Going to Russia

Dad picked up my visa today from the Russian Consulate, which means that I’m officially going to Russia now!

The process isn’t super straight forward, so here’s a what I did:

  1. Get an invitation letter. I didn’t find any place that cost less than $30. I asked the hostel where I booked my reservations who they recommended, they suggested WayToRussia.net…and that’s who I used. It took about 2 days to processes. They’ll send you a PDF, which I printed out (in color).
  2. Fill out Visa Application form (US version), available from Russian Consulate. There’s an option for an online version. I tried using it and would not recommend it. It’s much easier to fill it out manually.
  3. Attach passport/visa sized picture to application. I got my picture taken at FedEx Kinko’s for $12, however later heard that WalGreens is cheaper.
  4. Write a cover letter (here’s my cover letter to the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Seattle). The cover letter needs to explain if you are travelling individually, who is going, where to, when and with what purpose, etc.
  5. Get a Money Order or Cashier’s Check from the bank (it doesn’t have to be from a bank, but it’s pretty easy and you can deduct the money right from your savings/checking account) for the actual visa fee.
  6. Copy your passports vital page(s). For me, this was just the front page (the one with my picture).
  7. Mail (or preferably drop off) all of the above, plus your actual passport to your Russian Consulate of
    choice.
  8. Pick up passport and visa 6 business days later, in theory.

47 days until I leave!

Plans for Russia and Turkey

My friend, Eric Boyd, left this comment on my Facebook wall regarding my trip:

That should be a lot of fun. Watch out for Gypsies though. I’ve heard they like to break into train compartments and rob you blind. But I’m sure in your case they will try to unzip your suitcase and find themselves fighting for their lives against an army of death-ray wielding nanobots;)

They’re actually going to be sporting 1.21 jigawatt lasers, not death-rays.

After talking to Jeff the other week, I called up Mr. Staples (Jeff’s dad) to ask about what travel agency they used. Mr. Staples referred me to Mir Corporation. I took a look at their packages, and they’re quite expensive ($5,000 for 10 days), plus their dates don’t line up with mine. They did, however, have some very useful information on their website.

I’ve received my official invitation, filled out the visa application, and had my visa picture taken last week. Today I sent everything, plus my cover letter and a $131 check in the mail to Dad. Dad will add my passport to the set and drop it off at the Russian Consulate in Downtown Seattle. It will take no less than six days to process it, so here goes nothing.

Russia

  • Moscow
    • The Central Museum of Armed Forces1
      70 ruble, or 30 ruble if I get the student discount, plus another 100 ruble so I can take photos
    • Kremlin Armory Museum
      700 ruble, or 200 ruble if I get the student discount
    • Cosmonautics Memorial Museum
    • The Polytechnical Museum at the Ilinsky Gates
    • Moscow State University Zoological Museum
    • Underground Moscow

Useful resources: http://www.moscow.info/

I also talked with my friend, Erin, who’s currently in Turkey. She gave me the low down on what’s what in Turkey.

  • Turkey
    • Istanbul (2 days-ish, Hackett did 4 days)
      • Grand Bizarre
      • Blue Mosque
  • Antalya
  • Ephesus (1 day)
  • Cappadocia (1-2 days)
  • Ankara
    • Capital
    • Turkish Aerospace Industries2

Erin also says I need to :

  • See a Whirling Dervish dance
  • Eat Gözleme and Kanafeh3
  • Read up on Atatürk
  • “Also, when in Turkey, you can’t miss out on a Turkish bath. Its a fairly odd experience at first, but you have to do it!”

Random thought, do I need a phone?


  1. http://www.cmaf.ru/eng/index_eng.htm 

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_737_AEW&C#Turkey 

  3. Erin says, “kunefe, my favorite dessert…it rhymes with ‘tunafay'” 

Things to Do, Things to Pack

Plans are well under way now! I just booked my flight to Europe. I’ll be leaving on June 2nd at 7:30am and flying Seattle to Dulles (UA916/767-300) to Moscow (UA964/767-300), arriving at 10:45am on June 3rd, business class. I’ll be spending just over 60 days in Europe before I fly back on August 3rd, flying at 8:25am from Frankfurt to Chicago (UA945/777) to Seattle (UA929/757-200) and arriving at 2:24pm the same day, also business class. Fortunately, I’m using miles. Otherwise it looks like it would cost about $9,539.76 out of pocket.

