All foreign citizens looking to enter Russia require a visa which can be obtained from your local Russian embassy or consulate. Russia requires you to get an official visa support or "invitation" before you can apply for the visa to the Consulate. This invitation is usually an official document from a travel agency, registered with the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a form which you have to fill down and send to the tourist company. The invitation will be sent to you by fax within one working day.
There are different types of visas available depending on your needs and objectives. The most common visa that our guests use is a tourist visa. There are single-entry and double-entry tourist visas and they usually last for 3 months. For example, if you are flying into St. Petersburg, spending 5 nights here, and then traveling to Moscow for 3 nights before going home, you would only need a single-entry visa since you are only entering into Russia one time. But if you were planning on flying into St. Petersburg, but also visiting Riga, Latvia, or Kiev, Ukraine, before returning to Russia and flying home, you would need a double-entry visa because you would cross into Russia twice. You CAN NOT enter Russia prior to the day on your visa. So if your visa says August 5th, but you're plane is scheduled to arrive on August 4th, you will have many problems. Additionally, you will be declined a visa if your passport expires within 6 months of your trip, so please check and renew if necessary.
All foreign citizens entering Russia for more than 3 working days require to be registered by law. All tourist who book their tour package through us will have their registration and visa taken care of by us. Always carry your passport with you at all times, as the police have the legal right to ask you to present them with a copy of your passport and visa at any time.
Ruble is the only legal tender on the entire territory of the Russian Federation. All prices are generally quoted in rubles. Currency can be freely converted at banks, hotels or exchange offices. According to Russian laws, it is illegal to pay for goods and services in foreign currency, with the exception of authorized retail establishments. Old and tarnished bills and coins will not be accepted at banks and exchange offices - money changers want to deal with pristine banknotes only.
Although in major cities there appear more restaurants and shops welcoming credit cards, in some cases you will have to pay in cash. If you are going to travel to smaller Russian cities, make sure you have cash, as credit cards are not widely accepted in Russian provinces. Travelers' Cheques is probably the most secure way of keeping your money: you are the only one who can cash the cheques and if lost they can be reissued - just write down the numbers beforehand and keep them separate from the cheques. The problem is that in Russia you can refund them only in banks, which are opened only from 9.30 until 18.30. The banks charge commission for refunding the cheques (about 2-3%) and for buying the cheques - usually 1%. The most widely accepted cheques in Russia are American Express and more rare - Thomas Cook. Please note that you cannot pay with travelers cheques in Russia, you can only withdraw money from them in banks. Also, the recent customs regulations make it necessary to declare the cheques when you enter Russia.
There are many cash machines in Moscow, St. Petersburg and major Siberian cities, and a lot of shops and restaurants accept cards in the big cities. However, as soon as you go to smaller towns, you'll find it hard to use your credit card. If you don't know where to look for an ATM, go to any big and expensive hotel. However, it's better if you withdraw your money in the cash machine, which is at some bank's office, in that case if your card gets swallowed you'll deal with the problem faster. Usually banks charge 0 to 1% commission if you withdraw money with the card of the other (foreign) bank, but your bank - the issuer of the card - will take from $2 to $5 US for this operation. In most of the cases you'll receive rubles, some ATMs dispense dollars as well. Visa, MasterCard are accepted almost in any ATM, Visa Electron and Cirrus / Maestro - more rarely, and AMEX and Diners Club owners might have problems cashing the cards.
Important note: You need to present your passport for any currency operation at exchange offices and banks!