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How to Get a Russian Visa in London

There seems to be two common themes surrounding why more people don’t visit Russia – they think the visa process is too hard and expensive or they think the country is not safe, we’ll get the the safety issues in a second post.

As an Australian passport holder I should have applied for a visa in Australia but when my travel plans changed I finally had a chance to visit Russia, providing I could get a visa on a stopover in London.
As one of the most historical and culturally rich cities in the world, and a place I’ve wanted to travel for many years, I couldn’t bring myself to say no.

The process to get a Russian visa may be length but it’s really quite easy. Here’s a quick rundown on how to get a Russian visa in London.

One does not simply walk into Russia

How do I apply?

For travellers from most countries wanting to visit Russia you will need to obtain a visa before you leave the country. Most travellers will only need a tourist visa, which is the process that I’ll be describing.

To begin the application process you need to complete an extensive form online, including information about which hotels you’ll be staying at, how you’ll be entering and exiting the country, your exact travel dates and which cities you’ll be travelling to. While lengthy, the questions shouldn’t pose too many problems.

Along with your printed visa application you will need to attach a passport photo and include a passport that has more than 6-months left before it expires. It’s also advisable to include copies of your travel itinerary, including flights and hotels, with your application.

There are two visa offices in the UK – one in London and one in Edinburgh – and you can choose whether you want to post the application or hand the post in and collect it in person. You can choose whether you want to pay online or in person with a money order or credit card. (Your visa won’t be processed until your payment has been approved.)

* It is possible to visit some Russian port cities without a visa for 72-hours if you are on a cruise or on an organised tour. For more information read the Visit Russia website but always check with your tour providers for the most up-to-date information.

How much does it cost?

Visa type

Including invitation

You own invitation (from a Russian travel agency/tour operator)

Tourist Visa Single Entry

£115/£210

£105/£175

Tourist Visa Double Entry

£125/£230

£120/£205

Prices listed on the left are standard service (6 working days) while prices on the right reflect the price for express visas (2 working days). Most people should be able to get a 30 day visa for the prices listed.

When applying for a Russian visa you need to have an official invitation to accompany the application. This can be done in a number of ways but the simplest is through VisitRussia.org.uk. They charge GBP£10 while other companies may charge double or even triple this price.

Useful Information to know about Russia and the Visa Process?

  • Australians can obtain a Russian visa while in London. Generally, you do require to have a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa (YMS), however in some circumstances your visa application may be granted providing you get an entry stamp into the country – this is how I got my visa during the December 2013 Christmas period despite having an expired YMS visa. For more information speak with VisitRussia.org.uk as they are the experts.
  • For the latest information about travelling to Russia, including travel warnings, check the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller’s website.
  • While Russian Roubles are the national currency, US dollars are sometimes accepted as the currency was once a lot more stable than Russia’s own. (So goes the Russian phrase: “Roubles are for spending, Dollars are for saving.”) Don’t bring travellers cheques – they’re hard to exchange outside of cities – so it’s best to bring your currency in US Dollars or Euros without any tears or stains. Bank machines or ATMs are easy to locate though I was told by a few people that you need to be a little careful at ordinary machines and instead use ones within hotels. In many transportation hubs you will also find green ?? machines that convert USD or Euros to Rubles.
  • I had a few problems trying to work out Russian train times and book online. While I could have done it when I arrived, to avoid hassle and have peace of mind, I used Real Russia to book train travel within Russia. They gave me all the options, including the high speed Sapsan between Moscow and St Petersburg. To book my ticket for the train between St Petersburg and Helsinki, Finland I used VR’s website.
  • English is widely spoken throughout both Moscow and St Petersburg, if a little shyly. If you need help I’d recommend approaching people under the age of 30-years old or a local hotel. It does help to have a phrase book with you – it saved me a few times when I used the dictionary to find the English word with Russian translation and vice versa.

Further Reading

For more information about travel to Russia I’d recommend reading or speaking to the following bloggers:

  • Katie Aune – in 2011 Katie spent a year travelling and volunteering through all 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. She was my go to girl when asking questions about travel to Russia and beyond. Read Katie’s posts on Russia.
  • Life in Russia – beautiful photography and rich stories accompany Lindsay’s journey from her time in Russia. Beginning with attending University in St Petersburg, she fell in love with the country and now chronicles her stories with her husband who live for at least one month each summer as the only American couple in a Russian/Estonian village.
  • Joulet – For an Aussie’s perspective on travel in Russia, Tash shares her travels from the Trans-Siberian Rail, the Trans-Mongolian Rail, as well as Lake Biakal and Irkutsk.

 

Now it’s over to you:

Are you interested in visiting Russia?
What’s stopping you from travelling to Russia?

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Elle Croft
    January 24, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Fab post, thank you. I am planning on spending some time in Russia this year and had ‘research visas’ on my to-do list. Thank you for making this process MUCH easier for me!

    • Reply
      Nicole
      February 6, 2014 at 3:09 am

      My pleasure Elle!

      Let me know if I can be of any assistance pointing you in the right direction if you have any additional questions. 🙂

  • Reply
    Lindsay
    January 28, 2014 at 8:18 am

    I’ve heard it’s pretty hard to get.

