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Subject: Moscow FTF - trip planning info

Dear group members,

It appears that UnitSpace will have the honor of hosting the next TC FTF
meeting in Moscow, Russia.  Below are some of the topics that are relevant
in light of this exciting event.  This information is meant to help you
decide whether you would be able to come.  More details will be forthcoming
prior to the FTF, after we know how many confirmed attendees there will be.

Best regards,

Unless you are a citizen of Russia or one of the select countries of the CIS
(Commonwealth of Independent States), you will be required to obtain a visa
prior to going.  Be aware that it takes time (up to a month) to get a visa,
although express service is available at higher rates from most providers.
Rules guiding the visa acquisition process vary by country where you are
getting the visa.  New regulations in effect for the U.S. and probably most
of the rest of the world require the original passport of person obtaining
the visa (it used to be that you could get a paper insert without having to
submit a passport).

There are a number of organizations that are available to help you get the
Russian visa.  American Express Travel Services
=newhomepage) handles them, so your company's travel department might have a
straightforward process already in place to get your visa.

I usually obtain my Russian visas from Atlanta-based GO TO RUSSIA Travel
(http://www.gotorussia.com/).  You can apply online, but the new consular
rules require that you mail your passport to them.  Their fee schedule for
full visa services can be accessed at
http://www.gotorussia.net/main.php?name=show-country&country=8.  You'd be
interested in a "Tourist Single" or a "Business Single" visa.

Russian U.S. consulates treat all U.S. residents regardless of citizenship
the same as U.S. citizens, but non-U.S. residents who are also not U.S.
citizens may be subject additional 'obstructions'.  Knowing that we have a
very diverse group, I asked GO TO RUSSIA Travel specifically about citizens
of Canada, Germany, France, Australia and Japan (sorry I forgot the UK).
With regard to this list they said only citizens of Germany are required to
show proof of permanent residency in order to apply for visas in the U.S.
Further, with regard to their capability to handle such cases, they
commented as follows:
All other applicants can send their passports, and their visas will be
processed in Washington and shipped to them via FedEx. If they choose not to
ship their passports to us, they need to locate a Russian Embassy or
consulate in their city/country and find out the exact visa processing
requirements. Main issue here will be whether that particular consular
institution requires an original invitation to be presented. If not, we can
fax or e-mail their invitations to the applicants. Otherwise we can mail or
FedEx those to them. They do not have to be physically present at the
consulate to apply for visas (unless it is required), their documents can be
mailed or submitted by another individual or agency. Again, the specifics of
the process in each consulate will have to be checked by the applicants
before applying for visas independently.

Consult http://www.russianconsulate.com/ for locating your nearest Russian

Those in the UK can contact Andrew's Consulting
(http://www.andrews-consulting.com/) as instructed at
http://www.andrews-consulting.com/eng/about/eng-office.shtml.  They will
provide an invitation ("visa support service"), but from the information on
their site I gather that you (or someone acting on your behalf) would have
to go the London embassy of Russian Federation to obtain the visa.
According to their Web site, Andrew's Consulting also provides complete
business travel support, including air travel reservations, hotel bookings
and ground transportation.  Btw, same applies to the American GO TO RUSSIA

Those living in the Seattle metro area may prefer going to a local company
called Red Star Travel, their fees and information is available at
http://www.travel2russia.com/.  I used them on several occasions when I was
on the West coast for everything from visas to air travel bookings on
Aeroflot.  My experience with them was very positive as they handled my
rapidly changing needs with great care and professionalism.  If all you want
is a visa though, then the Atlanta company I mentioned above is a little
cheaper alternative, which I also never had a problem with - they are my
primary source of visa services.  Of course, now that you have to provide
the original passport, you may prefer to deal with a local company, ensuring
secure transport of your passport.

Google search on "visa to russia" reveals a number of resources and service

Please let me know if you have questions on obtaining a Russian visa.

Getting to Moscow
Moscow area air hub is served by all international European airlines as well
as Delta, which operates daily direct flights between Moscow and New
York-JFK (DL 030/031).  Russian national passenger air carrier is Aeroflot
(http://www.aeroflot.com/) with regular flights between Moscow and 108
locations in 54 countries, including direct service from 5 U.S. cities: New
York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles.  I know Aeroflot
flies to Tokyo (direct) and Sydney (I think it lands for refueling in
Singapore).  I am not particularly fond of Aeroflot, but most people seem to
find its business class service acceptable, which I cannot confirm since I
always travel in economy class.  They say they are preparing to join the Sky
Team alliance in 2004, but IMHO they still have a few things to work on.

If you are coming from the U.S. and your airport is not served by Aeroflot
(and, perhaps, even if it is) while Delta is not an option, your best bet is
most likely to go to any European capital (+Frankfurt) and connect to Moscow
from there.  You probably know whether your city has direct flights to
Europe.  If that is the case, you can just go to Moscow with a single
connection at a European hub.  If you are not that lucky and Expedia or
Travelocity can't locate an adequate route, then email me for advice.

Depending on how many people will be able to come, the meeting be held
either at our Moscow HQ or at an hotel.  Of course, all necessary equipment
will be available.

UnitSpace will select a hotel with a brand you recognize where we would
prefer you to stay.  Moscow has Marriott, Renaissance, Radisson, Holiday Inn
and others that can be booked online or through travel agencies that use all
the usual booking networks.  At this time we are selecting between Marriott
Tverskaya (http://www.marriott.com/dpp/PropertyPage.asp?MarshaCode=MOWTV),
Holiday Inn (http://www.moscow-vinogradovo.holiday-inn.com/) and Renaissance
(http://www.marriott.com/dpp/PropertyPage.asp?MarshaCode=MOWRN).  We have to
consider a number of factors, but our choice will be based on the number of
you that will be coming.

Airport-to-Hotel Transfer
Because you will be coming in on different flights I do not expect to be
able to meet you all in person.  You can get ground transportation services
through GO TO RUSSIA Travel at http://www.gotorussia.com/ or you can get a
cab at the airport.  I strongly recommend that you pre-arrange the transfer.
Let me know if you need help.

General Information and Travel Tips
Most of the links provided in this email will lead you to sites that have
information about Moscow.  Travel guides are available where you would
normally expect them to be on the Web (http://travel.yahoo.com/,
http://www.expedia.com/, etc.).  Marriott provides one at

U.S. Department of State offers this invaluable<g> piece
http://travel.state.gov/russia.html.  It can raise questions, so email me if
you have any.

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