Whenever I think of Moscow, I think of white snowy streets, fur everywhere and glamour.
What you don't think of is the visa process! The difference in celebration for New Year and Christmas. The flights and getting about.
Think of this as a mini How-to Guide for navigating the processes.
My visa process was made more difficult by the fact I am residing in Beijing. However, the paperwork needed is very lengthy. Make sure you have EVERYTHING you can possibly think of.
The Visa application form requires you to fill out EVERY COUNTRY you have visited along with the dates (thank you Visa stamps and Facebook!) for EVERY PASSPORT YOU HAVE EVER HAD!! It requires you to write down the normal requirements- your address, date of birth, profession, employment status with work address, but also parents livelihoods, names and where they were born.
If you want to apply for a multiple entry visa- then make sure ALL your flights and hotels are booked in advance- otherwise, sorry, you're only getting a single entry.
Make sure your Passport photo has the whitest of white background. The regular British passport photo isn't white enough for the visa photo. If this is the case they will take a photo for you. Every inch of hair must be off your face, ears showing and no jewellery- it will be the ugliest photo you own of yourself (yes, even uglier than the one of you in grade 7 with wonky teeth and frizzy hair!)
What documents did I need to take with me?
Application Form for my Home country citizenship (UK)
Confirmation of return flight (IN MY NAME)
Confirmation of hotel booking (IN MY NAME)
Travel insurance of up to 40,000 Euro a month that states "Russia". (Part of the issue with British insurance companies is they class Moscow as Category Europe 1 meaning it doesn't state Russia as a country)
Copy of a bank statement
Copy of my INVITATION LETTER (We'll get back to this!)
Copy of my residence in China
My Passport (Passport needs at least a double spread available)
Invitation Letter- this can be done through an I-Visa Company. I used this one: Click Here. Which was quick and easy to follow. Ensure you print all aspects of this letter including the payment confirmation.
Print off as many copies of the application form as you can- black and white, colour, single sided, back to back. You never know which they will ask for. Make photocopies of passport, residency permits. Take more than one passport photo with you. This ensures that you will not have a wasted journey if you have booked your appointment online.
IT IS BETTER TO BE OVER PREPARED.
GOOD TO KNOW
Deciding a flight- Aeroflot is a great airline- however, their booking process is really difficult- I would advise using a 3rd party website such as Skyscanner or Trip to help make the booking. I found that certain cards would not be accepted by the airline even though they were supposed to be. I used Trip.com as I could use my Chinese or UK bank card or my credit card which made life easier.
Ensure on arrival you have all aspects of paperwork with you. As I arrived from a country that was not my own, the entry process was a little longer. They open gateways for citizens of the departure country and arrival country. Meaning I had no security member who spoke English which made the process longer.
I also recommend picking up Yandex App before you arrive in Moscow. Yandex is basically Uber of Moscow. It links your foreign bank card which is helpful. It is SO MUCH CHEAPER than taking a regular taxi from the airport into Moscow Centre - think hundreds of pounds cheaper!! I made this mistake. I paid nearly 200 bucks for a 40 minute ride, I spent 190 minutes wondering if I was reading the meter wrong. It was snowing and I luckily had a great taxi driver who allowed me to sit in his taxi while I waited for a Yandex (I still had another 30 minutes of my journey). So, just get the Yandex.
You can pick up a SIM card easily from booths before you exit the airport- I opted for a card with a high data package so I would not need to top up whilst abroad for the week; no VPN is needed to access social media.
The currency in Moscow is Russian Roubles. If you are unable to exchange your currency to Roubles, exchange your money to US dollars, Euros or British Sterling Pounds as these are easily exchanged at the airport.
New Years Eve and Christmas: Russian Christmas falls on January 7th. New Years Eve- Nothing is open beyond 8pm. For a few days before New Year and a week or so after New Year (Russian Christmas), the opening times vary drastically. You will struggle to access the Kremlin and other main tourist hotspots. Many restaurants and bars will close early or not open at all. Also due to New Year, pedestrian streets are changed into markets and roads cut off. So be aware of this when travelling. Roads that may usually be open, will be turned into pedestrian security points where you will have your bags searched before being allowed to access areas. This is especially true around Red Square.
Hope this helps you travel happy around Moscow!
Copyright 2020 Lauren Toner