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Obtaining a Russian Visa

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Central Moscow Tour- in four parts with map:
Part 1 Stops 1 through 13. Marriott Royal/Hotel Budapest to Manezh Ploshchad
Part 2 Stops 14 though 22. Around Manezh Ploshchad
Part 3 Stops 23 though 44. Along Tverskaya Street to the area around Pushkin Square
Part 4 Stops 45 though 48. From Pushkinskaya Ploshchad to Upper St. Peter's Monastery and back

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Trans-Siberian Trains
Trans-Siberian Trains general information to get you started on your journey
Trans-Siberian Stops information about common stops along the way
Notes about Chinese Consulates some informataion about Chinese consulates

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Russian Consulates

Armenia (Yerevan)
China - Hong Kong
China - Shanghai
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Hong Kong
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The following notes are a collection of comments from fellow travelers posted on the Lonely Planet ThornTree and/or sent to me (Everbrite/Ruth) privately. If you find errors or have information about consulates not mentioned here, I would appreciate hearing about it. Please post this information on the Eastern European branch of the Thorn Tree or send me (everbrite) a PM (private message). Thanks for your assistance.

Russian Consulate Information:
A to G
H to K
L to S
T to Z

The following notes are a collection of comments from fellow travelers posted on the Lonely Planet ThornTree and/or sent to me (Everbrite/Ruth) privately. If you find errors or have information about consulates not mentioned here, I would appreciate hearing about it. Please post this information on the Eastern European branch of the Thorn Tree or send me (everbrite) a PM (private message). Thanks for your assistance.

Since late 2007, increasingly it has been difficult to get a Russian visa outside the country of your passport or official residence. Many of the reports on these pages are no longer accurate. I continue to try to obtain updated information, but I must depend upon what others send to me.

Also beginning in October 2007, it is NOT possible to get a multiple entry Russian business visa and remain in the country for more than 90 days at a time. In fact, the new regulations limit one to spending 90 days in a 180 day period, similar to the limitations of the Schengen zone. Now in order to remain in Russia for more than 90 days, it is now necessary to have a work permit and / or a residency permit. These are not easily obtained and are very limited in number.

The common way around this rule of 90 days in a 180 day period for a multiple entry visa is to obtain a regular 90 day business visa and then make visa-runs to neighboring countries every 3 months. So far, reports are that this is possible and generally without problems although for some passports the wait may be several days. It is best to check an expat forum such as, or and to check the website of the Moscow Times.

And finally, despite what many reports and Russian embassy websites suggest, it IS possible to get a Russian visa more than 90 days prior to entry to Russia provided that you can obtain visa support. In the past, it was difficult to impossible to obtain visa support far in advance of entry. Now it does appear that some companies are able to issue the necessary documents even six (6) months in advance of entry.

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Armenia (Yerevan) 
Address: 375015, Yerevan, Ul. Grigora Lusavorich, 13A
Tel: 8-10(3741) 58-98-43
Fax: 8-10-(3741) 58-24-63, 58-98-43, 50-71-19

Reportedly, faxed copies of the invitation and voucher are acceptable at this consulate.

Report from Jan 2008:
"Just thought I'd post my experiences in getting a Russian visa in Armenia. I am a US passport holder with Armenian Residency and I applied for a 90 day business visa. In addition to the visa application, I was required to supply the original invitation, they would not accept a scanned copy, and also a copy of my passport ID page. Luckily the company I went through UPS'd it to me within a few days. The Russian Embassy opens at 9 am on Wednesdays for visas. You should arrive early as there is usually a scrum to get in as they only allow a certain number of people and you will have to compete with Armenians looking to emigrate. Just show your passport and make sure the guards know you are there for a visa. Once inside the process is quick and the staff is helpful and speak english. When your paperwork is approved you have to pay a fee at a nearby bank and return with the receipt. The visa takes 2 days to process and cost me 55,800 AMd (about $180 US)."

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Two US passport holders reported in summer 2004 that the consulate is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:00 am to noon for visas but that processing takes two weeks and there is no express service. They were told, "money doesn't solve everything."


  1. The rules for visas changed as of November 1, 2002. Recent reports indicate that you must apply at the consulate assigned based on the state in which you reside. Note that they do communicate with one another via a central computer. This suggests that if you are denied at one consulate, you may be denied at the other. OTOH there were several reports in 2009 and 2011 of Sydney residents sending their applications to Canberra and not having problems.
  2. The web address for Russian consulate in Sydney is Russian Consulate.
  3. Recent reports to me and on this board indicate the consulates in Australia have a list of places providing visa support that they consider "suspect." This list used to include the hostel in St. Petersburg (RYH) but reportedly visa support through them is now accepted (spring 2004.) When contacting places regarding visas, ask their recent experience with the particular consulate to which you intend to apply.
  4. Reports beginning in early 2008 suggest that provided you can obtain the necessary documents, you can get a tourist visa in Australia six or even eight months in advance of entry.

Report from December 2010
Just an update - I've received my Russian visa without any dramas. I applied to the Russian Embassy in Canberra after reading everywhere that the Sydney Embassy was notoriously difficult. I applied for the 30 day visa in November and wrote a cover letter explaining that I'd be traveling overland and would enter Russia in June 2011. That was all that was needed, it took about 2 weeks.

Reports from May/June 2009 Russian Tourist visa in Canberra:
Report 1:
Initially I contacted the Canberra consulate by phone and asked if I could send in my visa application. They queried where I lived and when I said Sydney they said I should be sending my application there. After I told them that a friend of mine had had a bad experience with them where they lost her passport they reluctantly agreed to accept mine by mail.
I sent it by registered post (including the invitation from on 1st May to the Canberra consulate and have been waiting anxiously since.
This morning my mum picked up my passport and visa approval at the local post office and she has advised that the visa is in there. Im hoping all the details etc are correct so I will be checking that tonight when I go and pick it up from her.

