Russian visa policy in 2021 or how to visit Russia without a visa?

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Planning to visit Russia and not sure where to start? Read this post about the Russian visa policy in 2021 and how to visit Russia without a visa.

This post was originally written in 2016, but I updated it very recently according to the new information and new Russian visa updates in 2020. All the information is correct on the moment of the update, however, as everything is changing rapidly nowadays, it always makes sense to check and verify the information with the visa centre/embassy.

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Is it hard to get the Russian visa in 2021?

Russia is a very beautiful and interesting country with a rich culture and history. However, after 1918 it got kind of closed to the world and only reopened in 1991 after the USSR collapsed. Even though there’s no cold war anymore, it’s still not that easy to get a visa to Russia in 2019, however, more and more countries don’t need a visa to visit Russia anymore.

Read my post about the things you should know before going to Russia >>>

If you’re from the EU, USA, Canada, Australia etc, you probably need a visa to Russia. Most of Asia and South America can visit Russia visa free for almost 3 months.

However, there’s actually a way to visit Russia without a visa in 2021 and it applies to holders of any passports. Stay tuned, I will tell you about this just a bit later.

So is it actually hard to get a visa to Russia in 2020? Not really – all you need to do is to go to the Russian visa centre after filling out a visa form, get a special voucher (aka invitation – you just pay for it extra), pay the visa fee, let them take your fingerprints scans (only applies to certain countries) and wait for your visa.

If you’re applying from the UK, your Russian visa centre is this one.

If you’re based in the US, this is your Russian visa application center.

How expensive is Russia? What’s the cost of travelling in Moscow and St. Petersburg? I’m going to cover this and much more in this post about the cost of travel in Russia. Let’s get started.

Read my post about how expensive is it to travel in Russia here >>>

Russian visa policy – getting Russian visa in 2021

Whether you need a visa to visit Russia in 2021 or not, depends on your nationality. If you hold a passport of the following countries, you’re lucky and you don’t need a visa for Russia:

Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macao, Mauritius, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Nauru, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, South Korea, St. Kitts and Nevis, South Africa, Suriname, Thailand, Tajikistan, UAE, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

In all other cases, you do need to apply for the Russian visa beforehand.

If you don’t want to deal with a visa centre, you can apply through an agency. If you pay extra, you don’t even need to fill your papers – the agency will do that for you. The agency will issue you a travel voucher which allows you to visit Russia. So you wait for a week or two and here you are – your visa is ready to collect.

However, if you want to apply yourself, you need to do the following:

1 – Find the closest visa centre to your place of residence
2 – Buy a travel voucher (can also be obtained from the hotel you booked – just drop them a line asking for the voucher, and they gonna send it to you).
3 – Buy good travel insurance for Russia – it’s one of the visa requirements

4 – Get a passport size photograph
5 – Bank statements for proof of residence in the country, where you are currently residing
6 – Fill online application form (some of the previous docs are needed to fill the application)
7 – Bring all the documents to the visa application centre, go through finger scanning procedure & photo taking
8 – wait 1-3 weeks

In case, you have some friends who could invite you officially, you can save a bit of money, but keep in mind that it’s a lot of paperwork for your friends. In this case, you don’t need a voucher from an agency or a hotel reservation. And you also have a chance to get a visa for 3 months instead of just one month.

None of my friends or people I know were refused Russian visa, so don’t worry about that and good luck! However, if you’re going to Helsinki or Tallinn anytime soon, don’t forget about the amazing opportunity of visiting Russia without needing to obtain a visa to Russia!

best cities to visit in Russia

eVisa to Russia in 2021?

There’s a lot of talk going on regarding the possibility of obtaining an eVisa to Russia. Recently, a new pilot version of the eVisa to Vladivostok, Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg was introduced for the citizens of certain countries. This visa is free and it takes up to 4 days to get it (online).

However, if you’re from one of these countries listed below, you can now visit Vladivostok with an eVisa:

Algeria, Bahrain, Mexico, Brunei, India, Iran, Qatar, China, North Korea, Kuwait, Morocco, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tunisia, Turkey and Japan.

In the case of St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, it’s these countries plus the entire EU (excluding the UK).

Since October 2019, it’s now possible to visit St. Petersburg with a free e-visa!

See my post about the best cities to visit in Russia >>>

How to visit Russia without a visa?

Did you know that you can visit Russia without visa for 72 hours no matter which passport do you hold?

This rule applies to the entries by ferry from Helsinki or Tallinn to Saint Petersburg only. Or to transit entries to Kaliningrad. There are also other ports like Anadyr, Kaliningrad, Novorossiysk, Sevastopol, Sochi and Vladivostok, but I guess, St. Petersburg is the easiest option!

In other words, you have to go to Finland or Estonia, buy a ferry ticket to Saint Petersburg with the cruise company called St. Peter Line and decide what you are going to do there within these 72 hours! Not bad, huh?

Below, I will tell you what can you do during 72 hours in Russia without a visa!

72 hours in Russia without a visa

As I already mentioned before, you can spend 72 hours in Russia without having to obtain a visa. Most probably, you will only be able to visit St. Petersburg, however, it is technically possible to visit Moscow too. Just buy a speed train ticket, so the journey to Moscow takes only 4 hours or a flight (which is around 1-hour long).

Read my post about getting from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back here!

 Attention: you also need to hold a hotel reservation, when you enter Russia and that’s quite a strict rule.


Personally, I would recommend you to stay in St. Petersburg only and see the city properly (anyways, you won’t be able to see everything since the city is huge and beautiful; moreover, it has many suburbs with fabulous palaces).

How to spend 72 hours in St. Petersburg and see the most important landmarks


I hope you enjoyed this post about the visa to Russia in 2019. In case you’re interested, I do have a lot of other posts about Russia >>>

More posts about traveling to Russia:

Cruise to Karelia, Russia (the gem of the North)
St. Petersburg without a visa: how to spend 72 hours
10 best things to do in St. Petersburg
Budget places to eat in St. Petersburg

Thanks for reading!

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