The only way UAE expats can enter Russia with free E-visa
Some UAE travellers were asked to return because of a clause in the visa rule.
Filipinos and Indians in the UAE have limited options if they wish to enter Russia using the free e-visa facility that the country provides.
Last year, Indians and Filipinos were among 53 nationalities made eligible to apply for a free e-visa to visit the Russian city of St Petersburg. Apart from the city, the e-visa will also grant travellers access to the neighbouring Leningrad region.
But there are some conditions that have to be met by travellers using the e-visa facility. According to Russian flag carrier Aeroflot, Indians, Filipinos and the other 51 nationalities eligible for the E-eisa can only enter the country via the St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport.
Connecting flights with a stopover inside Russia is forbidden.
"The e-visa is only valid for direct flights from a foreign country to the region for which it was issued; using transit flights to this region through Moscow or other airports within the Russian Federation is forbidden," the Aeroflot site stipulates.
This caught some UAE travellers unaware with some of them being sent back.
"Last month my friend - who had a connecting flight to St Petersburg via Moscow, was asked to turn back when he landed in the Russian capital," Dan Lester Dabon, an Abu Dhabi-based travel blogger said.
Dan also raised awareness on the e-visa issue for the benefit of Filipinos in the UAE using his social media channels. In a Facebook post, Dan shared the information he received from a certain Marianne Margaret Escolar Zartman. The post read: "I am so sad and disappointed that my friend couldn't come to St Petersburg using their e-visa just because she has a connecting flight in Moscow. There is no direct flight to St Petersburg from Abu Dhabi, that's why she has a connecting flight via Moscow," Zartman narrated.
"It wasn't written in their e-visa website that it has to be a direct flight to Pulkovo Airport, instead, it was written on Aeroflot website. They are sending her back to UAE," the post concluded.
As of the time of this writing, only Dubai-based Emirates offers a direct flight to St Petersburg.
"Emirates operates direct flights to St Petersburg from Dubai on a daily basis," an Emirates spokesperson told Khaleej Times. Information retrieved from Google Flights shows that tickets for the trip costs around Dh2,300.
But Dan has another alternative for e-visa users who still want to visit the European country.
"I'm flying to Russia next month using the e-visa and I will be flying from Dubai to Kazakhstan and then finally to St Petersburg," he said. "Kazakhstan is also visa-free for Filipino passport holders so it's like visiting two countries in one trip. The entire journey is longer but it only cost me around Dh1,600," Dan added.