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Nandy, Canada
Express to Russia provided my daughter and I will all the online tools we needed to plan our train trip between irkutzk and St.petersburg. I was consistently impressed by the level of support provided via email. We could not have done this trip without this excellent website. Highly recommended! This...   read more
Alexandra, USA
Dear Asya and Express to Russia, we are back to US from amazing trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg organized by you. We are so happy that used your service for this tour and will be using it again and again if we decide to come back in the future....   read more
Yves Goovaerts, Belgium
Большое спасибо. Thank you very much, Express to Russia , for your perfect service in getting me my invitation, voucher and TransSib tickets. No stress whatsoever!   read more
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Express to Russia » Travel to Russia - questions and answers

Travel to Russia - questions and answers

Travel to Russia comes with lots of questions!!! Please click on the question and you will be taken to the answer below or just browse this section. If something is still not clear or if you have additional questions about your Russian trip, please contact us for help or contact your order manager.

Payment

Q.: I would like to use your services but at the moment I can’t pay with my credit card. Can I use someone else’s credit card?
A.: For security reasons we prefer that people pay for our services with their own credit cards. However, it is possible to have someone else pay for you if this person fills in, signs and sends us a credit card authorization form (please, ask our managers to send you authorization form).

Q.: I want to pay by bank transfer. Please advise the best way.
A.: If you’d like to pay by bank transfer please contact us and we will send you an invoice with our bank details. All bank transfers should be made at least 21 days before your check-in date.

Q.: Can I pay by credit card for the balance of your services when I arrive in Russia?
A.: For tours, cruises, hotels, tickets and visas, we require 100% prepayment before arriving in Russia; for apartments we frequently only require a deposit which is a percentage of the cost of your stay usually ranging between 15% - 50%. We then require that the unpaid balance for the service be paid in cash at check in. If you are worried about carrying large quantities of cash in Russia, you may just want to use an ATM machine near our office.

Visas

Q.: How do I get a Russian visa?
A.: We can send you a visa invitation (sometimes called a voucher) - the main document that you need to apply for a Russian visa. The invitation is needed when you submit your visa application forms to the Russian Consulate in your country. For the application forms, see the visa section of our site where you can download them and learn more about the process of applying. You can either mail in the forms to a Full Visa Service Company or visit the Consulate in person. We can issue the visa invitation during 1-2 working days. If you need your visa invitation urgently, we can issue and send it to you on the same day. We usually send scanned versions of the invitations by email but can also send them by fax. Sometimes, Consulates in certain countries require the original invitation. In this case, we can mail you the original by Federal Express or by a cheaper but slower service (via Finland) called West Post. Please check with the Consulate to know if you need the original. Postage is an extra charge.

Along with the Russian Visa invitation, US citizens can use the following documents to receive their visa: Confirmation of a hotel reservation, a contract for the provision of tourist services, confirmation of reception of the tourist. The above mentioned documents shall have the register number from the Uniform Federal Register of the Tour Operators of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency and the seal of the host organization.

Q.: What documents are required to receive a Russian visa?
A.: Usually the documents consist of: your original passport, 1-2 passport photos, 1-2 Russian visa application forms, an HIV test if you are applying for a business visa (tourist visa applications do not require this) and of course, the visa invitation (voucher) - this is the document that we can supply you with. However, to be 100% sure of what documents are necessary at specific Consulates, we suggest that you contact the Consulates directly. You can find a listing of phone numbers and addresses on this website

Q.: Is it possible to order Russian visa support documents 6 months or more in advance of applying to the Russian Consulate for the visa?
A.: Yes, you can make an order on our web-site in advance. Our tourist visa invitation will be valid for more than 6 months (with business invitations, we can only issue you a visa within 45 days of your planned arrival in Russia). But it is important that you actually apply to the Consulate within 4 months of your arrival in Russia – for example, trying to apply at the Consulate 6 months in advance is usually a problem.

