So you decided to go to Russia. Nazdrovjie, Cheers to that ! Even before entering the former Soviet Union, happily thinking about your first sips of wodka, you will need to get a visa. (Unless you are one of those lucky bastards being a citizen of this list of countries).
Some people told us it can be a struggle, advising to opt for visa agency and drop this hassle. Yet, I love that hassle, as I did before for South America and New Zealand (for Ms. Rice). Yes, I enjoy doing this myself. So here goes, a small DIY guide for getting a Russian tourism visa. It’s based on our experience in autumn 2017.
tip : during the World Cup Football 2018, registered football fans wont need a visa. You do need to get tickets…
Here is what you need :
- passport, 2 open pages and 6 months valid.
- a (online) completed application form
- 1 recent picture
- a return flight ticket
- hotel bookings
- tourist agency confirmation
- medical insurance for Russia
Important: in our specific case, Ms. Rice also had to provide her residence permit, as a Chinese national living in Belgium. This can be the case in certain situations, depending on your nationality.
In most cases, you will be able to complete the form online. Just always be very clear about your schedule and your hotel bookings. For the rest, its pretty straightforward with the usual information questions. Don’t forget to print when going to the Russian Consulate!
Hotel bookings and tourist agency confirmation
In the beginning, this was the hardest part to grasp. A hotel, or a special tourist agency has to provide you tourist vouchers for every night of your stay in Russia. What about night trains ? What about Couchsurfing or Airbnb ?
In case you stay at a higher price level hotel, they will have this service included. They will provide you documents for your stay. Other hotels will ask a service fee for it, which can be between 10-20 euro per person. If you stay in different cities, this may add up.
How did we do it ? After talking to a Russian Dutch lady via a Travel Forum, she gave us a tip for using a “tourist agent”. You provide the info of your hotel bookings, dates and you pay a fixed fee per person. They provide the correct document for visa application and that’s it.
We used Liga Consultant. The document was ready in 1 day and costed 800 RUB / 11 EUR / 13 USD per person.
If you plan on taking a night train, it’s no issue. Explain it in your visa application.
If you want to use Airbnb, just make sure your host will be able to register you and provide correct documentation. Because when we arrived at our first hotel, they also had to do this registration.
It’s a must in the visa process. First, you need to check if your current medical insurance covers Russia. If so, they need to provide a document which clearly states a list of information (policy number, coverage area and amount, signature insurer, details insurer and insured, …)
In our case, we did not have coverage. So we used an insurance company which allowed us to take a policy just for our travel time in Russia. This was a very convenient service model.
We paid 1.5 EUR per day per person.
There are several companies doing this, yet we used Alfa Insurance. Simple online purchase, all documentation is ready within a day.
Hassle? Sure not!
Eventually, applying for the Russian tourism visa DIY worked out pretty fast! Within 7 working days, our visa was ready. We paid 65 euro per person. The cost may be between 50-150 euro, depending on your nationality.
Russia is a nice place to visit. We enjoyed our time in Moscow and St Petersburg, the culture, food and cool people who eventually turn out to be pretty warm ha.
We are already thinking about a bigger Adventure in the future: Trans Mongolian Express to Beijing….