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Customs delays

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Customs delays

I have been told that there can be delays of several hours being allowed off cruise ships in St Petersburg whilst customs officers check the details. Has anyone experienced this? I'm not sure whether to book an activity for the first morning there!

Los Angeles...
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1. Re: Customs delays

If you book with a cruise ship - don't worry about it. They will be waiting for you as you will not be the only one delayed. If you book on your own (usually cheaper and better) don't worry about it either. The guide will wait for you if there is any delay.

Usually there are no delays other than cruise lines giving you wrong information and attempting to delay your over customers who bought their tours.

Do a search on this forum and you will see a lot of discussions and advice.

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2. Re: Customs delays

We came in by bus (From Latvia), not by cruise ship, so I can't speak from personal experience; but it's my guess that you've been told right. One of the reasons, we were told, that the bus is so much cheaper than the train is that, on the train, all the formalities can be done while the train roars on, and, hopefully, you sleep through at least part of them. The bus, however, stopped for over two hours, most of which was spent just waiting in a queue. I would fear that a cruise ship would have that same queue, of passengers waiting to disembark, passports and visas in hand. Maybe you'll be lucky, and your last name starts with the first letter of the Cyrillic alphabet (just kidding).... but I think I would plan a fairly "light" morning, just in case!

St Petersburg Russia
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3. Re: Customs delays

Customs Clearance occurs as a formality within 15-25 minutes of your ship docking. Last year there was an attempt by some cruise lines to introduce delays for those with visas in their passports and for those taking independent tours. They were swamped with complaints and even a federal investigation to get to the bottom of it. The ships and their port agent were blaming Immigration officials for making a new rule when they were totally surprised that passengers did not come out when expected and being waited for.

The investigation determined it was an artificially created delay, probably for sales benefit to the ships to sell their increasingly less popular shore excursions.

After getting so many complaints and cancelled bookings on the ships that were really bad about this, this season has been just the opposite. Usually the independent tour members are getting off the ship within 25 minutes of the ship docking and the ship sold shore excursion members are following close behind. The immigration officials are manning more passport control stations than ever, 8-12 for each ship so it is much faster than in the airport, train and much faster than bus or car. For most people disembarking, the lines are almost nonexistent.

A bus approaching the border is another story and has a lot to do with reciprocal diplomatic relations. The delays into the Baltic States can be long. The wait for trucks with cargo can be days. Going to Finland or returning is about 1 hour for bus. For land/air travel the process on the train is the easiest. Most of it occurs well before the border and the only time you see a Customs and Immigration official is when they walk through giving your passports back. Prior to reaching the boarder the train crew collects the passports and a customs and immigration agent boards the train and rides with it, performing passport control clearance and passport stamps in a small crew office on the train without the passenger ever having to get up from their seat.

4. Re: Customs delays

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