Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Advice please on visas for out Moscow trip
Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 09 January 2013
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
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
- 5 9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
A380 celebrates first decade in flight - but how long will the Superjumbo's time in the sky last?
12 best hotels in London
Inside Travel: Greece 2015 Q&A - should we cancel our Greek holiday? Are our flights safe? And what will we be spending there?
The Atlas of Beauty: Photographer travels around the world to capture cultural diversity through stunning portraits of women
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'
£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...
£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...
£18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...
£Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...