My Experience Applying For A Russian Visa

One of the places I’ve most wanted to visit this year is Russia, which I’ve never been to before. A practical opportunity to visit presented itself when Ford and I planned a trip to Longyearbyen, Norway, which is the northernmost city in the world. We booked SAS’ new business class to get there, which is a product I’ve long wanted to review.

We didn’t initially know where we wanted to go from there, but we decided that Russia wasn’t far, so we might as well add that on to the end of the trip. So we planned to spend about a week there, split between St. Petersburg and Moscow.

One of the reasons I haven’t yet visited Russia is because of the process of getting a visa. Having to fill out a long application and then part ways with my passport for an extended period of time often pushes countries further down on my bucket list, as I’d rather visit those countries which make it easier to visit.

If it’s any consolation, I use Allied Passport for all my visa applications, and it takes much of the pain out of the process. So I figured I’d share the process of applying for a Russian visa with a US passport.

How much does a Russian visa cost?

Per Allied Passport’s website, here are the fees charged by the Russian embassy for a visa:

Allied-Passport

As you can see, Russian visas are expensive. Initially I was trying to decide whether I wanted a processing time of 15 business days or four business days. The cost of both is sort of outrageous, so I had initially decided I’d pay the extra $90 and just get my passport back as quickly as possible.

But then I realized that rushed visas are only single or double entry, while visas with the standard processing time can be valid for up to three years. I figured I might as well save $90 and get a visa valid for three years, so that I could visit Russia again without the hassle of having to go through the visa process again. After all, I’m sure there are parts of Russia which are far more fascinating than the major cities (as is often the case).

Visa application timeline

I emailed Allied Passport before submitting my application to ask what kind of a timeline they were running on Russian visas using the standard processing time, and they said Russian visas were averaging 7-10 business days at the embassy.

So here’s the timeline from there:

  • We overnighted our passports on June 1
  • Our passports were submitted to the Russian embassy on June 2
  • Our passports were shipped back to us from Allied Passport on June 15
  • We received our passports on June 16

So it was 15 days from the day we submitted our passports till we received them back, which is pretty good for standard processing time (we did pay for overnight shipping in both directions).

How complicated is a Russian visa application?

Russian visa applications are notoriously complex. The people who had been through the process before warned me what a pain they are. I’d say it’s more complicated than a Chinese visa, as it asks the most questions, and apparently they’re very exact about everything. Just to give a few examples:

  • You have to list all the countries you’ve been to in the past 10 years, including the dates you visited
  • You have to list the full mailing addresses for just about everything, including universities you attended, etc.
  • There were some random and vague questions, like “list all professional, civil and charity organizations which you are/were a member of or cooperate with”
  • You need an invitation letter, which can be arranged for free by the hotel you’re staying at (however, if you cancel your hotel booking, you’ll be charged an exorbitant amount for the letter by the hotel)

The point is, the application is a pain, but there’s nothing in there which is actually complicated. Instead it’s just time consuming and annoying, if that makes sense.

Should you use a visa service or not?

This is something everyone feels differently about. I’m incompetent when it comes to filling out forms, so I get a ton of value out of visa services. Even just in terms of convenience, it’s something which is worthwhile to me.

While I use Allied Passport for all my visa needs, I think a visa service is especially useful for a Russian visa, given how exact they are. When Allied Passport received our applications they made some minor edits to make sure they were accurate and would be eligible for a three year visa.

To me that’s well worth it, since I’ve read all kinds of stories online of people having to submit their visa applications to the Russian embassy a few times before having them approved, due to minor errors.

So personally I find using a visa service worthwhile for any visa, but especially for something like a Russian visa, which is one of the more detailed ones out there.

Allied Passport charges $69 per passport for standard processing time for a Russian visa, so in my opinion that’s a small price to pay for the convenience, and also to make sure the application is submitted correctly.

If you do use Allied Passport, you can receive a $5 discount by writing a note on your order form indicating that you were referred by One Mile at a Time. In the interest of full disclosure, I receive a small referral bonus if you use them as well. They’re fantastic people, and I think their online reviews speak for themselves.

