everything you need to know
to visit russia visa-free

Welcome to St Petersburg Essential Guide - Your Best Travel Guide to Russia

Visit St Petersburg Visa Free! See how to get to Russia by ferry or by an international cruise ship without applying for a visa.

If for a long time you have been dreaming of putting your feet on Russian soil without going through the hassle and cost of arranging a visa, now your dream can turn into reality. Finally, after a couple of years of political debate, there is an option to visit Russia for up to 72 hours Visa-Free.

You should know that there are about 60 nationalities which don't need a visa to enter Russia. These are countries with good diplomatic relations with Russia and that have visa waiver treaties with the country. For example, the Commonwealth of Independent States (former countries of the USSR), some countries of South and Central America, and countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.

See below the full list of countries eligible to enter Russia and St Petersburg visa free; perhaps you're lucky and you are from one of these countries.

However, if you are not a citizen of any of these countries (and you don’t have a diplomatic passport), then you need to apply for a Russian Visa unless you choose to travel by sea on an international cruise ship or on a ferry line.

Thanks to the new Visa Waiver Program launched by the Russian government in 2012, worldwide cruise passengers can enter Russia through the following ports: St. Petersburg (the crown jewel of Russia), Anadyr, Arkhangelsk, Kaliningrad, Korsakov, Novorossiysk, Murmansk, Sevastopol, Sochi, Vladivostok, Vyborg and Zarubino without a visa for a period of up to 72 hours.

On the contrary, ferry passengers can enter Russia via St. Petersburg from Helsinki, Tallinn, and Stockholm with St. Peter Line Ferry company or from Lappeenranta to Saint Petersburg or Vyborg with the company Saimaa Travel.

Today this is the only way that currently allows you to enter Russia and visit St Petersburg visa free. This option is available to all nationalities, so for you too if you comply with the given conditions.

how to visit st petersburg visa free

Now let's see what regulations and conditions are in place to enter Russia and cruise to St Petersburg visa free. To get started just click on the links below or scroll down the page. Happy reading!

list of countries with visa free access to russia

Below you can find a list of countries who their citizens are exempt from applying for Russian visas. We split these countries into four sections with different requirements and different limitations on the length of stay.


Countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine. Citizens of the countries of the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States) are permitted to stay in the Russian Federation for up to 90 days without a Visa.


Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, South Africa. Citizens of these countries are allowed to stay in the Russian Federation without a Visa for up to 90 days in each 180-day period, provided they will not be involved in any commercial or work-related activities during their stay.


Countries: Cuba, Montenegro, Serbia (with biometric passport), Thailand, South Korea (up to 60 days), Hong Kong SAR (up to 14 days), Macao SAR. Please note that citizens of Turkey no longer qualify for Visa-free travel to Russia (starting January 1, 2016). Citizens of the countries in this group can stay in the Russian Federation for up to 30 days without a Visa. They are not entitled to work while in Russia.


Countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia. Citizens of these Balkan countries can also stay in Russia without a Visa for up to 30 days, but must also show tourist documents (tourist confirmation and tourist voucher) or an official invitation to immigration officials.

Keep in mind that even if you do not need a Russian Visa, you will still need a passport valid for at least six months after the date of your proposed exit from Russia. Moreover, you will have to register with the Federal Migration Service upon arrival.


If you plan to visit St. Petersburg on an International Cruise Ship like Norwegian Getway or Regal Princess, for instance, or if you book a cruise and St. Petersburg is one of the calls, you don't need to get a Russian visa before you go. However, travelling without a Russian visa does impose strict limitations on your time in Saint Petersburg, so it's a good idea thinking of getting an E-Visa before you start your cruise so that you enjoy much more freedom of movement in the city.

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 meet the following conditions:

  • Arrive and leave by the same ship;
  • Have a passport valid for 6 or more months from the date of entry;
  • Book a tour and hold a tour voucher (one for each traveler) confirming service arranged by the Russian tour company sponsoring visa, or a liner's tour ticket arranged by your cruise operator;
  • Return to the ship in the evening and spend the night(s) on the ship;
  • Remain in the company of an authorized tour guide while you are ashore;
  • Stay for less than 72 hours;

The most popular cruises that visit St. Petersburg are Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises (there are also many other cruises that will take you to St. Petersburg on a journey through the Baltics).

When your cruise ship is approaching St. Petersburg, the first thing that will catch your attention will be the Lakhta Center, the tallest building in Europe, and the 13th highest in the world.



