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Russian visa run from Estonia
St. Petersburg (Russia), August 15th 2013

At the end of this year, we hope to apply for a multiple entry, one year business visa for Russia. This is because we want to visit Central Asia next year, and a flexible long term visa would be nice to have if we travel through this region. It makes it easier to visit some remote parts of Russia, or to make the trip to for example Mongolia and back. We want to do the application for the visa in The Netherlands, because it is very difficult and unreliable to apply for this kind of visa outside your home country. But during some internet surfing activities in Estonia, we read that you can only get this type of long term visa, if you visited Russia before, in the 12 months period before the application of the long term visa. In other words: the Russians want to have a good and recent experience with you, before they consider giving you such a visa.

It didn’t take long before we realized that it would be great if we could hop over the border to Russia near the Estonian city Narva. We are now very close, and a city trip to St Petersburg would be a welcoming addition to our trip through the Baltic States. We did some research on the internet and read that it must be theoretically possible for EU-citizens to apply for the Russian visa in all EU-member states. So, a Dutch citizen for example, must be able to apply for his Russian visa at the Russian Consulate in Narva, an Estonian border town with Russia.

We got our border coupon

We decided to go for it and ordered a Russian invitation at Rusreis.nl. For Euro 24.50 per person we got an invitation in our mailbox within 12 hours! It took a little bit longer to get a declaration in English from our medical insurer to state that our medical insurance is also valid for Russia. Both documents are a necessity to apply for the visa. Together with a recent passport photo and our passports we went to Narva to apply for the visa. The Russian Consulate isn’t handling the applications anymore but outsourced the process to a company with the name IFS (located on Kerese street 4 / www.ifs-estonia.com). The process was a little bit delayed because of the fact that nobody spoke English (so they couldn’t read the medical insurer document), but when we came back in the afternoon, somebody was available to take in the application.

We could come back eight days later to get the visa. We also got the opportunity to go for the three day process, but that was much more expensive. So we came back after 8 days and collected the visa in a happy mood. We immediately drove to the border nearby, but the gate didn’t open for us. The border official asked for a border coupon. A border coupon? What the hell is that? The guy didn’t speak English and showed us a paper in English that explained us that we needed a booking for the border. Or in other words: we must book a time to cross the border so they can manage the queue. The little paper also told us to go to the ‘border transition station’ on 4a Rahu street, approximately 2 kilometers from the border to get the necessary coupon.

View on the Estonian - Russian border at Narva (seen from th Russian side)

So we drove to this border transition station and when we arrived it showed to be a huge parking lot. At the entrance is a small office where a guy sold us for Euro 1.30 a time slot to cross the border. It was almost 9.30 in the morning when we arrived and our time slot was somewhere between 10.00 and 11.00. Lucky us, because it can be much busier. This guy didn’t speak English either, but learned some simple sentences to explain the process. “You look television. You see number, you pay 3 Euro. You go Russia”. Or in other words: watch the screen and wait till it mentions your car license plate number. If it appears, go to the other small office, pay your 3 Euro and get your border coupon. And with this border coupon you can go to the border to start the immigration and customs process. So we queue with the other cars and watch like in an American open air cinema to the screen, where license plate numbers are shown. It takes till almost 10.30 am before our number appears. Ivonne jumps out of the car and pays the 3 Euro after which she get the border coupon. Here we go.

We drive back to the border and with a smile on our face we show the coupon to the border guy. The gate opens and we are allowed to start the process. The process at the Estonian side is fast and swift, but also the Russian side is well organized. It takes a little bit longer because we have to fill in the immigration and custom papers, and all passport and car details have to be typed in, in a computer. A customs officials asks us to open some boxes in the car so he can check them by beaming light in them with his torch. It doesn’t take long before he is convinced that we aren’t smugglers. We get our passports, immigration forms and custom forms back with the necessary stamps, after which we are allowed to proceed to the last check post. A military woman checks our passports for the last time to be sure that we have our entry stamps. Now we are officially in Russia. It is another two hundred meters before we arrive in the first Russian town, Ivangorod. Here we stop at a small booth of the insurer Ergo, where we buy for 30 Euros a car insurance for two weeks, because our Dutch insurance isn’t valid in Russia. We start the jeep again and start driving … on the way to St Petersburg, another 140 kilometers away.

Us in front of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg
The fantastic Saviour on the Blood Cathedral
The Aurora Cruiser with loads of Chinese tourists
High tech weapons from the Cold War
The St. Isaac's Cathedral

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