Crimean visa issue

It was hard to find information, whether a visa is needed after Crimea became Russian. One source said it’s possible to enter Crimea visa-free until 2016.

All other information concerning the fact that people would need a visa were quite vague. So I wanted to go to Crimea without visa and wanted to see what happens at the border. But after some days I saw on the website of the Russian Embassy in Berlin, that people who intend to visit Crimea, need a either a business or private visa. I called them, but didn’t get any further information.

I wrote the embassies of London, Vienna (Austria) and Bern (Switzerland). The London embassy gave me the answer, I wanted to hear:

Dear Sir,
You will need a visa to Crimea.
Issue of single or double private visas for a period of 90 days, will be given on the basis of the written statement in any form (from relatives or friends) addressed to the Ambassador (Consul general), without notarial assurance from a Russian citizen living in the Crimea, with a copy of the copy of his Russian passport or the Ukrainian passport and the page copy with a mark about registration in the Crimea.
Person need to attend our visa centre, with all necessary documents and write visa request form (similar to Private visa)
At the moment we waiting for list of accredited travel companies in Crimea, to be able to provide with tourist visa supporting documents, regarding UK based ones we don’t have information, are they allowed to provide with those documents.

For further information please visit our website http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk or contact our call centre on 0905 889 0149 (calls to the premium rate number cost 55 pence per minute).

Kind Regards,
Svetlana
[…]

I was really lucky that I could get the needed documents. In fact after the answer I didn’t believe that I would be able to go to Crimea any more. On Thursday, April 3rd I went to the Consulate in Frankfurt. They said, I’m the first who wants a visa for Crimea and accepted the documents without problems. But they said, it’s only that simple (no formal FMS invitation letter, quick processing time), because Crimea is a brand new part of Russia.

I just needed to fill out an letter for the invited (the stuff helped me) and gave a copy of the electronic visa application form (private visa, single entry). Although they had only 2,5 days for the visa get into my passport before my flight goes on Monday, I was charged with the normal fee (35€). Normally I would have had to pay an additional express fee as well.

I paid, got a recipe and hoped that everything will word out on Monday morning. And it did. I picked up my passport with visa with no problem.

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Day 10-12, Ai Petri, Fiolent

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Day 10, 16.4., Ai Petri

At the bus station of Sevastopol I told the woman behind the counter I wanted to get on the next bus to Koreiz (near Yalta), where the hike to 1234m high Ai Petri mountain starts. But apparently she booked a ticket to Yalta, so when I checked my current location 15min before the written arrival on the ticket, I was already close to the centre of Yalta. So I quickly got out and stopped a bus to Sevastopol which let me out about 1km before the starting point.

At 2.30pm I started hiking and about 100 minutes later I stood on top of Ai Petri. The hike has been really nice, because the weather was great all the time; there were no clouds like the day before, which blocked the view.

Unfortunately the cablecar which I thought, I could take back down didn’t run yet, so I had to hike down, too. But before I relaxed one hour on the summit, writing mails, taking photos and eating.

At 5pm I started my way back down and after having arrived, started hitch-hiking to Sevastopol.

Two guys stopped and took me to the next bus stop. There another guy talked to me and even bought the bus ticket for me.

Day 11, 17.4., Fiolent

At noon I met with E. and R. at the cash machine near their university, where I had to wait 30 minutes to get some cash. But then we took the bus to Fiolent, where, near a monastery, 700 descend down to the Black Sea cost.

Because it was my last full day in Crimea and the weather was really nice – sunny and a bit hot – I decided to go for a swim. But it was freezing cold. My skin really hurt really much after some swimming movements. At least I stood the cold water longer than some young Russians who arrived when we were leaving.

E. and R. were very thankful and said, our conversations have been a worthwhile language training, which I hope it really was.

Before I said good-bye to E., she helped me finding a good Crimean champaign for my mother’s birthday.

Till the evening I strolled around the centre in Sevastopol, threw the in the meantime self-designed post cards in a post box and sat down in a park to read.
To the photos of Ai Petri and Fiolent

Day 12-13, 18.4.,  Sevastopol-Kyiv

At 12.30pm my train was departing from Sevastopol train station to Kyiv. But before I had to do some shopping: more champaign for my friends in Karlsruhe and Berlin and the delicious Galicia apple-carrot juice.

Sadly I then entered the train and left Crimea. The haven’t been any passport controls of Russian soldiers. Only Ukrainian ones walked through the train at Melitopol train station.

In Kyiv I arrived at 7.30am, took advantage of cheap McDonald’s prices for a tiny breakfast and went to Boryspil airport by metro and bus.

There I helped an American guy, who visited Ukraine for meeting a woman, who could have been his daughter. He had invited her to fancy restaurants, but could only talk to her with a personal translator, because her English was non-existent. He registered at a website and had received and replied to more than 5000 letters from Ukrainian girls.

But everytime he answers, he needs to pay a certain amount of money from which I’m sure a certain percentage goes to girls. That’s why I guess their intention may not only meeting and being invited by the guys but just to keep up the communication because it might be a good income – I mean normally people would exchange email/Skype/Facebook/VK details. Some girls even wanted to be invited to America – on the guy’s cost naturally.