If you are traveling by ferry from Helsinki, Tallinn, and Stockholm (with a stop in Helsinki) to St. Petersburg with St. Peter Line Company (the only ferry company linking Europe to Russia), you can also enter Russia via the port of St. Petersburg without a Visa for a maximum period of 72 hours. Depending on the sailing schedule, you can also stay in St. Petersburg for 24 hours only.

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 meet the following conditions:

  • Have a valid passport with at least six months’ validity remaining whenever you travel abroad;
  • Have a round-trip ferry ticket with St. Peter Line Ferries;

  • Have the mandatory city bus tour ticket offered by the ferry company;

  • Hold a hotel booking confirmation with confirmation of the payment, if you stay more than one or two days only (In the voucher must be hotel's name and contact details, names for each passenger and accommodation dates);
  • Stay for less than 72 hours;

  • Also, your country must be part of the Schengen area, so that you don't need a Schengen Visa to enter Europe.

The ferry ride is classified as a cruise only if passengers book the mandatory city bus tour through St. Peter Line. This is the loophole that lets you enter St Petersburg visa free. The bus tour is simply a shuttle that runs across Vasilevskiy Island to the city center, in which you can make stops.

Unlike cruise passengers who are forced to spend the night on the ship, if they want to enter the city without a visa, ferry passengers travelling with St. Peter Line need to book a hotel or apartment during their stay.

Remember, this rule only applies to passengers on St. Peter Line ferries. If you plan to visit St. Petersburg from Helsinki by train or bus, you do need to get a Russian visa before departure.

how to check in for a cruise to russia

All major ship cruises with international destinations, including Russia, will require you to have the following documents before boarding the ship:

  • A passport that isn't expired or will not expire within six months of your travels.
  • Your cruise boarding passes (Print and tuck them into a documents folder).
  • Your luggage tags (Print and tuck them into a documents folder or use special sleeves).
  • Your excursion ticket or tour voucher confirmation if your port call is, for instance, St. Petersburg, Russia (You now know that in order to go ashore without a visa during port calls you must book an organized tour and be accompanied at all times by a tour guide).

For your information, check-in is available three months out from your sailing date. If you haven't already, check with your cruise line before this date to see what documents your cruise trip requires to go to St Petersburg visa free.

Each cruise line is a little different, but generally, you'll need to set up an account with a username and password, if you haven't already. Input your passport information and credit card payment information for making easy onboard payments.

Once you're logged into your cruise line website you can check-in for multiple people in your party who are linked to your reservation; you can print your boarding passes, luggage tags, and you can also book shore excursions or make appointments for onboard activities, and much more.


how to check in for a ferry to russia

When you travel with St. Peter Line Ferry to St. Petersburg, Russia (the only ferry line that exclusively operates this route from Europe) the check-in officer will hand over to you the following documents:

  • Your boarding card along with your room key.
  • Your arrival card (This will need to be surrendered to immigration when arriving in St. Petersburg).
  • Your departure card (This will need to be surrendered to immigration when departing from St. Petersburg).
  • Your excursion ticket (This is your exit ticket for St. Petersburg and includes the city tour/transfer bus which runs every half hour taking passengers to and from the city).

Please note that the check-in officer will ask for your passports and proof of hotel accommodation before boarding and give you all the documents listed above. If you are not a European passport holder remember to check your Schengen eligibility.

We recommend avoiding taking this boat trip to St Petersburg visa free if you are running close to the end of your Schengen eligibility or you don't have a Schengen visa before you make it to Europe.

arrival in saint petersburg

Upon your arrival in the seaport of Saint Petersburg, you should leave the ferry and proceed to passport and visa control. In order to speed up the migration control procedure, make sure you have the following documents on you before leaving the ship:

  • Your passport (must be valid at least up to six months of your travels).
  • Your hotel and transfer booking confirmations if you come by ferry, while if you come by cruise ship you just need to show your cruise boarding pass.
  • Your migration card and arrival-departure card obtained when checking in for the ferry. If you come by ship you should be issued with a slip, which you need to hold onto until you depart. Sometimes can be the opposite! Either way, whether it is an immigration card or a slip keep them safe together with your passport.

Please note that you can ask for a migration card onboard the ferry or the ship, and at the passport control at the sea terminal in Saint Petersburg.

Once you have gone through migration and customs control, you can proceed to the hall of the sea station, which is located right behind the terminal. Outside the sea terminal building, you have two options to get to the city: If you have purchased an organized tour, your guide will take you by bus to the city center, while if you are travelling on your own, you can get to the city center in two ways: by public transportation or by taxi.

If you are a ferry passenger you can exit on your own by taking the local Bus N.58 or by taking the minibuses offered by St. Peter Line Ferry, the so-called city bus tour or shuttle you had to book to be able to go ashore legally.

departure from saint Petersburg

On your departure day, you should return to the seaport terminal by the shuttle bus you have booked through St. Peter Line Ferry or by a private car or bus arranged by the tour company you've booked your private tour with.