Report 2:
I obtained a Russian visa through the Canberra Consulate after receiving the same warning regarding the Sydney Consulate from the visatorussia team.
I applied from Far North Queensland and had no issues with the Consulate in Canberra. I received my visa in a little over two weeks including postage time.

Russian Tourist visa in Sydney April 2009:
Im having a lot of problems getting a Russian invitation letter to begin with I applied on the website and they sent me back an email stating:

Please be advised that obtaining a tourist Russian visa in Sydney is extremely difficult at the moment. The consul insists that the whole trip must be arranged and paid for in advance. You are supposed to present your detailed itinerary and hotel accommodation confirmation for every night of your stay in Russia. The air tickets to and from Russia should also be purchased in advance and presented to the consulate.

They suggested that I apply through a local visa agency.

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Russian visa in Sydney April 2007
Paid a visit to the consulate this morning.

First bit of advice would be to go first thing. The staff are happy and in a good mood which can make things a lot easier.

Secondly, the below six points which can be found on their website. ALL through 5 are correct. Regarding point 6, they advised that this would only be required if you were going as part of a tour or using a travel agency in Australia to apply. i.e. backpackers who are organising their invitation and accomodation don't need to provide this letter.

He said the dates would be on the accom. vouchers so no problems as long as you are applying yourself in person.

1. A completed visa application form

2. National passport (original) valid for at least 6 months after the intended date of departure from Russia (with a blank double page).

3. One professional passport sized (3x4 cm) photo on a white background. The picture should be done on black and white or colour matt paper. Please write your name in capital letters on the back of the photo. The photo should be stapled to the specially marked place of the application form.

4. A standard tourist confirmation ("Podtverzdeniye") from an authorized hosting Russian travel agency, registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The confirmation letter must contain the agency's special reference number.

5. A tour voucher (original from Australian travel company or fax copy from authorized hosting Russian travel agency).

6. A cover letter from your travel agency in Australia containing:
- applicant's name or alphabetical list of a group
- dates and points of arrival and departure in and from Russia, means of transport
- itinerary in Russia
- the name of the hosting Russian company and its reference number

Sent to me in early 2006:
"I was travelling on an Australian passport and applied for my visa in Canberra. Just thought I would let you know for the loney planet forum and your web pages that my inviation and acommodation vouchers came from the Youth Hostel in St Petersburg and were accepted by the Embassy here in Canberra with no problems. Cost about $52US for invitation and accommodation vouchers."

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Azerbaijan (Baku) 
Report from November 2009:
Getting a Russian visa in the CIS without residency is CRAZY expensive. The embassy in Baku was asking $500.

Report from April 2009: Baku, Azerbaijan, refused to even look at my documents, and told me to apply at the embassy in Norway

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Report from June 2007
"hi, i got my invitation through waytorussia, i was planning to get it in sofia, where it would apear they are just as awkward, i asked waytorussia for there advise on other if they could suggest any of the neighbouring countries as being a better option which they did. I then choose to apply at bucharest which was far easier. if i were you i would ask them if they could advise you on another embassy near by or follow there advise and go through the local agency suggested."

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Report 1 from June 2011
The woman in the consulate confirmed that we need a 90 day visa for Cambodia, in order to be able to get a Russian visa. To get a 90 day visa, first we need to enter with a Business Visa (not tourist!), and then apply for an extension once in Phnom Penh.

Report 2 from June 2011
The consulate in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, will also give foreign non-residents a Russian visa if they have a 90 day visa: Enter the country with a Business visa and extend it for 100 USD at any travel agent.

Report from May 2011
we just got our visa at the russian consulate in phnom penh, cambodia. this place seems to be fairly easy.
a new consular just started working there and she is quite helpful. the opening hours have changed to only twice weekly: monday and thursday 8.00am-12.00pm. generally the rule is that you can only apply for a russian visa there if you are a cambodian citizen or you have a 3 months visa, but as the cambodians only issue 30 day visas, the consular makes exceptions if you can proof that you have been traveling a while and haven't been to your homecountry for the last few months (through visas and stamps in passport).
what you need for the application:
-1 application form (filled in with black!)
-1 passport foto
-1 passport copy
-copies and list of all countries previously visited
-1 invitation letter and tourist voucher (also copy possible) from a russian travel agency, easy to get within 24 hours through (30 US$) -proof of health insurance valid in russia (preferably in english, letter is enough)
-visa fee for 3-10 working days 50 US$, 1-3 working days 100 US$ hopefully this is helpful to some of you!

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Report from August 2009
I tried to get a Russian tourist visa in Phnom Penh but they told me I needed the original tourist voucher but my visa ran out before it could have arrived!

Report from February 2008
"I have previously said that it was possible to get a Russian tourist visa easily in Phnom Penh. Well, it wasn't quite so easy, it is only possible if you first get a 3 month Cambodian visa - obtainable for about $75. Only then can you get the Russian visa - I was told this directly by the Consulate, due to new regulations!"

Update from December 2007
"I'm a British national. I tried to get a Russian Visa in the consulate at Phnom Penh, but since October they stipulated that you need a visa that allows you 3 months stay in Cambodia. It is easily possible to get a business visa for Cambodia. So when you enter make sure you get this visa. I didn't apply here in the end, but the staff seemed genuinely sorry that this seemingly pointless rule was in place."

Update from February 2006 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
"Would just like to let you know that yesterday we applied for the Russian Visa in Cambodia and the man working there couldnt have been any friendlier. We went there with printed out application forms, b & w copies of our invitation, one photo each and our passports.

