Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Advice please on visas for out Moscow trip

Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions

Q On a bit of a whim I booked two cheap flights to Moscow in June for myself and my 11-year-old daughter. We have both always wanted to visit Moscow to see its fabulous buildings and experience the rich culture, so it seemed like a good idea at the time! Since booking I have looked into obtaining visas and it seems like a minefield of red tape. Do you happen to know the process?

Matt Denby, West Yorkshire

A Congratulations, Matt. You are one of the very first to realise that the Russian capital is a “big, new destination” for 2013 is the. Big: this is the largest city in the biggest country in the world, and with eight million inhabitants, tops anything in Western Europe, including London. New: Moscow joins the no-frills route network, with easyJet flying in the spring from Gatwick and Manchester to the city’s best airport, Domodedovo. And after decades when it has been difficult or impossible to find a flight below £200 return, there are at last tickets at less than £100. (Usual rules for finding these apply: book well ahead, and avoid Friday/Sunday/school holiday peaks.)

The attractions, too, are immense: stand in the middle of the vast Red Square, and the domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, the walls of the Kremlin, the Lenin Mausoleum and the nation’s foremost shopping venue – GUM – stretch beyond your field of vision. And that is just the start of the repertoire of fascination that awaits you. But before you reach the fine art, grandiose architecture and gastronomic adventures, you need to jump through some bureaucratic hoops.

Obtaining a visa is an expensive and time-consuming business that has hardly changed since Soviet days. First, you have to get your ground arrangements sorted out – which for your trip presumably means just booking a hotel. But don’t imagine that an email by way of confirming your plans will suffice: you need an officially stamped and signed “tourist voucher/confirmation” from the “inviting organisation” – usually, the hotel.

Having acquired this precious document, you can start applying for a visa through the outsourced visa provider, ru.vfsglobal.co.uk. The normal price is £27.60 per person, and you need to allow plenty of time for the process.

All in all a daunting process, and one that you might want to place in the hands of a long-established expert, such as Regent Holidays (regentholidays.co.uk) – which can guide you through the bureaucracy. It may prove more expensive than the DIY experience, but the extra is well worthwhile to avoid the pitfalls that await the unwary visitor to Russia.

One final tip: between now and June, gently teach yourselves the Cyrillic alphabet and a few words of Russian. Being able quickly to comprehend signposts will make your stay much easier, in particular finding your way around on the marvellous Moscow Metro.

Click HERE to email Simon.

You can also tweet him your questions @SimonCalder

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us