Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Entering RUSSIA

As I told before, getting the visas is what worries me the most now.

I checked yesterday all the matters about them on the WikiTravel, and what I read didn't reassure me at all:

Obtaining a Russian visa is a costly, time-consuming, and often frustrating process. Most visitors should start the process at least two months in advance, but it can be done in a few weeks if you are willing to spend a little extra.

Great, isn't?

Well, I had already been warned about this, so it's not so surprising.
I couldn't remember why, but while reading all the requirements for the Russian visa I had a familiar feeling. In the end, I remembered that I had been trying to get one in order to visit Saint Petersburg when I travelled to the Baltic states and Finland, but I declined, considering it too difficult just to spend a couple of days there.

Actually, loads of people get in and out of Russia everyday so it shouldn't be such a hard matter... if you're ready to pay for it and waste some days of your life in bureaucracy.

Recently I learned about the personal invitation process by which it's seemingly easier to get it. I know Russian people who could invite me, but probably they themselves don't know the required bureaucracy, and that doesn't free me from the obligation of requesting the visa once I get the invitation.

If you have friends or relatives in Russia you could ask them to sponsor you for a private/homestay visa. They would need to seek an invitation through their local Passport and Visa Division of the Federal Migration Service (formerly OVIR). The problem with these invitations is their tendancy to take a least a month to process. The inviting individual also becomes solely responsible for all your activities while in Russia and can be penalized heavily if something were to go wrong.

An invitation is required compulsorily anyway.

The positive side of things is that I will only enter once Russia and leave it once (hopefully) and won't be there for more than 30 days, all of which makes things really easier.

I have read too that buying Transsiberian tickets could be accomplished more efficiently in Poland, Czech Republic or even Germany than in Moscow (I suppose if you're not Russian), so I'm a bit confused about this.

One important thing to keep in mind is that I should declare all kind of valuable (or that seem to have some value) when I enter Russia, because otherwise I may not be able to get them out of the country when I leave.
I plan to bring at least a videocam and a musical instrument.

Registering in the country seems to be obligatory too:

You must register your stay within three business days of arrival in country, and within three days of arriving in each new city. If you have an active itinerary and are not staying in any one place for three days, you must register at least once in the first city you visit. Your sponsor (the one who issued the invitation) is responsible for registering you.

And, last but not the least, one shouldn't lose the migration card that is received at arrival (you need it to get out of the country):

Not being able to present a migration card when leaving Russia can result in fines and can potentially result in a wait of several days while the authorities decide what to do with you.

Entering Belarus (a country that shares some kind of super-entity together with the Russian Federation) seems to be easier, since no invitation is required, but you must also pay for the visa and fill all the documents in (including a medical insurance). I will only stay there for a few days (I have no idea what to see yet).

The Russian and the Belarussian visas must be asked for in advance, that is, in your home country, so no frontier visas are issued (too bad).

One important fact about VISAS is that they've got a FIXED DATE on them, which means that you cannot enter the country BEFORE the ENTERING DATE and you cannot leave the country AFTER the LEAVING DATE, even by minutes of difference. And this disquiets me the most.

Ok, let me explain it: that is absolutely not a problem in the case of Belarus and Russia, because they will be at the beginning of my trip, so I will precisely know when I will enter and more or less when I will leave it.
That won't be the case for some other countries. Shit!
A tourist visa normally only lasts 30 FIXED days (up to 90 days in some Asian countries, though), during which you can enter, be and leave the country (but note that most of the issued visas are single-entry).

So regardless of what you think about the complicated process to get a Russian visa, it won't be my biggest problem.
The biggest one actually is not knowing when exactly I'm going to enter countries like Myanmar, that I will reach after being travelling through Russia, Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand and maybe Laos.
That wouldn't be a problem if visas were issued at the frontier points, but that is not so common.

I will post more on different visas for other countries, but I think that the hardest ones will be those from Myanmar, Vietnam, etc.
Japan and Korea are ridiculously easy to get in, Thailand welcomes its foreign visitors too, China is not so hard either (I can pay for a multiple entries visa up to 90 days without problems, apparently), nor India.

I wonder if all these visas could be requested in the Consulates here in Bilbao (there won't be all of them, obviously), because it seems probable that I will have to spend at least two weeks in Madrid (a city that I particularly dislike) submerged in this bureaucracy...


  1. Uh, I heard that getting a visa for Russia was desperating, but didn't know it'd be that way! I dont even want to think what would be russia like if you dont know anything about russian language, cyrilic and so on. On that, I guess, you wont have any problem at all :o I envy you!

    About planning when will you enter/leave countries... seems like a real issue! I'd try to be as flexible as possible with dates but well, with such a big project you never know :/

  2. Getting a Russian visa is a long process, and many things have to be done, but it is always granted without troubles.

    I had some knowledge of the basics of Russian years ago but I have forgotten everything, haha.
    I can read Cyrillic quite well, though.

    I will post more about visas in a new post now...