How to apply for a tourist visa to Russia

 

 

 

Going to Russia? Here’s what you need to do to get a visa. There are three stages when it comes to Russian tourist visas.

You’ll need to:

1. Obtain an invitation letter

2. Submit the visa application

3. Register your visa.

 

1. Get your invitation letter (Do this a month before departing)

You will need an ‘invitation letter’, which is essentially a document from a Russian organisation or company stating that you’ll be entering Russia on their invitation. You can obtain invitation letters from either a Russian travel company or your hotel, provided that they are officially accredited and recognised by the Russian Ministry of Tourism (you will need to ask them if they are authorised to issue you an official tourist invitation).

If your hotel cannot issue invitation letters, ask your local travel agent if they can help, otherwise visit the Real Russia website here, the same company I used for my Trans-Siberian trip. Their office is in London so they speak English, but they have contacts in major cities in Russia. Click on the service that you require-  ‘Single Entry’ or ‘Double Entry’. Fill up the form, send them the money (it’s a trustworthy company and very efficient), and they will email you a document within minutes. This is your invitation letter, so print it out and keep it.

**Malaysian applicants who would rather not deal with an overseas-based company like I did can contact the KL-based Russian Visa Centre via their website here. The Russian Visa Centre can provide you with visa invitation letters as well as assist with your visa application with the Russian Embassy. Note that this is merely a suggestion, not a recommendation, because I’ve never dealt with the company before. All the information on fees and types of visas are in the link.

2. Submit your visa application 

First of all, you’ll need the visa application form. For those applying for the visa in Malaysia, this is the link to the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. An updated list on the necessary documents for tourist visas can be viewed here, while information on current visa fees for Malaysians are here.

**Important: The Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has introduced a new rule (effective February 9, 2015) with regard to visa applications: the embassy will now only accept electronic versions of visa application forms completed and printed from this link. Handwritten forms will no longer be accepted.

For Malaysians who won’t be applying for the visa in Malaysia, you’ll need to locate the Russian Embassy for the country you’re in.

**Malaysians who are using the services of the Russian Visa Centre (above) for both the visa invitation letters and the visa application need not get in touch with the Russian Embassy.

3. Visa registration

This final stage is completed after you arrive in Russia and can be done by your hotel. Your Russian visa must be registered within seven working days of your arrival (excluding weekends and official holidays).  Make sure you read all about visa registration here.

If you’re going to be travelling for several weeks in Russia like I was, you may not need or be able to register your visa immediately upon arrival.  Visa registration costs differ from city to city; for some reason, I found that registration was cheaper the farther east I went. During the time of my visit, registering a visa on Olkhon Island or in Ulan-Ude, was cheaper than in Moscow or St Petersburg. As there was no way for me to register my visa while I was on board the train, I was only able to to do so in Irkutsk, days after I arrived in St Petersburg on a Saturday.

 

Once you’ve registered your visa, nothing else is required of you; end of story.

The visa process is a little tedious but when you get to Russia, you’ll see that it’s a beautiful and fascinating country, and that the hassle was worth it.

© 2013 – 2016, Anis. All rights reserved.

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46 Responses

  1. Julian says:

    Hi Anis,

    Thank you for maintaining this blog. Beautiful collection of photography and great writings! I see that this post is about a year old now, so I’m not sure if my comment still reaches you.

    I am Malaysian as well (and a rail fan!). Would appreciate some input from a fellow experienced traveller.

    1) How much was the Russian visa fee (in MYR) at the time of your visit? As I understand, Russia does not issue double-entry visa for the purpose of travel.

    2) Is the Visa Registration done at the land border/ airport (I’ll be arriving in Moscow by flight)? How much am I expected to pay if I register my visa in Moscow?

    3) Does it matter if I obtain my invitation letter from “Real Russia” but will ultimately be staying in Backpacker’s hostels?

    4) Also, what place do you recommend to stay?
    I am a solo male traveller. What I usually do is look for the cheapest & highest rated accommodation on Hostelworld. No luck with couchsurfing yet.

    Regards & happy travels 🙂

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi Julian,
      Thanks for dropping by, it’s always nice to meet another rail fan!

      I’ve been really ill for the past two days, so I haven’t been checking my blog. To answer your questions:
      1-Russia does issue double entry visas, and the fees are all here in the link I mentioned in the post: http://www.malaysia.mid.ru/tariffs_e.html.

      2- No, visa registration isn’t done at the border, or immediately upon entry. As stated in the Real Russia website, visitors have seven working days from arrival to register your visa, where practicable. This means that if you arrive in Moscow on a Saturday evening and leave on Monday morning to take a train to Irkutsk (so depending on how fast the train is, you should be arriving on Wednesday or Thursday), you’re only expected to register your visa in Irkutsk. As to how much it would be to register in Moscow- I have no idea, but websites estimate it to be around 750-1,000 Roubles.

