A Russian Visa Costs How Much?!?

As I wrote about in late April, I booked a trip to Longyearbyen for this summer, which is the northernmost city in the world. I’m not sure there’s actually much to do there, though the landscape looks gorgeous, and there will be 24 hours of sunlight, which is intriguing.

It worked out well because we’re getting there in SAS’ new business class, which is one of the airline products I most wanted to review this year. If I can combine a new airline review with visiting a destination which has been on my list, why not?

SAS-Business-Class

I tried to figure out where to go from there, and after looking at a map, figured it would be great to tie this in with a trip to Russia. While I of course strongly disagree with many of Russia’s policies, it’s a country I’m fascinated by, and I think it would be enlightening to visit.

So we booked tickets from Longyearbyen to St. Petersburg, and plan on checking out St. Petersburg and Moscow. We’ll be staying at the W Hotel and St. Regis, respectively.

St-Regis-Moscow
St. Regis seems in its element in Russia!

I’m not traveling internationally for the next couple of weeks, so this is a good time to get our visas done. I’m not planning on going to the consulate myself, so as usual I’ll use Allied Passport, as they’re friends of the blog, and consistently do a great job.

I started filling out the Russian visa form, which is probably the most thorough visa form I’ve seen. You even have to list every country you’ve been to in the past 10 years, along with when you visited. Suffice to say that’s no easy task for some of us.

The worst part? Take a look at the cost of Russian visas. A basic visa costs $193, though it takes up to 15 business days to process. When you add in the time it takes to ship the passport there and back, that means you could potentially be without your passport for a month, which is beyond my comfort zone. So I’ll do the expedited service, which costs $283.

Russian-Visa-Cost

That’s in addition to the Allied Passport service fees, which are $49-199 (which are reasonable, by comparison).

So all-in-all it looks like I’ll be paying $283 plus $109 for my visa, for a grand total of $392.

That doesn’t account for the amount of time it takes to complete the application, plus needing a formal invitation to visit, etc.

I knew Russia was expensive, but who knew that was true to this degree before even arriving in the country?

Boy, it’s almost as if Russia doesn’t want tourists to visit, or something. 😉

Bottom line

I generally avoid countries which require visas to visit, or at least ones which have to be done through a consulate rather than online. That being said, Russia has always intrigued me, so I’m excited to finally be visiting, and hope it’ll be worthwhile.

Still, I’m kind of in disbelief at the cost and hurdles of applying for a Russian visa. When all is said and done I’ll have spent over $400 and will have spent a couple of hours on this. Yow!

To what degree do visa requirements prevent you from visiting certain countries?

Comments

  1. I just got mine from ILS in SF for $193 all in last week. Just had to drop off documents and the return after 10 days. Not too bad if you’re willing and have the time to do & the leg work.

  2. Ben! Be very careful as your visa is in Russian. We were “told” our visa had expired (we were only in country for a week) and that we had to buy a new one or we couldn’t board our plane. We were taken to an ATM forced to get $$ out and give our passports and $$ to an “airline worker.” We couldn’t call our embassy as it was 4am and we had to catch a flight, they ended up giving us another visa but we were out another 500.. This was during the Olympics.

  3. It sounds similar to what students are paying to get their student visa in the States as well.
    Some of my friends in China told me that they used to get their US visa renewed EVERY year since their visa only has one year period. So they are paying 150+ USD every year just for their visa…. This can add up really quickly.. :S

  4. So true, Lucky!

    That said, flights to Moscow from NYC are often under $500 in economy. So, for the tourist who wants to visit Russia, it doesn’t really end up being more expensive than a trip to Western Europe, where the flight might be $800-ish.

  5. You really have to want to go to Russia. It’s expensive and bureaucratic and time-consuming. It’s not the kind of country I’d recommend for a casual trip. You need to be genuinely interested in Russian culture, architecture, cuisine, etc., for it to be worth the effort involved in getting there.

    On a related note, before your trip, invest the time to learn how to read the Cyrillic alphabet. It’s not difficult – about a third of the letters match ours, a third match the Greek alphabet, and the other third will be completely new to you. Even if you don’t speak Russian, it makes a huge difference being able to read signs, get around effectively, and not feel completely blind and deaf. Russians will also treat you with incredible warmth and kindness if they can see you’re making an effort to speak and read their language.

