Russia is one of the most beautiful, culturally rich, diverse, and intriguing destinations in the world. Though in recent years Russian tourism has increased, it is still not at par with what such an amazing destination should get. There are many myths and old wives tales clouding the prospects for travellers to visit this stunning country and in this Russia travel guide, I will try to bust those tales. As the title suggests, this guide has been written keeping the ever-growing number of Indian travellers in mind, but I think everyone who wishes to visit Russia will find it useful.

How many types of visas are there for Russia?

  • Tourist Visa (duration – 30 Days for tourism purpose)
  • Private Visa (duration – 30 to 90 days, to officially meet Russian friends)
  • Business Visa (duration – Up to 5 years and for attending conferences, searching for business partners, etc,)
  • Work Visa (duration – 1 to 3 years and for employment or permanent residency in Russia)

The new facility of electronic visa for Russia

According to the Economic Times India, Russia will give e-visas to Indians visiting its cultural capital Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad Region and extend the facility for the rest of the country by 2021. The facility starts from October 1 and can be availed by filling an electronic application form and uploading a digital photo at least four days before the expected date of arrival in the Russian Federation. Indians will be able to obtain single business, humanitarian and tourist visas Indians in the form of an electronic document, which will be valid 30 days from the date of issuance and the maximum period of stay in the Russian Federation should not exceed eight days. The e-visa is valid only for arrival and departure via border crossing points located in the territory of Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad Region – air border crossing point Pulkovo (the local airport), sea border crossing points Vysotsk, Big Port Saint Petersburg (Marine Station), Passenger Port of Saint Petersburg, motor vehicle border crossing points Ivangorod, Torfyanovka, Brusnichnoe, Svetogorsk and pedestrian border crossing point Ivangorod. Due to technical reasons, for now, foreign nationals bearing e-visas will not be able to enter and exit Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad Region via train border crossing points.

SourceThe Economic Times, October 1st, 2019

How to Apply for a Russian tourist visa

For an Indian passport holder, a Russian tourist visa is one of the easiest to obtain. In this Russia travel guide, I am sharing a step by step process to apply for a tourist visa and answer all the FAQs.

  • Russian visa applications can be submitted at VFS Global centres in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai.
  • Alternatively, you can submit your visa application at any of the Russian Consulates in India. Select the language of the page and change it to English.
  • A Tourist Visa is applicable for those who are planning to visit Russia for holidays or sightseeing. The longest period of stay on a tourist visa for the citizens of India is 30 days and work is strictly not permissible.
  • In order to get a visa to Russia from India, you need to have some documents in place and these include an Invitation Letter, hotel vouchers, return flight tickets, etc.

What is a Russian Invitation Letter?

A Russian Invitation Letter is a mandatory requirement for any traveller intending to visit Russia. This document confirms that you are invited to Russia by a Russian travel company or a hotel accredited by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. This letter has two parts: the first one is a voucher and the second a confirmation of the Admission of a Foreign Tourist. Nowadays, Russian citizens can also send Invitation Letters. Alternatively, it can be easily purchased online by many travel agencies for as less as 15 USD. I personally recommend iVisa services for purchasing a Russian Invitation Letter. Please note that this document is valid only for 30 days after arrival.

What do you need to provide to get a Russian Invitation Letter?

Here are the documents that you need to do to get a Russian Invitation Letter.

  • Valid passport – Your passport needs to be valid for at least another six months from your date of arrival in Russia. If it is is not, your application will be denied.
  • Valid e-mail address – iVisa will send you the invitation letter via e-mail and that is why it is extremely important to provide a valid e-mail address.
  • Proof of accommodation – At the time of application, please upload a hotel booking, Airbnb confirmation, or a letter from a host in Russia.
  • Confirmed arrival and departure dates (Recommended)
  • Number of entries you wish to make i.e places you wish to visit (Recommended)
  • Proof of finances – A bank statement should suffice (Not always required)
  • Accepted payment – the payment to iVisa is to be made before submitting your application. iVisa accepts PayPal, credit and debit card payments.

Step by Step process for applying for an Invitation Letter

  1. Fill in the online form once you have all the above-mentioned documents. Provide the general information asked for in the form.
  2. Choose the type of invitation letter (single-entry or double-entry, a tourist or business letter) and the processing time. Both of these factors determine the cost of your visa.
  3. Review the information provided and make the payment. Corrections are impossible to make after the application is processed.
  4. Upload any additional documents that are asked for.
  5. Submit and wait for your confirmation via e-mail.

Processing Time for a Russian Invitation Letter

The Russian Invitation letter cost depends on the type of letter you want and the processing time. There are three options. The fees mentioned previously are available for a single-entry tourist letter.

  • Standard – Processing time is within 24 hours and the cost is USD 30.00.
  • Rush – 12 hours of processing time, and the cost is USD 55.00.
  • Super Rush – Processing time of 30 minutes and the cost is USD 80.00.

What do I do after I get my Invitation Letter?

After you have received the Invitation Letter, you can apply for the Russian visa either via Vfs Global or directly at the Russian consulates. Please note that an Invitation Letter is a mandatory document that allows you to apply for the actual consular visa. The approval of the visa is at the discretion of the Russian government not companies like iVisa.

Step by Step process to apply for a Russian visa

  1. Collect all the required documents and submit them at the nearest Russian Consulate.
  2. Go to a local travel agency who will submit the documents and collect the visa on your behalf.
  3. Submit them directly at your nearest Vfs Global office.

Documents required for applying for a Russian visa

  1. Passport and passport copy
  2. Recent color photograph 3.5 x 4.5 cm with light-coloured background, clear image of the applicant directly facing the camera, without dark/ tinted glasses or any headgear (with the exception of persons who wear such headgear due to their ethnic/ religious background, and are seen wearing the same in their passport photo)
  3. Invitation letter from a Russian tourist agency
  4. Filled in online application form ( and a printed copy of the form
  5. Flight tickets to and from Russia
  6. Hotel vouchers

Things to remember while applying for a Russian visa

  1. Put your address in the visa application form the same as your passport (even follow the exact punctuation mark). If not, then you will need to provide another proof of address.
  2. Fill in your place of birth exactly like it in your passport.
  3. Put ‘No’ in the field “Do you travel with children under 16 years or other relatives written in your passport?” unless you really need to fill it.

Russian Visa Processing Time and Costs (with Vfs Global)

2 – 3 working days 2130 INR 1830 INR
1 working day 4260 INR 1830 INR
2 – 3 working days 3408 INR 1830 INR
1 working day 6816 INR 1830 INR
4 -10 working days 6390 INR 1830 INR
3 working days 12780 INR 1830 INR
4 – 20 working days 2130 INR 1830 INR
3 working days 4260 INR 1830 INR
4 – 20 working days 3408 INR 1830 INR
3 working days 6816 INR 1830 INR
4 – 20 working days 6390 INR 1830 INR
3 working days 12780 INR 1830 INR

Consular and service fees are collected directly at the visa center office during document submission and are payable in cash. For more information, visit the Russian Consulate visa page.

Check out the entire Russia series for some serious travel inspiration.