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

For security reasons, we prefer that our customers pay with their own credit cards. You may also pay with a credit card of your co-traveler – a person you are traveling with. If both options are not available, we may offer that you pay through bank transfer (please ask your order manager to send you our bank transfer form).

If you would like to pay by bank transfer, please contact us and we will send you an invoice with our bank details. Your order manager will advise the terms of payment.

For tours, cruises, hotels, tickets and visas we require 100% prepayment before arriving in Russia.

Visas

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. Sometimes, Consulates in certain countries require the original invitation. In this case, we can mail you the original by Federal Express. Please check with the Consulate to know if you need the original. Postage is an extra charge.

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 the visa invitation (voucher) - this is the document that we can supply you with. However, to be 100% sure of what documents are required at specific Consulates, we suggest that you contact the Consulates directly. You can find a listing of phone numbers and addresses here.

Yes, you can make an order on our website 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.

If you are applying in the country of your citizenship, the invitation copy will be enough in most cases, 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 here.

In accordance with the agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States on the simplification of visa formalities for nationals of the Russian Federation and the United States 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.

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.

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.  If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel will register your visa.

No, you need to register only if you are staying in Russia for more than 7 business days.

The confirmation number is the number of your voucher (invitation), you can find in on the top of the document.

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 (the Federal Tourism Agency). This satisfies the requirements of the Russian Consulate.

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)

Unfortunately, we do not issue visa invitations to citizens of certain countries. Please check the list under the price table.

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 Russian Consulate in the USA for more information.

According to Russian law, a hotel reservation for the entire period of your stay is required for a tourist visa, so we recommend that you to have a real hotel booking when you order your visa invitation and apply for the visa. Once you obtain your Russian Visa you can stay elsewhere.

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.

Hotels

You will only need to show your passport at hotel reception. The reservation is made under your name by Express to Russia.

A hotel confirmation voucher is very rarely requested by the Russian Consulate. However, if they do require the hotel voucher, please let us know whether the original voucher or a scan copy is required, and we will send the documents accordingly – via e-mail or FEDEX delivery.

Unfortunately, this is not possible. Only one person can be accommodated in a single room. This room is intended for single use only.

All hotel rooms in Russia are non-smoking as it is strictly prohibited to smoke in all public places. Guests can be fined for smoking in a hotel room.

Transfers

You will be met by a driver holding a signboard with your name on it. If you arrive on an international flight, you will be met at the Arrivals hall of the airport. If you arrive by train you will be met next to your carriage (you should tell us the number of the carriage beforehand) or at the head of the train if you have not indicated your carriage number. After you order and pay for your transfer (or a tour/cruise that includes transfers) you will receive a confirmation indicating the exact point of meeting with your driver. You will have your order manager’s phone number for urgent cases.

Airport pickup: the driver will wait up to 2 hours after the scheduled time of your arrival if you have not contacted us regarding your delay (please use your order manager's phone number or e-mail to inform us).

Train station pick up: the driver will wait up to 30 minutes after the scheduled time of your arrival if you have not contacted us regarding your delay (please use your order manager's phone number or e-mail to inform us).

Pick up from Apartment or Hotel: The driver will wait up to 30 minutes after the scheduled time of pick up indicated in your confirmation.

If the client does not 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 or any changes in your order must be advised not less than 3 working days before the date of execution or by agreement with your order manager.

Train Tickets

For electronic tickets, the customer must send a request for a refund of the ticket at least 3 business days before the train departure date.

For paper tickets, the customer must send a request for a refund of the ticket at least 5 business days before the train departure date. The physical, paper tickets must be in one of our company's offices (Moscow or Saint Petersburg) for a refund to be processed. Otherwise, the tickets will be non-refundable. Paper tickets on the routes China-Mongolia-China, Mongolia-Russia and China-Russia are 100% non-refundable.

All cancellations and refunds for tickets are subject to a fee equal to 30% of the ticket price but not lower than 20 USD per ticket.

Train tickets under 20 USD are non-refundable.

To receive reimbursement for tickets canceled at the train station, the customer must email a copy of the receipt to our company. The amount stated on the receipt will be refunded to the customer according to current RUB/USD or RUB/EUR exchange rates.

Because of the policies of the Russian Railroads, ticket sales for trains within Russia open 90 days before the trip, and ticket sales for international trains open 60 days before the trip. For certain countries the sales opening dates may differ. In order to increase the likelihood of obtaining the tickets we suggest paying for the tickets in advance. We will then do our best to issue you your tickets on the sales opening date. In the very unlikely event that train tickets are sold out in advance wholesale, we will help you obtain tickets on an alternative train or make a full refund depending on what you request.  In case there is a change in price we will return the difference to you or may require that you pay the difference. If you do not accept the new price, we will issue a full refund.

The ticket exchange fee is 20 USD for electronic tickets. If the price of the new tickets is higher, you will also have to pay the price difference. A ticket exchange request has to be submitted no less that 3 business days before the trip.

Please, be advised that price depends on the season and to check the prices we need to know your departure date.

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.

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.

All train schedules on our website show local times. 

According to the Russian Railroads policy, if you want to travel in a private cabin, you should buy all 4 tickets.

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. Child policies on international routes may differ. Please, contact us for details.

Only a few trains have showers in the cabin. 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.

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.

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 for paper tickets at 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 these tickets for paper tickets at the train station.

