This is the hardest part of planning where to go next. The wife and I decided to go to Russia on a holiday and rather than sticking to seeing only Moscow and St. Petersburg we wanted to try and see the entire east to west traveling on the trans- Siberian railway.
Of course it was her who did the work. Research isn’t my forte (Yes I still intend to study a phd). Some of the interesting things we (I am being generous) discovered was its not one train that runs from China to Russia but a bunch of trains that run along the route and you could buy tickets for certain sections of the journey. Now for the hard part, the Russian embassy requires a detailed itinerary of where you would be during the entire duration of the trip. They also need confirmed hotel booking and letter of invitation from a Russian agency. Each of these poses a set of challenges. I was in charge of finding out where and what to do in Russia. I happened to procrastinate and kept putting this off till Cathy took charge. She quickly figured out a bunch of places we should go to and what to see (at least this is what we would tell the embassy). She went online on booking.com and booked a bunch of hotel rooms in places we should visit. Smart cookie that she is, she put in about 3 days a place across all location. Thankfully booking.com generates a booking voucher that helps convince the Visa guys that the actual booking is made without actually having to pay for it. With that done the last step was the invite letter with name of the places and actual hotel names.
When you need an official note inviting you to a country to visit it seems like a very serious document that after hundreds of security checks would be given. We went online and got the same in 20 minutes. We found a site called goingruss.com, who for a fee could give you an invite letter. Seems like the Russian government knows about this and chooses to do nothing. Could be a way to create jobs. The guys at goingruss are brilliant. Email responses would come in half a day and they always were willing to help. Cathy smartly added the names of the hotels and places we were visiting on the letter. With that done, we applied for a Visa date online. The closest center is Chennai and they expect you to visit them and apply in person.
We setup a date for the Visa appointment. Went to Chennai and met Olga (surprise surprise) from the Russian Embassy. She checked our documents and asked us for a itinerary signed and stamped by the tour agency. Olga was sweet. She wanted us to email her the copy. According to her that would be enough. Cathy quickly wrote to goingruss and for Rs.1000 we had a signed and stamped itinerary. The next day the passport with our visa’s were signed and stamped. No fuss, as easy as that.
So if you are going to Russia just write to goingruss.com and they will do the rest. My next ride should be into Russia and will have them to do my documentation. All together we spent about 5000 rs each for the visa and the travel docs.