Everybody wishes that travel would be easier when it comes to visas and dealing with embassies, at least we do.
Usually getting a visa is pretty much straightforward for most countries and it can be done on the go whilst travelling, but in same cases – especially if you are an independent travelers like we are – it is necessary to plan ahead like we should have done for our so wanted Russian trip.
Guides bought, enough reading done for months before leaving our home countries, including the very detailed ad inspiring article by The Man in Seat 61, but the route and timing still had to be identified exactly. We like to be very casual about our travelling route and we love just be in places and decide where to go next based on how we feel or based on some recommendations received.
When it came to our dreamed Trans Siberian Train experience through Russia, Mongolia to finish in China, we couldn’t quite fix the exact date so we decided to try and sort out our 3 different visas once in Ukraine.
We read somewhere that somehow we might have had the chance to apply for the visas in Kiev so we decided to casually get there at some point during our trip and stay as long as needed to get the visas.
Easier Said Than Done!
After a night train trip and not much sleep on our side, we decided to get started anyway with what would soon turn into a massive hassle.
We knew what the requirements were to apply for the visas, we did our homework but we thought it was a good idea to check with each of the embassies before actually starting filling out forms, getting invitations and paying any money.
So we spent the first week in Kiev going from one embassy to the other, finally getting the right opening hours and days right and eventually get to speak with somebody.
Finding the tiny office that supposed to be the ‘Mongolian embassy’ in a several floors old looking building, was definitely more challenging than applying for the visa. In fact we were happy to hear that the Mongolian visa could have been easily done in few days with no problem at all, check! 🙂
The half day waiting and queuing at the Chinese embassy resulted to be worth it because, even if the Chinese visa was going to be more difficult and required few more things to be done other than just filling out a form, we could happily apply for it too, check! 🙂
We knew that the Russian visa would be the most difficult one.
Firstly, after queuing for an entire morning, we weren’t even allowed to get into the embassy’s visa office without an official appointment, even if only to ask some information. Never mind!
We did as told, we emailed and phoned to finally get hold of an English speaker, in fact if you don’t speak any Russian like us, communication can be quite a challenge.
We were told we were not allowed to apply at the Kiev’s Russian embassy for the visa because we were neither Ukrainian citizens or working in Ukraine. We tried to explain the purpose of our trip, at the end of the day we only needed a simple tourist visa, no matter what we said and which reasons were behind our trip, the answer didn’t change.
‘The only way you can obtain the Russian visa is to return to your country and apply there for it’, this was the final answer we got. 🙁
Very disappointing! We knew it was not going to be an easy task but we thought we could eventually apply and hope for the best no matter how long it would have taken.
We were very wrong!!!!!
Russia may no longer be the Soviet Union, but its reputation for a strict bureaucracy still exists today and it can be a very confusing, long and expensive process, especially if you are an independent traveler and you aren’t using any travel agency that deals with it.
We found that out on our own consequences.
This time Russia won and we lost, but next time we will be better prepared! 🙂