Russia- The Land of Nyet Bureacracy

by Donna on September 30, 2011


Getting ready for Timbuktu was less trouble than preparing for a week in Russia. Someone forgot to tell the Russian travel bureaus the Cold War ended years ago. Getting a visa was never a big deal before. I have passports full of visas—it’s always been a matter of a short form and a lot of cash. Not this time. I hate official forms to begin with, but this time the visa applications took two days to fill out.

It went on and on. How many countries have you been to? When did you travel? List every country visited in the last ten years, with dates! Have you ever visited Russia before? When? What was your visa number? I traveled to Russia 25 years ago—how do I know what my visa number was? Filling out these forms was after we had our official invitation and permission. There was no place to put on the form that it was just a group tour—we weren’t going to wander around the interior taking photos of secret missile sights.

The scheduled trip was for only seven nights. So I wanted to fly in a day early, just in case. With three flights anything could happen. NYET! These are the dates of the authorized tour. Those are the dates you will be here. Nothing sooner, nothing later. No deviations. Arrive earlier and you will not be admitted! Filling out the forms reminded me that Russians don’t smile. Excessive smiling is taken as a sign of lunacy. Which is about how I felt until our passports were returned, with pretty, shiny new visas.

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