Thursday, August 6, 2009

Russia: Altai Republic Registration

Lots of registering to be done in Russia, and we had some hiccups that with a little bit of info could be easily avoided, so we thought we'd post about it. In a nutshell, here are the different bits of paper we needed to collect along the way. I'll also try and help differentiate between the useless ones and the important ones, though with the disclaimer that things seem to be useless/important only on a case-by-case basis: (#3 is the one with the most important info)

1) MIGRATION / ENTRY-EXIT CARD: Crossing the border from Kazakhstan (or anywhere else) into Russia, everyone (including local citizens) fills this out (both entry and exit sides), hands in the entry side, keeps the exit side and gets it stamped with the date you entered. DON'T LOSE THIS. Every hotel we went to checked for it and we absolutely had to hand it back at the border. The exit date you put doesn't seem to matter, we just put the last date our visa was valid for, even though we left many days earlier than that, it wasn't a problem.

2) VISA REGISTRATION: This is done at the hotels. In big hotels with lots of foreign traffic (like the one we stayed at in Biysk) it's done very simply and systematically. In smaller places (like Gorno-Altaisk) we were told by one hotel that we couldn't stay there because she couldn't register us as her photocopier was broken (and she said there was a fine for having unregistered foreigners), but she later changed her mind. Another hotel in Gorno didn't do it for us since we were getting the OVID registration anyway. Either way, when you're camping you obviously can't get registered and of the 4 hotels we stayed in, we got registered at two. Though this is a sketchy system, we did need one of these hotel registrations (they asked for the first one) when we left Russia, and our guidebook says you should get it within three business days of entering the country. (The other registration went in the garbage.)

3) ALTAY-REPUBLIC REGISTRATION: This one seems to be the most contentious, as it is not obvious how to get it, recent regulations have changed in August 2008 and some people get it, many don't. We were advised by thorntree.com to get it, along with an outdated Lonely Planet, especially since we were going through a potentially difficult border crossing (Tashanta to Tsaganuur). We WERE asked for this paper at the border, as were two backpackers along with us. A motorcyclist we met didn't have it, we passed on what we had learned from some french tourists in a car, that if you say you're only "in transit" you don't need it (i.e. if your stay in the region is short enough.) We didn't see whether or not the motorcyclist made it through the border without this registration or not.

If you do want to register and you are coming in through the north (Gorno-Altaisk), then the office is beside the Gorny shopping centre on Kommunichesky road. It's hours are 9am-1pm and 2pm - 6pm Monday - Wednesday, closed on Thursdays and open Friday morning only (I think?). There, you will have to fill out a grey paper but also have it SIGNED AND STAMPED BY A TOURIST AGENCY. We asked the Moscow-based agency that provided us with our invitation letter (for our visa) for this, and they said it wouldn't be required, so we just brought the two documents they gave us. THIS DOESN'T WORK. It actually has to be the Altai Republic's own grey form with little white boxes, which you are unlikely to get from any invitation letter-provider outside the Altai Republic.

We would still recommend the same invitation letter provider - way easier from home than contacting a tourist agency in the Altai province.... but from there we would recommend the following steps:

a) Upon arrival in Gorno-Altaisk, don't go to the OVID Registration Office, but go straight to the AGUNA Tourist Agency and ask for (english-speaking) Lioubov. The address is apartment/office #309, in 39/8 Choros-Gourkina (This is the street that runs parallel to the main drag "Kommunichesky" street. The building (#8) is one of several at the address 39 Choros-Gourkina, all clustered around the main shopping mall.)

Tell her you need to register your visa. If you give her your passport, it will take about 20 minutes (if there is no one ahead of you) and cost you 10 Euros or 420 Roubles. She has the form electronically on her own computer, so you don't need anything but your passport with your Russian visa.

b) Take the form she gives you to the OVID Registration office (on Kommunichesky by the Gorny shopping center) and tell someone official-looking that you're looking for registration. (It's oficially supposed to be in the Kiosk #2, but this was unmanned the entire time we were there, all during its posted opening hours.) If you're lucky, the lady in charge of registration will be there, and you will be in and out in 2 minutes. If you're not, she will be shopping or out for lunch in the middle of operating hours (as was our situation), in which case you'll just have to wait. But if Lioubov filled out the form for you, you should have no problems when someone finally does get there.