Allied-Passport

Bottom line

While a Russian visa application was the most complicated visa application I’ve dealt with to date, it certainly wasn’t impossible. It was just tine consuming, though I’m happy we at least have three year visas now, so we can visit multiple times. I’m happy we used a visa service for this application, given that they helped with making minor modifications to make sure the application was “compliant” when submitted.

I can’t wait to finally visit Russia in a few weeks!

Comments

  1. “You need an invitation letter, which can be arranged for free by the hotel you’re staying at (however, if you cancel your hotel booking, you’ll be charged an exorbitant amount for the letter by the hotel)”

    What nonsense. I’d rather stay home than submit to being extorted by a Russian hotel.

  2. Would they even have a way of knowing which countries I’ve visited in the last 10 years if I accidentally left one off? Obviously they can look through my passport and see the stamps, but if it’s a new passport it won’t have all of my 10-year activity. I’m not saying to lie, I’m just saying that if someone really doesn’t know the dates of their travel to a certain place, they are probably okay to just make a best guess and it would be okay, right?

  3. I think the only bonus of having a brazilian passport is that I dont need a visa to enter Russia.

  4. “You need an invitation letter, which can be arranged for free by the hotel you’re staying at (however, if you cancel your hotel booking, you’ll be charged an exorbitant amount for the letter by the hotel)”

    That is simply not true, the Hilton will provide this letter to you, if you happen to cancel and book another hotel they charge you just a small fee to cancel the hotel.

  5. As an alternative, use a travel agent run by Russian expats. I used one in SF and they took care of everything, including the invitation.

  6. @ James — I contacted three hotels, and all made me sign a letter indicating that if I canceled the booking I’d be charged for the letter.

  7. why is there a different fee prices from the agency and the the SFO Russian consulate webpage. the difference is $30 for the 3 yr visa.

  8. @ RCB — I can’t imagine they’d have a way of tracking that. I’m sure a best guess (and if your current passport doesn’t contradict it) would be fine.

  9. I LOL’ed when I read your 3rd paragraph, about how annoying it is to get a visa. If it is any consolation to you, I read your blog frequently as I love travel and aviation but I’m a Nigerian and so I need a visa to pretty much everywhere I go to (even to hell I reckon). The US also asks a lot of questions on the application form which is annoying. I’ve been to over 30 countries nevertheless and have required a visa for every one of them (Schengen for many european countries), so take it as a man hahaha

  10. Also I didn’t have the full list of countries from the last ten years. The guy at the Russian travel agency said don’t sweat it. No problems.

  11. @ ken — Hah, all of which is fair enough, and I’m not a fan of the US visa process either. My point is simply that I spend more than half of my time abroad, and largely plan last minute, so being without my passport for an extended period of time is a bit of a pain. I guess I should get another US passport.

  12. There’s an 800 pound gorilla in the middle of the room here. As a gay man, and as a gay man traveling with your partner, why would you want to visit one of the most homophobic countries in the world? The LGBT community has no civil rights in Russia, and the general public opinion towards the community is openly hostile. While it might be slightly more tolerant in large cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, that still isn’t saying much. Other than Muslim countries operating under Sharia Law and the territories controlled by ISIS/Daesh, there probably isn’t another place on earth that is more legally hostile to gays and lesbians than Russia.

    I love to travel myself. I’ve been to 36 countries and 44 of the 50 states, and I’d love to see many more places. But I would never want to go some place where I am not welcomed, and where I have no civil rights. I’m just curious how you reconcile this?

  13. What happens if you’re not completely exact on the countries visited in the past 10 years?

    I go to Canada all the time for work – I have no idea how I’d figure out all the times I’ve been there. If I recall, Global Entry asks for a list of countries, but not exact dates. That’s the only other time I think I’ve been asked something similar.

    I could probably get close looking at my airline and hotel accounts, work calendar, etc. But it wouldn’t be perfect. Visa denied?

