Russia: Winter Clothing Challenge

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'll be leaving for Russia in less than a week and I haven't had time to pick up things I would need there like....clothes! Given my intense schedule for the next few days, I really don't think I have time to purchase the necessary items. So for 2 hours this morning, I ran around Metro Manila trying to find affordable, decent, winter clothes. Sound easy enough? Well not really coz for one, the Philippines is a tropical country. The coldest it gets here is 15 deg Celsius and that's in the higher places like Baguio or Sagada. In metro manila, it reaches 24 deg Celsius during December/January nights but that's about it. Basically, winter clothes are scarce. Second, I have a maximum budget of $200 as provided by the company. I wouldn't want to spend beyond that since I am bankrupt at the moment.

Understanding how cold winter in Russia is really tricky coz numbers don't really tell much. Currently, the average temp is -10degC. With this, I am trying to figure out what items I should buy and how to mix and match them so that I don't freeze to death. I decided that I should get a big fat winter jacket a.k.a. the michelin jacket, a peacoat, boots then just layer up all my clothes underneath.
Get it? The Michelin jacket!
Lo and behold! I visited HMR in Pioneer just to see if they have any surplus clothes and they do. The items are really nice too. Unfortunately, they don't have much supply so it's really by chance that you see something in your size. I was in luck since I was able to buy a black Kenneth Cole peacoat (Php1990), a yellow London Fog water resistant trench coat (P1990) and a white leatherette/faux fur reversible vest (Php790)!

Imagine at a total of Php4800, I was already able to buy 3 major winter items. The simple black peacoat usually costs around Php4000+ in Zara/Mango, the michelin coat is Php2400 and fur vest P2200 in Blue Star. Great savings for me!

Since most of my upper body can now be kept warm, I needed to find boots and fast. Boots are slowly becoming a fad here in the Philippines. But these trendy boots are not exactly warm and the soles are not designed for walking on ice. I was able to find the right boots in Marks&Spencer (Php 2800) because the other stores that sell boots like NorthFace don't exactly exude business professionalism. Good thing I decided to pass by Crossing Dept Store in Shangrila. There I found knee-high, wool-lined, rough-soled boots for Php1700 with 20% off. (Most of the winter items are on sale this time of the year.)

Then I passed by the Surplus Shop in Megamall and found wool blouses in all sorts of colors for only Php249 each. I got myself 3 of those plus a wool scarf at Php299.

After 2 hours and 3 sites, I was able to buy 2 outdoor coats, 1 vest,  a pair of boots, 3 wool blouses and a scarf for a total of only Php7200. I still have some left from my $200 budget. Ain't it a great day?

Visa: Russia

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I had to get a Russian visa before I can actually set foot there. Oh the pain of being a citizen of a 3rd world country! Anyway, I thought it'll be a lot easier since I'll be getting a business visa instead of a tourist. But no! It is just as hard to get a business visa for Russia.

Prior to actually going to the embassy and submitting the requirements, I first had to request for a visa/invite from the embassy in Russia. For this I had to submit the filled-out invite form they provided, an invite from the company in Russia and some ID copies. I have to pay for this invite via credit card coz they won't process if I don't. It costs around 1600 rubles. This invite visa was sent to me via DHL about a month after the forms were submitted. This is actually the fastest they could process it, 20working days.

Once I had this on my hands, I had to obtain the other items needed to actually get a visa on my passport.
  • Valid passport with pages
  • Passport-size ID pictures with white background and dark clothes
  • 2 copies of the Russian visa form (different from the one above)
  • Valid NBI clearance
  • Valid Police clearance
  • Flight Itinerary 
  • Original Company ID (yeah, i had to get a temp ID for work. tsk!)
  • HR Guarantee Letters and Certificate of Employment (which I think doesn't matter if it's from HR Philippines)
  • HR Guarantee Letter and Certificate of Employment from the company in Russia (they'll say that i'm under Philippine payroll blah blah) - in Russian characters and english
  • the invite letter above (original)
  • HIV shot if you're staying more than 3months
With all the items above, I visited the Russian Embassy in Makati (Room 402 A, 4 fl., RCI Building, 105 Rada Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippinesand proceeded to submit the documents.

  • The embassy is open MWF 9am-12nn only. They are open to submission of documents from 9am-11am and releasing is only during 11am-12nn.
  • They first check your documents, if it doesn't pass, they'll ask you to resubmit. This is not cool especially if you're on a tight deadline.
  • Once they accept your documents, they'll ask you to pay via bank (RCBC i think) the processing fee. For rush like 1 day processing, it costs around 9000pesos. 10days processing is around 5k.
  • 1 day processing is not exactly 1 day. Assuming you submitted on a Monday, paid on a Tuesday, the earliest you can get the visa is on a Wednesday. That is the good case scenario. They can say that it'll be released Friday and there's nothing you can do about it.
  • Take note of the Russian holidays and Philippine holidays. If you submit a day before a holiday, they usually will ask you to resubmit instead after the holidays. If they do accept it, they'll process it as if you submitted after the holidays.
  • There's a long Russian holiday from Dec31-2nd wk of Jan, around Jan14. If you want to visit during the Russian winter, plan months ahead.
  • Once they release the visa, check the travel dates. They usually give 1month visa. The dates in the visa is the dates listed in the invite from Russia embassy.
  • However, the dates you can actually stay in Russia may differ depending on the immigration. Always follow the one stamped in the airport. They may give you 1month visa but the visit can only be for 2weeks. Too bad! haha
  • For reference, this is the updated website
After you get your visa, prepare for travel. :)

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