      3-No, it doesn’t matter at all where you stay. I stayed at hostels as well. Your hostel will be able to help you with visa registration.

      4- I would recommend Soul Kitchen Hostel in St Petersburg (if you’re going); Moscow- I had already visited on a working trip earlier, so I didn’t stay this time; Irkutsk- Baikaler Hostel; Olkhon Island- Nikita’s Homestead and Ulan-Ude: Ulan Ude Traveller’s House. I usually cross-refer accommodation listings on a few websites, such as Hostelworld,Hostelbookers,Tripadvisor and at the hostel’s website itself. If I find consistently good recent reviews at all three or four websites, then I choose that place.

      I hope that helps. Good luck and all the best!

  2. Kurt says:

    Hi Anis, regarding your answer to Julian, you said “Your hostel will be able to help you with visa registration.”, so that’s mean they will issue an invitation letter for us? I get to Moscow by Train and will leave Moscow by flight. So, some people said that the Russian Embassy in KL wants to know when is your arrival & departure from Moscow for smooth Visa process. Is that true?

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi Kurt,

      1. On visa registration- The situation is like this: Any hostel in Russia can register your visa if they want to, but if your hostel has already issued you an invitation letter, then they should be open to going a step further with registration. Which means that if you want to make things easier for yourself, when you’re about to book accommodation, ask your hostel whether they can issue an invitation letter and confirm that they can register your visa.

      Like I mentioned earlier, I obtained my invitation letter from Real Russia, landed in St Petersburg, but only registered my visa with my hostel in Irkutsk. *Please check registration deadlines in Russia (it should be on the Real Russia website). When I was there, we had seven working days from arrival but it could be different now.

      The main thing is, if possible, to stay in a hostel that will issue you an invitation letter- ask them at the start about this. If you can’t find a hostel that can issue you an invite, your options are to go through Real Russia, or through an established Malaysian travel agency that runs packages in Russia. If they have packages in Russia, chances are their contacts can help with invitation letters.

      2. Yes, absolutely true. They have to see your departure date so that they can issue a visa for the number of days that you’ll be in their country.

      I hope that helps. Tell me if I’ve answered your questions.

  3. jason says:

    hi,
    lets say i get invitation letter and fill up the visa registration form, do i need to submit all document on my own at the russian embassay or i can have any representative for doing so?

    thanks for your answer.

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi Jason,
      I don’t think there’ll be an issue if you appoint a representative to submit the forms, you probably just have to make sure that all the documents are in order and that your rep knows what to say if the embassy has any questions.

      I hope that helps.

      Anis

  4. radhi says:

    Hi,
    I am going to russia to attend my relative’s graduation on june end. I will be staying at his place, not a hotel. How do i register the visa once i arrive? And how do i apply the Visa, is it i have to apply at their embassy or just apply online? Thank you. First time going to russia.

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi Radhi,
      I’ve explained everything in the post.
      For registration: Refer to no.3 in my post and open the link to RealRussia. Read further down the page and go to the box titled: ‘OK, so now I’m worried, what should I do?’. The second link under that title is relevant to you. Note that the tourist visa registration service is only available if you ask RR to provide the visa support document.

      As for the visa application: it’s all in nos. 1 and 2 in my post. No online applications.

      Good luck!

  5. radhi says:

    hi,
    can this agent be trusted for visa application:
    https://www.russianvisa.my

    • Anis Anis says:

      Dear Radhi,

      I’ve never heard of this visa agent before, so I can’t make any recommendations. You might want to do an online search on this company and see whether you can find any reviews on them.

  6. Smile So says:

    I will be going to China this 27th May. Then into Mongolia. Is it possible for me to get or to apply a Russian Visa while in Mongolia? Thanks for your prompt reply.

  7. iamaeroair says:

    Hi Anis,
    I was wondering will it be an issue if the dates on my invitation letter doesn’t tally with the dates on my visa application? For example, my invitation letter stated one extra day.

    Best regards.

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi there,
      I doubt that that’ll be a problem as long as your visa application is accompanied by your invitation letter and clear details about your entry and exit dates for Russia. The duration of your visa will be determined by the dates on which you’ll be arriving and departing. The letter is just to show the embassy that you have a ‘reason’ for entering Russia, so it’s okay if the dates don’t tally. Just make sure that your application corresponds with your arrival and exit dates.

      Hope that helps 🙂

      • iamaeroair says:

        Thanks Anis!

        Was kinda worried at first because my invitation is stated a day earlier, and I already paid for it. haha :p
        Hope everything goes well with my visa application 🙂

        Best Regards.