Q.: Do I need an original invitation to apply for a tourist visa or is a printed copy is enough?
A.: If you are applying in the country of your citizenship, the invitation copy will be enough in most cases (there are exclusions, for ex. Taiwan, fax copy in France, etc.), but please check with the Consulate first as they might have slightly different rules by region. You can find a listing of Consulate phone numbers and addresses on this website

Q.: What are the new Russian visa regulations for US citizens?
A.: In accordance with the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the simplification of visa formalities for nationals of the Russian Federation and the United States of America effective September 9, 2012, US citizens shall as a rule be issued multiple-entry business, private, humanitarian and tourist visas for a stay of no more than 6 months starting from the date of each entry. The visas shall be valid for three years (36 months) from the date of issue of the visa. You can download the new Agreement and updates on Russian visa requirements

Q.: I want to enter Russia from China (via the Trans-Siberian train). Can I apply for a visa at the Russian Consulate or Embassy in Beijing, China?
A.: It is only possible to apply for a Russian visa in the country of your citizenship or in the country where you have a residency permit valid for longer than 90 days. Therefore, if you are planning a long journey, you should always apply for the Russian visa before you leave. Applying in a different country may cause problems, for example, the original invitation might be required. We always recommend contacting the Consulate first to confirm if you are allowed to apply there and obtain the list of specific documents you will need to submit your application.

Q.: Do I have to register my visa when in Russia?
A.: Please note, that all foreigners staying in Russia for more than 7 working days, excluding holidays and weekends, must have their Russian visas registered for the entire period of their stay. You must register on the day of your arrival or you may be required to pay fines or may experience trouble when leaving the country. Our company can provide registration service.

Q.: Do I need to register my visa if I am staying for 7 business days?
A.: No, you need to register only in case you are staying in Russia for more than 7 business days.

Q.: I received an invitation from you. Where is the confirmation number?
A.: The confirmation number is the number of your voucher (invitation), you can find in on the top of the document.

Q.: What is the difference between “Tourist single entry” and “Tourist single entry with registration in St. Petersburg”?
A.: If you choose the “Tourist single entry” option, we will send you a tourist invitation by email (the document that is required to apply for a tourist visa). If you are staying in Russia for more than 7 business days, you are required to register your stay. You can register with the help of our company. To pay for this registration in advance, please choose “Tourist single entry with registration in St. Petersburg”, we will send you the tourist visa invitation by email and you will not need to pay for your registration when in Russia. (However, you still will need to come to our office for the registration process). Please note that if you are staying in a hotel they will register your visa.

Q.: The Consulate requests a tourist voucher and confirmation letter, do you issue both?
A.: The invitation that we send to you is comprised of a tourist voucher and a reservation confirmation (all in one document). This document can only be issued by a Russian travel agency registered with Rosturism (Federal Tourism Agency). It satisfies the requirements of the Russian Consulate.

Q.: I didn’t mention Novgorod (or any other city) in my invitation, but now I changed my plans. Can I visit this city?
A.: Once you have received your Russian Visa, no cities are stated there, so you can travel almost anywhere in Russia, except to restricted areas (closed cities and regions)

Q.: What is a Russian business invitation by Telex?
A.: Telex is a communications system consisting of teletypewriters connected to a telephonic network to send and receive messages. Your data will be telexed directly from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Russian Consulate where you are planning to obtain your visa.
When the process is completed, you will receive the telex number and name of the inviting company from us by email. You will submit your documents to the consulate using this information.
Telex greatly increases your chances of obtaining a long term Russian visa. The procedure of applying with a telex is more convenient as you do not need to pay for postage services from Russia to your home country in order to obtain the original visa invitation.
Please contact the Consulate to make sure that they accept telex invitations.

Q.: What is the difference between a Telex business invitation and an original Business invitation?
A.: While a Telex is sent to the Consulate directly, an original invitation is a paper document that is delivered to our office and then should be mailed to you by post. It is less expensive, but the processing time is much longer. Postage is also not included in the price.

Q.: I cannot find the country of my citizenship in the list when ordering an invitation.
A.: Unfortunately we do not issue visa invitations to citizens of certain countries. Please check the list under the price table.

