Russian Visa Application

Nov 25

I am heading to Russia in February and recently submitted and received my Russian visa. It is a fairly complicated process but once you understand the rules, it was completed quickly. I will focus mostly on Canada and their Russian visa application in this post.

First, make sure to check up on rules and regulations of visa requirements. Do you even need one? The Canadian government has a great travel website that lists advisories, security, health, laws, climate and entry requirements for most countries. Click HERE for Russia’s page. The United States has a very similar page as well.

Second, go to the Russian embassy to Canada website to find their process. The process can change quite often so make sure to double-check before you go ahead with your visa application. If you note, they made changes in July 2013.

Third, you next must decide what type of visa you require. Most of us will be applying for a tourist visa but there are other kinds such as private (visiting family/friends) and business. We’ll focus on the tourist visa for Canadians.

St Basil's Cathedral, Kremlin, Moscow, Russia

Photo credit:

Russian Visa Application

1. All applicants must use the online form HERE (citizens of Australia, Canada, Georgia, UK and USA). You will then print it off on one page (back to back) and sign it.

2. Original passport with two pages free of stamps and valid for at least six months after your departure from Russia.

3. One photocopy of ID page of your passport.

4. One original photo (35 x 45 mm) attached to printed out application. I got mine from CAA. Just remember to tell them it is for Russia since their size requirements may differ from other countries.

5. Tourist voucher and confirmation from a Russian hosting travel agency or hotel registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a reference number on the voucher that you will enter into the Russian visa application.

6. Flight itinerary (if applying for tourist double entry)- a letter from yourself that lists who is travelling, where, when and purpose. I included this even though I was not applying for a double entry visa just in case.

7. Money order, bank draft or certified cheque. Amount will depend on regular processing (up to 20 business days) or rush processing (3 business days) and whether you are applying in person or via mail.

You can apply in person but they only have locations in Eastern Canada so that may be a challenge for some of us that live elsewhere. So if you are near Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal, take the above and go to the Russian Embassy in Canada.

If you live elsewhere, you can mail in your Russian visa application BUT not directly to the Russian embassy. This is one of the new rule changes. You must mail it to a third-party visa agency that is now affiliated with the Russian Embassy – Invisa Logistics Services Canada Ltd. Please go to their website as there is an additional charge so the fee will differ since they are processing it and will courier it back to you. They have a very good website but if you have any questions, email them. I had a couple regarding the vouchers and they responded quickly.

A little more information on the voucher/confirmation – you can have more than one. For my trip, I had a voucher for my hotel in Moscow and for the cruise ship in Sochi. Invisa told me to enter the voucher reference number from my first stop (Moscow) into the Russian visa application since there is only ONE spot for a voucher reference number. You will list in a different spot how many places you are visiting and their addresses but only one spot for the voucher. Make sure to include all your vouchers in the application package.

Now one note on this: I have heard from others that their Russian visa application was rejected due to the numerous vouchers. If you have the time, try it my way first and enter your first voucher number but include all in the application. It worked for me and I received my visa within two weeks. If your application is rejected, you can buy ONE voucher/confirmation that covers your entire time in Russia from a third-party agency such as Travisa, CAA or IVPSC.

One final reminder: for the online application, the “appointment details” is an important part of the Russian visa application. Make sure to select the correct one – this will depend on whether you are submitting online OR mailing it in and the province in which you reside. Invisa lists where each province will submit their application: e.g. Alberta submits to Visa Application Centre (Toronto) and British Columbia submits to Visa Application Centre (Ottawa).


Final reminder: check and recheck your application that you filled the online form out correctly and have all the items for the package. You can save it as a draft and go in and make changes until you print it out; no more changes after printing it. You will have to start over if you do.

You should have your visa within a few weeks and it will be pasted into your passport. You are now ready to watch Canada kick some ass in Russia at the Olympics. 🙂 My hotel is booked and I found a great flight. I can’t wait to get to Russia! [Update: I made it and had a great time. Here are a couple posts on Red Square AND the Kremlin]

Vancouver 2010 Olympics - Men's Hockey Gold

Vancouver 2010 Olympics – Men’s Hockey Gold

Have you applied for your Russian visa yet?


UPDATE: There is talk on some of the forums (tripadvisor and facebook) that you need to have the following on your tourist confirmation (voucher) that says “Sochi-2014 – Spectator” (Сочи-2014 – зритель)” on the special field additional information. I have already applied and received my visa so I’m not sure what happens to my visa. I think Russia is using this to expedite visa applications for the Sochi spectators but I am not sure. So if you have not applied yet but have your voucher/confirmation documents already, please contact the Russian embassy or the third party visa agency you are using to confirm what you need.