  6. We went to Russia for the Sochi Olympics and had been hoping they’d waive or lower visa fees for that time period (as had been rumored like two years before the Olympics). No such luck! We live in DC so luckily we were able to save on some of the shipping fees but doing it in person, but yep, agreed, it sure was a hassle!

  7. This is a direct result of USA visa requirements for Russians. While many third world countries allow visa-free travel for Americans, the situation in Russian is different. Russia views itself as an equal in international relations, and mirrors visa requirements. Once USA simplifies visas for visitors from Russia and/or lowers the fees, Russia will immediately reciprocate.

  8. I wish they would cut the price a bit on transit visas. You pay the full price. And without one, transiting is risky, especially on split tickets.

  9. “You really have to want to go to Russia. ”

    Russia is one of the few countries I have zero interest in visiting. Maybe if they reversed the fee, so that they paid me $400. But as it is, the fee is just another reason to stay away.

  10. Yes, the Russians have priced their visas close to what a Russian national would have to pay to visit the country of the applicant. Mine cost $150 AUD (about 115 USD). I didn’t pay any service charge through an agent: just got the hotel to send me a letter as the ‘inviting’ party ( that is pretty standard, although they do charge if you are a no show at the hotel) and sent in the visa documents myself.
    Visas for Europeans are cheap because of reciprocity: although 99% of the passengers on my flight, Aerorflot from Vienna, were Russian.
    Staying at the Park Hyatt: very nice but pales a little compared with PH Vienna.

  11. @James S: here’s a simple rough way to read Russian letters:

    А – A
    Б – B
    В – V
    Г – G
    Д – D
    Е – Ye
    Ё – Yo
    Ж – J
    З – Z
    И – I
    Й – Y
    К – K
    Л – L
    М – M
    Н – N
    О – O
    П – P
    Р – R
    С – S
    Т – T
    У – U
    Ф – F
    Х – H
    Ц – Ts
    Ч – Ch
    Ш – Sh
    Щ – Sch
    Ъ – none
    Ы – I
    Ь – none
    Э – E
    Ю – Yu
    Я – Ya

  12. I wonder why you think it is reasonable for the intermediate company to charge $50 to $200 for a service of just pushing some documents around but think it is not reasonable to pay the visa fee? Maybe because they are your sponsors? Also: come-on, stop this nonsense of $199. Just call it $200. Companies are so creepy with this stuff.

  13. You should really go to the consulate yourself if you want the full experience. In New York, you stand outside on the sidewalk and wait, and every once in a while they deign to open the door and let people in. Then once you’re done inside you wait until they are ready to open the door to let you out.

    Inevitably the first few times you go they find something wrong with the application — I think it took me 3 or 4 tries to get it to their satisfaction. But it does come back the same day or next day, IIRC. If nothing else, it certainly gets you in the right mindset before a trip to Russia…

  14. We couldn’t call our embassy as it was 4am

    Are you American? The US Embassy in Moscow has a duty officer available 24/7 to deal with problems like this (in your case being robbed/held hostage by a corrupt official).

  15. Most visa fees are the reciprocal of what a national of the country being visited would be charged by the visitors country. It’s tit for tat

  16. I was in St. Petersburg earlier in May (stayed at the W — great location) and found prices there (e.g. food and transportation) to be very cheap, and that is with reference to the Canadian dollar, so you will find it even cheaper.

    Yes, besides being a pain in the ass, the visa is expensive (although at least for Canadians it is $150 CAD and I live in a city where I can easily drop off and pick up in person (10 business days), so I now feel a bit better that I didn’t have it as bad as you!).

  17. High visa fees are par for the course for those without western passports. I have an Indian passport with a US Greencard and applying for visas is a standard step for every international trip – a major source of amusement for my Australian wife. Below are costs of visas to some countries that I have visited, if you do not have a visa exempt passport, in order of increasing fees:
    1. EU (Schengen visa): EUR 60 (~USD 70) for a 3 month multiple entry
    2. USA: USD 160 for up to 10yrs multiple entry
    3. Belize: USD 250 for a single entry
    4. UK: ~USD 1,114 for 10 yrs multiple entry (No that’s not a typo)

    The worst one is when we were going on a trip to Belize with a couple of friends, one of whom has a Chinese (mainland) passport. A single entry visa for Chinese citizens to Belize cost USD 6,100!!!! USD 4,000 of that could be waived for holders of green cards. Belize finally fell in line with a number of caribbean destinations and made a visa exemption for green card holders in 2015.

