Russian Visa Shakedown

Ran into the following requirement of the Russian Embassy when trying to apply for a tourist visa in New Delhi:

The original tourist/hotel voucher issued by a Russian tourist agency/hotel, which is registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (MFA) of the Russian Federation containing the necessary data of a traveler (name, date of birth, etc.), period of stay (date of entry and departure), name of receiving Russian travel agency, list of services paid for (transportation, accommodation, sightseeing, etc.), signed by a representative of the tourist agency, stamped with the agency’s seal and bearing an official MFA reference number. Faxed and scanned copies are not accepted.

I consulted my trusted travel agent on this and learned that the voucher has to come from a registered travel agency in Russia. And these travel agencies demand INR 20,000 (USD 300 approx.) for issuing a letter for one traveller.

Ain’t nothing but an old fashioned shake-down. Needless to say, Russia trip postponed till their Ministry of Foreign Affairs becomes more tourist friendly.

Update: I wrote to 2 separate hotels (in Moscow and St. Petersburg). Both confirmed that they will send me the required letters in Scan copy via email. But there are some further complications:

  • The local visa application centre here in Delhi refuses to accept scan copies – their website clearly says that the original must be couriered or mailed – impossible to predict how long that will take.
  • The hotel gives the letter for free, but says that they will charge 2000-3500 roubles if I take the letter but then cancel my hotel reservation.

In short – it is way too complicated and potentially expensive for a short casual visit. Russia visit cancelled for now.

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5 thoughts on “Russian Visa Shakedown

  1. Sometimes the Russian visa voucher comes for free if you’re doing something fairly expensive. For example, I was climbing a mountain there and the voucher came for free when I hired a guide and some equipment (for ~$900). I was emailed a PDF, which I printed out and it was accepted by the Russian consulate in San Francisco. It also clearly involves some in-country in-person work on their part (the document had Russian government stamps on it).

  2. Hmm I had to cancel my Russia trip last year so I did not go through the visa process but I did get the invitation letter quite easily and for free when I booked at a hostel through hostelworld.com – many of them mention that they are happy to send out the invitation letter for confirmed/paid bookings – may be worth looking into?

    • Hi Sharene – yes I checked with the hotels – they were happy to email me the letter – scanned copies. But the local visa application centre here in Delhi says you need originals sent over by post or courier. The hotel says scan copy is enough. Anyway the headache is just not worth it for a short casual trip. Even if they courier the letter, God knows when it would reach me. Cancelling the plan and instead going to the visa free heaven that is Seychelles.

  3. Hi, i just visited Russia last month. I got an online agency to send me the invite for 1000 Rub and a copy for the same was accepted by the consulate in mumbai. You should check again. Btw Russia is lovely.

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