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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