    Here is a Tripadvisor thread discussing the extortionate prices of Belizean visas for Indian and Chinese citizens:
    https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g291959-i1455-k3802914-Exorbitant_visa_fees_for_Indian_citizens-Belize.html

  18. I also agree with the comments regarding learning the alphabet. It makes a HUGE difference. There are a lot of Russian words that seem unintelligible but become completely recognizable when you know the alphabet and can transliterate, e.g.
    PECTOPAH = RESTORAN = restaurant
    Информация = INFORMATSIYA = information

  19. If you are on a cruise, in certain circumstances you do not need a Russian visa. For example, no visa is needed if you are taking a tour organized by the cruise company. OTOH, you will need a visa if you are taking a tour not organized by the cruise company. There are other rules and restrictions also.

    Details can be found at http://petersburgcity.com/for-tourists/visa/cruises/

  20. US charges $190 for every visa interview appointment. It is the same cost for student/work/visitor visas. But visitor visas are good for 10 years usually.
    In short, I am used to it and not surprised.

  21. I went to the NY consulate twice (once to drop off and one to pick up). Depending on the crowd, it can be a mad house because they don’t really assign numbers and people tend to rush the windows when a spot opens up. It’s a hectic and expensive experience but well worth it in my opinion. The visas look nice and take up a whole page on your passport (if you collect that sort of thing)

    And try to take the Metro when you’re in St. Petersburg. The stations are gorgeous!

  22. now i can go to Russia visa free due to my Serbian passport but for the ignorant here, there are some federal parks that are so untouched and beautiful it makes US Natl parks like a huge dump. Last year when I went to Yellowstone, Glacier, Big Sur, Sequoia all I saw were chinese and indian tourists by the hundreds of thousands, tons of garbage, and no peace at all. Compare that with the Russian Steppe where you have regions that are so virgin you wont see a person in days. Granted not the same infrastructure but for nature freaks such as myself I am thankful its so hard for other nationalities to visit Russia.

  23. That is excessive. Couldn’t you provide a return shipment label with next day delivery? Most consulates, embassies or third party Visa service providers (some exceptions and limitations) encourage self addressed air way bills.

  24. When you do get your visa, be sure to doublecheck the dates of travel shown on the visa. My brother visited Russia a few year ago (maybe 5 or 6 years ago?). He had his visa in hand, but due to a clerical error on the governments part, it had the incorrect dates on it. Since it was in Cyrillic, he had trouble reading it before he left. So, he got detained at the airport … had to pay a $500 bribe in order to leave the country.

  25. I got a 3 year visa last year for the same price as a one-entry visa. Same form, same everything. If you’re going to pay, might as well have a few trips covered!

  26. @Miles – that is not entirely correct. A cruise passenger can visit visa-free with any authorized tour company, not just through the cruise line. The cruise lines like to deceive people into paying for their overpriced tours.

    @Lucky – no need to use a third party company. Just send the documents directly to ILS. Unless you are getting the service for free in exchange for advertising of course.

  27. Lucky – I stayed at the W St. Petersburg a few years ago. When I checked out, I found there was a “processing fee” (about $30-40/person) on the bill. I asked them to remove it, since they had not disclosed it to me at time of booking; they reluctantly complied. Not sure if this nonsense is still going on.

  28. Lucky,

    If you visit St Petersburg by ferry or cruise ship from Helsinki or Tallinn, American’s don’t need a visa for up to 72 hours. Russia has this policy so cruise ships will stop in St Petersburg. If tourists needed visas, ships wouldn’t stop.

    I did this last year. A cabin with a shower cost $80 for one person return from Helsinki. This is much less than the cost of a Russian visa, plus you get an overnight cruise. It departs Helsinki in the evening and arrives in St Petersburg in the morning.

  29. First of all, the visa for most regular people will be under $200 if you don’t need expedited processing or want to pay a middleman.

