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St Peterline review

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Atlanta, Georgia
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52 posts
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St Peterline review

I know there are a lot of questions on this site regarding the St Peters Line boat cruise from Helsinki to St Petersburg (I, too, was looking for information when planning our trip), and since I just got back from a visit (using this line), I thought I'd write a review to help out others who may use this mode of transportation in the future.

First, we are Americans (living in Helsinki) and we had no problems as it related to the visa, so I assume, if you're European or any other nationality, it's just as easy.

First, we reserved our on-boat room, online and it was quite easy (http://stpeterline.com/en/OnBoard/News.aspx). If you plan on staying longer than the 10 hour one-day trip in St Petersburg (i.e. dock in the morning and get back on the boat that evening), you'll need to choose "return" trip, rather than round trip.

If you want the visa-free stay in St Petersburg, you need to stay less than 72 hours in St Petersburgs (from the time you arrive, not the time you get on the ship). We left on a Thursday evening from Helsinki (arrive in St Petersburg Fridaymorning) and got back on the ship Sunday evening...so about 56 hours total in St Petersburg.

The ship itself is simple. There are two restaurants, two bars, a cafe, a duty free shop, a casino, a pool and rooms. There is also a kids play area but it's only open limited hours. Pretty basic, but you're only on there to travel, so it is what it is.

The room itself is a cruise room. Basic. They do have baby cots on board. Our room, the Commodore, had a window and its own bathroom. Other than sleeping, you don't want to spend much time in there.

When we left Helsinki and arrived in St Petersburg, you have to go thru passport control in both (which takes the most time...lots of line and waiting in lines). so just be prepared.

Your boat boarding pass serves as your visa during your stay in St Petersburg. You will NOT get a visa in your passport, you simply carry around the boarding pass with you at all times, along with your passport, in the case you get stopped and asked for your papers. This is what you show the police, and YES it makes you legitimate (the boarding pass in your visa), so long as you stay less than 72 hours.

We had absolutely no problems during our stay nor during boarding procedures at either location. It was super easy and a great way to travel without having to go thru the visa process.

We did stay at a hotel two nights in St Petersburg (Comfort Hotel...which was wonderful, great location and highly recommended), and they could have provided us with Visa paperwork, but again, we did not need it b/c the boarding pass from the boat was all we needed.

I hope this helps. I would definitely recommend the boat. It was hassle free, easy, etc. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

58 replies to this topic
Austin, Texas
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202 posts
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1. Re: St Peterline review

Thanks for all the info! We have bookings on St. Peter Line for later this month. A couple of quick questions --

-- How early do you think one needs to arrive at the ferry dock in Helsinki? The boarding window is quite long. Would 1 hour before the departure time be enough?

-- Same question for the St. Petersburg side (How early should we arrive a the dock for the return boarding?) In both cities, I'd rather maximize my time in the city rather than sitting on a boat waiting for it to depart.

-- Can you give an approximation of how much time you spent waiting in the immigration / passport lines on each side of the crossing?

Thanks a bunch!

Atlanta, Georgia
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52 posts
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2. Re: St Peterline review

When we arrived at the terminal (in Helsinki) at 4:30, we waited in the passport control line about 45 minutes. I'm not sure if a tour bus had just arrived, but the lines were really long and it moved really slow. I know boarding occurs 3pm - 6:30pm...so anytime in between works.

Also, when we boarded, once you get thru passport control, and get up to the actual boat entrance, there is another long line for security check (all bags have to go thru a scanner), so it takes a while. Other than that, you're home free!

The boat docks in St Petersburg around 9:15 (the sign says 9:30, but we arrived early). There is a HUGE line to get off the boat, so I would suggest getting in line around 8:45 or 9 so that you can be first off (it's located on the 4th floor, opposite the door you entered). Once you get off, you're directed to passport control in St Petersburg and although they have 6 counters open, it took us 30 minutes to get thru this line b/c we were so far back in line getting off the boat.

once thru passport control, if you bought the "mandatory tour" pass (i.e. your visa-free pass), there are several white little mini buses located just outside the terminal with a St Peters Line sign in the windshield. Get on one of those and they'll drop you off (for free) at sites around the city. We actually got them to drop us off at our hotel, which was nice.

