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I believe there are certain countries which in order to be granted a visa you must submit your intended itinerary. I am pretty sure I've heard Russia is or was formerly such a country.

What do independent travellers do? I've been thinking of hitch-hiking across Russia without a precise plan and a friend of mine has wanted to do a road trip across Russia also without an exact plan.

Is this a no-brainer or is there lots of red tape we would have to deal with? Or is it just official-speak / bureaucracy where they make it look complicated but in practice it turns out to be easy?

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done this yet? Out of interest, did you get your friend to get you an invitation, or use a company in the end? :) –  Mark Mayo Aug 1 '11 at 11:48
    
@Mark Mayo: No I haven't since I learned from another question that I can't even apply for a Russian visa until I'm back in Australia which could be six months or more from now... –  hippietrail Aug 1 '11 at 11:55
    
OH yeah, the applying from your own country or country of residence is a pain - I was glad I was resident in London at the time, as I still haven't heard back from the Russian Embassy in Wellington... –  Mark Mayo Aug 2 '11 at 12:06

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You have two option to solve this problem.
There is two types of visa you can get: touristic and private (homestay) visa.
The main difference between them is the form of invitation:

  1. For the touristic you must provide the hotel voucher for all time you will be in a Russia. As you going to hitchhike, it will be very expensive to pay for the hotel you not going live into. So I don't recommend that.
  2. For the private visa your friend must get and send you the invitation. Officially you will live at your friend home. There is no regular check for it, just always get the return tickets with yourself, and all gonna be okay (also see this answer, if you going to stay more than 3 months).

More information can be found here. For the invitation your friend must contact local FMS in Russia.

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Good luck with that. –  VMAtm Jun 25 '11 at 16:04

Actually there's a third, rarer option. But it's the option I'm on currently.

If your trip is going to be longer than 30 days, you can't use a tourist visa - as that's the maximum length, and you can't extend it.

You can, however, apply for a business visa and are perfectly entitled to say it's for tourism. I got a letter of support from my company (despite it saying I'm just going as a tourist) and worked with visatorussia.com to make sure I had all the details, and voila, a 3 month double-entry Russian Business Visa!

It did cause the border guy a bit of confusion, but a quick phone call and he was quite happy with it.

Again, you need a letter of invite (visatorussia can help with that), and you specify a rough itinerary (I just said the 5 major cities I hope to visit) but these do not go on your visa, nor are you required to stick to it. However, as mentioned - if you're in any place for more than a few days you are required to register with your hotel or place of abode. Again, visatorussia will help explain all of that.

Good luck!

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I think business visas are a great option, although making one is more costly.

What is important to note, and what was already suggested by Mark Mayo, is that you ARE entitled to do tourist travels with your business visa, that is once you obtain it. While consulates demand a Letter of Invitation (LOI) from a Russian company, you do not need to go and visit this company once you are in Russia or anything like this. You do not need to look like a businessman too ;) Normally, you pay an agency which will organize a LOI for you from a Russian company and you are good to apply. Since the visa is granted by the consul, it is not in the capacity of the border folks to question it, really.

I previously travelled through Russia on a 1-year multi-entry business visa. I crossed to Russia on foot from Abkhazia with a 25-year old backpack and no questions were asked about my business visa.

Another thing are registrations. If I remember correctly, if you stay longer than 3 days in a given place you need to register yourself at that place. This is done by a hotel at which you are staying. What if you are an independent traveller? You can register at anybody's private house at a post office, as long as that person owns the place. Last time, I registered at my friend's place in Cherkessk for 2 or 3 months (sic!) although I stayed there only 1 or 2 days. I got a slip of paper stating my registration. All I had to do later is to claim that I did not stay anywhere else longer than 3 days, which would make me require a new registration invalidating my previous one.

If you need to stay at a hotel, no problem too, you can show them your private registration that is still valid and tell them not to make a new one. As long as you don't stay long with them, there should be no problem with that. Even if you are far away from a place of your registration, you can say that you are on a trip and that you would be coming back to your friend's place soon. But normally noone will ask you for your registration anyway. Still, it's good to have one just in case! When I left Russia noone asked me for it as well. I read reports, though, that people were sometimes asked for a registration when leaving the country.

I hitchhiked from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and back trough all the Caucasian republics, meaning I crossed numerous internal border controls and was even questioned for few minutes by FSB (at the Ingush-Ossetian border). The visa topic was never brought up. So don't worry about travelling as an independent traveller with a businsess visa in Russia!

On Monday I should receive a new Russian visa, this time 3 months double-entry business visa, and I will be off to hitchhiking through Russia again. I will be doing the same, early on I will register somewhere, i.e. at a CSer, for a long period and will not bother again.

Good luck!

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