    Secondly, visa prices are set reciprocally. From what I recall reading, visa fees aren’t exactly a profit center for countries like Russia or China and but since the US feels warranted to charge high fees to citizens of those countries, they have to follow suit.

    Lastly, getting a Russian visa for you is way easier than for a Russian person to get a US visa. That process actually requires an in person interview in addition to a bunch of paperwork.

  30. I’ve had to go to Moscow on business on a number of occasions, so my work has arranged the visa through an agency. It’s certianly an effort listing all the previous travel, and making sure every stamp in my passport was accounted for.
    I’m based in London, and Russia now requires me to also have biometric data recorded with them in advance of travel, so I had to go to their processing office in London to have fingerprints taken. (This may be because it is a business visa).
    I shouldn’t need to do that again, but I suspect I’ll need to renew the visa before my next trip.

  31. I agree with Paul.

    My friends and I took a visa free cruise from Helsinki to St Petersburg and toured the city independently. We slept in the cruise ship. Passengers have the option to stay in the city for less than 72 hours as long as they’re registered as a cruise ship passenger. Visa is necessary if extending to Moscow.

    St. Petersburg is a fantastic city to visit and relatively inexpensive.

    I’m going back to Russia this summer to visit Lake Baikal and Moscow via transiberian railway and applying for a Russian visa via ILS was exponentially easier compared to my experience applying for US visas back in the day. At the very least, Russian visas are almost always guaranteed as long as you have the proper documentation, without the hassle of being interviewed. Applying for a US visa from my home country entailed paying exorbitant fees, enduring a grueling interview, and taking the risk of a denial which happens with much more regularity than being approved.

  32. “Some of my friends in China told me that they used to get their US visa renewed EVERY year since their visa only has one year period. So they are paying 150+ USD every year just for their visa…. This can add up really quickly.. :S”

    That information is outdated. Due precisely to such additive cost issues, US and China agreed about a couple of years ago to start issuing reciprocal 10-yr visas, and it is working. At the end of last year, I applied for a 10-yr PRC visa and was approved without questions asked, and I know several Chinese nationals who successfully applied for 10-yr US visas.

  33. @Lucky

    Expect the visa you get to be one-visit. The Russians have been making a business out of only giving one visit visas even though you apply for multiple entry. This happened to a couple of my friends in the past year.

  34. Be thankful you don’t need to issue a U.S visa, almost as expensive and requires an in-person interview at the U.S consulate.

  35. We came back from Moscow – St. Petersburg tour two weeks ago. Stayed at Ritz and the Ararat Park Hyatt in Moscow, then 3 nights in the W Hotel at St. Petersburg. Will never ever recommend the W Hotel in St. Petersburg to anyone. Long story short, find another hotel; Four Seasons is nearby. Also did husband’s tourist visa through ILS (I’m a citizen), expensive but good for three years. Rode the bullet train between St. Pete and Moscow and did lots of other stuff. Write if you have any questions, will help out as much as I can.

  36. If you don’t want to be without a passport for an extended period of time, get a second passport. This is one of the circumstances under which a second passport is issued…

  37. @OhioExile – Just received multiple entry three year visas last week for myself and my wife. No problems. Others we are traveling with also had no issues getting the multiple entry visas.

  38. I just left St Petersburg Monday. It was awesome!! The Hermitage is like the Louvre and Versailles rolled into one. Music everywhere!! Quite inexpensive.

    while I’m also very paranoid about not having my passport,my Visa agency was super effecient, provided on line tracking and took only one day on either end of the consulates processing time. See if your service uses the SF consulate, some consulates take longer than others.

    I didn’t go for expedited because I wanted a two year visa (same cost but I think no available on an expedited basis)

    Il already planning my return to St Petersburg.

    BTW the train from St Petersburg to Helsinki is vey nice- comfortable, and quick.

  39. @ivan

    If you aren’t in a city with a consulate, you must use a middleman. Applications have to be done in person.

  40. A few years ago, I tried to get a Russian visa. It was such a painful process that we gave up. For the independent traveler, you must get a form from each hotel you’re staying at. I called these hotels, but no one could speak English. Without these forms, the Russian Embassy rejected my visa request. We didn’t want to pay top dollars for the English-speaking top hotels, so postponed the trip.

