Travelling by bus to St Petersburg is another fascinating way of entering Russia, and the cheapest option. By bus you will see
the beautiful landscapes of neighboring countries like Finland and
Estonia as well as the vast green Russian countryside, and cut the cost of your rail or plane fare.
In fact, if you take a flight to Riga or Tallinn with one of the budget airlines your trip to St Petersburg it is going to be less expensive. For example, a bus from Riga (Latvia) to St Petersburg costs €27/$29, and a bus from Tallinn (Estonia) to St Petersburg cost €20/$22 one way.
I've personally taken a bus to St Petersburg from Tallinn a couple of times to save some money on the flight, and it works. You could even plan to spend a day or two in one of these two Baltic States before getting to Russia and have some fun as I did myself.
Of course, going by bus won't be as fast or as convenient as the train, but nowadays many of these long distance buses are modern and well equipped to make your trip on the road comfortable and enjoyable, even if a long trip is rather tiring.
Usually travelling by bus takes around 24-37 hours of travel time from Western Europe (Vienna, Prague, Berlin, etc.) and about 7-16 hours from the Baltic States or Scandinavian countries (Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki, etc.).
The only down side of taking a bus to St Petersburg apart from the narrow and bumpy roads, could be when you reach the Russian border. No one knows how long you may wait to get through the border (usually no more than 1hour, if by bus). Here, you will also be asked to leave the bus and walk to customs and passport control with your belongings. If you travel by train instead, your passport is checked on board.
So, you may find the bus a better option if the train's timetable is unsuitable for your schedule, or if some cities are simply not served by trains, or if you are on a tight budget. That's fine! But, if you tend to be overeager or have a bad back or bad knees, then maybe you should think twice before going by bus.☺
Interested in going by bus to St Petersburg? If so, read on...
Wondering how to get to Russia? If so, don't worry! Travelling by bus to St Petersburg has never been so easy.
Getting to St Petersburg by bus from Helsinki, Lappeenranta (Finland), or Tallinn (Estonia), the most popular bus routes, is a great way to economize your Russian trip and experience something really new.
Of course you can also travel from other major European cities, such as London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Riga and so forth - but the closer you fly to Russia, the cheaper it is. And the closer you take the bus, the shorter your trip will be!☺
The trip on the road from Helsinki and Tallinn takes approximately 7hours; from Lappeenranta takes 4hours; from Tartu 9hours; from Riga 11hours, and from Berlin 37hours.
From these places you have a lot of bus companies
to choose from. They all operate on a daily basis and run on schedule, but prices, time
and services vary from company to company. So make sure you choose well!
For instance, you can take a bus to St Petersburg from Scandinavia on top-class Finnish coaches with Savonlinja, or take the international bus company Eurolines (now called Lux-Express for Russia and Baltic States only), or travel with the Estonian firm Ecolines.
You can also travel with the Russian company Sovavto, or take one of the many Russian minibuses (also known as Marshrutka) running several times a day. Those last two are just standard buses, though the last one is very different from all the others. In any case, they might be another way to help you to plan your trip, especially if you arrive late at night or have an early morning flight.
Do you want to pick the right bus to St Petersburg? If so, let's see each of them in more details.
Telling you what company you should choose is not an easy task because each bus
company is different in terms of price and service, plus this is your own decision. But as we have taken all of them, we can share with you what are our favorites.
Our favorite bus companies to travel to Russia are Ecolines and Lux-Express (Eurolines Russia).
We have travelled with Ecolines and Lux-Express a couple of times from and to Saint Petersburg and the overall experience was great! They both offer flexibility and comfort at an affordable price (normally €20/$22 for a one-way ticket with Ecolines, and €40/$44 for one-way ticket with Lux-Express, excluded extra services).
We recommend both of them!
With Ecolines you can take a direct bus to St Petersburg from Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn and book your ticket easily online through their website. The company’s home page is available in eight languages and on board they offer a full service to make your journey pleasant and less stressful.
For instance, the distance between the seats is wide, air conditioning and electric sockets are installed, and a chemical WC is on board. Also, when travelling at night an English speaking steward will be on the bus to answer any of your questions, provide free covers and pillows, and so on.
Alternatively, with Lux-Express you can reach the city of St Petersburg from Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Minsk, and Kaliningrad in much more comfort than Ecolines, but the price is higher too.
Why is it more expensive?
Because travelling with Lux-Express is pretty similar to travelling first class on an airplane. After all, the name says it all!
In fact if you plan to travel with Lux Express expect to get a range of luxurious services such as free Wi-Fi, TV, radio, reclinable seats, toilet on board, newspapers and much more. Also, according to what coach you choose (express, lounge or simple) you can have included in the price, free dinner, free breakfast, snacks and hot drinks.
So, all you need for relaxing and enjoying your long trip to the imperial city.
the other hand, if you are going to
travel from Finland, then you can choose to go with Savonlinja or
Sovavto, two bus operators very popular with Finnish and Russian people,
but not often with international travellers as their service is not in English.
