Having decided to “go solo”, I need to decide where I want to go, and what I want to do and see. High on the list is Russia!
After seeing Dr Zhivago as a teenager and reading shelves of historical novels since then, I have to visit Mother Russia. The Hermitage Museum, Church of the Resurrection, St Catherine’s, the Peterhof gold fountains in St Petersburg, and the Kremlin, Red Square, St Basil’s and the Metro stations in Moscow, as well as many of the historical places involving the Czars- I just have to see for myself.
Russia has been deleted off my previous European trips because of the fear of the visa application process. But not this trip! So here’s my step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Book flights in and out of Russia
I’ve booked a flight into St Petersburg and out of Moscow, both with Air Baltic. The connection from St Petersburg to Moscow is by train.
Booking flights was a leap of faith as I booked cheap non-refundable fares hoping I would be granted a Russian Visa.
Step 2: Book all of your accommodation
I’ve booked the Abajour on Fontanka in St Petersburg for 5 nights and the Jolly Hostel in Moscow for 3 nights.
Flights and accommodation have to be locked in before you start your Russian visa application. Asking around fellow travellers who have visited Russia was absolutely no help at all.
Of course, they all had Russian Visas or were on a 72- hour trip off a cruise ship. Most had been in an organized tour group where the tour group operator or travel agent had organised their Visas for them. So it was up to me to do it myself.
Step 3: Good old Google!
But there were dozens of hits when I entered “getting a Russian Visa from Australia”. Some involved travelling to Sydney or Canberra, which I was not keen on. There must be an easier way!
I settled on Interlink Service- Completion of Electronic Visa Application Form and proceeded through to www.kdmid.ru
First, I needed a Travel Confirmation Voucher (TCV), before I could even start applying for the Visa. I obtained this online. This has to be submitted with your Visa application.
However, I was warned the printed copy may not be sufficient and was advised to obtain the original document, which I did. I didn’t want any hiccoughs so I paid $75.64 to have the original document pony-expressed to me. The actual TCV was only $32.58.
Please note: The hotel booking confirmation does not replace the voucher and cannot be used as a supporting document for a Russian Visa application.
Second, after receiving the original TCV back, I packaged up my passport, the completed online Visa application form http://visa.kdmid.ru printed off and signed, an extra passport photo, a copy of my medical insurance cover (travel insurance) as well as the original TCV and sent them by registered post to Interlink Service Australia Pty Ltd.
Third, I received an invoice via email, which had to be paid by BPay, no credit cards accepted, which I paid immediately. The following day, I received an email receipt for $223 and a notification that my Visa application had been lodged with the Russian Consulate in Sydney. A week later, my passport arrived with my Russian Visa firmly attached inside.
So as you can see it was quite a process and not to be attempted in haste. Staying calm and going through it step by step is a must.
The actual visa application asked for every country you had visited in the past 10 years (and the dates you were there!) so my past travel blogs and itineraries proved invaluable. Total cost $338.17.
I’ve proved it’s possible to DIY, and I’ve done it (so proud!), but would I recommend it? Ask a travel agent first for their cost, before you decide to do it yourself!