    Last month, we took the ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, and visited visa-free for 72 hours. We had a great time in St. Petersburg.

  41. Ask a Russian (or Cyrillic reading) friend to check your visa before you go, ensure the type (single or multi entry) & dates are correct. Also, you will be required to ‘register’ at each hotel. Hotel will take your passport for a few hours or overnight to do the ‘registration’.
    Are you going to Moscow & StPetersburg? StPetersburg is wonderful. To get a feeling for how vast Russia is you could travel the 9 hours from Moscow to Sakhalin (UUS) – one of the longest domestic flights in the world.

  42. Hi Ben,
    What you are complaining about sounds like the exact process the US makes foreigner go through. And it is not just the Visa fee, there is also a fee for the appointment and a few other things. It is super annoying even for people from ‘western’ countries that come as a student for example. Went through it twice – takes time and cost a lot of money! I do not even want to imagine what people from Russia have to do to get a visa.

  43. You want expensive visa.. the following makes the Russian one look dirt cheap:
    Applying for a UK visit visa from Kuwait (in US dollars):
    Short term visa (valid for 6 months) $132
    Longer-term (valid for up to 2 years) $502
    Longer-term (valid for up to 5 years) $912
    Longer-term (valid for up to 10 years) $1143

    Yup.. over a thousand bucks if you want a ten year multiple entry.

  44. @Mike:

    If you read the blog entry Lucky linked to, Ford’s coming along. Unless he has an EU passport as well, that doesn’t help. 😉

  45. Several years ago we were looking into going to Russia because I found cheap flights. Then I looked into the visa requirements and that idea ended quickly!

  46. As a German, you may be entitled to not buy the visa, but it’s probably too late since you are doing it already. This Russian visa thing sucks so bad. I bought tix for my family of 5 to go there on the cheap and then discovered it would double our costs to get the visa so we cancelled the tickets. Yes and reading online the workers are sometimes NO SHOW if we need to go to the embassy which we don’t live near. JUST OUTRAGEOUS and ARCHAIC!! I used to live there and it’s awesome. I’ve never been back now 23 years.

  47. @Lucky first off, Russia is not expensive. Petersburg and Moscow are (especially Moscow). However, the rest of the country is not. In fact, with around 67 Rubles to the Dollar, Russia as half as expensive as it was two years ago, when I went and did the trans-Mongolian.

    Second, as you are likely well aware, the high fee is a reciprocity fee for the equally expensive cost of a Russian acquiring an American visa. Just be thankful that the Russians don’t make you come in for a full-on interview, the way America makes Russians do.

  48. I was in Russia a couple of summers ago for a 5 week-long language immersion program. My student visa, single entry, cost me $350. That was, of course, after I finally received the official invitation to apply for a visa. Yup, super crazy long and intensive to fill out. I’ll be doing it again soon, as I have an internship at the US embassy in Moscow I’ll be doing this fall. I’m not looking forward to the process, but perhaps it will be a bit more expedited since I’ll be interning with a diplomatic corps?

    @Lucky, I would recommend taking a screenshot of your visa using the camera feature on the google translate app. That way you can see exactly all the details that are typed. The form is in english and Russian (mostly), however, the filled in info isn’t always duplicated in English. It’s better to be prepared.

    Let us know how St. Petersburg is. I plan on taking quite a few weekend trips there during my internship. Would love to know of any hidden spots you find!

  49. Too bad Russia seems to make it difficult (or at least expensive and somewhat inconvenient) to visit their country. It’s a beautiful country, Moscow and St Pete are amazing and their people even more so. Very kind and warm people. Fortunately for me I was able to enter the country with a visa on arrival and took all but 5 minutes to go through without a hassle. I must say though, they did asked if I had dual nationality and I pretended I didn’t understand, lied and said no. 😮

  50. @eponymouscoward I don’t see why it matters what Ford has or doesn’t have. Ford would have to get a visa. That’s irrelevant for Ben’s entry as far as I know. Why would Ben need to use his US passport just because Ford has to?

  51. Just take a few classified documents with you. The visa will be no problem. Snowden didn’t need no stinking visa, or valid passport for that matter.