The man was in fact wrapped that we were applying for our visas there even happier becasue Sayaka my girlfriend was the first Japanese person in two years to apply for a visa there.

We will return in one week to pick up our passports."

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Report May 2005:
RUSSIAN EMBASSY - CAMBODIA (if you are in this part of the world - or if others need to know - on a long trip via Laos, China, etc this option is very easy).


BASICS: Open: 9 - 12 : Mon / Wed / Thus / ONLY

Simply: I got an invite & voucher emailed from within 24 hours; the consulate happily accepted a color print-out of the B/W forms (but with official stamp and signature in blue ink). I also supplied 3 print-outs of 3 email hostel bookings, 1 photo, $US 30 (for a New Zealander). It usually takes 3 days to issue but when you count the other 4 non-working days in the week and then holidays like May 1 & May 9 it can mess things up but the guy just said, no problem, come back tomorrow ... 26 hours later and he staples in an enter/exit card also and hands back my p/p all my docs - now with more authorization stamps on them - and says 'enjoy your trip'. That simple.

Report 2005
A fellow traveler sent this note, "I can report that were very good - 30 dollars for support which they emailed me as a scanned attachment within a day. I went to the Russian embassy in Phnom Penh (consular section only open Mon, Wed, Thurs from 0900 - 1200) with a printed b/w invitation and the other necessaries. They were very helpful and charged me 53 dollars to get my visa in 3 days!

I don't know how the other embassies are but this one was great. They also accept faxed invitations."

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There are three consulates. One is in Ottawa and other two are in Toronto and Montreal. There is nothing on the website to indicate that visas are issued at the consulate in Montreal. Reportedly many Canadians in the western part of the country send their documents and such to the US consulate in San Francisco.

For information about what documents are needed and the costs for various visas, please check the web site of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Canada.

52 Range Road
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 8J5
Business Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00 am-12:30 pm
Telephone: (613) 236 7220 (613) 236 6215
Fax: (613) 238 6158
Website for visa requirements:

130 Bloor Street West
Suite 700
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1N5
Business Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30 am-12:30 pm
Telephone: (416) 962 99 11
Fax: (416) 962 66 11

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Changes at the Chinese consulate in Beijing were reported beginning 12 April 2004. According to information received privately and postings on the TT, this consulate will no longer process Russian visas for anyone except Chinese passport holders and those with Chinese residence permits. Reportedly Monkeyshrine, a Chinese company that sells tickets for the TransSiberian route, now sends all its visa requests to the consulate in Hong Kong.

The embassy in Beijing will issue a transit visa according to what one traveler was told but the requirements seem to vary. Sometimes people are told they only need a ticket to Moscow but others report needing to show a ticket for exit from Moscow.

"They told me you can get the transit visa there. You get ten days to go straight from Beijing to Moscow by train. You need to show them the train ticket to Moscow but not further on. It takes seven days to get the visa. It costs more if you want to process it faster. That's what they told me... but unfortunately you can never be too sure about that."

Note that so far, the webpage of the Russian embassy in China does NOT reflect these changes in policy. And reportedly, the situation in Ulan Bator, Mongolia is also difficult.

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IMPORTANT NOTE: Reports embassy in Beijing from 2011 are conflicted:
Reports indicate that the embassy in Beijing routinely refuses to process Russian tourist visas unless you hold a Chinese passport or a Chinese residency permit. This is inconsistent with the occasional report of people getting Russian tourist visas while in China as tourists (see below July 2011 report). While it may be possible for the rare tourist, I would NOT count on getting a visa in Beijing unless you have a residency permit (see below May 2011 report).

Report from July 2011
I have successfully applied for a Visa to Russia from the Russian embassy in Beijing yesterday and I picked it up today and wanted to update this posting to help others trying to do the same.

I got an invitation letter from, this is needed for the visa application. I needed it same day and it cost me US$45. You can get it in 2 days for US$30 if you are not in a rush. I received the letter via email and printed it out myself, the original was not needed at the embassy.

I am of Swedish nationality and I don't have a residency permit for China, just traveling through on a normal Chinese tourist 30 day visa. Other postings has stated that only Chinese residence holders can apply for the Visa in Beijing, but this does not seem to be the case anymore (at least for Swedish people).

I needed my visa urgently so I took the express option (630 Chinese Yuan RMB). I don't know what the slower 5 day option cost. I arrived at the embassy at 10:00 yesteday, had to cue a long while and completed the application process by 11:15. I picked it up this morning at 09:00.

Please remember to bring a photo copy of your passport as you will not be allowed to make the application otherwise (an Austrian ahead of me in the cue waited for 1.5 hours in line, and was then turned away because he missed this). You will also need a passport size photo and your invitation letter. They might also ask for a copy of your medical travel insurance, so bring a copy of this too.

All in all this was a very smooth and painless process for me. My girlfriend is French and she did not have the same luck in applying for her visa. For French nationals the processing time is 2 weeks, and there is no express option available. We hope that we can sort her visa out in Mongolia instead (we will stay there for 3 weeks), but not sure how that will work out. As we understand it from speaking to the lady at the embassy this processing time is only for french nationals, most other nationalities can get a Visa like I did.

Report from May 2011 with special circumstances
I have a Chinese residence permit myself, since I am studying in Beijing, so for me getting a Russian visa in Beijing seems doable. However, for my husband the situation is a bit more complicated. He is not a student and is not working here, but he got a one year Chinese visa because he is accompanying me. His visa is the same colour as my residence permit (blue) (in other words different from the normal tourist visa), but has the letter "L" printed on it.

She was able to get a visa; he was not.

