The former Soviet Union republics have the craziest visa requirements. Obtaining a visa to travel through any of these countries is often a lengthy, upsetting
and costly experience. It looks like the former Soviet Republics are so rich
that they can afford to discourage tourists from visiting them.
There are travel agencies that specialize in getting tourist visas to the former
Soviet republics, but
- They charge 3 or 4 times the amount that an embassy would charge you
- They will insist that you also book the flight or a few hotel nights with
them (often at several times the regular hotel rates in those countries)
- I found that some of them didn't know as much as I do about visa regulations in those countries
In a few cases you are allowed to enter the country without a visa, but
- Only if you are arriving by air to the capital's airport.
- Your passport will be confiscated until the paperwork is done, which may
take a few business days (assuming they don't lose your passport).
- You are more likely to be harassed for bribes by immigration officials.
They really make it very difficult for a foreign tourist to travel to their
A few agencies that specialize in travel to CIS countries:
For information on entry requirements, contact the Armenian Embassy in Washington or the Armenian Consulate General in Los Angeles.
All travelers to Azerbaijan must have a visa. Valid Georgian visas permit a traveler to enter Azerbaijan for up to five days. Visas may be obtained at the Russian Embassy. Letters of invitation from a sponsoring Azeri organization are required to obtain a visa.
Americans traveling to Belarus need Belarussian visas. Visas may be obtained at the Belarus Embassy in Washington or the Belarus Consulate in NY. Entering Belarus without a visa risk a a $300 fine and ineligibility for a Belarussian visa for a period of five years.
American citizens traveling to Georgia must obtain a visa at an embassy abroad or at the airport before being admitted into the country. Legal permanent residents of the United States need to obtain visas from the Georgian Embassy in Washington. An Armenian or Azerbaijan visa is valid for travel in Georgia of less than 3 days.
All travelers to Kazakhstan must have a visa, which may be purchased at the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Visitors to the Kyrgyz Republic need visas, which are available at the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic. Visas to neighboring CIS countries, except Georgia and Tajikistan are valid for transit up to 3 days.
Americans traveling to or transiting Moldova need Moldovan visas. Thirty-day visas may be obtained at the Chisinau airport, the Romanian/Moldovan border crossing points Leuseni and Cahul. No invitation is necessary. Requests for applications and fee schedules should be made at least one month in advance. Visas to other CIS countries are difficult to obtain in Moldova.
Americans are required to have Russian visas before entering Russia. An official letter of invitation is required by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russian visas are available at Russian embassies abroad. Travelers planning to stay more than 3 months must present an HIV test with a negative result when applying for a visa.
A travel warning is in effect for Tajikistan, due to a civil war. Visas can
be obtained from Russian consular offices and a Russian visa will be honored
at the border.
All travelers to Turkmenistan must have visas. Travelers without a visa are required to leave the country immediately. Visas may be obtained at the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington. Because there are frequent changes in visa policy, you should contact the Embassy of Turkmenistan before traveling.
Same as Russia.
All traveling to or transiting Uzbekistan must have a visa. Travelers without a visa are required to leave the country immediately. Visas, which require a letter of invitation, may be obtained at the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Washington.
Visas, issued by any of the above mentioned diplomatic posts except the Azerbaijani,
Moldovan, and the Ukrainian Embassies, are valid also for transit through Armenia,
Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. In case of transit to Azerbaijan,
Turkmenistan, Ukraine and the Baltic states through Russian territory you should obtain a
one or two entry Russian transit visa.