You can’t enter Russia on the spur of the moment. You need a visa which, in turn, requires an invitation. If tempted to complain consider that it is way much more difficult for a Russian national to get a US or European visa than for a Russian one for you. Below is an outline of what I can do to assist you with almost unavoidable visa hassles.
I can issue you a tourist invitation and a travel voucher. $50 per set delivered via e-mail. That includes advice and instructions, and takes from a few hours to a day or two. Not cheapest (you can get it online for $25-30 easily) but with advice most travellers and especially first-timers need, and considering the fact that my invitations come from a real agency and the invitation voucher will always be issues by a brick-and-mortar hotel this service may be worth extra $15.
Good news: I’m often prepared to do issue tourist invitation and hotel voucher for free to my clients, especially to those who rent from me (Studio, central, $120/night, set up for a working traveller etc.) or from Alexandra (SUMMERS ONLY, Metro Alexeyevskaya, close to parks, air….). Watch for special announcements or ask.
Registration, if required, is $80 for the time of validity of your visa. It is a hassle, and it subjects me to risk of scrutiny from the authorities. So don’t even think of asking for a discount.
This traveller went with me to submit his registration papers. He wanted to have a real-life Russian experience. Instead he fell asleep when I was no more than 1/3 through the process.
Invitations for one year multi-entry visas are around $300 as of the moment (May 2012). They come as a telex to the consulate where you plan to apply for your visa. Takes two weeks normally but count on three. NOTE THAT THESE ONLY ENTITLE YOU TO SPEND SIX MONTH OUT OF THE YEAR IN RUSSIA.
Bad news: I can easily and not too expensively issue invitations only to the nationals of countries that are NOT on the Russian Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs “Migration risk” list. If you are not from Europe or US/Canada/Australia/Japan/a couple more exceptions visa support may Or, if you have no such agent and have no choice but to travel to Russia, here is what I can do, complete with a list of unattractive rates and an explanation why I’m not that motivated either >> Basically, I’d prefer you to go elsewhere but if there is no choice I’ll do my best.
Tried to disguise myself as an Indian nobble. I confess even a Pagri improvise out of a towel instantly got me out of my habitual crappy Russian mood. This is one of the very few – possibly even unique – photo with me with a semblance of a smile. Somebody take me out of this country! I’ve had my fill of Russia…