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Russian Transit visa in Beijing Update April 2008
"My girlfiend and I have just picked up our transit visa for Russia in Beijing. We applied and collected it on the same day (for a hefty price!) Providing you have all the relevant paperwork, there doesn't seem to be a problem. The transit visa is the only possible visa you can get from Beijing. From what I understand, it's the only visa you can apply for outside of your home country. However, the Hong Kong Embassy is, apparently, a little less strict in enforcing this so maybe it's worth a try. Check out who have a helpful website about the visa situation, train tickets etc.

If you do decide to get a transit visa, you'll need: Valid passport for 6 months after leaving Russia, One passport photo, copy of passport (relevent pages), Original train ticket (trans mongolian/manchurian/siberian) copy of train ticket, copy of ticket onward from moscow (confirmation by email is ok!) and possibly a copy of your medical insurance if your from a shengen country. I am from the UK and paid US$200 for same day pick up and my girlfriend is from Sweden and she paid US$100. So expect the worst! Unfortunately, as you need to buy all your tickets in advance, I believe they can charge you what they like for the visa as you have to choice to pay or lose the money you've already spent on the tickets. You can avoid the express pick up fee, providing the embassy is open and you have enough time to in Beijing. 6 day pick up and 3 day pick ups are available. They also use an exchange rate from Nov. 2007 which is way out of date, and you have to pay in RMB.

Update February 2008
"we (1 aussie and 1 brit) have just picked up our russian transit visa's from the russian embassy in beijing. For people wishing to travel back to europe by train the transit visa may be the only option if you organise the trip in china (unless you have chinese residency permit or are happy to courier your pasports to the russian embassy at home). To get a transit visa you need to give the embassy your ticket to russia and a ticket out of russia, passport, photocopies of passport and US 50 for 5 day process, US 80 for 3 day process, or US 120 for 1 day process. The visa is valid for 8-10 days which means if you catch the trans-mongolian (5 days to moscow) you get a few days in moscow at the end of the train ride.
Hope this helps anyone thinking of applying for a russian visa in china."

Note from REI: It is not possible to obtain train tickets for travel from Moscow to a point in Europe except through a travel agency. These train tickets cannot be purchased through a Chinese agency and must be purchased prior to arrival in China. One option is to contact a Russian travel agency and obtain a voucher for an international train ticket out of Russia. Another option that has been reported successfully is to purchase a bus ticket for the international bus from Moscow to Riga or another Baltic capital.

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Shanghai, China 

Report from August 2010
We got our visas back. We're both Dutch and received a 22 day tourist visa. 350 RMB/Pax. We used an print out of the LOI (which we received from stantours), one small passport size photo, photocopy of our passport and Chinese Visa (in our case a type L) and copy of our insurance ID. So the price was really cheap BUT we had to wait 10 business days before we could pick it up. Together with us was a American girl and for her was the same.

The problem is that you can't check in in hotels without passport and you have to do without passport for at least 10 business days (around 12 normal days). So be prepared to pay a lot for your hotel in Shanghai or get a room in (cheaper) surrounding cities like Suzhou, Hangzhou or Nanjing (little bit far).

Report from Shanghai in July 2010
Private message received 6 july 2010
we are non residents in china and just got Russian visa in Shanghai just with 30 days tourist visa with spanish passports
why are confusing people telling it is not possible if you are not resident???

Report from Shanghai in July 2009 (US passport holder in China on F visa (business visa) with registration card of temporary residence obtaining a Russian business visa):
Looks like it worked. Should be receiving my visa in a few days. They needed the original invitation, a copy of the passport page, and the application form. Interestingly, they had me refill the form because I brought a filled out form that I downloaded from their website. The form they had me fill out is the 2 page one you can download from the HK consulate website. Altogether cost me approximately 1700 yuan for three day processing with a US passport.
They didn't ask me anything concerning my residence status. It might have helped that I speak Russian.

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Report from Shanghai in 2008
"We just tried to apply for a russian tourist visa in Shanghai, but they refused us because we do not have a permanent residence in China. They said that are the new rules. We that are four germans, but also an english passport holder was refused. Does anyone know if it is possible to get a russian tourist or transit visa in ulan bator (mongolia), or if it is possible to get a chinese visa there?"

Note from REI: It has always been difficult for Germans to get a Russian visa outside of Germany or for non Germans to get a Russian visa in Germany. What is most interesting about this information is that a UK passport holder was also rejected. This would suggest that Shanghai is NO LONGER a place to try to get a Russian visa.

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Report from October 2007
"I have an update for you; applying for a Russian visa in Shanghai. I am a Dutch passportholder and applied today, the 8th of october. Contrary to previous reports there seemed to be no problem with a queue. It was raining and it's late in the year. I arrived at 9.10 and waited [sheltered] at the hotel opposite the road where only a few Chinese were waiting as well. Five minutes later we went inside and applying for the visa was very straightforward. No problems with a [colour] copy of my invitation [with] and another printout of my travelinsurance. The cost was 640 RMB and pickup the 10th of october; ie in two days.
Russian embassy is at the end of the Bund, within walking distance of underground station Nanjing Rd. Walk to the Bund and cross with the pedestrian tunnel, turn left, cross the bridge; it's on your right.
If there were any problems with collecting the visa [between 14.00 and 14.30] I'll let you know. Otherwise you can assume that it went ok."

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Report from the Shanghai Consulate in May 2007
Opens Monday, Wednesday and Friday 915 to 1215 but from what I've heard if you don't get there an hour early you run the serious risk of not getting in.

I'm on a British passport and I paid RMB398 for a five (working) day service; same day would have been $204 US and two - day $136. The sign outside the consulate says that only original visa support will be accepted, but there were no problems with my blurry copies.

One other thing: I and others in the queue turned up with a form downloaded from the website of the Russian embassy in London. This wasn't good enough and we had to fill in the consulate's own, slightly different form.

