Wanderlust Wendy

Trans-Siberian Journey: Visa Prep

Preface 

Xavier (French) and I (Taiwanese-American) were living in Shanghai at the time of this trip prep. I was staying in China on my Taiwanese ID, but will be traveling on my US Passport, so I needed to obtain Russian visa in Hong Kong. US citizens do not need a Mongolia visa at this time.

French needs both a Russian and a Mongolia visa, but the Mongolian Consulate in Shanghai no longer supports visa issuance, so we needed to make a trip to Beijing.

Getting Russian Visa in Hong Kong

Quick note before I discuss my experience: not all nationalities are able to hop over to Hong Kong for Russian visa. There are a list of countries where a long-term HK visa is required. Please check before you book your appointment and your trip.

I booked train tickets in and out of Russia with Real Russia, and they were able to provide both an invitation letter and confirmation letter for the train journeys. If you book any part of the journey with them, the visa invitation letter fee is waived. Just to be extra thorough, I also printed out my hotel reservations, kept the immigration entry card from the Hong Kong border, and printed a copy of my travel insurance just in case. The lady returned those to me right away and didn’t bother looking at them. 

Since I was traveling to Hong Kong just for the visa, I wanted the expedited service. I completed the online visa application form and booked an appointment on the Russian Consular site. Beware that they don’t always have openings right away. I was only able to book a slot for 3 weeks out. With that date set, I booked hotels and flights accordingly.

My appointment was at 10:30am, I brought all of my paperwork and $1092HKD of cash to pay for the expedited service. There was no other people in the visa section when I arrived. The lady checked my paperwork, took my cash, and told me to come back the next day at 2:30pm. The whole process took less than 10 minutes. 

I arrived the next day at 2:30pm and picked up my passport with shiny Russian visa. The process was fairly easy and painless. 

Getting Russian Visa in Shanghai

Since we were living in Shanghai, the process for Xavier was pretty straight forward. He arrived at the Visa Centre, a third party processing centre contracted by the Russian Embassy, without an appointment. Workers at the Visa Centre looked over information for him closely, and even suggested a revision that costed ¥60. Not sure if that’s entirely necessary, but better safe than sorry. He was told to pick up his passport with the visa in 10 working days. 

At the time of this writing, the visa centre website doesn’t appear to be working, and I wonder if that was a temporary set up due to the World Cup. 

Nevertheless, you can make an appointment with the Shanghai Consulate. The process, I presume, would be similar to my experience in Hong Kong. The key difference was that I was granted some buffer dates per my visa application, whereas Xav was granted only the dates that were outlined in our travel supporting documents. 

Getting Mongolian Visa in Beijing

The Mongolian consulate in Shanghai unfortunately does not process visas any longer, so we planned a trip up to Beijing. There is no expedited service, and the office is closed on Fridays, which means dropping off your passport on Monday and picking it up on Thursday is your only option. As such, we made a trip out of this by visiting Beijing’s tourist sites. 

If you are simply riding the train through Mongolia without getting off the train, Transit Visa would suffice. But since we had planned a day to explore Ulaanbaatar, Xavier needed a Short Stay Visa, which required an invitation letter. Our hostel, Zaya Hostel, happened to also provide invitation letter for tourist visa for a $15 fee. They will process this letter for you even if you aren’t staying there. 

No appointment is needed to drop off your passport, but to be safe, we were at the Embassy when it opened on Monday morning, and upon dropping off the document, we were told a time to pick up. Since our train was on Thursday, and the pick up time window was only between 4-5pm, the officer told us we could pick it up on Wednesday. When we return to pick it up, there were others there as well. You could potentially take this risk and arrange travels earlier, if time is of the essence. 

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