At 2pm it was finally time to leave Eastern Europe and to head to Paris.

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Ai Petri

Fiolent

Sevastopol to Paris


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Day 8-9, Walk in the Crimean mountains

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Day 8, 14.4., Sevastopol

That day, not much was going on. I accompanied L. to the university, took some money. After I was done E. and one of her fellow students came towards me. They had a break, so we walked through Chersonesus having conversation in German.

At the end E. asked me, whether I would be OK to visit one of her German classes the next day, which I happily agreed to.

Apart from that I just walked around and literally asked in every shop, whether they have post cards. But I didn’t have success. At the post office a woman told me – at least that’s what I got from her words – that all post cards had to be exchanged. This is strange, because normally post cards don’t care, which country the region belongs to.

I could have understood if they had been out stamps, because these had to be exchanged into Russian ones. However, back in Yalta I was able to get stamps as well as post cards.

In the end  I walked the long way back to L.’s apartement to say Good-bye and go to her friend A. and her boyfriend O., who is a professional PC gamer.

Day 9, 15.4., Sevastopol, Foros-Tilove

At noon I met with E. to take part in the German lesson. Including the teacher, eight students were present – only girls. But the communication in German was a bit difficult. It was possible to talk with the teacher, E. and her friend R., but the other students rather wanted to speak English. So in the end, when the teacher was gone,  we spoke English, .

I arranged to meet E. and R. on Thursday again for a little tour and went to the bus station from where I took a bus to Foros to start my hike along some crests (map in OpenRouteService.org). I started the approximately 12km hike quite late in the afternoon at 4pm and started hitchhiking back to Sevastopol at about 8pm. But because it got dark at about 9pm, that was not a problem.

The first part of the hike was a bit chilly as I forgot a jacket. But after the first “summet” I hiked out of the clouds into the sun and could enjoy the famous beautiful and breathtaking Crimean landscape – I loved walking along the crests and over meadows.

The way was not really well signed, but with GPS, it haven’t been a problem. But I guess even without it’s possible to find at least the right direction – it was just more comfortable for me, since I started quite late.

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Photos of day 8


Photos of day 9


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Day 6-7, Chersonesus, Balaklava

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Day 6, 12.4., Sevastopol, Chersonesus

In the morning L. had to visit some teaching lessons for her new job. That’s why I walked through the Eastern part of Sevastopol  without a real plan. In opposite to the previous days in Crimea, the weather was rainy and cold. Only near midday it became warmer.

When L. was finished, we went to Central Shopping Area (ЦУМ) near her university, ate Pizza and met with her friend A. Then we went to Chersonesus (Херсонес) an ancient greek town at the Sevastopol seaside.

But before I had to use an ATM. But like anywhere in Crimea (or better in Sevastopol), only Russian banks were opened. All Ukrainian ones were closed and their ATMs shut down. In front of the Russian banks, many people waited for hours to change their bank accounts and receive their salary (in Rubels).

There were crowds from the early morning till even 8.30pm in the evening in front of e.g. VTB or Sberbank.

During the period of transition the payment of the salary in Rubels is a bad deal for the population. The amount is converted from Grivnas into Rubels according to the current exchange rate (buy 1:3.3 – sell 1:2.8) . In the shops it was reconverted again, but usually to an even worse rate than at the banks (like 1:3.5, even 1:4 in the busses). So in addition to the floating exchange rate this caused another loss of the original value of the salary.

**Average salary 2500 Grivnas (170€, 04/2014) × 2,8 = 7000 Rubels /3,5 = 2000 Grivnas (135 €) ⇒ 20% loss**

In my case only Sberbank had ATMs that I could take money (Grivnas, but that was good) from. But I had to wait some time as well, because usually there were people in front of me, who either didn’t know how to use a cash machine or used it for making a deposit.

Anyway we searched for a hole in the fence to not pay the “enormous” entrance fee of Chersonesus of 35 Grivnas (2,40€). After a tour around the whole area, we found the hole and enjoyed the sunny weather walking around.

In the evening we met some acquaintances of A. and went to a bar. Later we separated and L., her friend S. and me sat down at a playground, drinking some cider.

Day 7, Sunday 13.4., Balaklava

After a long sleep L. and I met her boyfriend and E., a fellow student of hers who’s learning German and wanted to practice it. After the bus ride to Balaklava – in the south of Sevastopol – another friend, D., joined us and we made a tour in a former military area inside the mountains. Submarines and weapons were based there and it was very interesting to see, because from what the guide said I understood as much as a Russian bear would have been a guide. Fortunately E. and L. translated some facts.

Afterwards we walked around the Balaklava bay, passed by lately abandoned huge dachas of former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovich and climbed up the cliff line. From there the view over the bay and the Black Sea coast was amazing.

In the end D. drove with us to a Tatar restaurant where we ate big shashlik.

D. was only one of many that put a Russian sticker over the national sign on the number plate of their car. It takes time to exchange and re-register the Ukrainian cars/number plates, but some want to help manually.