  14. for those blaming russians for being like that it’s the same when applying for british or american visa. won’t do without invitation letter only english and american hotels can’t give you invitation letter so you can’t travel if you don’t have someone to invite you or some business to take care there, or travel thru agency and pay double money for some sorry arrangement. about countries you traveled to, again every country asks that when issuing a visa, it’s not a mistake if you skip a country or two especially if you travel a lot it’s not even possible to remember all places, but common sense tells you that if you plan to travel to US you have to write down that you traveled to some middle east country recently, for security reasons, it’s same with russians, do not skip information about your travels to countries of russian interest, feel free to skip all visits to Canada, Australia, China, etc. and write down if you traveled to Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, USA, Germany, UK, France…

  15. What was your all-in cost? I see separate mentions of the visa fee, the expedited shipping both ways and the expiditer fee. What was the total for 2 people?

  16. @ Neil S. — I’d be as honest as you could, and just make sure you at least list all the places with stamps in your passport. Doubt they have a way of tracking beyond that.

  17. @ Tom — $386 (visas) + $139 (Allied passport fee) + $60 (shipping), so a total of ~$585. Not cheap!

  18. To all the readers, our mail order bride services will take care of Russian visa issues in case you decide to use our services and visit us to personally meet and court our lovely Russian ladies.

  19. why would you go to Russia now of all times? you read the news, right? it’s one of the most hostile countries toward westerners now. Plus, you might get food poisoning eating out if not careful. there is a lot of hate and violence there now. I am Russian by birth and even I have no plans of going back there anytime soon….However, you could still have lots of fun sightseeing. good luck on the trip, and Please stay safe. looking forward to the reports.

    and btw, applying at the embassy yourself is not harder than using an agency. from the experience, did visa for my husband and was fast and cheaper than agency. also somehow, American citizens are treated much better at the Russian embassy than any Russian walking in there. 🙂 but if I had to do it now again, might also use an agency to save time.

  20. It’s shocking to me that people are willing to put up with this extortion process and travel to a country with oppressive regime. Even if you ignore their foreign policy, the ellegal annexation of Crimea and occupation of Ukraine, the fact that they improson people for speaking up their mind I don’t understand how you personally can ignore the fact that you can end up in prison for being gay. Silence is complacency.

  21. Check the dates of your visa carefully. I got pulled off a train half-way between St. Petersburg and Helsinki because the visa expired the day before. The date range I had provided on the application was correct. They made a mistake.

    I was then followed around town by an “officer” for three hours on a Sunday afternoon in order to find a bank and pay a ~$20 fine. Then, had to pay for another visa and train ticket. Wasted at least 10 hours.

  22. Still not as bad as what USA makes Russians go through…..if they ever get approved.

    VISA fees are almost always reciprocal between countries.

  23. Courtyard marriott st Petersburg only charged 200 rubles ($2?) for visa letter in case of cancellation.

    And filling out forms is basic education which I’m sure you have, you just want the referral bonus for the visa service by advertising them

    Yet again you give bad advice in terms of saving money for your readers.

  24. Don’t you also have a German passport? Thought I’ve read that on the blog before. If you had to give up one of your two passports you would still have the other as a backup. Does that work?

  25. “Still not as bad as what USA makes Russians go through…..if they ever get approved.”

    Is that right? I am sure our application process is aggravating and extensive, but I am also sure that we do not require applicants to submit to extortion from one of our hotels.

  26. “Yet again you give bad advice in terms of saving money for your readers.”

    And yet here we are, Lucky’s readers, coming back day after day. Why do you think that might be? Maybe it’s because Lucky is very honest about his endorsements and the remuneration he gets from them, which allows us to make our own informed decisions.

  27. @ me — Yet you’ve been reading for years, so does that say more about me or you? For what it’s worth, the Park Hyatt Moscow charges 8,000 Rubles if you cancel your stay. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to book the St. Regis or Park Hyatt there, so that is potentially a pretty big additional expense.

  28. I went to St. Petersburg several years ago, the brief time Putin was not President, and had a wonderful time. I would suggest getting a good tour guide for Hermitage and take some time to go to Peterhof and Elizabeth’s palaces in the country. The tour guide and driver were fantastic and the was well worth the money. We saw so much and having a tour guide for the two of us traveling, it really gave us the opportunity to learn much more about the history of the artwork and understanding how the people lived at that time. It was interesting to learn that one empress moved from home to home every 2-3 days so people wouldn’t know for sure where she was (to prevent assassination – which was common). She was also known for lavish parties that would go on until dawn and she slept mostly during the day (again because the staff would be up and around during the day as an added layer of protection – smart woman).