  8. Aly says:

    Hi Anis. I just wanna ask how did you buy the trans-siberian train ticket (was it an e-ticket or do i need to collect it myself or have it posted)? i’m planning to do a trip from KL-Thailand-Laos-Vietnam-China-Mongolia-Russia-UK (if I can somehow settle all the visas). Would you recommend doing it this route (KL-UK) or the opposite route ie UK-KL?

    Thank you.
    Aly

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi Aly,

      Thanks for dropping by! There are two ways of buying the tickets- online or in person at the stations. I bought my first two tickets (St Petersburg-Moscow and Moscow-Irkutsk) online via http://www.realrussia.co.uk. When you buy online, you get a receipt and a reference number. You’ll need to print out the receipt and bring it to any train station in Russia where they’ll give you the actual ticket. As for the journeys after Irkutsk, I went to the train stations to buy tickets. I would suggest you at least buy the ticket for the first train journey in advance (ie. online) and to sort out the later journeys after you arrive, as you go along. The main thing about doing the Trans-Siberian is that you need to be flexible and not rush your way through. Don’t worry about buying tickets, if you need help, ask someone from your hostel to write your instructions down on a piece of paper and bring that to the ticket counter.

      As for your route- honestly speaking, the route is up to you. The only thing which might determine your starting point is the weather or seasons you’ll be travelling through. If you start in KL and move northwards, remember that by the time you reach Mongolia, you could be facing cold weather, depending on when you begin your journey. Keep the seasons in mind and ask yourself if you’d rather deal with the cold early on in your journey or at the end. Whatever your choice, you’ll need to bring layers and probably different shoes for the seasons you’ll be passing through. I started in Russia and worked my way down, so I faced the cold early on and when it got warmer as I went south, simply shipped my jackets and thermals back home from Shanghai. I hope that helps. Email me if you have any further questions 🙂

  9. Mohammad Hanif says:

    Hi,
    I am Malaysian too. The link u post abt fees, its not valid anymore. Can i know how much visa fees for Malaysian from KL. I plan to visit my gf in kazan, russia. She is Turkish but currently study in Kazan University. Plz help me! Thanks Alot

    • Anis Anis says:

      Dear Hanif,
      I am overseas at the moment and have little access to the internet so I’m unable to search for you. Why don’t you give the Russian embassy a call to find out? You’ll see the phone number on their website.

  10. Mohammad Hanif says:

    Salam,
    I am Hanif from KL, and I am 24. My Hobby same as you, travelling. Seem U traveling many countries. I have visit about 10 countries. But this time planing to go Kazan, Russian. This is first time to Russia. I think procedure to Russia different to most of countries i went to. So i need ur help, How i can apply double entry visa? Fees? And How about invitation letter? Can i ask my gf to send me invitation letter? Need ur advice. I planing to go in february…. Ticket Planing to buy by this month. Anyways Selamat Hari raya

    • Anis Anis says:

      Dear Hanif,
      To answer your question on double entry visas, you can do two things- 1) Look at the link to realrussia.co.uk. which I included in my post (if you can’t find it: http://realrussia.co.uk/Visas/Russian/Applying#tourist) and 2) Give the embassy in KL a call to find out more about the latest visa charges. Thanks for alerting me about the bad link, I’ll have to sort that out when I have better internet connection.

      As regards invitation letters from private individuals for the purposes of a tourist visa- I’ve never relied on individuals for invitation letters, but I understand that the procedure will be different and much lengthier. That same person- in this case, your girlfriend- will have to register herself with the Visa department at the local police station and when she registers your visa after you arrive, she’ll have to go back to them to complete the registration, so it can turn out to be a pretty tedious process for the both of you. Also, I’m not sure if foreign nationals such as your girlfriend can actually invite visitors to Russia. A double entry tourist visa appears to be the most straightforward visa for you.

      You’ve still got a long way to go if you’re going in February. Are you sure you want to buy your flight/train tickets this early? All the best though, and Selamat Hari Raya :).

      • Mohammad Hanif says:

        Hi. Thanks For Fast Feedback. Yes Planing to go in February, Aldy book vietnam airlines, because it cheaper than others. Yes I will contact Russian Embassy soon. And invitation letter i will follow ur advice. Yes I think my gf can’t do it but i have russian friend there too. but i dont want bother them, so better to settle myself thru online. My gf told me in feb weather is very cold so i am worrying abt it too. Haha. Anyways u r lucky, all the time travel. Hope someday i will be like u too. Thanks
        regard
        Hanif

        • Anis Anis says:

          Yes, February will be cold, unfortunately. Feel free to send me a message/an email (go to my Contact page on this blog) if you have any other questions. All the best.
          p/s: I don’t travel all the time, I stay at home too!!

