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Please tell me about your Russian visa experience.

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I finally received my letter of invitation from my hotel in St. Petersburg. It was a hassle.

If I don't want to go to the consulate in Seattle in person, I have to Fed Ex my letter, my passport, a photocopy of my passport, 3 passport photos, and my visa application to ILS in Seattle (at a cost of $75), then pay $265 to ILS for arranging the visa.

Does this sound typical? Is there a cheaper way to do this?

I wish I'd been able to arrange for that visa-free ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg.

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