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best visa service for one visit visa

Hello,
We will be in Russia in Sept on a Viking trip. Can anyone recommend a reliable and reasonably priced visa service?
Linda

Posted by
1772 posts

Will you be visiting St. Petersburg only? If so and you are arriving on a cruise boat, you don't need a visa.

Posted by
54 posts

We will be in Moscow and St. Petersburg and the rivers in between for a total of 13 days. We are told we need a visa.

Posted by
1772 posts

I had friends that did this trip and loved it. They got their visas through Viking recommendations, but I'm sure others who read this post will have suggestions. We got a 3 year visa 4 years ago, using an agency that RS staff recommended; we got a letter of support via the hotel we were staying at.

Posted by
436 posts

I'm not sure what Viking's recommendations are, but, given the markup I know they slap on their SPb hotels, I doubt it would be anywhere close to decent value for money.

The cheapest way to go is to obtain a "visa support" paper from one of the many online agencies for about 20 to 40 dollars (make sure the dates overlap your intended stay duration by a couple of days on either end) and apply via an ILS branch closest to you (when you file their online application, make sure to use the data from visa support letter, not your real Viking data).
If you can do it in person, it would add up to about 125 dollars (90 for the single-entry visa plus 35 for ils services). If you have to mail it in - add another 85 per person.

I cite the numbers from memory, so I might be a little off; that said, I don't see how using a third-party visa service (however reputable) would add any value.

If Viking can provide you with the letter of invitation (visa support), that would save you an average of 30 bucks and make you feel better, as you won't have to "creatively modify the truth" in your visa application. On the other hand, I would assume it would match the dates of your stay exactly, removing the "safety cushion" on either end.

If you have any questions on the actual visa process - there is a bunch of people here who did it on their own, and I'm sure they will be able to walk you through all the steps.

Posted by
3587 posts

Start here - http://www.russianembassy.org/page/russian-consulates-in-the-u-s . Select the consular office for your residential jurisdiction and proceed from there . They will show a direct link to ILS , the contractor who processes the Visas . I obtained Visas for three years in 2015 , and the process was fairly simple , I'm returning to Moscow and St Petersburg this Autumn .

Posted by
54 posts

Thanks to all who answered. I went on the website and see that apparently they recommend a 3 year visa, but I can't imagine why one would do that for a single trip, as the 3 year is exactly 3 times more expensive. Anyway, thanks all.
Linda

Posted by
3587 posts

They recommend the three year for those visitors who anticipate return trips . As well , prior to this past winter ( December - or January ) the consular fees for single , double or three year were identical . Since then the price structure has changed , and purchasing a single entry is obviously what you need .

Posted by
6895 posts

You don't need a service; you just use the on line process the consulate in your region indicates i.e. fill out the forms on the Russian Visa website and send them to the agency the consulate your area requires. e.g. in Chicago we have to use the consulate in Washington DC. It is easy. We got a 3 year visa but since then they have changed the price structure. You can use the invitation letter from the hotels the cruise books. We used the same hotels for our additional days in the two cities.

We took the Moscow-Petersburg cruise. Note that this is not on the 'volga river' where you will see Russian villages etc along the way -- it is on a huge canal and reservoir system with perhaps the most boring scenery in the world punctuated by stops at tourist traps. A couple of the stops are interesting, but if I had to do it over, I would spend a lot more time in Moscow and would do some trips to Russian towns in the Golden Ring. Petersburg and Moscow are both fabulous places to spend time. Be sure you add a few days on each end as group bus tours for photo ops are not as much fun as really spending a couple of days in say the Hermitage and really seeing the place.

Posted by
6895 posts

Hi we appreciate all the good advice on getting our visa initially. We used it for that first trip to Petersburg and then again last fall for Moscow and Petersburg. Happy travels. We loved the hermitage; have spent a total of 5 days there now, not counting the river cruise tour which was a joke (no art looked at, just death marched past huge ugly stone vases which the Hermitage apparently has cornered the market on)

Posted by
54 posts

Thanks to Steve and others for Visa advice. Viking indeed marks their service way up. About $375 per person, compared to about $139 per person if you do it as Steve suggests. Viking will give you the letter of invitation and you go from there.

Posted by
54 posts

Janet, you mentioned you did the river cruise? Was it with Viking? It does seem as though the waterways part does include some villages and Unesco sights. And we have about 3.5 days in each of Moscow and St. Petersburg. But I read elsewhere that the ship stays docked far outside the city centers. Did you have any experience with arranging your own transportation and excursions?. We want to be in The Hermitage more than the short tour. Which sounds like the short tour of the Louvre. A joke.

Thanks,
Linda

Posted by
3587 posts

We spent three days at the Hermitage on our visit in 2015 ( two in the main building and one in the General Staff building on the opposite end of Palace Square . The General Staff Building has the Schukin and Morosov collections ) . The Russian Museum in Mikhailovsky Park is also a must see . As you understand , Viking berths are at Morskoy Façade at the western end of Vasilevsky Island , nearest Metro is The green (3) line at Primorskaya - look here - https://www.google.com/maps/place/Primorskaya/@59.9537688,30.2280202,14.25z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x469636d7a38d86bb:0x927a31ee62b9ab96!8m2!3d59.9481915!4d30.234493 We found the metro , bus , and trolleybus service easy to deal with , and used the Marshrutka buses , to go out to The Naval Cathedral in Kronstadt . Hopefully , you can extend your stay in St Petersburg , it's wonderful . Here is some information on the ship berthing - https://www.guide-guru.com/destinations/petersburg-cruise-tours/docking-schedule/

Posted by
5891 posts

I don't agree with Janet. Back when there was no big highway between Moscow and St. Pete, the cruise delivered good cities and line-skipping at places like the Catherine Palace. Posters asking about visas should reveal their home city in their profiles. How else can we say if a visa service is worth the money? How do you feel about having your passport mailed out of your hands?

Posted by
436 posts

Regardless of where the poster is from, there is little value in any visa service other than ILS (any other service will inevitably go through ILS anyway). If an applicant can use the walk-in service - great, if not - well, they would have to deal with mailing their documents in.
As to "mailing your passport out of your hands" - I don't really see what the problem is. You get your credit cards mailed to you all the time; after all, didn't you originally apply for and received your passport from a post office in the first place?

Posted by
436 posts

As to Viking - a couple of friends have just done Moscow to St.Petersburg earlier this month - they booked "pre-extension" and "post-extension" from Viking.

They were very happy with their experience, the only complaint was that the hotel booked by Viking for their SPb stay (Solo Sokos) was pretty bad value for money and no comparison to Hotel Ukraina (Radisson Royal) they booked in Moscow. It could be a very time-specific problem, though (their visit coincided with a huge economic forum of sorts in SPb, so all the good hotels must have been overbooked).