  29. @ Jeff — Well, except I need to use my US passport to enter the US, and I believe it would be significantly more complicated if I used my German passport to get a Russian visa, since I don’t think the Russian consulate in the US visa could process that (someone correct me if I’m wrong).

  30. @tassojunior financially this is at worse. The US charges 160 for a Russian visa so not sure how that equates. Processing time I could see it cause the US doesn’t just hand out Visas easily.

  31. Seems like you never finished your schooling if you cannot figure these forms out. The seems are reciprocal… ever tried getting a US visa?

  32. Safe travels! I applied for a Russian visa on my own back in 2010 when they didn’t even have a multiple entry option. Back then, applicants had to wait outside the Russian embassy here in NYC for hours! I mean hours! They were quite strict about the health insurance for some reason. Anyway, while waiting in line, I met a guy who works for one of those visa agencies who had 20-30 applications with him. He told me about the visa service (it cost $50 here in NYC) and for $50 I think using a visa service is worth it.
    I got a Russian visa back in 2014 for Sochi Olympics and opted for the 3-year multiple entry visa and used a visa service. They took care of everything and I agree with you it’s worth every dollar.
    Safe travels to Russia! I hope you guys are able to see some Russian jets Antonov/Ilyushin, etc.

  33. I wholeheartedly agree that using a visa service is the easiest way to get a Russian visa. Do you know if Allied services the Russian Consulate in Houston? I don’t need a visa, as I already have a work visa, but my mother will soon apply for one to visit me in Russia. I know of one company that services in Houston, but it can’t hurt to try the one you recommended, if available. On a side note, I spent 4 hours at the Russian Federal Migration Service office in Vladivostok last Thursday waiting to extend my work permit for another year. It was very crowded with migrant workers and the paperwork is a bureaucratic nightmare. I wish I had just let the current visa lapse and applied for a new one back in the States.

  34. @lana – unless things have changed in the past few years, you don’t actually apply for a visa at the Russian embassy – Russia contracts its visa processing out to a company located in Georgetown, about a mile away from the embassy. I had the privilege of being selected for an interview when I applied for a Russian visa, and let me tell you, they were less than accommodating. First off, you enter through a door in a wall at the back of the embassy. Then I was escorted to a windowless room with bare walls save a picture of Putin staring down at me. When the interviewer came in, he spoke to me in Russian and when I told him I didn’t speak Russian he replied “why are you going to Russia if you don’t speak Russian?” I eventually got my visa, but it was less than pleasant.

  35. For everyone saying how dangerous it is in Russia, please remember that Ben is coming from a country where legitimately crazy people can legally buy semi and fully automatic rifles so being in Russia may be a better bet. Also, it’s not illegal in Russia to he gay, it’s illegal to promote a gay lifestyle so Ben, as long as you and Ford don’t go around making out everywhere, you’ll be more than fine.

    For those complaining about the invitation letters: those things are a GIANT pain in the bottom to get and also cost the hotel money so they charge you for the letter and their time if you cancel on them.

    As an aside: Ben, be prepared for many things being just as expensive in Russia as they are in the states. Phones will get signal on the subways (which you should totally take even just to ride them and see the stations, works of art they are). If you plan to go to Peterhof, from St. Petersburg, then I advise how g with one of the bus tours advertised in the downtown area. They are worth the fees. Same thing with the Catherine Palace, otherwise you’ll be stuck in lines for half the day. The Russian chain fast food place Teremok has really good Mead on tap. I highly recommend it. Most importantly have fun.

  36. When you leave there, don’t take any rubles with you. It is against the law to take rubles out of Russian Federation. Sometimes they will spot check this at the airport (ask to see “all cash money”).

