It’s better to see something once than hear about it a hundred times.

Russian Proverb

The German passport is quite powerful. Though for Russia, even Germans need a visa. Once you have got a rough itinerary in mind, things get a lot easier.

Remark: this article has been written about a trip before any Corona or war circumstances might have changed certain procedures.


Three key things to getting a Russian visa

  • A letter of invitation from an authorized agency is required
  • the letter of invitation needs to show reservations for arrival and departure transport, as well as accommodation for all nights spent in Russia
  • your actual arrival date into Russia must be no earlier than the date in the visa, and your departure not later than the end date noted in your visa (those dates are printed)

If you are traveling a little more independently and are concerned about prebooking everything for the visa, don’t worry. There is a way to, well, fudge this a little.

Get a letter of invitation (Travel voucher)

Booking everything fixed and upfront

If you are on an organized tour or if you prefer to have every type of transportation and accommodation prebooked, this letter is easy to get. Many hotels even offer to create this letter for a little fee. If none of your hotels or other accommodations offers this service, Russian agencies, such as Real Russia or Visa to Russia, would create it for a little fee.

Staying flexible

Both mentioned agencies would – at least that was what I read back then – create fake bookings for an additional small fee. Then, they would provide a letter of invitation covering the fake itinerary. Well, sounds a bit dodgy, right… but that’s actually very normal and works quite effectively. For as long as you don’t arrive earlier or depart later than the dates in your visa, you won’t have any problems moving around in Russia. Hotels don’t check your invitation letter itinerary or bookings, this letter only exists for visa application purposes.

If you have your arrival and departure form of transportation and day booked, you could even create fake bookings yourself. Like just pick hotels on booking portals which offer free cancellation. This is how I’ve done it. I already had my train ticket from Ulaanbaatar as well as my return flight to Germany booked, so the invitation letter was no big deal. If you are not sure yet about what to do in Russia, try to get fake bookings for the maximum time allowed (30 days).

Applying for the visa

The application for a Russian tourist visa costs some money, but as the price chances, I won’t reference a number here. The actual price depends on how many days you have available until you need to have your passport back. Keep in mind that there is a reduction or even exemption of the basic administrative charge if you have a disability or other circumstances. This is why I would recommend to show up at one of the visa centers and request your exemption. Keep in mind that the exemption only relates to part of the costs (€35 in my case), I still had to pay the remaining fees.

Bring your letter of invitation, your passport, a passport photo, and the money to the visa office and get the process started. In earlier years, you had to provide the original version of the invitation letter, so have it sent from Russia to you as a letter. However, this no longer appears to be the case and a printed copy is acceptable.

Remark: as with all official application, this article is only intended to share my practical experience. However, the latest and most accurate requirements should always be checked on the official Russian tourist visa website.

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