Q.: I want to apply for a 3-year multiple entry Russian Tourist Visa. Do you provide this type of invitation?
A.: This option is available for USA citizens only. If you are traveling for tourism or if you do not want to receive a business or private visa, you can still receive a standard tourist invitation letter (up to 30 days) and then use this to apply for a long-term 36-month tourist visa. Please check with the Consulate in the USA for more information.

Q.: What should I put in the field “Address in Russia”?
A.: If you did not choose your accommodation yet or are planning to stay with friends, please state any name of a hotel or just “hotel” in this field. We will choose the hotel for you. Please note that according to Russian law, a hotel reservation for the entire period of your stay is required for a tourist visa. Usually this rule is just a formality (and an invitation with a hotel name is enough), but some Consulates take it very seriously (for ex. in Sweden) and in this case, we recommend that you to have a real hotel booking. Once you obtain your Russian Visa you can stay elsewhere.

Q.: It has been more than 3 days since I ordered an invitation and I still have not received it.
A.: Please note that we always send an invitation within the requested period. If you have not received the email, please check your spam folder and contact us by chat, email or phone.

Apartments

Q.: How will I get the key to the apartment? Will somebody be there to meet me or we should come to your office to pick up the keys?
A.: We highly suggest taking our transfer. Our driver will have the keys from the apartment and he will help you to find the apartment. It is the most convenient way to get to the apartment and to arrange the check in. For the transfer from the airport please send me the name of the airport, flight number, airlines, time and the city where you’re flying from. You can check our rates here.

If you absolutely do not require a transfer you are welcome to collect keys at our office during the working hours (Monday-Friday 10-18)

Q.: What is the security deposit?
A.: If staying in an apartment, a security deposit of $100 or 100 EURO will be required at the time of check in and will be returned at check out less costs of any damage to the apartment or equipment in the apartment. A security deposit of $100 or 100 EURO is made by the client as a monetary guarantee of abidance to our terms and conditions for apartment stays. The security deposit will be returned to the client after return of the premises keys to the offices of the Company or a representative of the Company.

Q.: When is check-in and check-out? (for apartments)
A.: Check in time is 13:00 unless previously agreed upon with the Company. Check out time is 11:30 unless previously agreed upon with the Company. Early check-in & late check-out is an additional 50% of one night's stay if the apartment is not booked.

Hotels

Q.: What documents do I need to check into a Russian hotel?
A.: The hotel confirmation voucher that our company sends to you and your passport are enough. The most important information in your voucher is the confirmation number. So even if you don’t have a voucher but know the confirmation number, this is usually enough. However, please note that many mini-hotels in St. Petersburg do not issue reservation numbers, in this case, use your first and last name.

Q.: How will my hotel confirmation voucher or visa support letter be delivered to me?
A.: We can either send it to you by email (as an attached file) or by fax – original hotel confirmations are not needed, copies are fine. For visa invitations, if the original is needed, we can mail it to you by FedEx or West Post (a slower service that works via Finland).

Q.: Is it possible for 2 people to stay in a single room?
A.: Unfortunately this is not possible. Only one person can be accommodated in a single room. This room is intended for single use only.

Q.: Is it possible to request a no-smoking room?
A.: In some hotels this is possible but not in all of them – this is a situation very specific to Russia. Please ask us in the comments section of your inquiry form and we will do our best but in Russia, it is not guaranteed.

Transfers

Q.: Where and by whom will I be met for my transfer?
A.: You will be met by a driver holding a sign with your name on it. If you arrive on an international flight, you will be met at the airport exit. If you arrive by train you will be met near your carriage (you should tell us the number of the carriage) or at the head of the train if you have not indicated your carriage.