    Do try the vodka.
    Do try the caviar.
    Do try the beer (my favorite is Nevskoye)

    http://www.baltika.ru/intro/

  37. Its funny to hear that you think russian visa is a complicated one. Actualy it is. But, as a Russian passportholder I need to apply for a lots of visas you do not have to, and the process is very simillar and sometimes worse. For example, for the Australian visa you have to also show cash $30k per person.

  38. I applied for a Russian Visa 10 years ago for business and on top of the current hoops you had to jump through you also had to provide an HIV/AIDS test showing a negative result. I didn’t use an agency for my paperwork but wish that I had. It took almost 30 days and when it arrived the package looked like it had been mauled by a bear. My assistant initially threw it away thinking it had already been torn open by me!

    On a more recent note I went with my family to St Petersburg and Moscow (via high speed train) during a cruise last summer. There were no visa requirements if you booked through and stayed with a guide during your time in the country. It was a bit of a pain to be on a short leash but saved several thousand dollars for our group, well worth the cost of the private guide/translator we booked to go with us. For what it’s worth our guide Alex was a young gay man and introduced us to his partner over lunch in Moscow. He didn’t seem entirely comfortable, but then again no one in Moscow seemed particularly comfortable…

  39. I think there is also a back door method if you enter through Finland. Not sure, though. But that is what I heard.

  40. I spoke to Allied about Russia a while back when applying for my Chinese visa. They mentioned that the normal visa has the dates and locations you can visit on the visa and that the 3-year visa is only valid for Moscow and St. Petersburg. Further, visiting any cities other than those specified on your visa would require having the visa amended. Did you get the 3-year? What does it say?

  41. gotravelrussia or something like that provides an invitation letter for a fee. it’s simple u can stay anywhere after that or if you stay at a hotel no problem. I did that when I was in Russia for 3 weeks in 2010. and unless you are a flaming queen and go around displaying your gayness you would have no problems in Russia. I’m gay not had an issue. Use uberblack, I used private car services at the time. I don’t roam the streets like a homeless person so I didn’t have issues.

  42. Credit wins the Post of the Day prize! Finally, after all that trolling, Credit hits one out of the park.

    Well done indeed, and it’s nice to see a perennial contender succeed at last.

  43. Ben,

    I’m curious why you don’t have a 2nd US Passport. They’re fairly straight forward to obtain, although their expiration is shorter than a standard passport.

    If you had a back-up passport, you could send the other passport to the Visa service, and still be able to continue your travels in and out of the US with your back-up passport.

  44. My 3 adult children and I travelled to Moscow last summer and endured the painful visa process. It was a tedious, probing, illogical process. The syntax used on the questionnaire made it difficult to answer. Please know I am an attorney and have a perfect record submitting 501c3 applications to the IRS for clients. I know how to complete an application. We didn’t use a handler; my son delivered all 4 apps in person to the NYC agency. He said it was painless and took less than 15 minutes.

    We stayed at the St Regis on c/p. My daughter speaks some Russian and my children are of Slavic descent. We enjoyed our visit immensely, but it is NOT an easy country to visit due to language barriers and lack of a strong tourism industry. Russia is “not ready for prime time.” Service at the St Regis was spotty, but our butler was amazing.

    Overall, we felt very safe in Moscow. We traveled into the outlying neighborhoods via subway and walked the Volga at night. Our only harrowing experience was using their version of Uber. Don’t. Just don’t. Stick with the overpriced hotel car.

    We saw young gay men in Russia. Locals didn’t appear to care. We decided it’s primarily a Putin problem.

    Enjoy. We also plan to return on our 3 year visa. It was too much trouble for only one use.

  45. So the Russian tourist visa is $33 more than what the US charges for tourist visas for visitors from quite a few countries. Isn’t that a tad outrageous then?

  46. “list all professional, civil and charity organizations which you are/were a member of or cooperate with”.
    Every time I apply for a U.S. visa, I have to answer exactly the same question. Another one is: Do you intend to enter the United States to engage in prostitution?
    That’s something my clients – and I do work a lot with U.S. business and student visas – smile at.

    Anyway, Russia is a truly fascinating destination and you will have a lot of fun. Enjoy!

