No – always get the visa first. I have the luxury of a multi-entry, as I have to be able to visit at short notice, but the process of getting a visa can take up to 6 weeks, even if the invitation letter and the form are all in order…
Get the visa first for sure!
Although I don’t think you will have any problems if you book your flight in advance (in case you have 3-4 months left until the date of your trip).
As for places, what are your expectations and your budget? Staying at hotels in Moscow is pretty expensive nowaydays. The best idea is to explore the Russian hospitality and enjoy the cosiness of your friends’ houses :).
Drop me a line to dima(at)uralov.com, I’ll try to get you some new Russian friends :)
I am not familiar with the visa process first-hand, but from what I know, it is okay to book a flight and hotel (I think it’s actually preferable) before you apply for the visa. I don’t know where you live, but usually visa processing takes up to, I believe 3 weeks, so not long at all. The Russian consulates also have a 1- or 2-day processing service. As far as hotels, I strongly recommend looking for budget hotels online. If you type in ‘budget hotels Moscow’, you should get several hits. Some of these are in Russian, so if you have a Russian-speaking friend (s), it would be helpful. The prices range from $100 – $150 for budget (I know it’s high, isn’t it?). Anyway, Moscow is huge and depending on where you have to be (i.e. near what metro station), you should look for a hotel nearby. Do you have any ideas yet on which part of the city you’d like to stay in? I don’t recommend staying by the airport as it’s way out and getting to Moscow center would take you a couple of hours each way. Hope this helps..
I agree with all that was said about the visa thing. One of the advantages of being the Russian citizen is that you don’t need to deal with our diplomatic bureaucracy when travelling in & out the country. :)
Concerning the place to stay I also agree with the suggestion to stay at someone’s place to experience Russian hospitality (otherwise your trip here would not be accomplished). But if you better prefer to stay at less informal place here are some sites about the hotels:
http://www.hotelexpress.ru/ (in Russian, so if you won’t find the common language with it, tell me & I’ll try to help you)
http://www.sindbad.ru/hotels.php (tour company well known among students)
If you have any other questions, feel free to speak up! And I hope you’ll enjoy your visit to Russia — the biggest country in the world! :)
Visa: start in advance, you will also need a invitation to apply for it (hotels usually arrange for it, private stay might be more difficult).
For accomodation try looking via http://www.cheap-moscow.com I had an experience of renting an appartment from Pasha, the guy who runs it, and was very happy (unfortunately his is not renting the appartment till Oct 2008 – that would be my primarily recommendation).
Check also http://www.russiangirlfriday.com
Both are good not only to find a place to stay, but get help with other things (orientation, renting a local mobile phone, local travel, etc.)
- Find some local friends to see things you’d miss otherwise and to go more budget (food is also expensive unless you know nice cheaper places :)
- Once you are in Moscow go to St. Petersburg for a couple of days (night sleeping train is 7-8 hours, comfortable to sleep and is cheaper than a hotel in Moscow)
- Try to get into a country-side – finding someone to host you on their dacha (country house) could be lots of fun.
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