When is the next trip?
Most trips occur in the summer and fall. Contact our National Coordinator, Vicky Trevillyan at the mission office to ask about the next mission trip. You may also travel alone if you wish, but most people prefer a group, especially for their first visit.
What happens during a mission trip?
It varies, depending on the needs in Russia and the travelers’ talents. We have had teams of construction workers who have helped renovate church buildings. We have also had teams from FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) who have assisted with our summertime youth camps. Other teams have visited orphanages to play with the children, have visited the elderly in the hospice facility, or have assisted individual parishioners who needed help in their homes.
What kind of weather should I expect?
Spring is very cool, with rapid changes of weather from rain to clear skies. June can also be quite cool and require heavy sweaters, jackets, and rain wear. Summer can be warm to hot, but you will need warm clothing in the mornings and evenings. Rain is common in the summer. Fall is usually sunny. The mildest time of year is mid-September through October. You can find details of daily temperatures and monthly averages online.
What paperwork is involved in coming?
There is a fair amount of paperwork and documentation that must be completed before your visit. You will need a valid passport good for 6 months past departure date, and you’ll need a Russian visa. You do not need any information from us to obtain your passport, but we will need to work together to obtain your visa. The process is detailed at LINK HERE to Join a Mission Team > How to Proceed
Do I need to get any special shots or immunizations before I go?
What if I need medical care during the trip?
You should not consider this trip if you are not in good health or if you have special health care needs. If you need medical assistance during the trip, please know that Russian medicine is underdeveloped. We are familiar with the medical system in Russia, having worked closely with physicians and hospitals on some of our projects. If you do need medical care, every effort will be made to obtain the best care possible.
Then should I get travel insurance before I come?
Although Russia does not require US citizens to have medical or travel insurance, we strongly encourage everyone to obtain travel insurance before the trip. Depending on the policy, travel insurance may cover medical care and/or evacuation for a medical emergency, reimbursement for trip cancellation, lost baggage, or other problems. You can easily find travel insurance companies online, or you might obtain insurance through your travel agent. Quite often, your own medical insurer (or even your home or car insurance company) will offer travel insurance.
Will I get to do some touring on my own?
Yes. You will have opportunities for personal sightseeing and shopping in Russia. You will be accompanied by a guide and will travel with your group during the day. It is not recommended that you spend the evenings out.
What’s the terrain like?
Vladivostok is very hilly. The church and rectory building are near the top of a hill. To reach the main shopping area and the bay, you will walk downhill and will encounter many steps. This means the return trip is all uphill. Thus, we recommend that you be in reasonably good shape and also bring good, broken-in walking shoes.
Isn’t there public transportation?
Yes, there are buses and cabs. You can ride buses within Vladivostok and to nearby Russian Island. In difficult cases you may hire a cab at an extra expense for yourself.
Will I have Internet access?
You will be able to use our computers in Russia to send and check email between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm daily. During business hours, the computers are in use by the church staff.
How do I exchange money?
Early in the trip, you will be taken to a bank where you can exchange US dollars for rubles. Be sure to bring newer bills, especially twenties. The banks have the right to refuse old, defaced, or crumpled bills.
Can I use my credit/debit cards or ATM cards in Russia?
Yes, in some places, but it’s not wise. There may be exorbitant fees attached to credit/debit card and ATM transactions. You may not learn of these until you return home and see your next statement. Also, your number may be stolen and used, and you may not find out until weeks later.
Can I use my cell phone there?
You will have to check this with your cell service provider.
Can I use my electric hair dryer?
Russian electricity runs on 220V, 50 Hz, and the electrical outlets accept plugs that are round, 2-prong, European –style plugs. If your electric appliances (hair dryers, heating pads, etc.) are not adapted for this system, you should bring an adapter with the appropriate plug. You can find more information at www.adaptelec.com.
Will I be safe on this trip?
Yes, if you are reasonably cautious. For example, our travelers do not go out at night except on a rare visit for dinner at a parishioner’s home. Vladivostok and the other Russian Far East cities are safer than cities of comparable size in the US. Since our travelers started going to Vladivostok in 1991, there has never been a case of any of our guests being accosted in any way. However, as in any big city, it is not wise to be alone on the streets at night.
Are there any special items I should bring for myself?
You will need to keep small packets of tissues to use as toilet paper. Toilet paper is often not available in public places. Also, some travelers like to bring a plastic water bottle with them to refill with filtered water (which is available at the mission office) and keep on hand. Bottled water is advised rather than tap water. Snack items and candy are available in Vladivostok. For more information on what to bring, see LINK HERE to Join a Mission Team > What to Bring.
Are there any special items I should bring for the mission?
Before each trip, we ask the priests for their “wish lists.” They may respond with any number of hard-to-get items such as certain foods, tools, or electronic devices. They may also ask for items for the orphans or elderly, such as stuffed toys, socks, or gloves. Some visitors wear clothing they intend to leave behind for donation to needy families.
You will need to check the baggage allowance and weight limitations of your airline(s). In many cases, travelers bring 2 bags—one filled with items for their personal use and one filled with items for the mission.
Can I bring a gift to a particular staff member?
You should not bring gifts to staff members, parishioners, or visiting seminarians. Furthermore, you should not tip any of the church helpers who provide exceptional service. If any staff member, parishioner, or seminarians asks to borrow money or seeks financial help for their family members or needy friends, please do not comply. Systems are already in place to provide such assistance.
How much will this trip cost?
Costs will vary depending on your airline, travel class, advance notice, point of departure from the US, and length of stay. Currently (2014), round trip airfare from Los Angeles (LAX) costs about $1800 – $2400. In addition to airline costs, there is a suggested donation of $65 per night to cover the costs of overnight accommodations in the parish center, two meals a day, translators, drivers, guides, and your Russian invitation/registration fee.
To whom do I give this donation?
You will give this to Fr. Myron or Fr. Dan in Russia. Remember, though, if you donate in US dollars, these should also be new bills. The Russian bank may refuse to exchange older or damaged bills.
How long does it take to get to Vladivostok?
It is a 2-hour flight from Incheon, Korea, to Vladivostok. The flight from the US to Incheon will vary according to your point of departure. From Los Angeles, for example, it is about 14 hours.
Can I stop in South Korea for a few days?
Yes. You are responsible for making your travel arrangements between the U.S. and Incheon, so you can arrange a layover in South Korea on the return trip. As an American citizen, you can layover in Incheon and Seoul (Seoul is 40 miles outside of Incheon) without a visa for Korea. In Seoul, you may visit the cathedral, tomb of the martyrs, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, and much more.
Will I be able to bring some gifts back with me?
Yes. American, Russian, and Korean governments allow some gifts without duty.
Can I bring back some Russian icons?
True Russian icons are very expensive and are valuable works of religious art. It is unlikely you will be bringing any back with you. However, many church gift shops, stores, and kiosks have beautiful replicas for sale.
IMPORTANT: As you are leaving Russia, you may be asked by airport or customs authorities about items you purchased during your visit. If you have bought the icon replicas, you should never state that you have purchased icons. Instead, you should state that you have purchased pictures of icons.