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Report from Shanghai consulate in September 2006:
Here is my story: I arrived in Beijing 6 days before I was planning to get on the Transiberian railroad so that I could get my visa at the Russian embassy in Beijing. As everyone reported this can not be done but I did not find out until too late -- I actually called the embassy and spoke to some one rather then relying on other peoples words. I search around Beijing for a travel agent that could help me get this visa but could not find anyone that does this service -- and Monkey Shrine will only do it for customers that buy one of their packages. I then found your web site information about Shanghai and I decided to take a chance and rush to Shanghai on an over night train Saturday night (499 Yuan soft sleeper).

Monday morning, Sept 11 2006, I was standing outside the Russian embassy in Shanghai 2 hours before it opened. There were already 6 other people waiting. The guards would not let us queue until 8:45 so everyone sat across the street near the little police shack. Note that the queue starts on the street directly in front of the guards standing by the driveway entrance (not at the front door). At 9:15 the guards started letting us in one by one. At this time there were STILL only about 12 people waiting -- not a long line. Maybe because it was September or Monday or something, but there were not many people, BUT one of those people was a travel agent with a STACK of passports that had to be processed. Once inside I decided to fill out the Russian visa form that was supplied rather then using the one I had downloaded and filled out ahead of time from the Russian embassy in Washington. I don't know if this mattered or not. I had a color print out of the PDF file that was emailed to me by the 'inviting' agency because I did not have the original, but as others have reported this turned out to be OK since it looked real. I also had the necessary copy of my China visa, a black and white copy of the invite (and two things that I don't know if they were necessary or not because the visa guy didn't say anything but he kept them: a copy of my international heath insurance and a cover letter that I wrote myself just giving the barest of overview of my trip to Russia).

The visa guy examined the color printout of the invitation for a while and I was sweating a little but turned out to be no problem. (Note that I got my invite letter from for $30 and they give me a lot of email support with all my questions). I was inside the consulate by 9:25 and was finished and out the door by about 10:15 so not too bad. I also paid top dollar for same day service ($140) because I could not afford any more problems. They accepted Yuan at basically the market rate for conversion (1134 Yuan) or US dollars. At 14:50 that same day I was back at the embassy, was the first in line for the 15:00 opening and had my Russian visa by 15:05 so life is good. Now I can overnight train back to Beijing, hike the Great Wall for a day and then get on the train to Mongolia on Saturday.
P.S. I stayed at Mingtown Hiker Youth hostel near the embassy for 55 Yuan / night for 4 bed dorm. It is a good hostel.

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Report from the Shanghai consulate from June 2006: (NOTE from REI:this person had a USA passport.)
The queue: I did queue for quite awhile. Got there at 7:15, I was 2nd. got in when the door opened, but didn't get out until 10:30. I thought it would be better to wait early and know I would get in than wait late under the hot sun and have to wonder whether I would get in. met a guy when picking up the visa that queued at 8:30 and was the 3rd from last to get in. The line doesn't move fast. Get there early!

As a US citizen, I had to fill out an additional, more thurough application. it asked me to list my parents full names, my former employers (address and telephone), university degrees, university address and telephone, not to mention all the countries I had visited in the past 10 years - including all cities. That's quite a bit of info. as for the list of countries, i tried to just cover the stamps in my passport - but there wasn't enough room. but again, the guy didn't think twice about it. It seemed he was mostly interested in having the space filled.

Also on the US application, I asked if I had made any specific travel arrangements. I marked that I had not. I was worried that by listing the cities I would be visiting that corresponded with the hotel vouchers I would be contradicting myself - but no matter. he didn't seem to care.

Initially I didn't fill in "any organizations or government deparments you will be visiting" as i didn't think it applied to me. I was wrong. The company that "invited" me, is the organization I will be visiting.

Also, initially I didn't fill out the "current employer or university" as it doesn't apply to me. But the guy wanted something in the space. I said under my breath, but loud enough for him to here, "but i'm not currently working." he smiled and handed back the application motioning for me to write something. I put in my old university's address. Oh, and I couldn't remember most of the phone numbers and addresses so I made them up - it didn't matter.

As for medical insurance, officially US citizens don't need to show proof, but there wasn't an option to mark this. So I checked, "purchased officially approved medical coverage" as suggested in the previous post. No questions about it.

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Report from Shanghai from May 2006:
The Consulate opened for applications at 0915, but I'm not sure how much bearing the current Chinese national holiday had on this. If you're in a hurry to get a visa I suggest getting there early (at least an hour before opening) as we talked to a couple who had tried yesterday but didn't get in because the queue was too long. Visa pick-up time is 1230-1315. Narrow window.

So, for the record (and in case you want to pop this on your site, Ruth) this is how it worked...
You need:
- Your visa support voucher (a colour printout from PDF was fine, several people there were using these and the staff didn't bat an eyelid)
- A copy of the photo page from your passport
- A copy of the Chinese visa page from your passport, including the entry stamp
- One photo

Costs and timings are as follows (the latter in working day

- USD 120 (same day)
- USD 80 (2-4 days, although we went for this option and were told we could pick up the next day, tomorrow, which was especially good news considering tomorrow is Saturday)
- USD 50 (5 days)

You can pay in kuai or USD.

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- If you neglect to bring along your medical insurance details tick the box that says you've signed up for Official Medical Insurance. In fact, probably best to do this anyway as it will confuse the staff less than giving them extra paper.
- There's a posh looking hotel over the road - The Astor (no longer much of a youth hostel by the way, despite what the LP stays - they've just got one small dorm now apparently. Stay at the Captain's instead - it rocks) - that will copy stuff for a couple of kaui if you turn up in a hung over blur and realise you've forgotten to copy your passport or some such, as I did.

I used this Russian travel agent for my visa support document and tickets, and they were very proffessional and efficient: (This is Svezhy Veter.)

