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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, Daniel Visas ----- 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 (http://www10.americanexpress.com/sif/cda/page/0,1641,8382,00.asp?russia_nav =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: <quote> 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. </quote> Consult http://www.russianconsulate.com/ for locating your nearest Russian consulate. 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 Travel. 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 providers. 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. Facilities ----- 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. Hotels ----- 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 http://www.marriott.com/dpp/fodors.asp?marshacode=MOWTV&type=dpp. 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.