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Photos of Chersonesus # Photos of Balaklava



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Day 4-5, Yalta

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Day 4, 10.4.2014, Shcholkine-Yalta

At first I could hitch-hike only little distances from Shcholkine, two times with a Lada, whereas the first Lada 1500 was in great shape, but the second one was falling apart.

When I arrived at the main road to Yalta a convoy of at least 60 military vehicles passed by. They went back to Kerch and then likely to Krasnodar in Russia. I had to smile and so did some drivers as well.

Then I could get a ride in a car, that only few people drive may in their life (most people won’t care anyway): Alexander from Odessa stopped with his Mercedes AMG S63 and gave me a lift to Feodosiya. He was more convinced of Bentley or Aston Martin, though….WFT ^^

In Feodosiya I took a bus to a junction to Sudak/Yalta, where a Russian couple stopped and asked for the way to Yalta. First the woman say they won’t take passengers, nevertheless I explained them how to get to Yalta, because she spoke English and both seemed nice. And in the end they gave me a lift in their Lexus, which was driven to its and the street’s limit.

Their intention of the visit was buying real estate. Now that Crimea became Russian, but many people are still not sure about the future, they think of making a good investment. So rich Russian oligarchs may benefit from a Russian Crimea.

10km before Yalta I got off and found a nice place uphill with view to the Black Sea and thanks to the moon it was quite light.

Day 5, 11.4., Yalta-Sevastopol

In the morning I took a trolley bus to Yalta. Unfortunately the luggage room was closed, so I had to take my backpack into the city centre. At the central square with a Lenin statue I bought some stamps at the post office and saw one of the three closed McDonald’s of Crimea.

Before I took a bus to Sevastopol, I found a really delicious juice in the ATB supermarket made by a company called Galicia. The ingredients were told to be just 50% apple and 50% carrot, no concentrate and no GMO – but it cannot be found on the website.

Anyway, in Sevastopol I met with my host L. whom I cannot thank enough for being able to visit Crimea respectively applying for a Russian visa. Followed by unfriendly words and deadly views due to my big luggage in the small minibus we drove to her home.

After a short relaxation time we went to the city centre in the evening, walked around a bit and drank coffee/milk shake in L.’s favourite coffee house at the seaside.

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Photos of day 4 # Photos of day 5


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Day 1-3, Kyiv, train to Crimea

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Day 1, 7.4.2014, Karlsruhe-Kyiv, Monday

I got up at 5am and hitch-hiked to Frankfurt for picking up my passport with – hopefully – the Russian visa inside. Fortunately I got both without problems, with made me very happy.

After a little walk along the river Main, I got on the train to the airport and tried to get some sleep there.

Unfortunately other than at Munich Airport Frankfurt didn’t have the possibility of free coffee, but at least I got two meals on the Lufthansa flight to Kyiv, which was the last plane that departed that day from Frankfurt Airport.

Day 2, 8.4.2014, Kyiv, Kyiv-Kerch

The plane arrived with a delay at Boryspil Airport and I took the city bus at 2.50am to Kyiv main station. There I stored my backpack and walked straight to Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

Of course at this time it was dark and after I turned into the street to Maidan, I could already see the barricades. It was scary to see them in reality: all the tires, wood and metal bars, the tents and barrels with burning fire inside created an intimidating atmosphere. I didn’t dare to take photos although the people who were walking by didn’t seem to care at all.

At daylight everything seemed less dramatic. Cars passed some blockades and ordinary people walked across Maidan to their working place.

I saw mostly 40+ y.o.  men in the tents and often ambulances heading for Maidan. There were many posters connecting Russia with 3rd Reich and fascism or Putin with hitler (Putler). Some called for peace, others for an end of Russian propaganda.

At 1.30pm I entered the overnight train from Kyiv to Sevastopol receptively Kerch, where I was heading to.

Day 3, 9.4.2014, Kerch, Shcholkine

At 1.20am Ukrainian soldiers went through the train and checked the passports and at about 3am look-alike Russian soldiers – they wore military clothes, but I couldn’t see any Russian flag only a little plastic card at their chest which I wasn’t able to read – came in. The guy checking my passport seemed astonished. I had an invitation from L. in Sevastopol but was on the train to Kerch, which is on the other side of Crimea. So I told him “I: Kerch-Sevastopol-Kyiv-Germania”, though he had to ask another guy before he returned my passport without a stamp. Probably I was one of the first foreigners who visited Crimea.

In Kerch I walked to the very outskirts and started hitch-hiking to Shcholkine at Cape Kazantyp to an abandoned nuclear power plant. Four plants were planned there, but after the catastrophe of Chernobyl constructions were stopped.

When I arrived at 3pm the sun was still high due to Moscow time (UTC +4), I pitched my tent and read for some time.

The nuclear power plant and area of its was “guarded” by very poor people who didn’t let the dogs out but me in only for a fee of some Euro. There lived a couple of persons. Two seemed to live in an old iron caravan and others with animals like horses and goats in a administrative building.

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Photos of day 1 and day 2 (Kyiv) # Photos of day 3 (nuclear power plant)


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