I've just got the third and final visa that we needed to get before we left on our adventures; the Mongolian one.
We needed three to start with: the Russian Fedaration, the Rublic of Belarus and Mongila. The first two we'd arranged through Real Russia, spending a little bit more money, but saving us the legwork and hassle, but the Mongolian one I decided to do myself.
To simply travel by train (not getting off) through the Rebublic of Belarus, one needs to get a Transit Visa. This was fairly straight-forward to get, although you need a copy of your tickets to prove you're just passing through.
The Russian Federation was more complex, and the reason it seemed a good idea to use Real Russia. From the information on the Ruskys' website, it appears that you need information about your financial prowess and details of evey place you're going to stay whilst there. We wanted to be a bit free-form about our visit, and so we went through Real Russia as a sponsor.
The final bit of that jigsaw was getting finger-printed. We went up to their visa offices in London (twixt Old Street and Chancery Lane) and found ourselves in a typical (in my experience) embassy situation with lots of people, security control, a ticketing system and the usual stern and suspecting staff. After being scruitinized and grilled for a while, and giving over some of our biometric details, we were accepted, and the visas then turned up some time later.
The Mongolian visa department was completely different. I'd phoned them to ask about it and they were actually quite friendly and said, "well in theory you need this and that, but if you don't have it, well that's okay". With a positive feeling I got the coach from Oxford up to Notting Hill and walked to the embassy, just of Kensignton High Street.
The Mongolian visa section is in the basement of a town house. It's a small room with no security and you just form a relatively short orderly and fairly quick moving queue to be servered by a very friendly woman who almost seemed chuffed that you wished to visit her county. She looked at the paperwork, was instantly happy, and, having paid a little extra, informed me to come back at 4pm to get the visa.
I returned at about 3.35pm and they'd opened by 3.40 and being second in the queue I walked about with our visas and was back on the bus back home by 4pm.
Almost a delightful experience I must say, and one that makes me look forward to arriving in Mongolia; if that's the welcome you get from the visa section, what will it be like when we actually arrive? It's nice to know that some people are keen on you visiting their country and seem to be on the same page as their tourism marketing department are.