  47. @Lucky
    According to this site (http://www.worldtrip.de/Weltreise/Visa/visum-frage.html [Visum für ein Ausland in einem anderen Ausland besorgen?]) it is possible to get a Visa in a foreign country for another foreign country, as long as they have a consulate or an embassy in the country you are in.

    By the way – a second German passport is valid for six years.

  48. How do you know that the edits made any difference, and were not just for show to justify the fee (i.e. everyone’s application gets some edits, no matter what)? I’d absolutely do this if I were running such a “service”.

  49. @ Tony — I agree US visa fees are ridiculously expensive. That doesn’t make Russian visas any less expensive, though. They’re all expensive!!

  50. We had an invitation letter from the St Regis, where I booked on c/p. However my request for the letter goofed up our res for 2 rooms and it could never be sorted out until arrival. In fact, the hotel cancelled one room. Even though I called the hotel and SPG desk before departure it was impossible to reinstate the room properly on my account.

    My daughter arrived before rhe rest of us. She paid $20 for an “official letter” off the net. Money well spent, IMO.

  51. As to the lgbt issue (aka “800 pound gorilla in the room”), Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, had an excellent post following the horror in Orlando, which is well worth reading and demonstrates his commitment to the lgbt community. Here’s a link: “Compassion in the Wake of the Orlando Crisis and My Thoughts on LGBT Rights”:

    Read more: http://thepointsguy.com/2016/06/compassion-in-the-wake-of-orlando-crisis-and-thoughts-on-lgbt-rights/#ixzz4C9T5CsXP

  52. Prepared to get stuck in the airport for “security check” even though you have full legal documents. Average stuck time is 2 hours.

  53. I want to second Howard’s comment above: Getting a second (and for some people, a third) U.S. Passport is the best solution for a frequent international traveler.

  54. If you would need to apply for an US Visa you could use the term painful. Russian visa is straight forward compared to that. For reference I’m talking as well about a simple tourist/business visa

  55. If you waited until a country was safe to go to you’d never travel (just got back from 6 weeks in the GCC’s including Saudi & Kuwait and added on Iran for “fun”). Had an amazing time and felt safe and well treated everywhere we went. In fact, we felt the least safe in Heathrow on our way home.
    Have a great time in Russia, enjoy the White Nights. Next trip to Russia try Ulan Ude, Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. You will love it!

  56. Lucky, thanks for this post. We are looking to travel to Russia about this time in 2017. You and your readers perspectives are most helpful. We always use a travel agent, and a visa specialist for anything that looks complex or is going to take time. I also share your challenge at filling in complex forms. My day job requires complex conceptual thinking, but my brain revolts at forms, where there always seem to be multiple possible answers when only one is required.

    We have nabbed Qantas 1st class seats between SYD and London on points. Now looking at return and are tossing up between Etihad, Qatar and Singapore. What would be your preference?

  57. You guys are fooling yourselves if you think the FAPSI are not as competent as our own NSA and won’t find omissions on your visa requests.

  58. I found the application to be quite straightforward, other than the requirement to list all countries visited in 10 years, including dates ( that would have been hundreds of entries given my travel pattern). In the end I just listed a few and hoped for the best and still got the visa no problem ( although for the exact dates of travel, no flexibility).
    There is little overt anti-western sentiment in Russia, certainly none directed at individuals, at least in my observation ( contrast previous visit c1973 and a strip search at the Polish border, quite scary).

  59. Congrats Ben, I’m happy to know you’ll finally visit the largest country on earth! You will have fun exploring the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, it’s palaces & museums & probably experience their incredible ‘white nights’ when it only gets dark for a few hours at night & that’s it.

    Moscow is fascinatingly grand in history & the arts. Make sure you ride the subway so you may see amazing decor & sizes. Some were used as bomb shelters during WW2. In the end it’s worth the small hassle to get to discover such a proud nation. So enjoy the journey! Now, on my last trip to Moscow back in September, I used my Brazilian passport for a visa-free entry!

    FYI @Guilherme a Brazilian passport opens many doors to places that my American one would require a visa to. So, I’m proud of having it & of my heritage, besides I enjoy the many friendly smiles I get when I present it for inspection!

