If you wish to visit Vladivostok as part of a mission team, you will have a wonderful opportunity to get a real “insider’s view” of the Russian Far East. You will also see firsthand the work of the Catholic Church in Vladivostok and some of the nearby cities. Ultimately, you will leave with a deep and lasting sense of the need for a Christian presence in this formerly communist nation.
If you cannot form your own mission team, you may wish to join up with an existing group. Most teams visit in the summer or fall when the weather is more accommodating. Teams usually consist of 3 to 12 members who travel together from the United States. You can contact the Modesto office to learn when the next team is going.
Passport & Visa
You must have a valid passport that will be good for at least 6 months following the end of your trip. Your passport must also have your signature on the main page and 2 blank opposing pages somewhere inside. Scan the picture page of your passport and save it as a pdf or jpg.
You should start the additional paperwork at least 3 months before you travel. First, confirm with the mission office and with the priests in Vladivostok that your planned travel dates are okay. Also, confirm that you can obtain a recommendation from your pastor and that there are no barriers to your coming (health problems, legal issues, etc.).
Next, work with a travel agent to set up your itinerary. Visitors may travel east from the US to Moscow and on to Vladivostok. Or they may go west to Incheon, South Korea, and then to Vladivostok. We do have a mission supporter who is a travel agent and who has made many arrangements for Vladivostok travelers. Call our mission office for the agent’s contact information.
Once your travel dates are finalized, you can work on getting your invitation to Russia. This is required. A visitor may not enter Russia without an invitation. The parish staff in Vladivostok will arrange the invitation once they receive certain information from you. Fill out this 2-page form and email it with the other required items listed on the form to our Modesto office to get this started.
Once you receive your invitation (which may take a couple of weeks), you will need to get a Russian visa. This involves working with a “middle-man” agency that helps you prepare the documents for submission to one of the Russian consulates in the US. Visa requirements change often. They may also vary somewhat from consulate to consulate. To obtain your visa, go online and find the nearest consulate. You will work with that consulate or its visa-preparation agency. The mission society cannot help you with this process.
Travel & Accommodations
Once you arrive in Vladivostok, church staff will meet you at the airport for the 45-minute ride into town. Visitors generally stay at the rectory/parish office building, which has dorm-type rooms. In most cases, 2 rooms share an interconnecting bathroom. The building includes laundry facilities, a kitchen and dining area, a library and TV room, and a lounge area. Bedding, towels, and toilet paper are provided.
Most days will be taken up with assigned tasks, such as helping at a children’s camp. Some days may involve trips to outlying parishes and other days you will be free to do some touring and shopping. A Mass is offered each day, and evenings are usually taken up with relaxing and getting to know fellow travelers and seminarians.
Mission teams generally prepare their own breakfasts, with food provided at the rectory. Lunch is the main meal of the day and is served at 1:00 pm. Everyone generally fends for themselves for the evening meal. This may involve eating out, or preparing food left over from the large midday meal.
The cost is highly variable, and will depend on the airline, travel days, route, length of stay, layovers in Moscow or Seoul, and the fees charged for your invitation, passport, and visa. There is a daily charge for staying at the rectory building and it covers your room, meals, translators, and drivers. Call the mission office to learn the current daily fee.
Other Things to Know
- You should not consider a trip if you are in poor health, cannot walk 1 mile comfortably, or cannot easily climb stairs.
- For cell phone use in Russia, you’ll need to contact your service provider to see how they can accommodate you.
- In addition to personal items and clothing, bring photocopies of your passport photo page and visa page.
- For your electric hair dryer, razor, or laptop, you’ll need a voltage converter and electrical adapter plugs for Russia, which are 2-prong C or F plugs, commonly used throughout Europe.
- You can exchange your US dollars for rubles at a Vladivostok bank. Bring reasonably new bills, preferably twenties, as the banks can refuse to exchange old or damaged bills. Toward the end of your stay, you will pay one of the priests for your room and board, and that should be in rubles or newer bills.
- Check the CDC website to see if any particular shots or immunizations are required for your visit.
- We encourage every visitor to obtain travel insurance before the trip. Policies vary and may cover medical care, evacuation for an emergency, or reimbursement for trip cancellation or lost baggage. You can easily find travel insurance online or through your travel agent. Often your own medical insurer (or even your home or car insurance company) will offer travel insurance.
- You can use credit/debit cards or ATMs in Russia, but it is not wise. You may see exorbitant fees on your next statement. Also, your number might be stolen and you won’t find out for weeks.
- Check out our FAQs for additional information.