    • Reply
      Nicole
      February 6, 2014 at 3:10 am

      Hey Lindsay,
      It’s not really if you follow the steps I mentioned above!
      I’m not sure what the process for Canadians are, so it may be more difficult than the process of UK residents or Australians.

  • Reply
    Catherine
    January 31, 2014 at 1:57 am

    If I’m completely honest, what’s stopping me is that I’ve never really heard anything that excites me about Russia, or much at all in terms of things to do there. I’m looking forward to finding out what you get up to, maybe that’ll change my mind!

    • Reply
      Nicole
      February 6, 2014 at 3:11 am

      Hrm, I’ll have to see if I can change your perception Catherine!
      There’s so much to see in Russia, particularly if you are a culture lover.

      What aspects of travel are you most interested in?

  • Reply
    Stacey
    May 12, 2014 at 2:36 am

    Hi Nicole,

    Currently trying to figure all the visa stuff out! What has thrown me is the ‘list every country you have been to in the last 10 years and dates’ part. Obviously you have been a lot of places, were you exact? I’m finding it really hard to pinpoint when I arrived in some countries!

    • Reply
      Nicole
      May 12, 2014 at 6:32 am

      Hi Stacey,
      I was very precise with the number of countries I listed, including the very numerous (and very difficult to sort) stamps from visiting Hong Kong. I was able to do this because I keep all my current passports and thought it safer to list everything ‘just in case’.

      If you don’t have your current passports, I’d suggest getting in contact with your local Russian Tourist Boards/Visa Offices to see what they advise as they’ll have the most up-to-date information – and you don’t want to pay twice to get your visa approved!

      Good luck and safe travels! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jack
    August 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Hi there,

    I am thinking of getting a tourist visa whilst in the UK. I am an Australian citizen. The last time I visited Russia I just had FLight Centre organise the visa before I left. The reason I am thinking of getting the visa whilst in the UK is because I am unsure of the dates I want to travel to Russia.

    Did you get your visa whilst in the UK? How long did it take?

    Thanks,

    Jack

    • Reply
      Nicole
      August 18, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Hey Jack,

      Thanks for getting in contact.

      I did get my visa in the UK through http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/ (though there are other companies that can arrange it.)

      I bought an express service visa which usually takes two days but costs extra. There is also a standard service visa which takes six working days.

      Hope this helps and enjoy your trip to Russia!

      Happy travelling!
      Nicole

  • Reply
    Andy Turfer
    June 11, 2015 at 12:19 am

    I went to Russia about 10 years ago. I loved it so much, I ended up getting a job and staying there for 7 years. I returned with a wife, enough money to buy an apartment in London, and a whole load of stories to tell (some funny, others not so funny – like when I was glassed/bottled (knocked out cold) by a lesbian in a bar and woke up in the car park. The last thing I heard before losing consciousness was “f….ing breeder!”).

    The clubs are the best I’ve ever been to. The restaurants were fantastic. Medical care was really good (it was very cheap for first class private medical cover).

    I’m thinking of returning. There were so many opportunities in Moscow for a native English speaker. I hope this is still the case.

  • Reply
    Karen
    July 2, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    You can also get a Russian Visa from The Hague. Im an Australian, who took a chance and applied with the Russian Visa Handling Services Center in The Hague, whilst i was visiting Amsterdam for a few days. I took the train from Amsterdam to The Hague which took about 50mins, then with all the required documents already prepared i applied for a visa. I was told if i paid extra for the urgent service i could collect my visa the next day which i did. All together i think i cost me around $125USD. There was a small hitch when about an hour after submitting my documents they called me and told me they couldn’t process my application as i was an Australia citizen and only local Dutch residents could apply in The Hague, but after i politely challenged them on this, they called the consulate and eventually confirmed it would be okay. The next day i came back and collected my Visa.

  • Reply
    Peter
    September 28, 2015 at 12:50 am

    It’s not as complicated as it seems to get a visa to Russia. Almost all documentation can be obtained online (visa support, insurance, form applicantion ..)

    I applied my visa in London in the Russian Visa Center Application (http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/). I followed this great tutorial to apply for a visa on my own: http://russiable.co.uk/getting-russian-visa-united-kingdom/

    • Reply
      Nicole
      September 28, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and share the link to Russiable. You can obtain a letter of invitation from the Russian Visa Center and not have to spend the extra money with HotelsPro, as well. 🙂

  • Reply
    Mike
    October 27, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    I’m an Australian passport holder on a short-term X2 student visa in China. I wan’t to do the transiberian rail but am not sure whether I can apply for a Russian visa from Beijing. Does anyone know?

  • Reply
    Rachel
    May 13, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    I’m an Australian citizen who has unfortunately run out of time to get my Russian Visa before I leave Australia, and I am looking to get my Visa in the UK, like you did.
    However, the only thing worrying me is the disclaimer on the VSL website that says you must prove that you have been living in the UK for 90 days.
    Was this an issue when you were applying, or is it something new that they have added to the process.
    Thanks!
    Rachel.

  • Reply
    Erin
    May 26, 2016 at 12:36 am

    Hey I think the rules have changed as I’ve just been looking.
    I’m an Aus citizen living in Manchester and looks like you have to go in person to London or Edinburgh 🙁

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