Scrambling for a Russian Visa

I was early, by almost 2 hours. The Russian Consulate doesn’t open until 9:30 a.m., but there I was, parking my car across the street from the consulate at 7:40 a.m. This is easily one of the harder visas to get for the Mongol Rally.

I had heard stories about people waiting for more than 3 hours to drop off their visa applications, and I wanted to avoid that as much as possible. I parked my car, went in search for a TD Canada Trust, got a money order for the Russian Consulate for $135, and headed to 175 Bloor Street East.

I waited in the lobby until 8:45 a.m., then decided to go upstairs, and see about waiting in the hall. I was going to get a jump on the crowd. Oh, yes, I would prove the naysayers wrong. I walked in the door for the visa section and discovered I was the 8th person in line. Looks like I should have gone upstairs as soon as I finished at the bank.

The line wasn’t bad. Most of the people ahead of me were picking up their passports, so the line went down fairly quickly. By 9:50 a.m. I was next in line, and I was feeling pretty damn cocky. ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been standing in line for 20 minutes, and I’m going to be done, and I can waste away the rest of my day’.

I walked up to the window, handed over my papers, passport, and photo.

“This is the wrong form. We don’t accept these ones anymore” the blonde man said with a thick Russian accent, scowling as he spoke.

“What? This is the only form I could find.” I replied, feeling more than a little deflated. The man behind the window explained that I was supposed to fill out the application online, then print it, and bring it in. I explained that the website didn’t link to the application he was speaking of. He grumbled, plopped down on his chair, printed off a sheet of paper, and highlighted the link in blue. He then handed everything back to me and sent me on my way.

As I walked into the hallway my thoughts turned to the idea of having to go home, redo the application, and trying again on Monday. But wait, Monday is not an option, I leave for Germany on Thursday. I can’t wait until Monday to apply! I got into the elevator and started to think of where I could go that had a computer and a printer so I could get this application done,  and be back at the consulate in 2 hours.

I turned to Twitter.

Pamela MacNaughtan ‏@savvyabroad

Help! I need a computer with printer. Wrong Russian app. I have 2 he’s to get this done!!!

I flipped through Twitter as I waited for a reply, saw @Taggio in my feed, and had a brainstorm. I closed Twitter and called Alicia at work. My hope was that there would be a Flight Centre nearby, and I could run over and use one of their computers real quick. I explained my situation to Alicia, and she responded with, ‘You can come down to my work and do it here, there is an extra computer”. I felt an immediate wave of relief.

I was near Yonge & Bloor, Alicia was at Yonge & Dundas, only 3 subway stops away! I hung up and made a b-line for the subway. Ten minutes later, I was walking into the Flight Centre offices with Alicia, sitting at her desk, and filling out the online form for my Russian visa.

Roughly 30 minutes later I was back at the Consulate. This time I was the 14th person in line, and the girl at the window was processing about 20 passports. The line went slowly. I stood there trying to be patient, but it wasn’t working. The man in front of me decided to grab a chair and sit down, while in line, so he could do Suduku. Seriously? Who does that?!?!

You know how you feel when you’re in a rush, and you know there is no other choice, plus your annoyed that you didn’t have all the information you needed in the first place, so you had to waste time running around, and this guy is in front of you in line, in a damn chair, refusing to move up when the line moves, which makes you angry because you just need to feel like you’re making some progress? Yeah, that was totally me.

As I got closer to the window I reminded myself to smile. I would have loved to make a comment about the website not being clear enough, and about the fact that the visa application web address was not hyperlinked, but I reminded myself that I was standing inside the Russian Consulate, and I desperately need a visa. When my turn came, I slapped on a smile, joked about my form, and handed everything over. Five minutes later I was paying the cashier, and collecting my receipt, stating that my visa would be ready on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, the day before I fly to Germany! (See how waiting until Monday would have been a bad, bad, bad, idea?)

Three hours after I arrived at the Russian Consulate, I was walking (with a wee bounce in my step) out with a receipt in my hand, and excited at the prospect of a Russian Visa gracing the pages of my passport. Okay, so the naysayers were right, yes, that annoys me too, but on Wednesday I plan to arrive at the Consulate at 8:30 a.m. I’m going to bring my iPad so I can read a book while I wait.

Hopefully, I’ll be walking out with my passport (and a Russian visa) in hand, before 10 a.m. Keeping my body parts crossed!

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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6 Responses

  1. Ele

    Yet again, I cannot understand why one doesn’t pay extra cash for a travel agent to have a visa done. Why people prefer going for really difficult visas themselves, just to write a blog post for it? Just curious, really, why?

    • Pamela

      Great question! I did pay a visa service originally, but they screwed a lot of things up, which wasted valuable time. If I waited for them, I wouldn’t have my passport back, before I fly out to Germany on Thursday. Plus, the service was charging me $100 extra, and the Consulate was close enough that I could go myself. This post is not a slam on the Russian Consulate, I was lucky, I had a friend help me out. I met people in line who had been to the Consulate 4 times to submit their application. So yeah, I was lucky.

      • Ele

        I just got inspired to jot down a post about getting a visa done. I’m afraid the whole bureaucracy is ridiculous if to look from aside. Did you have to have a medical confirmation you don’t have HIV? I’ve seen it as a requirement for the Russian visa somewhere online….Gross…

      • Kyle

        It varies by country. In the west (IE. USA) having a company do your Visa can be a HUGE timesaver (but at a costly expense). In South East Asia it’s a tossup. Using Khaosan touts for a Burmese visa application? No thanks. Saving 2 days and a 4 hour car trip for 25 bucks in Indonesia? Yes please!

  2. Peter

    The same was in London few years ago, Resolved with VFS Visa Application Center. The process takes 15 mins to apply, cheaper than to go through a travel agent, but about £25 more than it used be.

  3. Matt Bowers

    My wife and I just went through the ridiculous visa process also. It probably took us about 10 hours of research before we felt comfortable. I hope you got yours successfully – I was able to pick ours up yesterday. St. Petersburg here we come!

    For you other readers, we made a step by step guide to the new online application if you’re interested, and you can find it here:


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