Rules for Russian visa: going someplace else
May 7, 2013 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I have applied for a Russian visa, naming hotels in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Now I might want to visit Nizhny Novgorod, but since it's quite a bit away from Moscow, I'd take a hotel there for a night. Am I allowed to do that? Or would I have had to put it on the visa application, and without it I risk serious trouble?
posted by 2uo to Travel & Transportation around Russia (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Per the Russian Consulate's FAQ:

7. I have an invitation to visit a city in Russia. Having received my visa, shall I be able to visit other cities in Russia?

You could also contact them.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2013

I spent some time in Nizhny Novgorod for work reasons (I'm a US citizen). When I put together my visa for a visit to Russia I needed to include all my places of stay. In fact, I needed an invitation from a Russian citizen to even apply for a visa. Maybe that has changed (I remember hearing that some of the visa rules were going to get updated).

However, the relevant sections of the visa application were:
- Russian institution or organization to be visited (for tourists, this is supposed to be the hosting tourism company)


- Itinerary (places of visit).

Also going through customs in Russia is a little nerve-wracking (at least for me it was). While I'm sure that's not unique (I've heard from my Russian colleagues that entry into the US can be pretty hairy), I'd do whatever I can to avoid having to explain myself to a customs officer or to any police I may encounter.

As a side note: my visit to Russia coincided with the bombing of the Domodedovo airport in Moscow. It was strongly suggested to me that I forgo my visit to Moscow as I would be a prime candidate for a police interview as a foreigner.

Russia is a beautiful place full of really nice people. Just do yourself a favor and be as transparent about your plans as possible. It doesn't cause you any trouble to add "Moscow" to your official itinerary, so you might as well add it.
posted by MustardTent at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2013

The problem is, my visa application is already at the consulate. THe idea of visiting Novgorod just came yesterday. If it's possible, I'd like to go there. If it's not possible/legal, then I'll refrain from trying it.
posted by 2uo at 11:10 AM on May 7, 2013

I strongly recommend going through a travel agent for trips to Russia, preferably a Russian-centric one in the US. They have contacts in the embassies and all sorts of connections in the big cities.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:14 AM on May 7, 2013

To more directly answer your question, I believe the answer is yes, you have to put Nizhny Novgorod on your visa application unless you want to go there under the radar, which is risky, unless you're doing it with a Russian, who will know where to stay and whom to pay off if you get hassled.

A Russia-centric travel agent, however, would be able to just call up the consulate/embassy and add it over the phone, which you won't be able to do, in my experience.

My experience is likely outdated- I haven't been there since 2003- but I doubt the process has become less bureaucratic.

If you haven't checked it out yet, has some great places to stay, many of which include breakfast if you don't mind staying in someone's home*. I don' t know if things have changed, but back when I went there, we still had to register at the hotel (and pay yet another small fee.) We didn't have to actually stay there.

* I love Russian breakfasts.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:18 AM on May 7, 2013

Upon further research, it looks like airbnb is better for Nizhny Novgorod. I saw some good St. Petersburg places on
posted by small_ruminant at 11:29 AM on May 7, 2013

Hi! Traveled in Russia this past March. Don't worry about putting a complete itinerary on there. I only put Moscow, knowing full well I'd be traveling to St. P also. Once you get into Russia they won't care where you go.
Also, good luck trying to get a human on the phone at any consulate, embassy, or Russian-staffed travel group. Answering phones are not their forte.
posted by greta simone at 11:53 AM on May 7, 2013

Thanks for your suggestions.

Actually I'm using a visa agency (and the Russian embassy is using yet another agency, it's almost ridiculous), and I've sent them an email. Hopefully they'll reply tomorrow, but I'm not hopeful that they can do anything.

I'd be travelling with a Russian friend, but I neither want to risk getting him into trouble, nor does he himself live in Novgorod, so we definitely need a hotel. And they will want to see my visa.

So I'll hope for the best, but suppose it won't work. Well, Moscow and St. Petersburg alone aren't bad, either.

Thanks a lot for your thoughts and opinions!
posted by 2uo at 1:21 PM on May 7, 2013

The "where are you staying" thing is just a hurdle. Once you've passed the yes/no portion of the visa application process it is meaningless. Unless you are going to be under serious interrogation, nobody will know or care where you told the visa application people you were staying.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:11 PM on May 7, 2013

My visa agency told me that the visa itself doesn't show any specific locations. And that under Russian law you have to register when you're staying for more than seven days someplace.

So being out of town for a day or two is apparently no problem.

And now I'm looking forward to Nizhny Novgorod, as well.
posted by 2uo at 4:52 AM on May 9, 2013

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