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I travelled to Russia on my own, without the help of a tour operator. And so, I had to apply for a Russian Tourist Visa myself.
Russia REQUIRES an invitation letter to start the visa process. If you are booking through a travel agent or tour operator they can help you get the process going making things smoother for you.
But if you are travelling independently as I did, you need to figure out how to get it on your own.
Here is how I did it.
Russian Website St. Petersburg Guide
I used St. Petersburg Guide for $19.99 USD per person with fast turnaround service in a couple of days.
I then went to the Russian Consulate website for my area in the USA and filled out the Russian visa application form. After following all the instructions and filling out the forms, I sent my application off along with the $193 fee in a cashiers check. Seven days later I picked up my passport in person with the visa page inserted and was ready to go to Russia!
Allow Enough Time
I started this process about 2 months in advance of my travel.
I got a tourist visa which is valid for only up to 30 days. The dates you state on your visa application must be within that time frame. For example, I picked July 15 to August 15 as my dates of travel but actually arrived on July 18th and left on August 3rd. They are strict about not wanting the traveler to enter BEFORE the initial date stated, nor can you leave AFTER the date stated.
Get Your Migration Card Upon Arrival in Russia
Once you enter the borders you will get a migration card. It is a little piece of paper that fits inside your passport. (Don’t lose it!) You use that migration card to register within 7 days of your arrival. They are strict about that too. Usually your hotel can do this service for free. But in my case, I had rented an apartment from Airbnb.com. so I was able to use the services of St. Petersburg guide again.
St. Petersburg Guide arranged to go to the Post Office to obtain the stamp and bring the card to me. This was most helpful as I don’t speak Russian proficiently and didn’t want to stand in a line all day. I agreed to meet Max, the liaison, at the local Starbucks to retrieve my card. It was as simple as that.
Streamlined Process with Experts
If you are going to Russia on your own, I would recommend you use St. Petersburg Guide. Max (a young Millenial) is whom I emailed with and eventually met in person. He was most helpful and congenial. They are a legitimate company of knowledgeable people.
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