Inside the terminal, you must check-in for the ferry or ship providing your passport and the cruise booking confirmation. Later, you walk directly into the migration and customs control area where you will be asked to show your passport, migration card or slip, and your arrival-departure card or returning board cruise pass. Once you're on the ship, they will scan your boarding pass in and from that moment you are free to go to your room or anywhere in the ship.


things TO KNOW

The following tips and recommendations may help you to clear up any further questions you may have about the Russian Visa Waiver Program.

  • If you want to visit St Petersburg Visa Free by a cruise ship you should remember that in order to exit the port and visit our beautiful city, you must be registered as a member of a tourist group. To become a part of such a group, a passenger should purchase a city excursion, which is available aboard the ship or through an independent tour company of your choice.

  • If you prefer to reach St Petersburg visa free by ferry you can do that only with St. Peter Line by purchasing their mandatory shuttle bus. There are no other direct ferry options at the moment with such a visa loophole.
  • If you are planning to travel to St Petersburg visa free from Stockholm, Tallinn, or Helsinki onboard either Princess Maria or Princess Anastasia, keep in mind 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.
  • You should know 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 or book any hotel through the ferry company), and you can visit the city freely (No tour guide needed unless you want), 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.
  • We like to remind you that the mandatory city bus tour is not a real guided city tour but just a shuttle-bus that runs across Vasilevskiy Island to the city center, 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, 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 an independent local tour company (Your best choice).
  • Keep in mind that both ferries and big ship cruises will try to sell all their services when you travel with them, and even before boarding, and that include their shore excursions. We recommend sourcing your own tours in your own time to make the most of your short visit to Russia's Northern Capital.
  • For your information, the tours offered by cruises are not the only ones authorized to make visits to the city without a visa. On the contrary, there are a variety of tourist agencies in St. Petersburg, including us, which also have the authorization to offer tours to their customers without a visa.

  • All shore excursions offered by cruises are significantly more expensive than those you can hire independently on your own count with any company in St. Petersburg. Usually, tours offered by the ship are crowded and have zero flexibility and/or customization. Conversely, any tour offered by a local tour company is less costly and gives you much more flexibility and freedom on what to do and see in the city. For example, you can even arrange to watch an evening Russian ballet.
  • Getting to St Petersburg Visa free is the easiest option; However, if you want to be completely free to move around the city, or you would like to enjoy the city at night (especially during the time of White Nights Festival), then we suggest that you apply for an e-Visa, an electronic visa application system which is now available in Russia too since the end of 2019.
  • We recommend booking your cruise ship early so there may be an opportunity to secure a better price in advance.
  • Be aware that 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.
  • Please note that you can exchange your cash for Rubles on the boat up until 9 PM with a 5% exchange fee or you can withdraw money at the seaport or in the city through ATMs.
  • We highly recommend returning 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, the ship won't be waiting for you.
  • Be aware that these special entry/exit requirements for international cruise ship and ferry passengers do not apply to riverboat cruise passengers. Riverboat cruise passengers must have a visa and should follow the general guidelines for entry/exit requirements.
  • Please note that if you stay in Russia for less than 7 days, you don’t need to register.
  • For more information about St. Peter Line and its St Petersburg visa free loophole find out more here, but remember that you have the choice to book hotels and tours with other operators if you wish despite their official website they will say the opposite.
  • Please note that almost all cruise ships dock in St. Petersburg in the Marine Façade, a newly built terminal, established back in 2008, while the St. Peter Line ferries from Helsinki, Stockholm and Tallinn, as well as the Saimaa Travel company’s ships from Lappeenranta to St. Petersburg or Vyborg, dock at the terminal located in Ploshchad’ Morskoy Slavy.
  • 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.

We hope you have found this page "St Petersburg Visa Free" Helpful.

Davide & Anastasia founders of St Petersburg Essential Guide Travel Website

Hello! We are Davide & Anastasia the founders of

We would like to let you know that apart from writing unique content for our travel website we can also help with the arrangement of your Airport Transfer, Private City Tour, and Russian Visa Support, or anything else you may need during your stay or the planning of your trip to St Petersburg Russia. Just get in touch with us today for more info!


From St Petersburg Visa Free go to Ferry to St Petersburg or return to the Homepage

You might like these


If you do, please help others to find out about it. If you have a blog or website, or know someone who does, consider linking to us. Share the link on Facebook, Tweet it... you get the idea. Every link helps!

One more way to share

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.