Savonlinja is a Finnish bus company that operates three times per day from Monday to Sunday, all year around. The bus leaves from Helsinki bus station Kamppi and goes through Vaalimaa, Vyborg and other Finnish cities. A bus ticket with them can cost you about €39/$43 for one way, and the estimated travel time is ten hours.
Instead, Sovavto is a Russian bus company operating only once per day to/from St Petersburg via Turku, Helsinki, Vyborg, and other Finnish and Russian cities. If you decide to take a bus to St Petersburg with them, expect to pay something like €50/$55 for one way, and to travel for about ten hours.
Personally, I "Davide" have never travelled with them, but Anastasia has many times. She said that both buses are good, but do not expect any high quality services on board. They both offer just a standard service!
The central bus station of St Petesburg (Avtovokzal) is on the Obvodny Canal, about 10 minutes walk or a short bus ride to the metro station Obvodny Kanal (buses also go straight up Ligovskiy Prospekt to Moskovskaya Station). However, keep in mind that not all international services end here, as their final bus stop often changes depending on which bus company you will be travelling with.
Avtovokzal (bus station in Russian) is the main bus station of the city of Peter the Great. It serves mostly cities to the south and east, including Moscow, Novgorod, Pskov, Helsinki and the Baltics cities like Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn. Also, all buses from Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, Finland, the Baltic states and Scandinavia, arrive and leave from here.
Recently, this Russian station has been renovated and has everything that bus stations should have such as an ATM cash machine, toilets, ticket offices and cafes, as well as tourist signs in English.
That said, if you go by bus to St Petersburg with Lux-Express, you will arrive close to Baltiyskiy Raiway Station; while if you take Ecolines, then you will arrive at Vitebsk train station. If you travel the other way around it's the same.
If you go with Sovavto you will stop outside the Park Inn Pulkoskaya Hotel, and the Grand Hotel Europe; while if you go with Savonlinja you will end up at Hotel Moskva, and then at the main bus station Avtovokzal located in Naberezhnaja Obvodnogo Kanala.
Is taking a big bus to St Petersburg not your cup of tea? Maybe you prefer something smaller and faster? If so, take a Russian minibus, also known as marshrutka.
Mini-buses (Aka Marshrutka), are a popular form of transportation in Russia. Widely used for public transportation within cities, they can carry up to 8-12 people. Now they are gaining popularity for intercity travel, particularly from larger cities to nearby provincial towns and villages. Being very cheap many Russians use them!
Privately owned by Russians, these Minibuses leave and arrive from Helsinki, Saint Petersburg, Tallinn, Lappeenranta and other cities, but only by prior arrangement. With them you have several schedule
options according to their destinations, and they all will come to pick you up at the airport and leave soon after your arrival.
Generally they run frequently, night and day, throughout the week. The trip should cost you no more than 35Euro ($38), and the payment is made only in cash to the driver.
The downside of taking a minivan is that the driver don't speak English, on board the space is limited and the driver wait to fill up the vehicle before leaving, and stop along the way to pick up others. So, don't expect any service apart from having your seat reserved.
On the contrary, the advantage is that they are punctual and a bit quicker than the big buses.
Whatever bus company you choose to travel, you will need to go through the Russian immigration border to check your documents. So when you are standing there make sure you hold all the right documents (a valid Passport with visa and the immigration card) and smile. Avoid being suspicious as if they notice something weird with you they may start asking you a lot of questions.☺
Basically when you get to the Russian border the driver will ask you to leave the bus, take your belongings, and follow him to the customs office where your passport and Russian visa will be checked by the guards.
Usually the Russian border check takes no more than one hour for the buses as they have priority over cars and trucks, but if there are other buses in the queue, then it will take longer. Your Passport will be also checked at the Estonian or Finnish Border, if you arrive from there, but on board the bus.
Going by bus to St Petersburg? Wondering where to buy your tickets? There are many options to buy tickets. Read on...
If you are planning to travel with quality bus companies such as Lux Express, Ecolines or Savonlinja, then you can buy your ticket online through their company website, or at any of their company sales offices in the Baltics or Russia, as well as through their travel agents.
Yes, tickets can also be bought from the bus, just before you leave, but remember that most of the time all seats are already booked.
So it's better to reserve your seat in advance!
However, things are a little different if you take the Russian minibus. In that case the payment is often made directly to the driver, while certain companies require that you purchase a ticket beforehand.
Honestly, if you don't speak Russian it will be difficult for you to arrange a trip by bus to St Petersburg with a Russian company, unless you ask someone to help you. So, the easiest and cheapest way to buy tickets is from the internet. On the web you can find special offers, print out the confirmation ticket and bring it with you when you go.
Based on our experience, the train is more convenient than the bus because they check your documents on board from the comfort of your seart, so you won't waste time and stand in queues.
However, if you decide to go by bus to St Petersburg, then we suggest that you to travel on weekdays and possibly at night to speed things up and save time. Normally, when you travel during the day or in the weekend, you find more cars, trucks and buses standing in line at the border.
Written by Davide C.