        • Mohammad Hanif says:

          Yes. I planing to go early march now. better than feb. I just contact Russian Embassy in KL, and i told them i want go russia in Feb/March, the staff is very rude and only answer me came only in January. I just need some info from them, but Zzzz…..I planing to go Germany-Holland too. So i need double entry visa as well. Or russian only give single visa? Anyways Actually what is Invitation Letter, I go other countries they never ask me. I have to book hotel as well, hotel that recognize by Russian Govt? Wow No…. I planing to stay in cheap budget hotel… Plz advice….

        • Anis Anis says:

          Hi Hanif,
          Please look at all the links to realrussia.co.uk that I’ve posted. If you go through them, you’ll see that there are such things as double-entry visas. As for invitation letters, I have mentioned them more than once in my post and in the comments above.

      • Mohammad Hanif says:

        Hi, Thanks a lot. Now i start preparing for my visa. Will go to embassy in early january. Do you have any idea how much cost single entry or double entry visa fees? and how much invitation letters? And need to book hotel, i have visit many countries but never book hotel because i have friend there. Russia also got my ex classmate who r studying there…..

  11. e says:

    Hi Anis, Thank You for the info. However, does my name in the Invitation letter need to be same as my passport. Example : [name edited]. Do I need to write down as my full name as per passport or I can just fill as [edited]. This same goes to filling up the application form online in russian website? I afraid if the name doesn’t same as per my passport, they would reject my visa application. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank You,

    • Anis Anis says:

      1. Your name in the invitation letter has to be exactly the same as your passport, but this is not something you need to worry about- you don’t have to draft or write anything for this letter, the agent/hotel/hostel issuing to you will know how to word it. All you need to do is provide them with your particulars, a copy of your passport page, and they will do the rest.
      2. If you take a look at the visa application form (there’s a link in the post above), you’ll see that the form requires you to fill up your name in a particular sequence. Follow that sequence, and include the binti.

  12. Michele says:

    Hi Anis
    Im from Johor. Is there any travel agent you knw that can help to do visa application + invitation letter. Please advise

    • Anis Anis says:

      I don’t know of any agents in Johor who can do this but the Russian Visa Centre in KL: https://www.russianvisa.my can help. The link is also in my post above. I’ve never dealt with them though, so I can’t tell you if they’re efficient or otherwise. Bear in mind that their charges are higher than if you were to deal with the Russian Embassy yourself, although of course having someone do everything for you is more convenient.

  13. Chong says:

    Hi Anis,

    How long its take to be issued with the Visa after submission. I have been told its take 1 month

  14. Michael says:

    Hi Anis,

    Just curious to ask if my Invitation letter from the hotel (dated 5th to 8th) needs to be tally with my whole trip (5th – 22nd September) or I need to have invite from each and every hotel?

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi Michael, you’ll only need one invitation letter for the whole duration of your stay in Russia (ie. from entry date to departure date), but issued by your first hostel/hotel, even though you’ll only be staying there for the first few days. Hope that helps.

  15. ChingAik says:

    Hi Anis,

    I found your website via Google search about “How to apply Russia Visa”.
    I’ve a few question hope can have your help 🙂
    i) Generally how long does it takes to get the Visa after submit application?
    ii) Does the metro/train station has English signboard?

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi ChingAik,
      Generally, as I’ve mentioned somewhere in my post or in the comments, it doesn’t take too long-at the most two weeks. I received my own visa within a week, but that was in late August-early September. This is mid June, which I’ve been told is peak period for travel to Russia, and the embassy has stated on its website that it will require up to 20 working days to process visa applications. As for signboards in the metro and train stations- the names of the stops in the stations themselves and in most metro maps will be in Roman alphabets, but don’t expect to see too many English signboards. Bear in mind that I took my trip in 2012 so things may have changed, but this is not something I know for sure. Good luck.

      • ChingAik says:

        Hi Anis, thank you for the detail information, I’ve submitted my application and waiting to collect in 2 weeks time 🙂

  16. Samantha says:

    Hello, Anis. Thank you so much for this write up. It is extremely helpful as I will be travelling the TSR in December. A question, if I may; did you also have to include a copy of your train tickets and submit proof of onward travel i.e. train ticket exiting the country? I have only purchased a train ticket entering the country but planning to buy as I go, as you have. Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Anis Anis says:

      Hi Samantha,
      Yes, I did include my tickets for onward travel but rules may have changed since, and you might not need exit tickets any longer. You should give the Russian Visa Centre (http://www.russianvisa.my) or your nearest Russian consulate for more up-to-date requirements. Good luck!

  17. April says:

    Hi Anis,
    I will be taking a bus from Harbin to Vladivostok and I can only get the ticket when in Harbin. I will be on Trans Siberian train till St. Petersburgh. Now I have the hotel booking in Vladivostok with the invitation letter from the hotel and my departure ticket from St. Petersburgh to Helsinki Will they accept this for my visa submission without any arrival document ? Thanks

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