Q.: How long will the driver wait for me?
A.: Airport pickup: The driver will wait for free up to 1 hour. Usually this time is enough to get through the customs and to collect the luggage. If wait is more than 1 hour for each additional half hour 6 EURO will be charged.
Train Station pickup: The driver will wait for free up to half an hour. If the wait is more than half an hour, for each additional half hour, 6 EURO will be charged.
Pick up from Apartment or Hotel: The driver will wait for free up to 15 minutes. If wait is more than 15 minutes, for each additional half hour, 6 EURO will be charged.
The driver will wait up to 2 hours. If the client does appear within this time frame or does not for any other reasons use the ordered transfer services at the time specified in the order, the order will be considered fulfilled and no refund will be available. Cancellation of transportation must be advised not less than 3 working days before the date of execution.

Train Tickets

Q.: Does the ticket price include meals?
A.: Tickets with meals are available on almost all trains. But tickets with and without meals have different prices. If you require meals, you need to book these tickets specifically.

Q.: Please, let me know prices along route:...
A.: Please, be advised that price depends on the season and to check the prices we need to know your departure date.

Q.: What is the difference between 1st class and 2nd class?
A.: 1st class is a 2-berth compartment and 2nd class is a 4-berth compartment. 2nd class in Europe international trains is a 3-berth compartment.

Q.: Do the Sapsan fast trains have 1st and 2nd class compartments?
A.: Sapsan trains do not have compartments, only seats are available on these trains.
2nd class seats are arranged in rows of four with an aisle in the middle (two seats on each side of the aisle). Meals are not included in the price of 2nd class tickets.
There are 3 types of 1st class seats.
Premium 1st class seats are available only on Sapsan, high speed trains. Premium 1st class seats are located in separate, 4-seat cabins in the 1st class carriage. They can be purchased only in full (all 4 seats). The cabin has electronic equipment and can be used for business meetings.
Superior 1st class seats are arranged in rows of three with an aisle in the middle (two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other side)
1st class seats are arranged in rows of four with an aisle in the middle (two seats on each side of the aisle).
All 1st class tickets include one meal during the trip.

Q.: Is the time in the schedule Moscow time or local time?
A.: Moscow time is indicated for all stations located in the territory of the Russian Federation, the local time - for stations outside the Russian Federation.

Q.: We are 3 persons and we want to have a 2nd class cabin. We want to have a private cabin for us. Is that possible?
A.: According to the Russian Railroads policy, if you want to travel in private cabin, you should buy all 4 tickets.

Q.: Are there any child discounts on Russian trains?
A.: According to the Russian Railroads policy, an adult passenger may be accompanied only by one infant (0-4) without a seat. If one adult is accompanied by more than one infant, only one infant will travel for free and the others will be offered a 30% discount and will be given a seat. Children of 5-9 years are offered a 30% discount and are given a seat.

Q.: Are there showers on trains in 1st class cabins?
A.: Only a few trains have showers in the cabin. These trains operate on the following routes: Moscow – St. Petersburg, Moscow – Kiev, Moscow – Riga and Moscow – Helsinki. These cabins are called “Deluxe”, Luxury or VIP cabins. Please, specify in the comments that you need these facilities and your order manager will check availability and prices.

Q.: Can I book the ticket in advance? When can I make the purchase?
A.: Because of the policies of the Russian Railroads, tickets are only available for purchase beginning from
- 45 days in advance of your planned travel dates – for trains within Russia and trains to the countries of the CIS;
- 60 days in advance of your planned travel dates – for International trains.
If you order in advance, we will issue the tickets for you on the first day when they are available.

Q.: Can I make stops in cities on the train route?
A.: The Russian Railroads do not offer any flexible tickets with stopovers. If you would like to make stopovers during your trip, you must buy tickets for each leg of your trip.

Q.: What is the difference between a semi e-ticket and an e-ticket?
A.: Both tickets are electronic and you will receive them by email.
E-tickets are tickets on trains on which electronic registration is available. You don’t need to exchange them to paper tickets on the train station. You need to print out the e-ticket and show it with your passport to the conductor when you board the train.
Semi e-tickets are available only on trains within Russia on which electronic registration is not available. You must exchange them to paper tickets on the train station.

