Applying for a Russian visa in Hanoi as a foreigner is straightforward as long as you stick to the rules of the game and do your homework. Visa requirements for any country might change at any given moment so be sure to verify the current rules with the consular office. This article is a summary of my experiences with — successfully — applying for a visa and might help others do the same.
One resource that was very helpful to me while preparing to apply for the Russian visa is the article Hanoi Visa Woes from April 2008 on the blog Steve on Tour. His article is still pretty accurate, but I wanted to write down my experiences as an updated resource might help others.
Locating the Consular Office
As most tourists I stayed in Hanoi's Old Quarter, a dazzling collection of streets and alleys where even those with a perfect sense of direction get lost. The Russian embassy is located some 5 kilometres west of the Old Quarter, near Thu Le Zoo at the far western end of La Thanh street. It's at number 191 but this is not very helpful as there appear to be at least four buildings with this same number on La Thanh street.
From the edge of the Old Quarter take bus 32 or 34 to the embassy. Public buses in Hanoi are a simple, cheap and reasonably comfortable way to get around. The system is simple and there are many buses so you don't have to wait long for a bus. When you enter the bus you look for a person selling tickets: hand over 5.000 VND and you will get a ticket. It does not matter where on the line you get on or off, the fare is always the same and clearly listed on the outside of the bus. I get off near the zoo from where it is a short walk to the embassy.
The embassy is a large concrete compound surrounded by a high wall. A guard at the main gate points me in the general direction of where the consular office is supposed to be. I walk along the wall of the compound into a small alleyway and halfway in I notice another guard and a steel door in the wall. The guard motions me to ring the bell next to the door and moments later I am invited to step inside, only to find myself in a square, walled garden of eight by eight meters and a single door in the corner. I open the door and step into the consular office which, judging from the temperature, doubles as the embassy's freezer.
Applying for the Visa
I applied for a standard single-entry 30 day tourist visa; it may or may not be possible to obtain other types of visas. The consulate clearly lists the requirements (in English) for foreigners wanting to apply for a Russian visa in Vietnam:
- A valid residency permit or visa for Vietnam for at least 90 days. This means that if you enter Vietnam with a standard 30 day tourist visa you cannot apply for a Russian visa. I was aware of this requirement so when I applied for my Vietnamese visa in Cambodia I got a 3 month multiple-entry tourist visa for Vietnam (cost: 115 USD).
- 1 passport sized photo
- The original invitation document. Before I applied I verified if it was really necessary to have the original document and I was told that an emailed copy was also acceptable. I would advice verifying this at the consulate because it will save you the trouble of having the original document couriered from Moscow which would have cost me an additional 100 USD... Obtaining the invitation itself is easily done on the internet, I paid 22 USD for mine.
- Filled out visa application form, available from the consulate.
Besides these requirements there may be additional requirements depending on your nationality or employment status. Real Russia, a travel agency for Russia based in the UK, has a good list of what requirements apply to different nationalities; select your nationality from the list on the bottom of the page. In my case as a Dutch citizen I also had to submit the following:
- A statement from my health insurance in English or Russian stating that I am covered for medical expenses during my stay.
- Being a self-employed software engineer I also had to provide bank statements for the past 90 days showing that I have enough money to support myself during my stay in Russia.
The cost of the visa depends on your nationality and the processing time. As a Dutch citizen I was quoted 45 USD for the single-entry 30 day visa, with a processing time of 5 business days. Express processing (next business day) cost 91 USD. I chose the latter as I had to apply for more visas and I wanted to minimize the time I had to stay in Hanoi.