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Visa requirements for Russia (and Finland transit)

Visa requirements for Russia (and Finland transit)

Old Aug 29, 16, 1:24 pm
  #1  
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Visa requirements for Russia (and Finland transit)

Hi!

I'm a US citizen and I have made reservations from San Francisco to Russia and back. The route I got was:

SF -> Frankfurt -> Moscow (Layover of 4 hours in Frankfurt)
St Petersburg -> Helsinki -> SF (Layover of 21 hours in Helsinki)

My questions are:

1) Given that I have almost a day in Helsinki of layover, is it possible that I can get a visa? I believe as a US citizen, I should be able to get a visa right away (that's the way it has been when I visited Scandinavia last time), but I've never done that as a transit passenger. So I wanted to double check.

2) The visa for Russia - I believe that I need to get an invite from a travel agency. Will that travel agency be just sending me the invite alone and I pay them for it, or will I have to enlist the Russian travel agency's help in also setting up my entire itinerary in Russia?
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Old Aug 29, 16, 8:16 pm
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You will not need a visa to enter Finland as it is a Schengen country for which US passport holders have visa-free access. If you do not plan to leave the airport this will not be a concern anyway but, with that long of a layover, I would definitely go into Helsinki.

For Russia you need the "invite letters" to cover your whole itinerary. When I went there I only visited Moscow and St.P. The hotels I booked provide me with these letters. If you have a complicated itinerary an agency may be the way to go. There is lots of information in the Russia forum in Destinations.
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Old Aug 29, 16, 11:50 pm
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Some of the visa service agencies seem to have ways to arrange for the invitation letter, for an additional fee of course. It might seem a little dodgy.

My instinct would be to first try to get the invitations through your hotels, assuming that you have reservations in higher category places that appear to be competently run and regularly have foreigners as guests. Don't try this if you're staying in a hostel or budget accommodations. Expect the hotels to charge a fee for this service.

BTW, with a USA passport, you wouldn't have had a visa for Scandinavia. You may be thinking of getting your passport stamped upon arrival.
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Old Aug 30, 16, 9:02 am
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Hi @DieselYVR and @MSTeconomist,

Thanks a lot for the inputs!

1) Thanks for the inputs on Helsinki. I was assuming that I wouldn't need any visa either but I just wanted to double check on this forum just to be sure.

2) As for Russia, thanks for the inputs on getting an 'invite letter' from the hotel that I'll be staying. I normally stay only at 3-star hotels (you can say, budget accommodations). If I cannot get a letter from them, then I'll try a travel agency. My itinerary in Russia is not complicated. I'll be spending 3 days in Moscow (probably 2) and 4 days in St. Petersburg.
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Old Aug 30, 16, 9:05 am
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Find a hotel that will issue an invite letter (for a fee), and book a refundable rate at that hotel for the entire duration of your stay in the country, pay the fee, get the letter and the visa. Then, refund the hotel.
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Old Sep 1, 16, 2:50 am
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Originally Posted by Palal View Post
Find a hotel that will issue an invite letter (for a fee), and book a refundable rate at that hotel for the entire duration of your stay in the country, pay the fee, get the letter and the visa. Then, refund the hotel.
Going through a hotel is imho unnecessary and overly complicated. Just get an invitation letter for a few bucks through one of the reputable agencies, such as http://waytorussia.net/Travel/VisaSupport.html - this is much more straightforward, and the page linked has excellent step-by-step instructions. I have done it many times myself. I can't think of any upside in getting an invitation through a hotel.
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Old Sep 1, 16, 3:27 am
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Originally Posted by ParisMoskau View Post
Going through a hotel is imho unnecessary and overly complicated. Just get an invitation letter for a few bucks through one of the reputable agencies, such as http://waytorussia.net/Travel/VisaSupport.html - this is much more straightforward, and the page linked has excellent step-by-step instructions. I have done it many times myself. I can't think of any upside in getting an invitation through a hotel.
Hotels also use 3rd party agencies.
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Old Sep 1, 16, 6:44 am
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Originally Posted by Palal View Post
Hotels also use 3rd party agencies.
Exactly, thus no reason to scam a hotel into getting an invite for you when you don't plan on honoring the booking.
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Old Sep 20, 16, 1:57 am
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In my experience, it's best and least costly to go to a one-stop specialized agency for a Russian visa. I found this one to be pretty good: www.gotorussia.com. There are substantial quality differences between individual Russian consulates in the US. Those who decide to get their own invites/visa apps, must go to their assigned consulate (usually the closest geographically). Agencies can go to any consulate, and naturally choose the most competent & user friendly (i.e. the one in San Francisco). So just go to one of the agencies, and they'll take care of the required paperwork usually at no extra charge (other than postage/FedEx fees).
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