Russia To Introduce 72 Hour Transit Without Visa

China has massively expanded their 72 hour transit-without-visa policy this year. Initially it was only possible to transit Shanghai for up to 72 hours without a visa, but this year it has been extended to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. Through the 72 hour transit-without-visa policy it’s possible to travel between two countries via one of the above four airports in China for up to 72 hours without needing a visa in advance. Your ongoing flight has to be international, and you have to be in transit, meaning you have to be continuing travel to a third country and not back to your origin (sorry, mileage runners!).

Russia currently allows many foreigners to transit St. Petersburg for 72 hours if arriving by cruise ship, but it seems they’re wanting to follow China’s lead in expanding the policy to air travel. The Russian government has drafted legislation to introduce a 72 hour transit-without-visa policy. Nationals of 20 countries (including the US and most major EU countries) will potentially be eligible to transit-without-visa at 11 airports in Russia.

However, Russia is taking it a step further than China and only making this available to those flying a Russian carrier to and from Russia. That means if you’re flying a foreign carrier either to or from Russia you wouldn’t be eligible.

That just seems utterly ridiculous, but I guess hardly surprising coming from the Russian government. Something also tells me they’re being a bit optimistic about how much extra revenue they think this policy will generate. Supposedly adding the 72 hour visa-free transit will increase Aeroflot’s revenues by $936 million. Meanwhile, they expect this will boost the hotel industry by $110-160 million a year. Both seem rather optimistic, no?

Anyway, this certainly opens up some interesting opportunities for Delta SkyMiles awards, as Aeroflot is a member of SkyTeam, and actually has decent award space. Getting a Russian visa can be a bit of a pain, so transiting Moscow for 2-3 days on an Aeroflot award doesn’t seem like a bad option.

(Tip of the hat to Mac)

Filed Under: Travel
  1. With that new policy, you won’t have to get a visa when you fly Transaero Imperial class to Russia, Lucky!

  2. Wait, so if I’m going US –> HKG –> PEK (staying for a day) –> US, I need a visa for Beijing?!?!?!

  3. “That just seems utterly ridiculous, but I guess hardly surprising coming from the Russian government”

    Would you mind clearing that a bit, Sir?

    Would you, by any chance, come from a country where lawmakers do not hesitate to shutdown its own government for pure political posturing?

  4. Getting a Russian visa was the most exhausting travel preparation I have ever done. Living in Philadelphia, I had to travel to New York TWICE, run across town from the consulate to the visa center, and deal with the most stoic and bureaucratic people I have ever come across. All I wanted to do was go to St. Petersburg for 3 days.

    Not to mention all the approvals (Letter of invitation, etc.) you have to get to apply for the visa, and even when you have everything correct there is always some tiny typo/error that solicits a “well, it’s not correct but if it goes through you’ll be lucky.” By that time, even when you have it, you’re all stressed out because you think they’re not going to let you into the country anway.

    It’s exhausting.

  5. A minor point, Lucky, but it’s six airports in China, not four. You can do transit without visa at both Pudong and Hongqiao airports in Shanghai (though I don’t know whether you can enter at one and leave from the other), and Chongqing was added on November 1.

    @Rob: I *think* Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan are treated as separate countries for transit-without-visa purposes. In some places the PRC government websites talk about a “third country or region”. Of course you should check this before relying on it.

    (My including Taiwan above is not meant to imply an opinion about Taiwan’s independence or sovereignty. What’s important for this discussion is that the PRC considers Taiwan to be Chinese territory.)

  6. @Rob
    No since HKG is considered as a third place for TWOV purpose.
    You forget S7, which is a member of OW.

  7. @Rich and @Nathan

    Thanks for the help, but I guess my concern wasn’t clear

    What I was worried about wasn’t that HKG was a separate country for Visa purposes…. it was the part of Lucky’s post where he said “you have to be continuing travel to a third country and not back to your origin”

    I just wanted to make sure that when I fly back to the US, it wasn’t considered flying back to your origin since I live in, and my itinerary will be starting in the US (even though I’ll be coming to PEK from HKG)

  8. @Rob: Got it. It’s not about eventually returning to your initial origin. To qualify for TWOV you have to be arriving in China from one country, staying in the city of arrival for less than 72 hours, then departing to a country other than the one from which you arrived. So US -> HKG -> PEK -> US works fine; US -> PEK -> US or HKG -> PEK -> HKG does not.

  9. They are obviously trying to push more business to the state owned airline… Aeroflot…. Not sure it will work, but as a starter, I’m sure that’s what they are doing.

  10. Minos, you’re correct – this place is a mess. But that doesn’t for a second give a pass to the Russian government, with its rampant corruption, its anti-gay policies, and its overall terrible record on human rights and civil liberties.

    The USA deserves much of the criticism it gets in all sorts of areas, including foreign policy, but the Russian government actually lowers the bar…

  11. “Would you, by any chance, come from a country where lawmakers do not hesitate to shutdown its own government for pure political posturing?”

    Yeah, it would’ve been a lot easier to get things done if Obama just threw his political opponents jail on baseless charges. But we don’t do that here.

  12. @ Rob — As Jerry mentioned you won’t need a visa. Hong Kong is considered a separate “region,” so you’re fine.

  13. Obvious move for me here would be to use an Explorer award with AA miles and include a <72 hour stopover, obviously needing to fly S7 in and out of the country though. S7 has enough international service out of DME to make this workable though.

  14. Not sure I, personally, would ever risk entering Russia or China without a visa. PIA if there was ever a flight delay or cancellation or bad traffic heading to the airport and you overstayed the 72 hours.

  15. Nothing in the article seems to stipulate traveling a 3rd country, so it looks like MRs would count. Is this already in effect?

    We’re also assuming an award on russian airlines counts. Likely, but I’m slightly nervous because payment to their airline is indirect (from DL or AA).

    Sadly, looks like LED (St. Petersburg) is ruled out, because only codeshares of SU, S7 fly in there. Too bad — I’d much rather visit there than DME. Also doesn’t seem to improve the UUS situation any.

  16. @ ed — By the commonly used definition of “transit” when it comes to these types of arrangements, you have to be connecting to a third country or else the transit point becomes your destination.

  17. Reminds me of trying to get a visa for Kazakhstan in Beijing, the only fast service was only available for those flying state carrier Air Astana.

  18. As others have noted, S7 (f/k/a Siberia) is part of OneWorld so this theoretically applies to it as well.

    Insofar as this resolution is concerned, it’s just a draft for now so let’s wait until the final version.

    On a big picture level, whatever you may think of Russian government and its other policies, the whole visa situation is chiefly driven by the fact that E.U. and the United States are dragging their feet on allowing visa-free entry for Russians.

    P.S. From what I understand, getting a US visa isn’t a very simple process either.

  19. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are considered separate under this arrangement. Be careful though. I was denied entry into Shanghai because my flight was HKG -> PEK (60 hours) -> CAN (Guangzhou) -> BKK. The stop in CAN was for only about an hour but that was enough that they didn’t let me in. It was a brutal 8 hours (1 AM – 9 AM) stuck in immigration trying to deal with it. Ultimately they made me get on the first direct flight out to BKK and then let me free. I had 4-5 hours so I bravely hopped on the Maglev + metro, checked out and photographed some of the super-structures in Pudong, and then quickly headed right back to the airport.

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