  60. Be accurate on your visa applications, especially with regards to travels. My dad once told me (he is a retired diplomat) that it’s actually not very difficult to trace travel histories and verify dates for applicants now a days. This is especially true within the NATO countries and many countries across Asia which have very good relations and ties for data sharing between immigration authorities.

  61. …course the only time this would be a concern is if the name pops up on the homeland securities’ database or Interpol’s database…in the case of someone applying for a visa to the US for instance. I suspect that the same logic would apply. Otherwise it would be impossible to process the hundreds of visa applications an embassy or consulate may receive daily.

  62. I am an American expat living in Moscow the past 6 years. Immigration and customs screening at the airports usually takes 30-45 minutes depending on how many flights arrive. Usually the only question I am asked at immigration is where did I fly in from. Exit customs through the GREEN lane if you have nothing to declare. There are X-ray machines there but I never stop, just walk past. If they want to X-ray they will stop you

    BEWARE. YOU WILL BE GIVEN A SMALL EXIT DOCUMENT BY IMMIGRATION. SIGN IT AND DO NOT LOSE IT. IT MUST BE RETURNED AT PASSPORT CONTROL WHEN LEAVING RUSSIA.

    There will be people hustling taxis in the arrival hall. I never use them. I go to the curb and always agree on the fare before getting in.

    Taking Aeroexpress to city center is cheapest and fastest way. Traffic is crazy. Follow signs to station. Cost about 350 rubles one way. Pay before you get on and save your ticket as you may need it to exit on arrival

    Moscow Metro is cheap and efficient. About 50 rubles per trip.

    The HOHO bus gives you a city tour and a river tour combined. Changing of the guard at Kremlin is on the hour. Recommended.

    Have a great trip.

  63. I was in Moscow 2 months ago and had a fantastic time. I had not been there in 5 years and was a little nervous on how the local people’s attitude towards Americans would be. I can say that my experience was fantastic. Since my last visit, people’s English had improved as had customer service. I was amazed at how many American fast food franchises are around. I even walked by a Krispy Kreme donut shop a short distance away from GUM and Red Square. My recommendation is if you are flying into Domodedovo is to use the Uber black car service as it was fantastic and relatively cheap. $35 for a one way trip in a night car, in this case BMW M5. Traffic can be bad so the extra comfort is worth it.

  64. Why would someone go to the expense of a visa and the time to fly to St Petersburg and stay at a Marriott Courtyard. That’s not traveling, that’s touristing

  65. MB, because that’s what most people want to do, be tourists. There is nothing bad about that and it’s getting tiring to see all the travel hipsters pretend that it is. When we travel to other countries we want to see the sights, walk around the pretty areas and try some interesting food. The hotel is not that important besides being in a convenient place, which the Marriott is. St. Petersburg is beautiful and interesting if you stay in the historical part of the city. Unless you have a giant love of Soviet Architecture the rest of the city is boring.

  66. @ Joey, had to laugh. I applied for Russian visa from their embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan. Must be a common thing b’cos I had to line up outside.: one person in, one out. Mind you there were about 20 people in the line and it was -30degC outside plus windchill. Almost died during the 60min wait.. No other embassy i have been to does this.

    Lucky, you must try the caviar. You should also go to White Rabbit restaurant in Moscow as per my post few months ago. One last tip. Don’t get stranded on one of the islands in SPB when the drawbridges go up late at night or you’ll be stranded

  67. Visa price is high coz it is reciprocal, as USA sets high prices for Russia 🙂

    Are you going to Saint-Petersburg? I am there in July/August will be happy to show around.

  68. All of this – the cost, the requirements to list all the countries you visited in the past 10 years – are reciprocal for US passport holders. This is exactly what the US asks of Russians who want to visit. Just use your German passport – the cost is capped at 60 euros, IIRC, and you don’t have that much paperwork.

  69. Hey Lucky,
    How did you figure out a password that they would accept for filling out your Visa application. Everyone of my passwords were rejected saying they needed a numeric symbol and an alphabetical symbol. What would a alphabetical symbol on your keyboard be? Would appreciate any help on this issue.

  70. It would be any letter in the alphabet so your password would look something like this as an example

    bob1963

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