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Old 10-07-2019, 12:38 PM   #1
GP_Matt
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Default Visa Advice for Russia Travel

Hey, tapping the brain trust to see if anyone has recently applied for a Russian Tourist Visa. There are online services that will take your application to the embassy but they charge at least $150 per piece for shipping and their effort on top of the $150 that the embassy charges. As there are five of us I was hoping to avoid dipping too deep into the vodka fund.

Any tips for St. Petersburg over New Years Eve are welcome as well.

Thanks
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Old 10-07-2019, 12:41 PM   #2
I_H8_Crawford
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My sister just did a trip to Russia last month.

She applied for the Visa in early August I believe, and received it mid-Sept.

AFAIK she didnt pay any extra special fees above the embassy charge, just did it all herself.
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Old 10-07-2019, 12:44 PM   #3
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My sister just did a trip to Russia last month.

She applied for the Visa in early August I believe, and received it mid-Sept.

AFAIK she didnt pay any extra special fees above the embassy charge, just did it all herself.
Do you know if she applied in person? The embassy doesn't seem to want mailed applications.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:13 PM   #4
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Russian Consulate in Canada sub'd all of their visa vetting and processing to a third-party contractor some time ago. It is exclusive (meaning that the Consulate would not process regular visa applications themselves anymore). And yes, the agency does charge a processing fee for the service in addition to the normal consulate visa fee. I had to pay it a few years ago when I went to St.Petersburg for a conference. You get to them online through a direct link at the consulate page. So, it may appear that it's the consulate themselves processing a visa, bit it's not. It's a third-party.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:21 PM   #5
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I obtained a 30 day visa last year through the travel company I used. They sent me the form, checked if I filled it in properly, and then I had to courier it to an agency in New York.

Whole process cost about $150 CAD and that included sending my visa back to me via courier.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:31 PM   #6
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Thanks guys, I was hoping for a cheaper way but it looks like $1500 for five visas.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:32 PM   #7
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Make sure you take a burner. Pretty sure your phone is compromised the second you walk into a Russian airport.
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:01 PM   #8
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Make sure you take a burner. Pretty sure your phone is compromised the second you walk into a Russian airport.
Am I safe if I take a train? We are coming in from Helsinki.
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:25 PM   #9
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Am I safe if I take a train? We are coming in from Helsinki.
How are you coming in from Helsinki? If you are coming in via a cruise boat, you can visit St. Petersburg for 3 days without a visa. If you are staying longer and coming in on your own transportation, you need to get a visa.

Trains are safe. I took one all the way from Moscow to Vladivostok.
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Old 10-07-2019, 03:48 PM   #10
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How are you coming in from Helsinki? If you are coming in via a cruise boat, you can visit St. Petersburg for 3 days without a visa. If you are staying longer and coming in on your own transportation, you need to get a visa.

Trains are safe. I took one all the way from Moscow to Vladivostok.
Taking the train and staying for a week. I took the overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg a number of years ago and it was really simple. Would love to ride all the way to Vladivostok some day.
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:03 PM   #11
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How are you coming in from Helsinki? If you are coming in via a cruise boat, you can visit St. Petersburg for 3 days without a visa. If you are staying longer and coming in on your own transportation, you need to get a visa.

Trains are safe. I took one all the way from Moscow to Vladivostok.
Cool - thanks - good to know. I was just about to start inquiring about this - we are doing a Baltic cruise in May.
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:08 PM   #12
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Taking the train and staying for a week. I took the overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg a number of years ago and it was really simple. Would love to ride all the way to Vladivostok some day.
Take a river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow...you see more than on the train and you stop in little towns along the way.
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:17 PM   #13
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Am I safe if I take a train? We are coming in from Helsinki.

Totally. Trains with sleeping cars are pretty cool, actually. St.Petersburg is a beautiful city, architecturally. Compared to Moscow, it is quieter and more stately. Moscow City Centre is busy as hell, hectic, full of traffic in all directions at all times. People are, in general, nicer and more polite in St. Petersburg, as they regard it as Russia's cultural capital. Make sure to visit Hermitage Museum.

But be warned, St.Petersburg can be really miserable in winter - humid, cold, windy, slushy. Pack a warm scarf, mittens and hat; this is very different from Alberta dry cold.

Also, PM Pointman - he lives in Moscow, I believe. Perhaps, you guys can connect over there. It's always easier to get by and see the city with a local; especially, a Flames fan.
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Old 10-08-2019, 04:57 AM   #14
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How are you coming in from Helsinki? If you are coming in via a cruise boat, you can visit St. Petersburg for 3 days without a visa. If you are staying longer and coming in on your own transportation, you need to get a visa.

Trains are safe. I took one all the way from Moscow to Vladivostok.
I believe this is only true if you're disembarking on one of the ship's planned tours. If you want to explore on your own without a guide, I think you still need a visa. I could be wrong, but a heads-up to look into it.
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Old 10-08-2019, 09:37 AM   #15
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I believe this is only true if you're disembarking on one of the ship's planned tours. If you want to explore on your own without a guide, I think you still need a visa. I could be wrong, but a heads-up to look into it.
You need a planned tour of some kind or your own visa. You can book privately for way less than through the ship and still get a visa waiver. I did this for a 2 day stay a few years ago. Just use one of the tour companies other people from your ship are going on - you can often get a bulk price. Meet up on cruise critic.

We never do group tours anywhere, but the savings on visas were so significant in St Petersburg that it made sense.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:30 AM   #16
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Cool - thanks - good to know. I was just about to start inquiring about this - we are doing a Baltic cruise in May.
When we went, you were limited to going in tours offered by the cruise line. In other words, you couldn’t roam freely about St. Petersburg. Thus no visa required I guess.
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Old 10-08-2019, 12:49 PM   #17
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When we went, you were limited to going in tours offered by the cruise line. In other words, you couldn’t roam freely about St. Petersburg. Thus no visa required I guess.
The cruise line will tell you this to try and push their tours, but if you have a pre-arranged tour with a licensed operator that works as well. It also saved us hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and we had a smaller group, so got to see more stuff.
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Old 10-08-2019, 01:10 PM   #18
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The cruise line will tell you this to try and push their tours, but if you have a pre-arranged tour with a licensed operator that works as well. It also saved us hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and we had a smaller group, so got to see more stuff.
Definitely avoid the cruise line's tours whenever possible, but my point was you can't leave the ship and explore on your own. You have to be part of a tour group to avoid getting a visa.

When we went, the private tours were not yet an option IIRC. But now as I understand it, you can do those and you may get a little free time to roam but you're still generally herded around. I just can't stand that. We went to the Winter Palace which was beautiful but the crowds and the lines were awful.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:25 PM   #19
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Definitely avoid the cruise line's tours whenever possible, but my point was you can't leave the ship and explore on your own. You have to be part of a tour group to avoid getting a visa.

When we went, the private tours were not yet an option IIRC. But now as I understand it, you can do those and you may get a little free time to roam but you're still generally herded around. I just can't stand that. We went to the Winter Palace which was beautiful but the crowds and the lines were awful.
I agree that tours are generally speaking terrible. We almost never do them anywhere. For us, the savings on the visa were material enough that we were willing to do a tour. The thing I liked about doing it privately vs through the ship (other than the huge savings) was the smaller group size.

We had about 12 people in a van as opposed to 60 people on a coach bus. Tours move at the pace of the slowest person in the group, so a smaller group is way better imo.
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