The visa support cost USD 29. Ticket prices are dependent on how many breaks you want to make in the journey, as with any other agent.

The agent accepted credit cards but charged 9% so I wired the cash through Western Union who charged a flat USD20.

Final tip: if you want to send dollars to Russia this way you need to pay in dollars not kuai. I got caught out as I'd drawn out the requisite amount in kuai from an ATM machine but didn't get a receipt, and banks in China won't touch your cash to exchange unless you've got some back-up paperwork to show where you got it. I ended up using an illegal money-changer outside the Bank of China in Kunming which was just a little stressful, considering I was changing USD 800. Not good for the heart. But after painstakingly examining the 100 dollar notes for a good ten minutes I finally handed him my brick of kuai and was the happiest man on earth when the Western Union counterfeit spotting machine gave them a clean bill of health. NOT RECOMMENDED!

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Report March 2006
The consulate is opposite the Astor House Hotel, which is listed in the LP 'Places to Stay' for Shanghai.

Visa section open hours are:
Mon, Weds, Fri 9.15am - 12.15pm for visa applications
Mon, Weds, Fri 12.15pm - 13.15 for visa pick up
Update June 2006 visa pick up is now Mon, Wed, Fr 15:00 - 15:30. This is a very narrow window but reportedly enough time for everyone to collect their paperwork.

You need to have:
ORIGINAL Tourist voucher and invitation, plus photocopies of each - actually there are numerous reports that originals are not necessary and that even crookedly scanned bad printouts will be accepted. (update June 2006)
Photocopy of passport and current Chinese visa
Print out of travel insurance policy (if needed: most Euro citizens do)
Application form (available there)
1x passport size photo
Your passport

Cost is US$50, express (same day) is another US$70, 2-4 days I think another US$20.

Only problem might be when the computer system goes down, which seems to happen globally!

Queue starts at about 8am, so get there early and wear a smile at all times!

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Czech Republic 
Posted July 2009:
Just thought I would post a quick note to say my husband and I successfully applied for and received Russian visas from the Embassy in Prague. We are traveling on Canadian passports and did not have a problem. We went in with all of our documentation including photocopies of our tranvel insurance and voila - 3 days later we're on our way.

It was fairly painless as the Embassy seems pretty well set up and we never had to wait longer than 15 minutes in any line-ups.

Good luck!

Posted on the TT May 03: "If you are in Prague and time is running out - try to call Asiana agency. They've got good relations with Russian embassy and do "miracles" sometimes for my friends who want to go to Russia and "forget" about visas :). Of course, you need to pay them... but it is better than nothing. BTW, you get to keep your passport while the application is in process. You only need to give it to them on the day you get the visa."

Note from REI: I received a report in early summer 2006 that only Czech passport holders can obtain Russian visas in Prague. I have no other confirmation of this and do not know if they tried the agency recommended above.

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Estonia (Tallinn and Narva) 
Try any of these companies: Estonian Association of Travel Agents. You'll need your passport, a photo, the application and some money.

NOTE from REI: In spring 2007 it was reported on the TT that the Russian embassy in Tallinn will no longer process tourist visas for non EU passport holders.
Report from February 2010 from a Spanish passport holder
In february 2010 I applied for a three month business visa for Russia by means of a Travel agent in Tallinn, Estonia.
The whole thing took 10 days to issue and cost me around 120 €. At the time of application, the travel agent asked me for how long I wanted to stay in Russia, I even could have got a one year multiple entry visa.

A report in November 2009 suggests that a US passport holder was able to obtain a 90 day business visa in Tallinn.

Report from September 2007:
"I'm an American citizen and I was able to get a Russian visa in Tallinn, Estonia on the 14th of September 2007. It cost 1750 Estonian Kroon which is around $150 USD and takes three days. The visa they issued was a 30 day, single entry, tourist visa. They don't speak English at the consulate, but are generally helpful and the clerk even corrected a few lines of my application. Arrive between 9:00 and 12:00 to apply and head straight for the window marked "Kacci 2" with all your documents. Good luck!!!"

Old Report from unknown date:
In the train station (name Balti Jaam) there are 2 travel agents doing visa for these Russia and Belarus, 1 has a 'window' beside the train tickets, the other a real agency, named GOtours, also does trips/holidays etc. Both only open weekdays.
They told me that they do mainly private visa for local Estonian people of Russky descent (over 95%) for family visits and beginning this year will ONLY handle EU persons, this is due to the more stringent rules of Russia. You need the usual invitation etc. and the price depends on how fast you want it done, normal is to get it back 1 week later (5 business days), or pay more for quicker service. Price seems comparable or even higher than Kelvita in Vilnius (which I visited last year), next day was like near 200 EUR (= now 280US$) for tourist visa.
1 of the girls in the Hostel I stayed also had family in Russia and told me it would cost here at least 50 EUR to get the entry visa for only a short visit.
I did not ask at the other tour agent, as I assumed the story would be the same.
If you want to buy train tickets, then you must as a foreigner, also show your papers are in order to enter Russia.

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Report from May 2005:
"I work in Moscow, I needed a 3 month single entry business visa plus I have an invitation approved by Ministry of foreign affairs. I arrived in Riga on a Monday in May 2005 and saw a very long line at the RF consulate. They accept documents only until 1 pm. You can get a "visa anketa" from the guard. According to a posted notice, they take 6 days or 11 days to issue a visa. So I would NOT recommend Riga. I have heard that starting June 1, they will do it in a quicker amount of time.

I was able to get a 3 month business visa (need invite, photo) (I have Ingosstrakh traveler insurance) at the Narva, Estonia consulate for 1800 Estonian Kroons (12 kroons = 1 dollar). They took my documents at 10 am and gave me the visa that day at 2 pm."