Q.: I am a man/woman. Can I travel in a male/female compartment?
A.: Many trains within Russia have at least one carriage with gender sensitive compartments. You may travel in a female/male compartments if tickets are available.
NOTE: several trains to Europe have only gender-sensitive compartments. Mixed compartments are not available.

Q.: My train crosses Belorussia or Mongolia on its route. Do I need to obtain a visa?
A.: Yes, you will need to obtain a Belorussian or Mongolian transit visa. Please contact the Consulate to inquire about the requirements on how to receive the visa.

Tours

Q.: Is airfare included in the tour price?
A.: No, airfare is not included. You can easily book the discount tickets yourself through our own discount internet ticket office. The airline tickets we offer are the cheapest available on the web. Please browse our discount air tickets section to learn more.

Q.: We are interested in your Moscow and St. Petersburg trips. We are wondering if there are certain days that the trips start on?
A.: Express to Russia organizes not only group tours but individual ones as well. So the tour can be organized individually and it can be customized according to individual preferences and can start on any day that you prefer.

Q.: Does your company provide travel insurance?
A.: Our company does not provide travel insurance. It can be provided only by a local insurance company (registered in your country).

Q.: Can tours and excursions be paid by cash on the tour start date?
A.: Unfortunately, it is not possible. All our tours and excursions need to be paid in full and in advance, since we have to pre-book museum tickets, guides and drivers and we pay penalties when there are cancellations.

Q.: Are museums in Russia equipped with special ramps for disabled people? Can wheelchairs be provided for tours and excursions?
A.: Unfortunately, only a few museums in Russia are equipped with special ramps. We regret to say that museums and roads in Russia are not very wheelchair friendly. However, we can try to organize tours for physically challenged people and provide our customers with wheelchairs if necessary.

Q.: What are the tipping expectations of our guides and drivers? When is it appropriate to tip (daily or at the end of the trip)?
A.: The decision to tip or not is always up to you and it does not matter if you tip daily or at the end of the trip. You should tip only if you are satisfied with the service. We would say that a 10-20 USD per day for the guide and 5-10 USD per day for the driver is appropriate.

Q.: Will we avoid lines to museums if we book private tours and excursions?
A.: Yes, booking a tour with us helps to avoid long lines. Museum tickets are usually pre-booked for a specific date and time. Sometimes (especially in the summer or during school vacation periods) museums can be very crowded, in this case you might need to wait a little bit.

Q.: Is it possible to exclude hotel accommodation from a tour?
A.: It is possible to do so on request. You can ask your customer service manager to provide you with a tour price quote including only the services that you are interested in.

Q.: What is included into the price of a city excursion?
A.: We offer different types of excursions. Some of them are walking tours and here we include guide service and entrance fee to the museums if there are visits to museums. If you choose excursions with transport, car and driver service are included as well as guide service and entrance fee.

Q.: What is included into the price of a package tour?
A.: Package tour price includes accommodation with breakfasts at the hotel, arrival and departure transfers, excursions according to the tour program, additional accident insurance (please note that this is not the insurance required by Russian Consulates to issue you a visa, it is additional Russian insurance in case of problems while in Russia), train tickets Moscow – St. Petersburg if it is a tour that combines both of these cities. However you should check what is included in the price of each individual tour by referring to the specific tour page or by asking your customer service manager because sometimes extras are included such as lunches, early check in, additional breakfast, etc.

Cruises

Q.: Is airfare included in the cruise price?
A.: No, airfare is not included. You can easily book the discount tickets yourself through our own discount internet ticket office. The airline tickets we offer are the cheapest available on the web. Please browse our discount air tickets section to learn more.

Q.: What time do we need to arrive to the ship and what time we need to depart?
A.: The check in is after 14:00, check out is before 10:00. You can arrive earlier than 14:00 and wait for the check in on board. You can depart later than 10:00 by leaving your cabin and waiting on board.