You can also keep an eye on this thread on Trip Advisor: it is a VERY long thread but has useful information. You may also be asked to provide a copy or confirmation email of your Olympic tickets. The process is changing quickly so keep an eye on all this.

UPDATE: ILS Canada has posted this on their website confirming the above update.


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Ancient Pompeii

Nov 21

A trip to Italy is not complete unless you visit the ancient city of Pompeii, a city once lost to the world for over a millennium after the eruption by Mount Vesuvius in August 24-25, 79 AD.

Temple of Venus, Pompeii

Temple of Venus, Pompeii


Pompeii was a resort city that housed the summer homes of the Roman rich and elite. There may have been up to 20,000 inhabitants during the eruption with around 2000 perished as they had remained after the start of the eruption. Many other thousands perished in the Pompeii – Herculaneum area.

We must thank Pliny the Younger, a Roman administrator and poet, for his account of the earthquake and volcanic eruption four days later by Mount Vesuvius!  Pliny’s uncle, Pliny the Elder, was stationed at the imperial naval base of Misenum, across the Bay of Naples. Pliny the Elder was a senior officer in the Roman Navy but also a naturalist who wrote a series of books on natural history. He also perished during the rescue of a friend in Pompeii when he was unable to leave due to the change in winds. There are questions whether he perished from inhaling the toxic fumes or from natural causes stemming from his asthma.

Pompeii road

Pompeii road

Pliny the Younger wrote two letters to Tacitus, a very well-known historian, around twenty years after the events. Pliny the Younger gave an astounding detailed account of the whole event including a passing remark of earth tremors that were not cause for alarm since they were frequent in the area. Unfortunately, no one connected the possibility of an earthquake leading to a volcanic eruption. In addition, Mount Vesuvius had not erupted significantly since 1800 BC (there was a smaller one in 217 BC) so the people were NOT prepared for raining of fire.

Pompeii bakery

Pompeii bakery

Pompeii was covered in ash, which preserved the city until it was rediscovered in 1748. Excavations started immediately and they continue to this day.  For one full day, ash fell on the city along with pumice and rocks. Volcanic gases filled the city prompting many thousands to flee Pompeii and also Herculaneum. Soon a pyroclastic surge swelled out of the volcano at the rate of 100 km/hr, killing anyone who had remained.  The city was not rebuilt and eventually was lost to many feet of rocks and ash.

Mosaics in Pompeii

Mosaics in Pompeii

Being buried beneath all that rock and debris, it helped to preserve the city. Buildings, roads, paintings and mosaics have survived almost two thousand years. You can even see graffiti on the buildings with silly things such as “Aufidius was here” or  “Marcus loves Spendusa” or even political ads during elections. It is magnificent. My favourite building in Pompeii is the brothel. Erotic art fills the brothel as you can see below with a very comfortable looking bedroom.

Pompeii Brothel Erotica

Pompeii Brothel Erotica

Mount Vesuvius has not erupted since 1944 and the region has seen many small earthquakes over the years. Many people still live on the side of the mountain – I’m not sure that is brave or stupid. Probably a combination of both! 🙂

The easiest way to get to Pompeii is to take a day tour out of Rome. Or hope the train for a two-hour ride to Pompeii yourself. You probably won’t need the audio guide but if you can hook up with a tour group, I would recommend that. The guides are VERY knowledgeable about Pompeii.

It gets incredibly hot in Pompeii (and most of Italy) during the summer so be prepared. If you can visit a bit off-season (October), that is better. The weather drops below 30 degrees Celsius (yay) and there are fewer tourists. I am a fan of October travel!  For more info on travel to Pompeii, try their official website. Remember, Pompeii is actually a very large area and much of it is not even excavated yet. It’ll take many years to complete it (if they ever do).

Plastercast of a victim of Pompeii

Plaster cast of a victim of Pompeii – one of many

I leave you with my favourite photo I took in Pompeii (below). This was on the road and pointed towards the brothel. It gave those weary sea-men (ahem) directions to a house of ill-repute. 😉

Directions to the brothel in Pompeii

Directions to the brothel in Pompeii

So have you been to Pompeii? I’ll have another post up on Mount Vesuvius soon as I did climb up to the crater.

