Go to St Petersburg Visa Free! Join a ferry or a cruise ship, and visit Russia without applying for a visa.
If you have always dreamed of putting your feet on Russian soil without a Russian visa, now your dream can turn into reality. Finally after a couple of years of political debate, almost any foreign tourists, so maybe you too, can travel to Russia Visa Free, if you meet certain requirements of course.
According to the latest figures, almost half a million travellers from all over the world (mostly Americans and Europeans) every year cruise to St. Petersburg Visa Free by taking advantage of the Visa Waiver Program launched by the Russian government in 2012.
But you may ask yourself how do they do it?
Well, basically they choose from two easy but different options.
You can board a big Cruise Ship Liner or you can board the ferry company St. Peter Line Ferries.
In both cases you should know that...
Let's see below each option in more details...
If you arrive at the port of St Petersburg with an international cruise ship liner (Costa Crociera, Regal Princess, Celebrity Eclipse, Norwegian Getaway, MS Oasis of the seas, Carnival, and many other) and you have a pre-booked organized tour with any registered local tour operator, and you stay no longer than 72 hours in the city, then you can enter Russia without a visa.
In accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation (RF Government Resolution №397) to be eligible for the visa-free entry as a cruise ship passenger you must...
Alternatively, if you arrive at the port of St Petersburg from Helsinki, Stockholm, or Tallinn with St. Peter Line Ferries (the only ferry company linking Europe to Russia), and you book the city bus tour offered by the ferry company, and you stay no longer than 72 hours in the city, then you can also enter Russia without a visa.
In accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation (RF Government Resolution №397) to be eligible for the visa-free entry as a cruise ferry passenger, you must...
The following tips and recommendation may help you to clear up any further questions you may have about the Russian Visa Waiver Program.
You should know that you must travel via St. Peter Line ferry only. There are no other ferry options at the moment!
If you are planning to travel to St Petersburg Visa Free from Stockholm, Tallinn, or Helsinki on board either Princess Maria or Princess Anastasia, remember that you are required to depart on the same ship and can't use alternative transportation like the train or the bus. Also, if you bring a car with you the driver must hold a Russian visa.
Please note that if you arrive from outside the Schengen Area, you must have a multiple entry Schengen Visa to enter back to Sweden, Finland or Estonia after the cruise. A single visa is valid only for a one-way trip.
When you cruise with St. Peter Lines, you can book a hotel or apartment of your choice (No need to sleep in the ferry), and you can visit the city freely (No tour guide needed) unless you prefer, but on the condition that you book the mandatory city bus tour offered by the ferry company, which is included along with the ferry tickets at the time of the purchase.
Technically speaking, the mandatory city bus tour everyone is obliged to buy is not really a city tour but just a city shuttle-bus that runs across Vasilevskiy Island to the city centre, and you can get off whenever you wish. The reason for the wording is to get around the language of the visa waiver program that applies to cruise passengers. Hence, this is your loophole to St Petersburg Visa Free!
Don't forget that when you are on an international cruise ship liner, you are required to stay overnight on the ship, and spend all your time ashore with a licensed tour guide. This means that you can't tour the city on your own or walk freely. You can book a tour suggested by your cruise operator (Not really recommended), or you can book a private tour from a local tour company (Your best choice).
For your information, the tours offered by your cruise operator or booking agent are likely to be significantly more expensive than tours you book independently. Also they are crowded and have zero flexibility and/or customization. Conversely, any tour offered by a local tour company are less costly; they give you much more flexibility and freedom on what to do and see in the city; and they are not crowded at all. Private tours are usually created based on your wishes, budget, and needs, that's why they are your best choice!
Whether you travel on a ship or ferry cruise to Saint Petersburg we highly recommend that you book a private shore tour, especially if you are a first time traveler. By doing so you're sure to get the most out of your short stay in Russia. If you need a private shore tour feel free to contact us. We can help you organize a wonderful city tour hassle free!☺
If you don't comply with the rule of 72 hours visa-free staying in the Russian Federation you may face severe penalties and fees.
Remember to return to the ship at least 2 hours before your scheduled departure, so that you have enough time to walk through the custom and passport control. If you delay, I guess the ship won't be waiting for you.
We also recommend that you buy your Travel Insurance, so that you get covered during your visit to St Petersburg Visa free.
Please note that recently the St Peter Line ferry has merged with MOBY LINE LIMITED.
Keep in mind that both ferries and big cruise ship liners that to travel to St Petersburg and other destinations Visa Free, then will try to sell you all their services when you are on board, and even before boarding.
But now you know that you have a choice!☺
Therefore, don't buy everything they say because these cruise/ferries companies think mainly for their own profit, which from a business point of view makes sense, but what is good for them, is not always good for you.
As you understand now, between ferries and ship cruises there are some differences. If you still have some doubts or you just want to learn more about how to travel to St Petersburg Visa Free on a ferry or cruise please check out this page.
Hope it helps!
Written by Davide C.