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. If you do plan to travel alone, you must check with the mission office and priests first, to make sure your visit dates are suitable.
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. Some visitors 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 or jackets. 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 mid-October. You can find average monthly temperatures and rainfall online.
What paperwork must I do?
There is a fair amount of paperwork and documentation that must be completed before your visit. The paperwork must be completed step-wise in advance of your trip, so we recommend starting the whole process at least 3 months before you plan to travel, and that’s if you already have a passport.
- First, you will need a valid passport good for at least 6 months past your last day in Russia. You do not need any information from us to obtain your passport, but we will need to work together for the next step.
- Once you have your passport, you will need an invitation to come to Russia. The first step to obtaining the invitation is to fill out the Information/Invitation Form, carefully following all of the instructions.
- Within 2-4 weeks of sending us the completed form, you should receive your invitation by email from Russia.
- You can now proceed to obtaining your visa. First, go online and search for Russian Consulates in the United States. You will find several consulates. Find the one that handles visas for people in your state. Most or all consulates now require you to use a visa service in order to properly apply for a visa. The consulate website may recommend one particular visa service company, or will have company ads on its site. Choose one company and begin its online visa application process. If things get confusing, don’t hesitate to call the company. Eventually, you will provide that company with your personal information, travel dates, your invitation, a photo, your actual passport, a return envelope, and payment for the company’s fee plus the consulate’s fee. Those fees go higher, the faster you want your visa.
- You will later receive your passport, with the visa stamped inside.
- Make a copy of your passport photo page and visa page and bring them on your trip. When you arrive at the church in Vladivostok, you will give your passport to another company for processing, and for several days, will have only your copies.
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?
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.
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 online.
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.
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 some of their needy parishioners or for the Women’s Centers.
You will need to check the baggage allowance and weight limitations of your airline(s). Sometimes, 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 seminarian 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. In Spring of 2021, one-way flights from LAX to Vladivostok were about $750 to $850 and round trips were around $1,200. In addition to airline costs, there is a daily donation to the Vladivostok parish that covers the costs of overnight accommodations in the parish center, two meals a day, translators, drivers, guides, and your Russian invitation/registration fee. Contact the mission office or the Vladivostok priests directly to find out this cost.
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 depends on your route. For example, from LAX to Incheon, Korea, it is about a 14-hour flight. Then it is a 2-hour flight from Incheon to Vladivostok.
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 entering Russia, you will be asked about the items and amount of cash you are bringing in. Be honest in your responses, even if you have brought large amounts of cash.