invitation, you will be prompted to indicate the cities you are planning to visit and hotels you are planning to stay at. If you do not have any fixed plans, staying with friends, via airbnb, or in a hostel, simply pick any hotel on the list and make sure to write it down on the visa application form as well. If you are taking the Transsiberian train, pre-booked tickets may be a good substitute for a hotel reservation.

Secondly, prepare your passport, photos, and visa application form. The passport must be valid for 6 months after your planned departure from Russia, photos must be recent and good quality, and the application form can be filled in and printed out here:

Finally, you will require a travel insurance for the duration of your stay. Choose your company wisely, and mind that ordinary travel insurances do not normally include special types of activities and extreme sports… in case if you are looking for some thrilling skydiving experience or cross-country skiing in taiga in the middle of January.

Find your local Russian consulate and apply. You can always use services of our agency to avoid queueing at the consulate by yourself, and send all the documents by post. Along with the above mentioned documents, there is a visa processing fee that starts at $255 depending on your type of visa and how fast you want it to be issued.

Final note: upon arrival to Russia, you are required to register your visa within 7 business days. Your hotel can do it for you for a small fee (depends on the hotel), or the agency that issued your invitation can provide you a hassle-free registration for additional fee – ask them when applying for invitation. If you are staying with friends, or via airbnb, the owner of the property can register your visa at any local post office: they will need to bring $5, a copy of your passport, and their Russian ID with registration (propiska).

Make sure to carry your passport with the visa and registration with you at all times, and know the phone number of your embassy in Russia, as the police are known to be interested in tourists, especially in popular locations around Moscow and St Petersburg.

Safe travels!

The 5 Russia’s Most Popular Travel Destinations

5. Transsiberian train & Lake Baikal.

Baikal.Zmeinaya buhta
The ultimate dream for backpackers, flash packers and all types of adventure seekers, Transsiberian train bears the romantic flair of old-school railway journeys across the flat surface of Russian plains, over the Ural mountains, and further into the depths of Asia. Listening to the rhythmical melody of train wheels, drinking tea from a glass wrapped in a soviet metal glass holder, attempting to communicate with local villagers at every station, where old ladies sell fruits and vegetables from their gardens – you can spend anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks on Transsiberian train. Lake Baikal is one of travelers’ favorite destinations on this route. In the summer, you are free to travel around its islands and try to catch on camera the elusive endemic species of birds and mammals. In winter, the entire lake turns into a perfectly transparent ice palace where even the time itself freezes until the spring thawing season.

4. Solovetsky Monastery.

СоловкиIn the north of Russia, in the middle of the White sea, lies the Solovetsky archipelago, and upon those islands in the 15th century two monks founded a secluded cloister, where anyone searching for peace and serenity of nature could find their last resort. Peace and quiet of this remote northern monastery served many purposes throughout its history: most notably, for about 3 centuries Solovki had been used as a prison, and in Soviet times one of the first forced-labor camps was started here, after the Bolshevik authorities put and end to monastic life on the island. Nowadays, Solovki is worth visiting for its breathtaking nature, traditional wooden architecture and fascinating library of old manuscripts and books.

3. The Golden Ring.

Kostroma-resurrectionThe Golden Ring is a common name for several culture-and-history routes around the European part of Russia. All the cities and towns included in the Golden Ring are famous for their remarkable architecture and cultural heritage: the golden ‘onion’ domes of Russian Orthodox churches is what dominates the cityscape of Vladimir, Suzdal, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, and other towns, and tall bell towers of their monasteries fill the air with the clear ringing melodies during church festivities and holidays. Despite the communism’s efforts to put an end to religious chapter of Russian history, here it is very much alive, and all around the Golden Ring curious travelers can find the wonders of traditional craftsmanship.

2. Saint Petersburg.

The Bronze Horseman (St. Petersburg, Russia)Peter I The Great’s favorite playground and the capital of the Russian Empire for two centuries, Saint Petersburg in Russian culture and literature is frequently associated with the dark side of Russian soul, the northern cold and drizzle, the transformed and deformed time and space. Here, lovers of Russian literature will find what they seek in the streets and courtyards that inspired Dostoevskiy, Gogol, Tolstoy, and art and history enthusiasts will appreciate the fascinating collections of The State Hermitage Museum.

1. Moscow.

Moscow Red Square. (By Alvesgaspar)Moscow has seen fire and ice, revolutions and historical plot twists: founded in the 12th century, it served as a capital of medieval Russia, then lost its status for about 2 centuries to Saint Petersburg, and regained the title in the Soviet era. Now it is a modern and bustling capital filled with skyscrapers, crazy traffic, international restaurants, hip cafés and smart masses. Some say that the glass and metal of modern architecture do not suit her: and Moscow is always a She in the eyes of its citizens. Some say it is beautiful how layers of history stay preserved among Moscow’s old medieval structures, colorful cathedrals, grey ‘match-box’ apartment blocks and massive bridges of Soviet era, and tall skyscrapers reflecting the evening sun.