  52. Why would anyone want to go to such a corrupt, mean spirited and dangerous country.

    You get what you pay for.

    Have fun.

  53. Listing the countries visited is very common for visa applications. I remember doing this for Australia Japan and UK. All had one or two lines and I couldn’t fit all haha. UK was the worst. It asks my relatives and friends in UK and list their address etc. what you are going through is very common for people with Passports from developing nations. Even airlines take tough lines at airport for these people. Just check Lufthansa’s facebook page. Also some embassies don’t even give you an option to apply directly but you had the option and choose not to. Usually third party companies are very expensive for what they are doing and often are nonopolists. It’s helpful if you are too busy or don’t know how to apply or need some assistance. But most visa applications are easy to follow once you do a couple of them. But doesn’t mean it’s easy to comply. My worst was to apply for 4months stay on Germany and they asked for some impossible documents and they have no flexiblity at all.

  54. Russian tourist visa is easier to get than USA one. For the american you have to go to the embassy, while for russian, just ups your docs. If you factor in time to take of work to get US visa and travel expense, russian visa is dirt cheap and convenient. And for extra $50 allied passport will take care of invitation. I experienced both, so know what i am talking about. Flying to Russia this July, family of 4! Super excited!

  55. Two days in st.Pete was plenty for me. The architecture and history are amazing, but most of the people are sullen and look like they have contempt for tourists, in my experience. We asked one of our tour guides why everyone we saw was so serious and rarely smiled and she said “Russians are taught that smiling is a sign of weakness. It is not like in America where people smile all the time for no reason.” It is fascinating what other cultures think.

    And, not that this matters to Lucky, but for any others using these comments as a source of reliable informstion, I’ll add a different data point: when I was there on a cruise in 2014 everyone who wished to leave the ship at all needed a visa. There must have been a different version for cruise tourists though, because they were not nearly as difficult or expensive as you are describing, and if you joined a tour they took care of getting your visa for you. (And, while it’s cool looking, mine is nowhere near a full page. So maybe I got a “mini visa?!”.)

  56. Lucky,

    if the purpose of paying two expedite fees are just to be “without your US passport a shorter time”, just go get a secondary US passport. US Dept of State will issue a 2nd passport if you write at the top secondary passport application, and include a cover page stating why you need a second (unusual, but perfectly legal) passport.

    Valid reaons cited as examples are due to visa processing time, and potentially unfriendly recation / disqualification to visit some countries if you have visited other unfriendly countries in the middle east / israel.

    It’s issued as just a 2-year passport. Standard fees apply or you can walk into a same day passport office in SFO./NYC/etc and pay an extra Expedite fee (which I know, would negate the whole reason for the 2nd passport to save fees in this example). $60 expedite fee gets it to you same day in as little as 2-3 hours.

  57. I’m sure someone has already mentioned this, but the reason for the high price for the Russian visa is because the US visa for Russians is also highly priced. This is aptly named a reciprocity fee. ~$160 for a US visa for foreigners = ~$160 for a Russian visa for Americans.

  58. This is reciprocity in play here. The US tourist visa is not much less expensive either – for Indians it is ~$160, so just $23 cheaper than the Russian visa. And this does not take into account the hassle and hurdles one has to go through to get a US visa – it is terrible – makes the Russian visa process seem cheap and desirable.

    Boy, it’s almost as if USA doesn’t want tourists to visit, or something.

  59. Try applying for US visa from India. Online forms keep crashing, so you need to restart filling in from the top. And that’s not taking into account the huge wait for the interview.

  60. @ Lucky: I understand your frustration. I apply for Russian visas almost yearly, as I work here. But, on the plus side, visa extensions sponsored by my company are easy to get when I renew a contract, but the initial visa is always a pain. I have applied for a tourist visa, student visa, and a work visa. Yep, the process is complicated and expensive, as I always pay a company in Houston to handle my visa with the consulate.

    Out of curiosity, will you be applying for the 3-year tourist visa, or the single-entry visa? If you are going through the pain, I would go ahead and get the 3-year visa in the case you want to visit in the future.

    When you arrive, the hotel will register your documents with the local migration authorities, so be sure you get the registration document from the hotel, as you must keep that and the migration card (issued at passport control) until you leave the country. Don’t lose these, as you may have big problems exiting the country without them.

