“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…”
Even the evergreen lyrical aspirations of John Lennon would not have been enough to guarantee him a smooth sailing when it comes to applying for a Russian visa. No matter how much he would have had yearned for a world without any countries, borders and religions – the obligatory rules of the Russian visa requires that as part of your tourist visa application, you have to provide two must have documents – the tourist voucher and the tourist confirmation – otherwise keep buzzing John Lennon or you can safely buzz off too if you so wish. You will not get the Russian visa.
This peculiar requirement is mentioned very clearly in the websites of Russian embassies. Like many things in life, you don’t learn and understand a few things unless it happens to you. This is something like this. In a nutshell, the hotel you will be staying in while in Russia will need to provide you a tourist confirmation document that shows that you will actually be staying in that hotel, it will mention your detail and dates of travel. The other document is called a tourist voucher which is pretty much the same thing with same details and also provided by the hotel. It is advised you don’t try to think too much what the differences are between these documents. Other than saving your precious grey matter, be aware that the documents are mostly in Russian language. So you have a choice on how much stress you want to give to your linguistic prowess.
Tourists from any country will need this – atleast there are no discriminations here based on the colour of your passport. Also, like there is no free lunch in life and in Russia – you need to pay a certain amount (ranging from £10 to £70) per person for getting these documents. Some very good hotels offer this service for free if you confirm your stay with them, while some others rely on third party travel agents in Russia who offer the same service for a fee. Incase you show up for example in the Russian visa VFS center in London without these two documents – you can always get them from there too in exchange of a whopping £35 per head, which is ofcourse on top of the visa fees that you need to pay.
This was the first time in our voyage experiences that we were returned from the Visa counter twice because these documents were not as per correct specifications. Once the hotel got our genders mixed up and the other time they sent only one set of the documents required. Because Russian letters don’t automatically translate themselves into English when you look at them, we didn’t know what was going on.
Russia being Russia and all the mystery and intrigue around it – the requirements of these two precious documents for obtaining a visa to get there added to the woeful anticipation of setting foot in the biggest country in the world. On hindsight, you console yourself by thinking that “come on, they are the biggest, unless they set up some entry barriers big enough, it cannot be a big deal”. Nevertheless, once you actually arrive in Russia and spend time mingling with the locals and floating around in its iconic gorgeous metro, swallowing a few shots of Beluga, you will look back at the triviality of these two documents, may be telling yourself that all the hassle was worth the sight, sound and splendour of the mighty Russian Federation. More on our discoveries and experience coming up next in this series. So stay tuned, stay stunned!