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It was only 3 months ago when my skills were first tested in trying to obtain tourist visas to India.  This week I’m doing the same but trying to get us into Russia.  Moscow, to be precise. 

I had no idea!  First, that we would need one (silly me, I know).  Second, that there would be so many requirements:

  1. Completed application form (for each person)
  2. Copies of passport pages
  3. Personal appearance of the applicant required (all of us have to trudge down there)
  4. One photograph with light background, preferable matte paper. What????  I have photos of each of us in a large size, white background that we need for Canadian passport renewals.  I have photos on blue background, that we needed for Indian visas.  I have ones on a dark background….that we needed for????  I do not have any on a white background in the size required, other than 1 for Dear Husband.  So we will have all go for more pictures.
  5. A standard tourist confirmation from the authorized hosting Russian travel agency or a hotel, registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a proper TOURIST VOUCHER from any tourist company in Russia or in Qatar.
  6. Consular fees.

We will not be entering Russia until over a month from now.  But we leave on vacation next Thursday and the Consular section of the Russian Embassy is only open here Sun, Mon & Tue.   (Sunday 11-2pm, Monday 5-7pm, Tue 10-1pm)

Sunday I went.  First, driving half-way across the city only to realise I’d forgotten the map of the Embassy’s location.  So I drove around.  Then I called DH to see if he was in his office and could look it up on the net.  He was busy in a meeting but at least he told me the color of their flag so I drove around some more (while the big E-for-Empty was flashing on my gas-gauge) and eventually found the red, white and blue flag.  Parked, got out of the car only to see a sign on the front of the Embassy saying “closed today for technical difficulties”.  What does that mean, technical difficulties? 

Yesterday, Monday, DH and I met at the Embassy at 5pm.  They advised us that getting a visa would take maximum a week.  We won’t really have a week as they’re only open 3 days per week and we leave next Thursday.  Oh, but if we pay double the price, they can get it for us, for sure. 

Went home and DH proceeded to find us a hotel.  I had one all picked out, but he decided to choose one ‘his way’.  His way is actually way cool, but I haven’t quite mastered Google Earth in the manner he has…I still use the old-fashioned way like TripAdvisor, etc.  Next thing you know he’s got a great hotel all picked out.  Everything about it sounds fantastic, which made me feel much more comfortable about going.  Easy to get to, clean, comfortable, SAFE AREA, etc.  Mind you, it’s also way more than the budget I normally stick to when choosing hotels.  When you’re having to pay for 2 rooms each night….I tend to go on the cheaper side.   

Unfortunately, he calls Moscow after the reservations department had just closed for the evening.  So I would have to wait until morning, 9am my time, to call and ask about getting the required documents and how long it might take.   I need it by noon.  

So today the plan was to phone the hotel in Russia, make the pre-paid hotel booking and ask them to send me the paperwork before noon.  Then I would pry our 3 sleeping teenagers who are on summer holidays out of bed to get passport pictures taken – again.  I would fill out the 5 application forms.  Print off all the passport copies.  Drive down to the Embassy before they close which is 1pm.  Pay the extortionate amount of fees!

…..and hope for the best!

After living here for some time you have tendency to think that things won’t get done, happen as they should and take foooooorever to accomplish.  I did not in the least, expect all to go well.

I called the hotel and the lady in reservations not only spoke excellent English, but was polite and  helpful.  Everything sounded like it would go according to plan…except she first needed to send me a form that I needed to complete, sign and return to her before she could proceed with the paperwork.  Great.  Our scanner has not been working lately so how would  I accomplish this task?  Keeping calm and cool, I went over to our on-again, off-again printer/scanner/copier.  

Some days it seems to work as it should, wireless, so we can all print whatever’s needed from wherever we happen to be located in the house.  Lately however, the scanner works one day but doesn’t the next.  I was going to try powering everything down and re-starting it, but  had done that the other day with no luck.  So, thought I’d just try plugging my lap-top in and see if it liked that better.  Amazing Grace – it worked!

Immediately I filled out the form, signed it, scanned it and sent it on to the hotel via email.  Then, I called ‘Maria’ again and made our hotel reservation. 

Did I mention how earlier in the morning, like 6am, we finally found a mini-van rental available in Paris after almost 2 weeks trying and DH tried to book it but our credit cards were declined?  We called our bank but they assured us the problem was not at their end.  In between 8am and 9am DH received two phone calls from the bank saying there was in fact a problem with the bank but our credit card should work now!  I hoped it would work okay for this.

So, I booked our rooms, which had to be fully pre-paid and non-refundable should we need to cancel.  Gulp!

Then I waited.  Maria needed to send the two documents required to apply for the visas.

It was 9:30am.  10 am I woke the kids.  Told them to get up as we were going to get pictures.  We would leave by about 10:30am.  We would need about 20 minutes for pictures to be developed so could go to Starbucks for coffee and a light breakfast, then come back home and hopefully the paperwork we needed would be here by then.

I checked email again and at 10:30am, amazingly, I had the documents back and so we could be on our way!

For our kids, breakfast was one sandwich which picky youngest-son hated as it had tomatoes in it. One Greek salad for DD and one Italian pasta salad for oldest son.  I don’t know how they can eat that kind of stuff first thing in the morning. 

Anyways, we got the pics and called DH.  He would leave his work meeting and we’d meet him at the Embassy.  The information did say, afterall, each applicant had to be there to apply in person. 

Drove to the Embassy. Completed the last bit of information on the applications regarding our ‘hosts’ in Russia (the hotel).  I told the person working at the Consular Section we were just waiting for my husband to arrive. 

Oh, you can just submit for him.

Duuuuughhhh!  Of course, that’s NOT what it says on the website……!!!

I attached the new photos and slid the paperwork under the glass-panel to the clerk, saying

If we submit today, we will be able to pick up within the week, yes?

Yes, you can pick up the passports with the visas this same time, next week.   The cost will be $75 each.

Yipeee!!!! 

Well, I should wait and see if they’re actually ready for us next Tuesday.  Wonder if we’ll end up paying the express-fee ($150 each) or not? 

So right about this time DH called saying he was lost trying to find the Embassy again.  We waited, gave up and said we would meet him at Landmark for lunch.  Not that any of us needed to eat.  But it was again +50C or so today, he had just battled traffic all the way across town and needed some lunch before going back to his meeting.  We had a quick bite to eat together and each went our separate ways.  We had accomplished what we needed to do.

Who knew that we would need a visa to visit Moscow but I bet it’s because they also need to apply for one to get into Canada. I thought our countries were supposed to be relatively trusting of one another these days.  However, for whatever reason I felt somewhat uncomfortable leaving our passports there for a week.  Mind you, I feel that way whenever I have to ‘surrender’ my passport to some one, some agency, some hotel.  It’s one item you don’t really want to be without when living so far from home.

I’ve recently learned (like, yesterday) that Moscow is the most expensive city in Europe to visit.  4th in the world.  Perhaps one of the things one should investigate, along with visa requirements, before they start booking flights!

So again we wait and as I said earlier this morning……hope for the best!  Check in with me next Tuesday!