Russia is to relax its draconian visa rules from 2021.
The 16-day e-visas will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021, for citizens of the European Union and different countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
The news comes as the Association of Tour Operators of Russia has announced 5.1 million overseas tourists arrived in 2019 – one-fifth more than the previous year, when the nation hosted the World Cup.
Almost 30 per cent were from China – whose citizens do not need Russian visas. But visitor numbers will plummet in 2020, with the Kremlin imposing a ban on Chinese citizens due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Russia hopes the shortfall will be made up by tourists from 53 other countries taking advantage of a new online visa available from 1 January 2021. It will be valid for travel anywhere in the country for up to 16 days.
That would cover a short stay in both St Petersburg and Moscow, and a reasonably leisurely trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway to the Pacific.
The e-visa is expected to cost US$50. But as with current e-visas for specific regions of Russia, UK visitors are excluded.
At present some foreign visitors qualify for specific regional visas to three locations in Russia: St Petersburg, the exclave of Kaliningrad (between Poland and Lithuania) and the country’s Far East.
These are available to European Union citizens, but not U.S., British and Canadian passport holders due to geopolitical friction.