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Finland (Helsinki) 
NOTE from REI: Lots of people leave Russia for Helsinki to get a new visa as it is only a 4.5 hour train ride from Petersburg. Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that only those who have a Finnish passport, a passport from a Schengen country or a residency permit for Finland can obtain a Russian visa in Finland.

Address: Vuorimiehenkatu 6, 00140 Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +3589-661-449
Fax: +3589-622-1812
Consular section information service:
English and Russian only
+358 9 661449
+358 9 661448
E-mail: (English and Russian only)
Working hours: Monday - Friday 9.00 - 12.00 (but for national holidays)
National holidays: 1st, 2nd, 7th of January, 23rd of February, 8th of March, 1st, 2nd, 9th of May, 12th of June, 7th of November, 12th of December.

Visa fees for documents processing for the Finnish citizens are as follows:
  1. Single visa for business, private and transit trips - 35 euros;
  2. Double visa for business, private and transit trips - 35 euros;
  3. Single visa for a tourist trip - 35 euros;
  4. Single visa for a group tourist trip (5 - 50 persons per group) - 35 euros per person (20 euros per person for sea voyages);
  5. Multiple business visa - 100 euros.

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Additional fee is collected for urgency/express visa processing:
50 euros for 3-4 days
75 euros for 1-2 days
100 euros the same day
Additional fee of 15 euros is collected for processing of documents received by post (post expenditures not included)
Third countries - nationals are subject to different processing fees than those for Finnish citizens.

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Posted February 2008
Info on how to get a visa to Russia from Finland (a lot easier and cheaper than in some other countries):

NOTE THAT Russian consulates in Finland will issue visas for non-finnish citizens only if they either live in Finland or are from a country that has signed Schengen treaty.

If you have enough time to hang out in Helsinki you could get a visa there thru a travel agency. Getting a visa should take from 5 to 10 work days (with some travel agencies longer). There are several travel agencies that can arrange your visa. They will handle all invitations etc. All you need is to hand your passport, two photos and an application form (you get it from them) to an agency and wait so they'll do their magic with Russian consulate.

Lähialuematkat ( is a good travel agency for getting a Russian visa and charge 55 euros for a 30 day tourist visa. They are located at Vuorimiehenkatu 3, 00140 HELSINKI which is in central Helsinki. Phone: +35896689570. Email for questions about visas:

Another good agency is Russian-owned. Rent Line Oy that is located at Kolmas linja 17 00530, Helsinki which is in Kallio-district of Helsinki. Phone: +35898701543. They will organize a visa for around 50 euros.

Rent Line Oy is an excellent option for people wanting to buy Russian train tickets (eg. people planning to do trans-Siberian route). They will get you a ticket for the same price as it's sold in Moscow and charge 15 euros extra for their service. They also sell 3rd class train tickets (platskartny) that usually other companies don't. I payed around 100 euros for tickets that got me from Moscow to China. Beat that.

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Posted 2006:
To obtain a Russian visa in Helsinki check these websites:

Escape travel
Russian Tours LTD recommended by Jiri S, a fellow TT traveler.
Finnsov Travel

Report from August 2006 regarding obtaining a Russian visa at the consulate in Turku:
I have Australian Passport and this is how I went about obtaining a Russian Visa in Finland.

1 - - organise your 'invitation' from these guys, i cant recommend them enough, they were incredibly helpfull, and even fixed up my invitation when i accidentally inputed the incorrect dates on the website form. get them to email you the invitation, then print it out.
2 - on same site, fill out Visa Application form, and print it out.
3 - i used the Russian consulate in Turku (Vartiovuorenkatu 2 - easy to find, just get map of town from tourist info) - they required: 1 valid Passport!!, application form x 1, invitation x 1, passport photo x 1, application payment, and travel insurance info (i just photocopied some pages from my insurance booklet and highlighted some headings)
4 - They will write you bank receipt for application fee, you must take this to the Nordea bank (near the center square) and pay it, then the bank will photocopy the slip and you can take it back to the consulate when you go to collect your passport
5 - Five workings days later, go back to Consulate and Voila! Russian Visa issued.

$30 US - invitation
&euro 56 - application fee (this will differ depending on what country Passport you hold, unless your from US, it should be cheaper though)
&euro 6 - bank service fee!!! - this is a complete rip off, just because you're there at bank in person and paying cash, they will charge you this fee. i pleaded i'm student' - even had ISIC card, but to no avail.

hope this is of assistance to some.

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Georgia (Tbilisi) 
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is no longer a Russian embassy in Georgia due to the hostilities of 2008.
Former Address: 51 Chavchavadze Ave, Tbilisi, 0162, Georgia
Tel: (8-10-99532) 91-24-06, 91-26-45
Fax:(8-10-99532) 91-27-38;

The Russian Federation Consulate is right next door:
Address: 53 Chavchavadze Ave, Tbilisi, 0162, Georgia
Tel: (8-10-99532) 91-27-82
Fax: (8-10-99532) 91-30-85

Processing fees depend upon the amount of time.
Up to two working days - 20 USD
Two to Six working days - 15 USD
Ten or more working days - 10 USD
Payment is in dollars.

The website also indicates that if you are refused a visa, your processing fee is not refunded, don't bother to return and don't expect them to explain the reason for the refusal.

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Report from June 2011
It seems rare now to post any good news about getting a Russian visa outside your country of residence, but I have just had a positive experience in Tbilisi. I (American Passport) was able to get a Russian tourist visa in 5 working days with just a letter of invitation and no residency permit for Georgia. Plus, it is supposed to cost Americans $131 (Note from REI: actually now it is 140 USD) to get a Russian visa (reciprocal visa policy) but maybe because it is not a true Embassy in Tbilisi (It is called the Embassy of Switzerland Russian Affairs Section) I only paid $60.