Here’s the seat I’ll be getting to enjoy for the 15 hours it takes to get the Moscow:
united_business

Unfortunately, United hasn’t started to upgrade the seats on the 777, so my ride won’t be as comfortable on the way back. However, I do get First Class for the Chicago to Seattle flight.

I also booked a hostel for my stay in Moscow, I’ll be at the Olimpia Hostel. Should be good.

With all that done, I figure I better turn my attention to what I’m going to bring (and not bring). Like my itinerary, this list will definitely be updated as I think of more things and people suggest things to bring or not to bring.

To Do

  • Check on current level of travel insurance (health and theft)
  • Get travel visa for Russia
  • Buy Europe on a Shoestring1
  • Convince Quinn to come
  • Convince Charlie to come
  • Get ISIC (International Student Identity Card). Should only be $22?
  • Check into touring Chernobyl and get dosimeter badge

To Pack

  • Backback: The side loading green one2 or top loading grey/blue one
  • Clothes:
    • Orange REI jacket or Blue The North Face running jacket
    • Four t-shirts
    • One better shirt
    • Four pairs of socks
    • Four pairs of boxer-briefs3, they really are quite comfortable
    • One pair of nylon khaki pants with zipoff legs
    • One pair of4 shorts
    • Swim trunks
    • Sleepwear
    • Hat
    • The North Face green fleece/The North Face black polypro
    • One set of shoes5
    • One pair of sandals6
  • Camera/Electronics
    • One camera bag with slot for netbook and will double as day pack
    • One Nikon D90
    • One 50mm f/1.8 Prime lens
    • One 18-70mm lens
    • Headphones
    • One Netbook
    • Laptop lock
    • US/Europe/Russia electricity converter
  • Toiletries
    • Deoderant
    • Hand soap/Shampoo
    • Washcloth
    • Toothbrush/toothpaste
    • Floss
    • Mouth guard
    • Ibuprofen
    • Melatonin
    • Flagyl7
    • Moleskin8
    • Antibiotics
    • Bandaids
    • Medical tape
    • Charcoal pills
    • Penicillin
    • My meds
    • Nail clipper
    • Tweezers
    • Sunscreen
    • Lip balm
    • Contacts/contact solution/contact case
    • Glasses/case
    • Ear plugs
  • Miscellaneous
    • Nalgene
    • Money belt9
    • Padlock
    • Flashlight w/extra batteries
    • Laundry soap
    • Small towel
    • Sleeping bag
    • Pillow
    • Sunglasses (el cheapo’s)
    • Swiss Army Knife
    • Casio Waveceptor waterproof watch

Many items taken from: Packing Checklist for Asia and Rick’s Packing List.


  1. and finally return the library their copy 

  2. my parents took on their trip to 

  3. ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go® Boxer Brief 

  4. http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=636528 

  5. New Balance 991 

  6. Keen’s 

  7. in case of dysentary 

  8. in case of blisters 

  9. Rick Steves Essential Silk Moneybelt 

A Flight To Moscow

I’ve talked to the Russian Consular in Seattle, United Airlines, and a Russian man in Moscow with decent English.

I have a confirmed (but not booked) flight from Seattle to Dulles (UA916) to Moscow (UA964) leaving at 7:30am on June 2nd and arriving at 10:45am on June 3rd…15 travel hours later.

I also have the return leg booked (a la “Open Jaw” magic) from Frankfurt to Chicago (UA945) to Seattle (UA929) leaving at 8:25am August 3rd and arriving at 2:24pm August 3rd…13.5 travel hours later.

All for the low, low cost of $95.00 plus 105k airline miles 🙂

As for actually getting into Russia, the process goes something like this:

  1. Figure out dates to be in Russia
  2. Find hostel that will issue you a tourist voucher and confirmation
  3. Book hostel and acquire tourist voucher
  4. Fill out Russian Visa application form
  5. Turn in original passport, a xerox-copy of it’s vital pages, the original tourist invitation voucher, one passport size picture of applicant (that would be me), a cover letter explaining who is going, where to, when, and with what purpose
  6. Pay $131.00 for 6 day processing (cheapest)

I currently still think it’s worth it to go to Russia. But there sure are a lot of hoops to jump through. I currently have an email into the HM Hostel Moscow (US$36.05/night) in Moscow and I may end up contacting the Olimpia Hostel (US$17.35/night).