Russia will allow citizens of 53 countries to apply for a simplified tourist e-visa in 2021, saving travellers the headache and logistical problems to apply in person at a Russian embassy or consulate far in advance.
Russia has always been among the stricter countries when it comes to their visa policy. Most western tourists do need to get a full visa from a Russian consulate or embassy in order to gain access to the vast Eurasian country.
The country has however slowly moved to more modern systems in recent years. First, most European citizens were allowed to visit the Kaliningrad region, a Russian enclave wedged in between Poland and Lithuania, by applying for a special Kaliningrad e-visa. This was followed by the Russian authorities allowing many nationalities to visit the city of St. Petersburg on a special St. Petersburg e-visa, which coincided with an expansion of low-cost flights to Russia’s most historic city.
Asian travellers on the other hand were given a special Far East e-visa regime which allowed them to visit places as far apart as Ulan Ude, Vladivostok and Kamchatka.
Russia has now gone a step further by allowing tourists from 53 nations to visit the entire country visa-free. According to local media, citizens from most European nations can apply for a Russian e-visa for travels from 1st January 2021 onward. E-visas will be valid for a maximum of 16 days.
Citizens from the US, UK and Canada are however not covered by the new e-visa regime and would still need to apply for a full Russian visa the old-fashioned way. The same counts for those who are covered by the e-visa regime but who want to stay longer than 16 days or who require a multiply-entry visa.
Personally I am absolutely excited by this news. I loved all my previous travels to Russia, although having to secure a visa in advance through the consulate was always a (minor) annoyance. I always had a fascination for Russia and its vast geography, so I will surely use the opportunity to visit some remote or historic corners of the country which I haven’t visited yet. The far north such as Murmansk or Arkhangelsk, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Omsk, Yakutsk.. there is so much I still want to see in Russia!
Although I don’t expect any of the lesser known places in Russia will suddenly become extremely popular, I do expect to see a huge surge in tourism to St. Petersburg and Moscow. If you have never seen these cities before and plan to go, I would recommend to go sooner than later before these cities become overwhelmed by the tourist masses just like some other cities in Eastern Europe.
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