So it turns out getting visas for the Trans-Siberian, East to West, when you’re a British citizen in Hong Kong is a little awkward. For my trip I need a Russian tourist visa and transit visas for China and Belarus. Here’s how I obtained them with a little (read ridiculously big) help from Real Russia and CIS Tour.
I thought getting the Russia visa was going to be a nightmare but it was actually the easiest! Real Russia were able to provide me with an invitation letter that I then passed on to CIS Tour with the application form I’d filled out online. Options were for an 8 or 4 day turnaround and due to my time restraints I went for the 4 day option. It’s important that the invitation letter matches your visa so, although you can fill out random accommodation on the visa application, if you have it booked in advance you might as well make it all match up.
How? I obtained an invitation letter from Real Russia and processed my visa through CIS Tour.
What do you need? Invitation letter, itinerary, completed application form, passport photo and original passport.
Processing time? 4 or 8 working days
Cost? HKD$1700 (£155) : 4 days, approx HKD$500 less for 8 days.
China was the visa I was least concerned about because it’s next-door and I’m there for 6 hours – easy right? Hmm. Turns out Brits can’t get transit visas in Hong Kong. I think if you rock up at the airport you can, but no such luck on the train. This means that I had to order a tourist visa with a single entry. Not a problem but I wish I had found this out in advance so that I could have made the most of it and spent longer in Beijing.
How? I used CIS Tour for processing my China visa.
What do you need? A passport photo, original passport and copy of HKID.
Processing time? 4 working days (can be done in 2 or 3)
Cost? HKD$760 (£68)
Now I don’t want to jinx it as I am still awaiting my passport’s return for this visa. There is NO Belarus embassy in Hong Kong so it is not possible to process a visa here. I made several attempts to get in touch with the embassy in Beijing but to no avail. If you were planning to spend a few days in Beijing, it may be possible to sort it there. However this was not an option for me so I’ve had to do mine in the UK. Luckily the amazing team at Real Russia were able to help me and it is currently in their hands, due to get back to me with a few days to spare!
How? Real Russia are helping me obtain my Belarus transit visa in the UK. I have couriered my passport to the UK (DHL – 1 working day) where they will do the express visa service (2 days) and return it back to me (Fedex – 2 working days).
What do you need? Completed application form, original passport, proof of tickets and itinerary and a passport photo.
Processing time? 2 days for visa, 3 days(approx) for delivery to and from UK.
Cost? HKD$750 (£70) for visa. Return delivery HKD$650 (£60)
Total visa cost (inc passport delivery): HKD $3860 (£350)
So top tips for getting your visas in Hong Kong?
- Give yourself plenty of time. This means you can go for cheaper options and less stress.
- Accept a helping hand. I don’t think I could have done it without the teams at Real Russia and CIS.
- Consider applying outside the country. If there’s an agency in the UK that will sort them all for you if you ship your passport over, consider it! There aren’t many agencies in Hong Kong that can help with everything because Hong Kong passports don’t need visas for most of the countries on the trip.