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Eagle’s Nest Germany

Nov 15

Eagle's Nest, Germany - or das Kehrsteinhaus in Berchtesgaden

Eagle’s Nest, Germany

Eagle’s Nest Germany

One of the most memorable moments in all my travels was a visit to Eagle’s Nest Germany. It is also known as das Kehlsteinhaus and is in Berchtesgaden, Germany. I always refer to it as Hitler’s Lair since it was commissioned in 1937 as a 50th birthday present for Adolf Hitler (ready in 1938). Hitler would only visit it a handful of times since he was fearful of heights. To reach Eagle’s Nest, you take a very narrow and windy road to the summit. It is not for the faint of heart. Check out this short video that shows the road and other views from Eagle’s Nest.

I did not enjoy taking a bus on that road. It is a very narrow road where you can see alllllll the way down. I was on window facing out on the way up. I made sure I switched it up for the ride down. I don’t normally have a fear of heights but being able to look down was a bit scary! Oh and it is NOT a one-way road. The Germans coordinate the trips up and down so the buses pass each other on the two lane areas. Yes those Germans are efficient! 🙂

Schwalbenesttunnel, Kehlsteinstraße

Schwalbenesttunnel, Kehlsteinstraße
Photo credit:

I took a day tour from Munich. Half way on the tour, we stopped for lunch. This was my view as we had a tasty German lunch!

Eagle's Nest, Germany

Eagle’s Nest, Germany

Before our lunch was completed, the clouds parted and this became our view next. Nothing better than enjoying a German meal and beer with this view!

Eagle's Nest, Germany

Eagle’s Nest, Germany

After a crazy drive along a narrow road and several tunnels for 6.5 kilometres, you arrive at the top. Take the elevator to the top (120 metres) and this is the view. WOW! Here is a map of the route.  Once you reached the top of Eagle’s Nest Germany, it was worth the nerve-wracking drive. You take an elevator through a tunnel in the rocks. The panoramic views are incredible.

Eagle's Nest, Germany

Eagle’s Nest, Germany – Plus a view of Konigssee Lake in the background

6017 ft or 1834 m high !

Eagle's Nest, Germany

Eagle’s Nest, Germany with a view of Salzburg, Austria underneath the clouds

Tips for Visiting Eagle’s Nest

  • Visit between May to October as it is closed otherwise
  • Wear a warm sweater as it gets a bit cool and windy at the top
  • You cannot drive to Eagle’s Nest yourself – either sign up for a tour from Munich or Salzburg to cover the whole trip or drive/take train to the parking lot at the base of the mountain (Obersalzberg museum area) where you can catch the bus to the summit. Click here for more info!
  • You may also walk from the bus start area to the top – probably takes two hours and you must stay on the designated footpaths
  • You do not need to reserve it advance but it gets pretty busy so come early
  • Sit, enjoy and take in the beauty!

A trip to Germany (or Austria) is not complete without taking a day to visit Eagle’s Nest. Yes stop by Oktoberfest but Eagle’s Nest Germany is a close trip. Have you travelled there yet?

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Guest Post: Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

Nov 13

Guest Post: Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

The adventurous traveler, looking for that extra kick outdoors, will definitely have Peru marked as one of their choice destinations. Not only because of its pristine mountain paths and country sides, but because of its world-renowned cultural sites such as the city of Cuzco, the Colca Canyon or the perplexing Nazca Lines.  The mesmerizing ancient site of Machu Picchu, also known as the Granite City, nestled atop the remote mountain ridge of Urubamba Valley, is the real reason people choose a Peru travel adventure. With the Lares Trek, that adventure becomes even more memorable.

The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

Lares Trek to Machu Picchu.

Lares Trek to Machu Picchu. Photo-Credit:

Hikers taking on the popular Inca Trail have been enjoying the unsurpassed beauty of the Peruvian wilderness, passing multiple historic sites on their way to reach the ultimate reward of their strenuous journey, arriving at Machu Picchu.  Standing in a place that was inhabited centuries ago, by a people far more advanced than those in the Western world, and seeing the monumental structures erected by the Inca in ancient times, makes the 55 mile hike, which can take up to 5 days, seem trivial.

The highly frequented trail has led to recent concerns about the number of tourists taking advantage of it and the impacts this has on the environment.  The local Peruvian government has meanwhile restricted the number of daily visitors allowed on the trail, which has led to tours booking out quickly and making it harder to reserve one of the coveted spots on the trail.

But don’t fret; there is an alternative the adventure seeker will likely enjoy even more.

Getting Away from it All

The greatest advantage for the adventurous traveler is that the Lares Trek is a less populated route.  This really gives you the feeling of traveling back in time, following along paths that were walked upon centuries ago, a time when life was less complicated and stressful than it is today. That’s why this hike can bring you peace and relaxation. It may sound like an oxymoron that a three-day hike is relaxing, but it really is. Being away from it all – the noise, the traffic, the hustle and bustle, is very relaxing.

