Visiting Russia as a foreign tourist

Thanks in great part to it hosting many tremendous sporting tournaments recently, Russia has become an even more sought-after tourist destination. One region, in particular, has emerged as a tourist hotspot and that’s Russia’s cities and towns that sit on the northeast coastline of the Black Sea.

However, going to Russia as a foreign tourist isn’t as simple as simply showing your passport at Vnukovo International Airport: you’ll need to prepare for your trip by attaining a visa. As well as this, there are many other aspects that you’ll want to consider, such as your method of transport for getting around the vast nation of Russia.

How to get a visa for Russia

A Russian visa is simply an authorisation card that allows citizens of foreign nations to enter Russia. For citizens of some countries, such as the Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Belarus, a visa is not necessary to enter Russia, but for much of Western Europe, a visa is required.

As a tourist, you will need to apply for a tourist visa, which grants you access to Russia for up to 30 days if your stay is for the purpose of tourism. You will also need to receive a letter of invitation or visa support. The process can differ from nation to nation, but in general, you can apply for your visa online, likely via the Russia Visa Application Centre, but it is mandatory to then visit the application centre to submit the documentation in person due to the need for fingerprinting.

Depending on which nation that you’re applying for a Russian visa from, the cost of doing so may vary. When applying from the UK, the price breakdown is as follows:

  • Visa processing fee (consular taxes): £70 for a single entry ordinary visa processed in five working days, or £141 for an expedited visa that’s processed in one day.
  • Service charge: £38.40 per person for ordinary applications, £45.60 per person for expedited applications.
  • Cost of the letter of invitation or visa support: £14.90 if done through Russia Support, but can cost more through other entities.
  • Cost of having your passport posted back to you by the Embassy of Russian Federation: £9.80.

You’ll want to begin the process of applying for your visa at least four weeks in advance due to the documentation that you need to collect as well as the processing times. Here’s what you’ll need when you apply for your visa:

  • Valid passport with a minimum of six months left until its expiry date.
  • Have a planned itinerary of dates which detail the cities that you’ll be visiting, if you’ll be making multiple entries into Russia, and preferably your accommodation – such as a hotel.
  • Apply for visa support or a letter of invitation. These must be issued by a citizen of Russia, a Russian hotel, or a Russian company. Hotels often issue visa supports when you book, but you can acquire a letter of invitation from a number of Russian services, such as Russia Support.
  • Once you have the above documentation and information, you can proceed to fill out the visa application form online.
  • After completing the visa form, you’ll need to print it, attach a 2”x2” photo of yourself, and sign the form.
  • If you are unemployed or self-employed, you will need to provide bank statements from the last three months which show that you can maintain a minimum balance of £100 per day for the same period of time as the length of your trip to Russia.
  • Next, you take everything to the Visa Application Centre to apply in person. Once you have submitted the documentation, you can track your application’s processing online and find out the results of your application about five working days later.

Travel to and around Russia

Russia is the largest country in the world, stretching through some of the coldest parts of northern Asia and Europe. Luckily for those looking for a trip to the Black Sea, it’s some of the warmer, more southern parts of Russia that reside on the sea’s north-eastern coastline.

The nation is very well connected by railways, boasting the third-largest railway network in the world which includes some rapid-transit systems. There are many Russian airports in and around the cities and resort towns that sit on the Black Sea, so your best choice is most likely the closest airport to where you’re staying.

Russia is a grand nation to visit and certainly worth going through the now relatively streamlined process of acquiring a visa.

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