How to get a Russian Visa
Getting a Russian visa is easy if you are applying in your own country!! Trying to get an embassy to deal with you where you do not have a residence permit will get you a big NIET. Now you need to get finger prints done!!
In November 2013, I flew back from my Swiss summer to London and went straight to the visa office in Islington.
You fill in the form on line (this could have been down from anywhere). The computer wants lots of details. Cities to be visited, hotel names. But this is just a formality. You click on say, Moscow and a drop down box appears and just select one of the listed hotels. Any one is good from the Four Seasons on Red Square to Hotel Bed Bug next to the freeway. Repeat this for 5-10 cities. What is important, is the ENTRY DATE. Night trains have a habit of arriving around 11pm... be wary of time change coming from Ukraine. Don't expect to be allowed to enter if you try to cross before 12 midnight on the day you request!
Then count off 30 days... and this is your exit date.
If you are doing this from your lap top some where, an email will be sent with an attachment of the form which you will need to print out, sign and send it along with your passport, payment details and photos. As I was in the office, she just printed it off there and then. I paid and went home for a welcome cuppa and long chat with my dad.
They emailed me to say they had sent it off to the embassy and again to say they have received the passport back and had sent it via secure mail to me!!
The agency is REAL RUSSIA.
They have received some negative press about the service charges they add on when booking train tickets with them. BUT excuse me.... Real Russia is VISA agency, not a frigging ticket office. Do you go to the train station when you want a beer? No of course not. Use the link to RUSSIAN RAILWAYS to get the schedules of ALL trains right across Russia. And then go to the stations yourself and be prepared to deal with some cranky Babushka. High season, trains get booked up. In Winter, no problems at all, just turn up and get the ticket and go. Luckily you can buy the tickets on-line via Russian Railways. Print off the reservation and take it to the ticket office to collect the ticket. Same price as if you were buying from the ticket office. Tour agencies have a high mark-up. You don't need to speak Russian to get the tickets, yourself. Work out how for yourself, it's not rocket science.
Some other tips:
If you want to enter Russia from Poland, via Belarus, you need a Belorussian visa even if just in transit from Warsaw to Moscow.
Don't even think about overstaying your visa!! The Gulag camps do still exist.
Up Dated, April 2017
The only difference now is that finger prints are needed. I have been in contact with Real Russia. After they receive your application and documents they contact you about when and where you need to go to get your finger prints done. So they can't do postal applications. Damn!