Many trains within Russia have at least one carriage with gender specific compartments. You may travel in a female/male compartment if tickets are available. NOTE: several trains to Europe have only gender-specific compartments. Mixed compartments are not available.

Yes, you will need to obtain a Belarus or Mongolian transit visa. Please contact the Consulate to inquire about the requirements on how to receive the visa.

Passengers are allowed to transport pets in the 2nd and 3rd class carriages and sitting carriages of long-distance trains belonging to JSC "Federal Passenger Company" (a subsidiary of JSC "Russian Railways") and operating on the territory of Russian Federation. Animals must be transported in special containers (boxes, baskets) of a specific size: the sum of three dimensions shouldn't exceed 180 cm. The container should be placed in the space reserved for hand luggage inside the cabin. Besides permitted hand luggage (36 kg), the passenger can carry a maximum of two animals occupying no more than one luggage space. Animal owners must have appropriate veterinary documents and comply with the order and cleanliness in the carriage. A transportation fee for animals is charged separately, the amount depends on the route length. For the moment tickets of these classes are sold only in ticket-offices located at train stations. Guide-dogs can be transported in all types of carriages free of charge.

Tours

No, airfare is not included. You may select any convenient flight for a private tour or a group tour. Please consider that the dates of the private tours are flexible and the dates of the group tours are fixed, therefore you should select flights for group tours more carefully – to arrive on the first day of the tour or 1-2 days earlier and depart on the last day or 1-2 days later. Please discuss the details with your order manager. The time of your arrival does not matter – you will be met by a driver and transferred to your hotel in any case.

Express to Russia organizes individual (private) tours and group tours. While group tours have fixed dates (please visit the group tour page to check dates), private tours can be organized individually and customized according to your preferences. Private tours will start on the day of your choice.

Travel insurance is not included in our tour packages. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance before embarking on your trip to Russia.  It is always good to have extra protection for peace of mind while traveling far from home. Click here  to learn more.

Unfortunately, this is not possible. All of our tours and excursions need to be paid in full in advance, since we have to pre-book museum tickets, guides and drivers and we pay penalties if there are cancellations.

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.

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 your guide and 5-10 USD per day for your driver is appropriate.

Yes, booking a tour with us helps to avoid long lines. For our tours we pre-book museum tickets for a specific date and time. However, you must be aware that there still may be a line of organized groups just like yours (even if there is just you and your tour guide), especially in the high season (May – September).

It is possible to do so on request. You can ask your order manager to provide you with a quote including only the services that you are interested in.

We offer different types of excursions. Some of them are walking tours and here we include guide service and entrance fees to museums (if there are visits to museums in this particular excursion). If you choose excursions with transport, car and driver service are included as well as guide service and museum entrance fees.

Package tour prices include accommodation with breakfasts at the hotel of the category selected, arrival and departure transfers, excursions according to the tour program with English speaking guide and driver, train tickets Moscow – St. Petersburg if your tour combines both of these cities and a visa invitation letter. 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 order manager - sometimes extras are included such as lunches, early check in, additional breakfast, etc.

Cruises

No, airfare is not included. You can easily book discount tickets yourself through our own internet ticket office or use another flight booking engine of your choice.Please browse our discount air tickets section to learn more.

On most of the cruises, 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.

PLEASE NOTE: On 7-day Moscow - St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg - Moscow cruises, the ship departs Moscow/St. Petersburg on the very first day and it extremely important to arrive on board on time. Please check your cruise program for more information. 

Check-in and check-out times are also indicated on your cruise confirmation document. 

On most of the cruises, there is no tour program planned for the first and the last days. Therefore, you can arrive in the evening and depart early in the morning without missing any tours. The only activities you will miss in this case are dinner on the first day and breakfast on the last day.

PLEASE NOTE: On 7-day Moscow - St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg - Moscow cruises, the ship departs Moscow/St. Petersburg on the very first day and it is extremely important to arrive on board on time. Please check your cruise program for more information. 

Yes, optional tours are offered on most of the cruises. You will learn about the options when you arrive on board. 

You will have a local English-speaking guide in each city you'll be touring and you will also have an English-speaking guide on board. Other languages are available on request.

No, pets are not allowed on the cruise ships.

Excursions vary depending on the cruise that you have selected.  You can find a detailed itinerary on the individual page of each particular cruise. 

No, our cruises are non-dividable and provided as packages only.

"Green stop" is free time on the riverbank. At a green stop we offer active games, competitions and in many cases shashlyk (traditional Russian kebab) organized during each stop. You can also have a swim and in some places order optional excursions.

No, portholes cannot be opened.

The cuisine is a combination of Russian and International dishes.

Yes. Our cooks can adjust the menu to meet your needs. All you need is to tell us beforehand of your restrictions and identify yourself in the restaurant. We recommend that you stick to the same table in the restaurant. It will help the waitress remember your food restrictions.

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.

Unfortunately, no. In addition, most museums in Russia are also not equipped to handle tours for handicapped people.

The size of the cabins varies, depending on the type of ship, the cabin's category and the deck where the cabin is located. The average size of a standard cabin on 3-star and 4-star ships is 9-10 m2 on 5-star ships - 11-13 m2. To learn more please see the description of your motorship on our website.

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).

In Moscow and St. Petersburg both piers are outside the city center. In other cities, they are more central. In St. Petersburg, your pier is also dependent upon which ship you are traveling on

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