Hiking the Lares Trek

When hiking the Lares Trek, be aware that you will be reaching close to 16,400 feet, which means you have to acclimatize your body to the thin air quality in order to avoid altitude sickness. Most travelers spend at least two nights at a lower elevation of about 11,800 feet, so they can continue on without, for the most part, falling victim to altitude sickness.

The journey begins with a 5 hour bus ride from the village of Lares, hence the trek’s name, to the entry point of the Lares Trek. It takes approx. three days to hike up the mountain and close to Machu Picchu, from where many travelers opt taking the bus, which takes them for a short ride, culminating in their arrival at the Granite City. Although it’s not the dedicated path to the historic site, it is known as an alternate route.

Ancient beauty

The Lares Valley leads through breathtaking natural scenery, interrupted by man-made things only when passing villages of the Quechua, the indigenous peoples of the Lares Valley. Known for their traditional weaving, they offer opportunities to purchase the beautifully handcrafted souvenirs that are appreciated worldwide.

Advantage Lares vs. Inca

Not only is the Lares Trek less populated, making it feel more organic, its use is also free of charge, whereas the Inca Trail has become pricier because of the governmental restrictions. They enforce these restrictions by selling permits to the touring companies using the trail.  As a lesser known trail, it also means that booking a trip to the Lares Trek does not require as much advance planning, though comprehensive plans should still be made in advance to guarantee hotel and train reservations.

What you should have with you?

When heading out on an adventure like this, it’s good to be prepared and have the right equipment with you. Here are some of the most important things to have in tow:

  • Hiking Boots because the rocky terrain will tear up regular footwear. Remember, this is not a paved path; you will grateful for ankle support on the uneven surface.
  • All-weather jacket to slip on in case of rain and long-sleeved shirts for the evenings when it gets colder
  • Long pants for the chilly evenings
  • Shorts for the warm days
  • Flashlight or headlamp when it gets dark up there,  it’s really dark
  • Water bottle and water purifying tablets
  • Hat or cap
  • Sunscreen (the higher the elevation, the more protection you will need)
  • Insect repellent

What are you waiting for?

If you’ve been looking for a new adventure, especially one that isn’t overcrowded with other like-minded tourists, then the Lares Trek may be just the journey you’ve been seeking.  So, book a ticket, grab your walking stick, and lace up your boots, Peru is waiting for you!

About the author: Charlie “Chuck” Bennett is an adventurous nomad in love with exploration and meeting new people.  He writes for the Peru travel experts at G Adventures.

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Ireland Travel Tips

Nov 08

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

I travelled to Ireland several years ago and toured the whole emerald isle (Ireland and Northern Ireland). It is a VERY lovely island. I loved the beautiful countryside and most importantly, the people are the friendliest and funniest lot I have ever met. The men have the sexiest accent is another incentive for the single ladies to visit. Most of my pictures do not have filters; it is that gorgeous there plus I was lucky with weather. So here are my Ireland travel tips!

Ireland Travel Tips!

1. I usually do not advocate taking guided tours but the Irish island has very skinny roads. If you are not a great driver or want a more relaxing vacation, book a tour.  I took a two week tour of the island which of course made me nervous being on a tour bus driving on those roads. I just sat at the back and enjoyed the scenery out the window.

2. This will contradict my above tip but if you are able to rent a car and don’t mind driving the island, go for it. I did not want to do that. I was hesitant about driving in a foreign country (yes on the left side of the road) nor did I want to be stressed out with maps and routes. I rented a car in France for my trip last year and it wasn’t that bad. So buck up and do it. Next time I go to Ireland, I will rent a car.

3. Bring an umbrella plus a rain coat/boots. The weather can change rather quickly plus how do you think those beautiful green landscapes stay so green? Lots of rain. The rain usually doesn’t stick around long.

Blarney Castle, Ireland

Blarney Castle, Ireland

4. I went in July and had almost perfect weather. It is also high season so the big travel sites have long lines. Another good reason for a tour: you get to skip lines. I would suggest going slightly off-season or off-peak. You will save money travelling in the off-season for almost everywhere!

5. Embrace the Guinness! Yes, have a pint for lunch. Maybe skip it at breakfast time but try the beer. If you make it to Dublin, visit the factory. It is a fun tour. Also if you can tour a distillery such as Bushmills near the Giant’s Causeway or Jameson in Dublin, that is fun as well. The best part is the tasting at the end of the tour. Mmmm!