On the return home, the line was super short to get thru passport control. We arrived at 5pm and walked right thru passport control and security (no lines). And once again, when arriving in helsinki, be sure to get in line early b/c the line to get off the boat gets super long. We docked at 8:30am, and we were in line by 8am so we could be first off and then first thru passport control. Best decision ever not to have to stand in line b/c they move slow.

Other than that...eveything is a piece of cake. We didn't find any lines at the restauants on board. In terms of lines in St Petersburg, buy your Hermitage pass ahead of time (our hotel sold them at the front desk) b/c the line is HUGE there, and you can bypass it all with a pre-paid ticket.

Good luck!

Austin, Texas
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3. Re: St Peterline review

Thanks for the detailed information! :)

Bratislava, Slovakia
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4. Re: St Peterline review

Hi,

thank you very much for posting your review, this is exactly the kind of info I´ve been looking for as we are planning on taking the same trip and staying for 72 hours in St. Petersburg as well.

However, I have read that when going to the passport control upon leaving the ship in St. Petersburg, when you plan to stay for 72 hours, you need to present a hotel reservation voucher for those 2 nights you plan to stay.

Is this true? Did you need to show this and did you hotel provide such confirmation in advance? Do you maybe have an idea if this applies also if one plans to stay in a private apartment? Thank you very much for help.

Atlanta, Georgia
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5. Re: St Peterline review

We had a printed reservaton from our hotel, but were never asked for proof of it by the people in passport control. They simply asked for our passports and our boat "departing" tickets. And then when you get back on the boat they ask for the "boarding" ticket along with your passport (all of which you get when you originally check-in at the boat terminal). I believe, on the boat we had to fill out a form (per person), the same you would get on an international plane flight (can't remember the name of it) with your passport number, etc.

Also, when we traveled, we had made copies of our passports, so if we were stopped by the police, we would hand over the copies, versus our real passports, in order to avoid any complications (i.e. bribes). But we were never stopped, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

Also, when taking taxis, negotiate the price ahead of time (we actually had our hotel call and negotiate for us) b/c we've heard there have been issues with a) not speaking english and b) getting ripped off once you've reached your destination. just take precautions and be safe.

I think that's it. I would just have all paper work with you at all times. And just know that most people dont speak English - even at restaurants and at the touristy sites, English is EXTREMELY limited. But enjoy it, it's an experience. ;-)

Bratislava, Slovakia
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6. Re: St Peterline review

Hi,

thank you very much for all the information, I´m very glad to hear from somebody who already has made the experience, as initially I was kind of unsure about this 72 hours trip, because getting stranded in Russia without the right kind of papers definitely is not my kind of holiday :)

And, actually I´ve already been to Petersburg a couple of years ago, so I do know very well how beautiful the city is and that the trip definitely is worth any kind of trouble, even though there almost always tend to be some. I have visited St. Petersburg with an organised group from a finnish university back then and now I´m very much looking forward to dragging some friends along and show them what they have missed. :)

Thanks again for the reply!

Oxford, United...
3 posts
1 review
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7. Re: St Peterline review

Hawk,

The reservation that you printed out, was it an official "tourist voucher" in Russian issued by the hotel? Or was it just a basic printout from Expedia or similar? The hotel I've booked wants to charge €25 per person for a full letter of invitation, which is normally only required for a proper visa.

Thanks!

Atlanta, Georgia
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52 posts
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8. Re: St Peterline review

Our hotel charged a per-person fee if they were providing us an actual Visa but for this boat trip, we just printed off the confirmation the hotel emailed us (with our names, booked dates, confirmation code, etc). So nothing "official" per se, but enough to prove that we were staying there for those two nights. Again, we were never asked for it by the boat. and to answer your question, no the hotel did not charge us for the confirmation email (only if you needed an actual visa)

hope that helps

Detroit
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3 posts
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9. Re: St Peterline review

Hawk15,

Thank you so much for all of your helpful comments.

I am ending a trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg August 28, with a few days in Helsinki.

I was on the fence about the ferry, but your clear descriptions of what to expect have convinced me to give it a try instead of the train.

Thanks again, and I will post my own review once my trip is complete.

Bulldog

Los Angeles...
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10. Re: St Peterline review

Great info! Thanks for the detail!

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