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: http://visa.kdmid.ru/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!
St. Petersburg’s charm is completely different from that of Moscow, and no wonder: there is a 600-year gap between their founding years. Moscow keeps the history of Russia’s medieval times and traditional lifestyle, while St. Petersburg from the very beginning has been the embodiment of Russia’s westernized culture and ideas. Its founder, Peter I the Great, was determined that 18th century Russia needed to borrow new ideas and material culture from the West, and was a big fan of maritime empires, such as Netherlands, so much that he used Amsterdam as architectural model for his new capital.Looking at St. Petersburg today, it is hard to believe that the city rose from impassable northern marshes, but its ever-changing unpredictable weather gives you the chance to see all major landmarks in different light throughout your stay: from gloomy wet autumn days to summer weeks of white nights when the sun does not set at all.
A fortified settlement existed on the site of modern-day capital all the way back in 11th century, but the first mention of Moscow appears in a medieval manuscript in 1147, as a place where local king Yuri the Long-Armed gathered with his buddies from a neighboring kingdom. In the middle of 19th century, the emperor suggested that Russia should have annual celebrations in honor of the former capital (by then, St Petersburg had taken its place as diplomatic and administrative center of the country).Moscow city day is every kid’s favorite holiday and one of most cherished childhood memories for many adults. Every year, the celebration includes more and more events across different corners of the city, reflecting the variety of its cultural heritage. The city’s birthday is celebrated every first Saturday of September, but the program for the weekend usually appears online in mid-August. Public transportation is working long into the night on this occasion, allowing you to commute between parks on the outskirts of the city and downtown music bars and clubs.The Moscow city day usually offers free access to multiple museums, art spaces, historical houses and galleries – both for those who were born and bred in the city, and for expats and travelers. Some museums offer special tours on this day: last year, for example, the Home Museum of Mikhail Bulgakov, one of the most prominent Muscovite writers of the early USSR, organized urban walks and opened up hidden rooms for those interested to see Moscow through the eyes of the writer and his wacky extraordinary characters.Sporting activities are not scarce either: you can get a free lesson on a paraplane or partake in a bike parade through the streets of Moscow, visit the biggest public swimming pool in the city or join go-cart racing. In the center, you will almost always stumble upon soap bubbles or dancing flashmob, as well as open creative spaces for graffiti artists, musicians, designers, photographers and poets.When it comes to music, the choice is really vast: from well-known bands to rising independent artists, international performers and urban classical orchestras.And then of course, fireworks. They usually start around 10:30PM and are best observed from Moscow’s bridges, skyscrapers, and viewpoints, such as the one opposite Moscow State University, or Poklonnaya Gora. One thing you can be sure of: the city will be crowded, and it will be unforgettable.
Moscow metro, or Metropolitén, is known to be one of the most beautiful underground systems in the world, with the diverse and luxurious decorations of its oldest stations, modeled on architectural styles of classical temples of antiquity, gothic cathedrals, traditional Russian art, and much more. As Moscow grows, the metro is also expanding, but newer stations do not lack designer’s touch either: everything from minimalistic approach to futuristic imagination that will boggle your mind as you are taking a ride outside the city center.Although the first plans of underground railway system were created back in the end of 19th century, the metro was officially built and opened only in 1935, in Stalinist era, and its architecture was not simply decorative, but ideological, aiming to show the power of communist government and the USSR both to its citizens and foreign guests.Moscow metro is notable not only for its architecture, but also for the mass of urban legends that surround its construction and everyday life.First of all, one of the most convenient things about Moscow subway is the circular line. The legend says that it was not on the original metro plan that was brought to Stalin, but as he was sipping tea (or coffee) from a large cup he placed it on top of the blueprints, and the cup left a brown ring on top of the metro lines, which engineers, upon consideration, found quite a smart addition.Moscow subway is also rumored to be filled with extraordinary flora and fauna, and some school and university groups even travel on expeditions down there to study microbiology of the underground world. The railway tunnels are said to be inhabited with ginormous radioactive rats that glow in the dark and can maul a stranded railway worker or two. There are also quite real stray dogs that you can see inside the metro cars: do not worry, they are not aggressive, and actually quite independent, passing though turnstiles on their own (they never pay though) and commuting between the city center and green suburbs.The biggest conspiracy surrounds the so-called Metro-2, a system of underground metro lines that lies beneath the official metro, around 50-100 meters below the ground. This system was commissioned by Stalin in case of war, and was later developed to serve as nuclear shelter and the way for the government to escape any sort of cataclysm that would wipe out the rest of the city. The four lines of Metro-2 supposedly originate under the Kremlin and go all the way to the main building of Moscow State University. Many students attempted to find hidden access to the university catacombs, but even if someone did they never returned to tell the story.There are also some esoteric interpretations of the 12 points where radial lines cross the circular line, corresponding to the 12 zodiac signs, and a legend about the ghost train that stops at the various stations with its lights off and doors shut – but sometimes it opens the doors and tries to lure in unsuspecting commuters and drive them into nowhere.Anyway, the Moscow metro is indeed a place full of wonders, and much cheaper than any other urban commute system in Europe. Photography is allowed without special permit, unless you are a professional photographer or videographer and planning to use tripod, flash, and spend considerable amount of time adjusting the settings. In this case, in order not to stand in the crowd’s way, you need to obtain a permission for photography at specific allocated time and off-peak hours.