So, going to Russia requires U.S. citizens to fill out a couple of pages of questions, getting a local invite (services usually charge around $30) and handing over some cash which is right now $131. This can all be done through a service I decided to do as much of it as I can on my own. I can just about walk to the Russian Consulate, so why not.
I see that it opens up at 9:30am and closes for an hour at 1pm and then open again from 2pm-5pm. I decide to be safe and go when they open. Things usually take longer then you think when it comes to dealing with foreign consulates. I get off the 6 train and head uptown to 91st and Madison. The Consulate is a lovely building located across the street from one of my favorite museums the Cooper-Hewitt.
I can’t miss it. The building has two entrances. Each one of them at this point has an entrance full of what look like Russian baby boomers. I walk up to the entrance with a sign that says Visa Entrance. I’m quite convinced that this is the correct one because everyone I try to confirm with does not speak english. I don’t but I just question why they all need to be getting a tourist visa. It’s a day after a holiday and the beginning of the month so they may be here for another reason (collecting a Pension or doing person business). So, I wait to see what happens and finally a kind person approaches me and says that I need to stand in line at the other entrance. They were like me but speak Russian. I wasn’t alone. It was getting a little wild there at this point. No one was getting in and the line was growing. One good thing that happened was a women came up to me speaking Russian. Does this mean I’ll not stand out so much? It’s probably just the blonde/white hair color.
So, if you are going for a tourist visa then go to the entrance closest to the Cooper-Hewitt (closer to Central Park) Stand to the left of the entrance behind the rope if it’s there.
I’m lucky because it’s just 9:30am at that point and have just a couple of people waiting ahead of me. I end up striking a conversation with a gentleman behind me who has been to Russia before. He gives me some good tips on where to eat in Moscow (Cafe Pushkin) and suggests sitting on the second level. He also mentioned a couple of day possible day trips. One was going to Zagorsk or as it is known today as Sergiyev Posad. Another suggested town is called Kostroma. I’ll research all of that later.
So the very friendly and good-looking man at the door lets me inside since it’s my turn. I hope I had everything in line because it’s never 100% clear what you really need to have in order to get a visa. This is why I don’t wait until last-minute. So, I get in and now get to sit and wait for my turn patiently. It appears to be only one person ahead of me…maybe two. The other is kind of hanging out and looking anxious. I strike up another conversation with the gentleman ahead of me. He has an interesting trip ahead of him. He’s one of the U.S. coaches of the Bobsled team just getting back from Vancouver. They had won the gold and Russian Officials wanted him to come over and check out there newly built course before the cold weather is gone. We had a great chat about the games. It was great getting a chance to speak to him. Very interesting man.
My turn…I think. There’s one person behind the plexiglass and he seems to be overwhelmed or just ready for lunch. I think there’s an event going on because a large delivery came in while I have been waiting. There must be a holiday going on. Election day maybe? So, I just take a chance and head up to the window and see what happens. It was my turn and it only was 10:45am. Not bad.
So he looked and looked at my papers, looking quickly through the passports (all for show I think). The only questions he had been asking me if I was going anywhere else besides Moscow? Where was I staying in Moscow? and the purpose of the visit. That was it. Done. I just needed to pay the cashier and come back at 11am March 24th (2 weeks) and pick up my passports. No worries.
So here is the list of things I had with me. If something goes wrong and I don’t get the visa on the 24th I will update on this blog.
1. Valid passport with a few clean visa pages available.
2. One photo which I was smiling in and it says not to smile but they let me get away with it. They cut and pasted the picture in for me so you don’t have to worry if it seems to big. Most places in town sell larger ones.
3. One invitation I got through a service called http://www.gettorussia.com which cost $34 and came within 5 minutes via email over the internet. There’s a cheaper $29 that takes longer and how long I don’t know. It was worth the extra $5 spot.
4. Completed Application form.
5. Bank Check made out to the Russian Consulate for $131. You can pay more for expedited service (about $100) but this one will arrive in 2 weeks. I have the time.
Now that’s done is time for more trip planning, memorizing the cyrillic alphabet, and learning at least the few key phrases. I can’t wait 🙂 I hope the Visa has some cool artwork.
больше позже (more later…I think?)