    Good luck!! Russia is a beatiful country, and I think you will especially love St. Petersburg. Feel freeto contact if you have any questions, as I am an American expat that understands life and travel in Russia.

  61. Looks like it is one of the few times you have applied for a visa. Good that your passport is well recognized. People who have been less fortunate to have less accepted passports pay that much money all the time and have to wait for single-entry visas for months!

  62. St Petersburg is a city with great culture and I would pay for that visa and visit for the Hermitage museum alone. Then again, as a holder of a non-western passport i’m used to visas being an added cost of my travels. 100-150 dollars is par for the course for a lot of visas. Schengen states are annoying cause they never last long. US visa was good value at about that price for 5 years. Like another commenter, I had to pay over $1000 for a 10-year UK visa.. It’s a hundred dollars a year (so might even cheaper than my last 10 schengen visas) but it is a huge hit whenever you have to renew it.

  63. Wow! How dare Russia charge you that much for the privilege of visiting! Don’t they know who you are?

  64. Exchange rate is great for USD right now. Back in 2014, it was $1=35RUB but now it is roughly 66 Rubles!
    have a great time and I suggest getting the multiple entry visa.

  65. Ben,
    Do not visit Russia. No trip report is worth beating by some Russian neo nazi with IQ level of wodden rocking ponny; which st Petersburg has plenty of. Vast majority of Ruskies are ignorant dumb people, crippled by hundred years of oppression. If you do visit, I recommend that you hire security guard from hotel to follow you around as anti Americanism and homophobia runs high.

  66. everyone keeps saying US visas are just as hard to get but i must say there’s a difference here, US suffers from a lot of illegal immigration and people from all over the world are desperate to come here and there’s a real concern people will overstay and remain in the US so their visa is a process, their fees are completely ridiculous, they have one standard price for all visas and some visa or nationalities must pay an additional reciprocity fee and visit an embassy for an interview. I had 4 US visas before I became a green card holder and had to visit the embassy only twice, and as a UK citizen, no reciprocity fees. Visa waiver tourist were free, now $14 every two years. I’d say this is different compared to Russia where I hardly imagine that many people are desperate to move to and will overstay once allowed in, there should be a simpler process for a short tourist trip. I do understand that Russia is not part of the VWP and therefore must get a regular visa even to visit the US but I think it is easier as it typically lasts 10 years and less docs are required, no invitation letter! I had planned to stop off in Moscow with a Brazilian friend after we found cheap tickets via Moscow but after learning the process just to have a one day transit visa I gave up (Brazilian’s don’t need a visa for Russia so that’s why this idea came up) I understand if I wanted to stay there longer but then again the same would apply for a Russian trying to transit for one day in the US…

  67. @Vladimir- What an idiotic statement. Most Russians are quite welcoming. Every country has dumb imbeciles, but it’s not the norm for Russia.

  68. A multiple entry visa that is valid for 3 years costs $160 and is processed within 8 business days as per Russian Embassy website. You may choose 3rd party services to make the process more convenient for yourself, but they are optional, so it’s on you if you end up paying more than twice the embassy fee.

  69. I’m surprised no one has commented on the ILS “processing by mail” fee of $85: http://ils-usa.com/main.php?id=travel&idd=rates&lang=en

    Granted, if you are lucky enough to live in a major city where there is an ILS office you are likely to save some money if your application and all other documents are perfect and you hand deliver. Otherwise, you really have no choice but to pay a visa service or ILS.

  70. @DCS there are several circumstances where Chinese nationals are only issued 1-year visas for the US such as those on a F-1. So whoever made that comment was accurate. I have several Chinese friends (PRC) who have to renew their visas annually if they exit the US.

  71. It is the norm in Russia. I’m sure Ben will find out for himself, unless he stays isolated in circles of Russophiles like yourself. Tell a street American that you dislike USA and he would laugh, typical Rus will punch you in face in same situation. No rule of law, dumb intolerant people … Not a country to visit for minorities.good luck Ben.

  72. As an Indian passport holder, visas are a fact of life. I’ve spent more time and money on the visa process for myself and family than other travel planning activities.
    Other nationalities have it easy. Don’t complain about ONE country that requires you to get a visa.

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