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Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

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Toronto, Canada
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Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

Hello,

I am planning a 2 or 3 day trip to St. Petersburg from Helsinki in late July and trying to decide between taking the visa-free ferry ride on St. Peter Line or getting a visa in advance and taking the train. Any advice on which is the better option? Do I need to book the ferry ride in advance?

I have read conflicting reports on-line about touring the sites in St. Petersburg on my own versus buying a tour package from a local tour company - any advice here would be helpful.

Thanks in advance!

Oulu, Finland
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1. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

For July booking the ferries ahead is a good idea, you are speaking about the real peak season for ferries and cruises in the Baltic sea!

English is not extremely widely, nor well spoken in St. Petersburg. There are many place (even targeted for tourists) where you may not find anyone speaking English - luckily things are changing for the better in this respect, though. In this respect a tour package is safer and better deal - and the guides are usually very good and can tell you much more than any guide bookes - including of the life of present-day Russia/St. Petersburg (they've got a university level education for guides in Russia, but most guides I've had have been students of foreign languages and tourism in local universities) .

If the ferry schedule fits your timetables (the 2 - 3 night stay cruises are not operated daily!), I'd take the ferry option. It will save you from the visa hassle and two nights in a hotel.

Edited: 24 February 2013, 19:10
Finland
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2. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

The absolutely best way to travel to St Pete is to take the Allegro train. Unfortunately you'll need to get the visa. For a foreigner travelling with limited time available I would not spend it on a Russian boat or standing in an immigration line.

The times I've visited St Pete I had a private tour guide for some time of the visits. Arrangements are smoother that way and the charge was not much more than peanuts.

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

Thanks Guys,

Do I have to return every night and sleep on board the ship? That may not be what I had in mind - the train sounds more appealing now!

Helsinki
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4. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

Of course you don't have to return every night to the ship. But still you'll spend more than 24 hours on a ferry and couple of hours queuing in and out.

Oulu, Finland
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5. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

The ship will stay in the port only one day at a time, so you'll need hotel accommodation for the time you're going to spend in St. Petersburg. You can purchase 2-3 day packages incl. the ferry crossings and hotel e.g. through a Finnish travel agency Nordic Ferry Center: http://www.ferrycenter.fi . Link is available also on St. Peter Line' website, as they don't sell these packages themselves.

You'll spend two nights on the ferry (approx. 7 p.m. - 8 a.m.) and the nights in between in a hotel in St. Petersburg. You can stay max 72 h in Russia without a visa in conjunction of a cruise or ferry crossings. The ship is a former Silja Line vessel and has restaurants, bars and night clubs and tax free shops (rather limited selection) on board.

Edited: 25 February 2013, 07:01
Toronto, Canada
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6. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

Thank you all,

This is very good information!

Helsinki, Southern...
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7. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

I just toook the St. Peter Line cruise to St. Petersburg last weekend. To be honest I was shocked. Okay, I am more use to the cruises toStockholm and Tallinn with the new boats but still... The Princess Maria is over 30 years old, (used to be called m/s Finlandia when owned by Silja Line) and that's fine but all the restaurants, shops, coffee shops, bars, entertainment and sauna/ swimmingpool area where catered to the Russians. Food was plenty but awfull tasting. We took the buffet dinner on the first night and it was terrible. Coming back the second night we went to an Italian restaurant and ordered pizza which was a little better. But still even the Chianti wine we ordered had a funny taste to it. The selection in he tax-free shop was okay but while going to St. Petersburg the staff changed all pricetags in alcohol drinks section. That was an odd sight. Then another thing: for the first time in my life I was scared on a boat. The Baltic Sea was frozen almost the whole way and by the sound of ice breaking while the ship pushed through was so loud it made me thinking if something will break soon. Also the ship was inclined in an odd way... Next time I will take the Allegro - despite the free visa.

Edited: 09 March 2013, 11:54
Oulu, Finland
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8. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

I agree that the cruises to Stockholm offer better value in terms of service and quality of "everything" aboard the ship. But for me it was still an ok voyage, I did not have any safety concerns - eventhough it was hard to sleep due to the noise of the breaking ice. Selection in the tax free shop(s) is very limited compared to those on Silja Line/Tallink and Viking Line. The ship is ageing, but does it job. The noice from breaking ice against the hull of the ship is usual on any ship sailing through thick/packed ice. The ship is classified to the highest Finnish ice class 1A Super (has to be in order to sail throughout the year in these waters). The Russian ferry operator has also brought a bit of the Russian service culture / Russian flare to the whole experience, but hey, you're on your way to Russia anyhow, so you'd have to get used to it anyhow ;-) .

9. Re: Visiting St. Petersburg from Helsinki

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