That's it! Keep the stub of the form they give you, and at the border at Tashanta, they will want to see it along with your Migration Card and the Visa Registration that you got at your first hotel.... You will first show these documents at a small office before the actual border crossing, and then the agent at the big official crossing will keep your hard-earned bits of paper, likely for the trash :(

Our border crossing was very smooth, though we would suggest getting a taxi from Kosh-Agach straight to Olgii as we did - we didn't see any taxis waiting at the border at Tashtanta, and all the cars we say were quite full, including our own. Our Russian taxi driver and the Mongolian that was also travelling with us were EXTREMELY helpful, and as a result we seemed to pass through both the Russian and Mongolian borders much faster than the French and American tourists we saw in front and behind us.

We got a taxi at the Bazaar in Kosh-Agach (ask Sergei at the Hotel Transit - he will help) for 1200 Roubles (about $60) for the two of us with our bikes and all our luggage (it usually costs 350-400 Roubles/person without bikes.) There were however lots of taxi drivers (who seemed to be conspiring not to give us the "market price") at the Bazaar that wanted to charge us much more than that and only take us as far as the border, so watch out!

NOTE ON BORDER ZONES: We read in the Lonely Planet info from 2006 that suggested this border crossing might be in a border zone. It is not, even in the new August 2008 border regulations. Lioubov informed me that you don't need any border permit so long as you stay on the M52 and do not turn off onto the other highway at Kosh-Agach, which would lead you into one of the border zones requiring permits with long notice.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi there, hope your having a good trip! Thanks for this very helpful bit of info! Me and 3 others will be entering Mongolia in the same way. As there are 4 of us, do you see it as a problem in terms of hitching a ride to get over the border as a group of 4?

You mentioned taxis and as your blog is the most recent info I have found on this I gather theres still taxis to take you across to Olgi? It would be nice to go with some locals though, how many cars/traders were leaving Kosh Agach when you were there? Enough for 4?!

Many thanks, Sam

scherman said...

Hey - Thanks for the message, I am sure you guys will have a great trip as it is an amazing area. Forsure a highlight of our trip so far.

We read of lots of people just riding to the border and hoping to hop a ride. They all got through eventually. Some right away, some took many hours or days of waiting, other got ripped off and charged more than we paid.

We managed to find some guy in Kosh Agash who was willing to drive us across (there were two other European girls that we found that also came on the ride, and then he had 3-4 others in the van too). We worked hard all morning in the market to find this guy, and were about to give up when we found him. Not sure if this is always the case, but as far as we know he was the only one going across that day.

As far as official taxis going across there were none. Many people offering to go to the border (which was no help). None offering to actually take us across.

All that to say is get there prepared for an adventure. You will get across but make sure you have at least a couple days in case shit hits the fan!!

Cheers,

Mike

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick reply! Out of interest how much did you pay to get over the border? Just want to make sure I dont get ripped off!

Also, you said you were about to give up...what would you have done if you did give up? Back track and organize the crossing with an agency/tour?

Certainly going to be an adventure!

Anonymous said...

Heading to Altai in about 3 weeks and I've had some difficulties getting through and understanding all the permits and registrations, even with my basic Russian. Thank you so much for this awesome and very informing article!!
James

Mike & Jen said...

James,

Glad it helped! Good luck jumping through all the hoops....

-Jen

sophie van caenegem said...

Hi Mike and Jen,

Thanks for putting this info online, very helpful! we are now in Barnaul and will go to Gorno Altaisk this week to get the registration. Then we'll also cross the border to Mongolia.

We'll be travelling for a year through Asia but just started two weeks ago in Russia. If you're interested in our website: www.sophieandjorisinasia.org

Greetings! Sophie & Joris

steve waters said...

Note that the Aguna Travel Agency has changed rooms and is now at #313 in the same building. An adult registration costs 400r, with 200r for a child. Do you need it? Tough question. We got checked leaving Kosh-Agach and as we weren't going to Mongolia, it was useful. It was also the only registration stamp we had due to sleeping in the van everynight. We didn't mention we were heading to Tuva!

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Looks like some things have changed meanwhile.
Aguna travel agency doesnt seem to exist any more.
The Altai registration also doesnt seem to exist any more. The people in ovid didnt Know what it is.
We passed the tashanta border supersmooth without the Altai registration. The only thing we had was a registration from Omsk where we actually stayed for three weeks, and One Hotel registration from gorno altaisk.
On the border, they said it is possible to cross with the bikes when you make it to the mongolian side (25 km) until 6 pm. It was late aftetnoon when we got to the russian side, so they organized a car that brought us across the border.