Q.: If our flight arrives late in the evening do we miss any part of the tour program?
A.: There is no tour program planned for the first and the last days of your cruise. Therefore, you can arrive in the evening and depart early in the morning without missing any tours. The only activity planned for the first day is dinner and for the last day breakfast.

Q.: Can we order extra excursions in addition to those listed in the program?
A.: Yes, it’s possible. To learn more please contact your manager as the options vary depending on the cruise.

Q.: Will we have an English-speaking guide throughout the cruise?
A.: You will have a local English-speaking guide in each city you'll be touring. Other languages are on request.

Q.: Can I take my cat/dog on the cruise?
A.: No, pets are not allowed on the cruise ships.

Q.: What excursions are included in the tour?
A.: Excursions vary depending on the tour chosen. There are walking tours in some cities and bus tours in the others. To learn more detailed information please study the description of the tour you’re interested in.

Q.: Can I book part of the cruise only (e.g. I’d like to disembark in Yaroslavl)?
A.: No, our cruises are non-dividable and provided as packages only.

Q.: What does “green stop” mean?
A.: “Green stop” is free time on the riverbank. At a green stop we offer active games, competitions and in many cases shashlyk (traditional Russian shish kabob) organized during each stop. You can also have a swim and in some places or order optional excursions.

Q.: Can you open portholes in cabins of the lower deck?
A.: No, it is not allowed to open portholes.

Q.: What kind of cuisine is on your cruises?
A.: Combined. Russian and International.

Q.: If I am allergic or have food restrictions, can I still travel on your ship?
A.: Yes. Our cooks can adjust the menu to your needs. All you need is to tell us beforehand of your restrictions and identify yourself in the restaurant. We recommend you to stick to the same table in the restaurant. It will help the waitress remember about your food restrictions.

Q.: Is there a special dress code on the ship?
A.: No. But you might want to dress up a little for the captain’s welcome cocktail and the captain’s farewell dinner. Also please keep in mind that during some excursions you will be taken to active churches and monasteries. To get inside men and women should not wear shorts, women also must have a kerchief or a scarf to cover their heads.

Q.: Are your ships equipped with facilities for disabled people and those on wheelchairs?
A.: Unfortunately, no. Besides, most museums in Russia are also unequipped to handle tours for handicapped people

Q.: What is the size of the cabins on your ships?
A.: The size of the cabins varies, depending on the type of the ship, the cabin’s category and the deck where the cabin is located. Roughly, the standard double cabin will be about 9 square meters (4 m x 2.2 m). To learn more please see the description of your motorship on our web-site.

Q.: What is the DC current on your ships?
A.: 220v

Q.: Is there a currency exchange office on board?
A.: No, unfortunately, this is now prohibited by Russian legislation. You can exchange money during the city tours in the larger cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Kostroma).

Q.: How far are the piers from the city centers?
A.: In Moscow and St. Petersburg both piers are outside the city center. In other cities, they are more central. In St. Petersburg,piers also depend on the ship. You can find details here.

How to Find Us

Q.: Where are your offices situated?
A.: Our offices are located in the City Realty offices in both St. Petersburg and Moscow.
St. Petersburg: 2, Muchnoi Pereulok
We are located right in the historical center of St. Petersburg, only a 5 minute walk from the Nevsky Prospect Metro Station. Exit the metro on Nevsky Prospect Canal Griboyedova. Cross Nevsky Prospect. Walk along Canal Griboyedova and make your fourth left onto Muchnoi Pereulok. We are located at the address 2 Muchnoi Pereulok on the left hand side of the street. The entrance is from the street. Please ask the security at reception for the Express to Russia/City Realty offices. Tel: +7 812 570 6342, +7 812 570 4709.
We are open Monday - Friday, from 10 am until 6 pm.

The next time you are planning a holiday in Russia, let us help you make it an unforgettable trip

Express to Russia offers discount visas and Russian tours to fit any budget

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Express to Russia, St. Petersburg, Russia. Tel.: +7 812 570 6342, +7 812 570 4709
Moscow office: +7 495 662 8753, in the USA, call us toll free at 1-800-553-9034