6. Don’t ignore Northern Ireland. I was lucky enough to travel the entire island and it is a MUST!! Northern Ireland has the Giant’s Causeway, Queen’s University, Bushmills, Belfast and the northern coast is spectacular.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

7. Overnights – You should stay at least two nights at each location. I say this for most trips in Europe. You may even want to pick a base and travel to and front that place for three or four days. One night is not enough as you’re packing up almost after arriving.

8. Stop at the Waterford Crystal factory for a tour. You get to see moulding, blowing, hand marking and cutting. It is amazing!

9. Enjoy the pub food – from Irish stews to bangers and mash to fish and chips, nothing beats the original!  Ooooh the homemade bread – heaven!!!

10. The music is the other highlight of Ireland. Go see live Irish music as much as you can. We would ask the hotel concierge each night on where is the best local music? We ended up in tiny taverns with locals playing beautiful Irish music.

11. Pick up the Heritage Card. It will save you lots of money since it covers many places throughout the country such as Dublin Castle, Rock of Cashel, Kilkenny Castle, Glendalough etc..

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland – no filter at all

 So there you have it – a few of my Ireland travel tips! Has anyone else been to Ireland? What are your tips?

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Liebster Award! Q&A

Nov 04

Liebster Award

‘The Liebster, which means “dearest” in German, is a nomination for up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.’ This was the first I heard of it when Beyond the 813 sent me a nomination! Thanks!

Here are my answers for the Liebster Award. ENJOY!

1. How many stamps do you have in your passport and where are they from?

I have been to London, Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, Italy, Greece, and Germany. I probably have around 6 stamps in my current passport (I had to mail it to the Russian embassy for my visa application so I cannot check right now for the exact number).

2. Do you consider yourself a backpacker or flashpacker?

Probably more of a flashpacker.

3. If you won tickets to anywhere in the world, where would you go? You can only choose 1 place :D

Egypt – who doesn’t want to look at pyramids and mummies? I keep hoping things calm down there so I can visit. I’m hoping 2015….

4. What countries have you been to, this year?

I haven’t gone anywhere this year; just stayed in Canada. Next year I have some big travel plans.

5. Do you have any trips plans for next year? If so, where?

I have a very big trip planned for February – going to visit Moscow and Sochi in Russia plus Prague, Czech Republic. I have attended the last two Olympics (London and Vancouver) and will be adding Sochi to the list. I decided to visit Moscow and Prague as well. I have tickets to 15 events which range from the men’s downhill to men’s figure skating to women’s hockey and of course men’s hockey. I am a Russian historian so I am VERY excited to finally visit Russia. 🙂

I also plan on taking my very first non-European vacation later in the year. Time to visit somewhere tropical for a relaxing vacation.

6. Name 3 things, you always have to take with you on your trip.

Camera, journal and ipad. I like to take pictures, of course, write in a journal and have an ipad filled with movies/tv shows to pass the time on flights or trains.

7. Do you normally overpack or underpack? 

I am usually an overpacker. So far, this hasn’t been a problem. I do try to take less when I go to Europe. It’s hard but I’ve managed.

8. When does your passport expire?


9. If you could go on a trip with anyone, who would it be?

I would love for my mom to go on a trip with me to Germany or take my dad to Ireland. Both hate planes so that is never ever going to happen. Lame! 🙂

10. How far in advance, do you plan your trips?

For my Olympic trips, you need to plan well in advance. I would say I started planning years in advance (to make sure I got event tickets) but for hotel/plane bookings, at least six months in advance minimum. For my other trips to Europe, it’s probably closer to three months. I swear one of these days, I’m going to take a trip where I do not plan a thing and just hop on a plane. Someday! 🙂

So here are the rules to the Liebster Nominations!
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back up to his/her blog.
  2. Answer the 10 (or 11!) questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  3. Nominate other bloggers for the award who have less than 200 followers.
  4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer
  5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

Beyond the 813

Don’t Squeeze the Peaches

Angela Travels

Travel It Girl

Innocent Nomad

Here are your questions:

1. How many languages do you speak or do you ever learn some of the language of the country you are visiting?

2. How many countries have you visited?

3. What is on your travel bucket list (if you have one)?

4. Have you ever travelled solo?

5. Do you prefer hostels or hotels?

6. What is your best or favourite travel tip?

7. If you could visit only one country, which would it be and why?

8. What type of camera do you use?

9. Have you ever been scammed in a foreign country? If not, how do you avoid scammers?

10. Name your top three favourite blogs!

Keep the sharing going and have fun! Can’t wait to read your answers!

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