The tourist visa invitation letter (or tourist voucher) is a mandatory document for obtaining a visa to Russia. It is usually provided by the hotel but you will need it if you plan to visit many towns or stay with a local.
Among the documents required to obtain a tourist visa for Russia is the tourist invitation letter. It is a document in Russian, issued by a hotel or travel agency legally registered in Russia. This document invites a foreign citizen to come to Russia.
Read also: How to obtain a Russian visa for UK citizens
Generally, the hotel in which you stay will offer an invitation, free of charge. I have noticed that, nowadays, fewer and fewer hotels offer free invitations. After booking a hotel on Booking, I received messages from hotels inviting me to buy an invitation on their platform. Sometimes it is a fairly priced offer (13€), but usually, it is an excessive price (more than 20€ per invitation).
If you plan to change hotels, stay with locals or friends, you will need to get an invitation using other methods.
Do I need a Russian Tourist Invitation as a UK citizen?
You will need to buy a tourist visa invitation if you will stay in:
- one hotel: Maybe. The hotel may – perhaps – provide you a free invitation letter. You should check that yourself with the hotel you booked or choose one that provides free invitation letters.
- many hotels: Probably. Hotels may – perhaps – provide you free invitations, but it is also necessary that your file with many invitations is accepted by the consulate/embassy. The law is not very clear on this subject, it seems that many invitations are generally refused for some reason. If all the hotels you plan to stay in provide free tourist visa invitation letters, you should try submitting all of them, and. If your file gets refused, you will have to buy a single invitation letter yourself.
- AirBnb hosting: Certainly. Private people on AirBnb cannot provide a tourist invitation letter for your visa.
- with friends/family: Certainly. The same situation as with the AirBnB, locals cannot provide you with a visa invitation letter.
I have tried many companies that provide invitations and I have always obtained my visa: Action-Visas, DestinationRussia, Invite Russia, Voyage Expo.
Yes, I have already bought a 35 pounds invitation at Action-Visas but that was before I knew how it works better. Now I know that a tourist invitation is much cheaper if you go to the right agencies;).
We negotiated the rate of 13 pounds per tourist invitation with the agency “InviteRussia“. I have checked their registration with Russian authorities as well and used their service many times.
Invitation letter to Russia – How much does it cost?
There is no difference in quality between suppliers. It’s always the same tourist invitation. I have already tried several suppliers and it’s always the same. The important point: the agency must be properly registered in Russia to issue valid tourist invitation.
Here is a comparison of the rates applied, for a 2-week invitation:
|Agency||Price (pounds)||Time to obtain|
For the Russian agency, the process of issuing an invitation letter for a tourist visa costs about 600 rubles for registration fees.
Specific information for citizens of African countries
You will notice that the price of the invitation is much higher. Visa agreements between Russia and many African countries are not as easy as for European countries. The procedure with the Russian State for obtaining an invitation is more complex.
What is the “detailed itinerary” or “detailed program”?
If you plan to stay in Russia for less than 13 days, you can ignore this question.
For a stay between 14 and 30 days, I have already found “information” explaining that a “detailed itinerary” document is required to obtain the visa. Some visa agencies charge a few euros for this document. But what is the truth?
Official information: “if the duration of the stay exceeds 15 days, it is mandatory to present the detailed programme, source: Russian Embassy.
My Experience: I have never provided a detailed itinerary, even for 30-day stays, and I have always obtained my visa.
So, to make it simple. Do you need to provide a detailed itinerary for obtaining the Russian visa?:
- stay less than 15 days : no;
- stay more than 15 days : officially yes, but it is still possible to obtain it without a detailed itinerary;
Do you have to state the hotel in which you will stay for the invitation letter?
For the long answer, I’ll tell you a story. During my first visas, I went through the largest private agency in London. They make thousands of visas every year. I would drop off my passport and get a ready-made visa.
I knew we needed an invitation, but they were taking care of it. Do you think they asked me where I was going to stay? What if I had booked a hotel? Nothing, Niet. I saw on my passport the name of a hotel, which I did not know, where I had not booked anything.
Now I buy my own invitations. In the “hotel” box, I put nothing, or I leave the default option. No one will come to check that you are sleeping well in the hotel you indicated on the invitation.
You can sleep at friends, at the locals via AirBnb or just spend the night on the train: no problem.
Russian Visa Invitation Letter: My Experience
At first, all these formalities scared me, stressed me out. As time goes by (I have already obtained more than 10 visas to Russia for myself), the stress disappears but I am always a bit nervous when I submit my application.
And yet, I have never been refused.
Sample invitation letter for Russian visa
Here are some examples of Tourist Invitation for getting a visa to Russia:
I hope this information has helped you. Let me know if you have any further questions or need some more tips in the comments, I’ll gladly answer all of them!