Here are the details:
The Consulate is located in the exact same place the Embassy was (the name was just changed after the 2008 war) not too far from Vake Park. It is normally a bit of a nightmare outside the embassy, with dozens of frustrated Georgian applicants waiting for any help from the embassy. I went 6 weeks ago for the first time and found that it was really helpful to tell the guard you were a foreigner and had special questions about the visa process. The first time I was told that I only needed to fill out the visa application, bring $60 and the ORIGINAL invitation. The original invitation thing was a bit of a problem, but when I returned last week to submit my documents, I just brought a high quality copy of the invitation and I guess they either thought it was the original or just didn't care.

After getting past the guards and into the embassy (which is a bit difficult because they are not too friendly since they have angry applicants yelling at them all day) it was not so bad. The people inside were not so helpful until they found out I was from California, and then we spent a good amount of time chatting about universities there. After this they were incredibly helpful and friendly. It was all relatively painless and they even let me keep my passport. I just came back today (one week later) and had a bit of trouble being let into the embassy until one of the workers inside saw me and greeted me by the name of my city in California and helped me get my visa quickly, while wishing me luck in my travels.

If you do not speak Russian (I only speak it very poorly, but enough to function) or maybe Georgian, then you really should bring someone who can. Otherwise, I think it would be incredibly difficult to even convince the guard to let you in.

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Reportedly ONLY Germans or those with residency papers for Germany can obtain Russian visas in Germany. Do NOT plan to get a Russian tourist visa in Berlin unless you hold a German passport or residency for Germany. Below is the report of someone who obtained a business visa in Berlin, whether it is possible to get a tourist visa through this company, I don't know.

Report from July 2009 for a German citizen:
Then we tried it at the Russian embassy in Germany using a German visa service: This Russian guy has his office next to the embassy and did the job very fast. Applied almost 4 months in advance without any problems. Passport was back within two weeks and the total cost was about 100 euros. (excl loi)

So my girlfriend (German passport) has recieved her visa to Russia now. I (Dutch passport) will apply in Singapore soon since here they do not accept applications more than 90 days in advance at all. 90 days should be just enough for us...

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Report from May 2007
"It is possible to get a visa for Russia in Berlin as a non - German or non - German resident. Three weeks ago I used this company:

Reise-Service Russland
Adress: Taubenstr. 20, Berlin
Tel: 030/20 64 77 71
0172 953 49 10

To obtain a 12 month multi-entrance business visa for Russia. Mr Popow is the man I dealt with and he stated that he was able to get all types of visa.

I am an Australian passport holder with previous Russian visits/visas.

Reise-Service picked up my passport from me on Wednesday afternoon and I picked it up from them on Friday afternoon."

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A report from spring 2006:
Ever tried to get a visa in Russian embassy in Berlin?
Well, we tried ...
Russian embassy is crazy. One hour staying outside the embassy in rain/sun (in a best case!!!) and then also inside (after additional two hours of nothing we just left!)
But... Staying there was fruitful; we met a guy from Visa-agency who had a huge box of passports with him.
Well, we asked for his help - it costed us additional 50Eu but believe me it worth not queuing in Russian embassy!
They are making an invitation for you, and taking care of your visa. The rest (accommodation, tickets) do at your own.

check out:

(They are taking care of us although we are not German citizens. However, we both have german "aufenthaltserlaubnis," which is probably a "must" for getting visa in Germany for non-germans.... Also for members of EU, as it seems to be)

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From a fellow TT traveler, October 2003: "The reason this particular embassy (Berlin) requires you to have a residence permit to apply for a visa, is because there are just sooooooooo MANY Russians renewing their passports all year round here. They are so busy with their own citizens; they have not enough time to issue visas. Hence the need to prove, with a residence permit, that you live in Germany. After having queued up outside the embassy for a good 40 minutes with all the Russians, who were getting their passports renewed, I found out that if you are applying for a visa you are allowed straight in with no problems. So make sure you don't join the queue and simply head straight to the front. If you have the residence permit, it appears to be one of the easiest consulates from which to get a visa. They also accept faxed invitations, which also solves another problem."

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Report from August 2005:
"Got my Russian visa in Athens today. The actual visa takes up a whole page, and the second page, they staple a piece of paper, which is to be used for entry and departure. The paper will need to be detached eventually, I am assuming, as I enter and leave the country.

As for my supporting accommodation, one was the invitation, one was my details on a form, and the third was some random hotel in st petersburg. They gave me back the accommodation piece of paper.

I pressed the buzzer, and they let me in the gates, At the doors, one of the guards didnt speak greek or english, but another guy spoke greek. After showing my invite, the second man escorted me in, and guided me through the application process. The security process was a joke. I was still buzzing, and he said dont worry about it, and let me in!

I was told same day processing was 120 euros, 100 euros for next day. I asked if I could come back in two weeks, and get it for free, but they just laughed. I ended up getting same day, which took about an hour. Because I am moving about so much, and dont have any other form of official identification, I cant afford to leave my passport in for a few weeks.

Getting there was easy enough. Down the road, the bus takes you into the city center or a metro. In the other direction from the consulate (as in, the consulate on your left, walking down the road), I was able to find a kodak shop to get my passport picture. About a 10-15 minute walk.

I used and it cost me 15 Euros. It will probably be cheaper for you, because he made additional enquiries regarding Kaliningrad. A friend recommended this company to me.

It was a printout. Douglas simply emailed the documents to me once payment was verified. The consulate had no problems accepting it. "

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Russian Consulate Information:
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last revised 16 September 2011 © 2003-2011 Ruth E. Imershein
The information contained on these pages is intended to assist in making travel plans but things change, mistakes can be made.
Please do not depend entirely on this information when making your decisions.

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