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Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Seattle, Washington
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Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Because I had a lot of questions about this before I went, I thought I would share my experience:

I booked the Helsinki-St. Pete-Helsinki ferry trip on St. Peter Line, leaving Wednesday May 22 in the evening, and departing STP Friday evening May 25.

- I booked via website a B-class private cabin for myself, both ways, at a total cost of $363 (including the mandatory city tour). The cabin was fine and I was even impressed with the pressure and temperature of the shower. Be sure to immediately turn the air-conditioning up to full blast upon check-in, because I think they turn it off when room is cleaned. Without, the room got stuffy.

For my three days and two nights in St. Petersburg (your stay must be less than 72 hours), I arranged accommodation privately via airbnb.com. This was partly because hotels are expensive there and partly because I prefer a bnb-type experience.

Now, I believe the visa-free program is set up so that ferry passengers book both tours and accommodation via St. Peter Line. But this is not entirely necessary. The only real requirement is that you book the "City Tour" on the St. Peter site at the same time as you book your ferry trip. This city tour is actually no more than a shuttle from the ferry terminal into the center of historic St. Petersburg. Along with times for you to catch the return shuttle two days later. It just so happened that one of the shuttle stops was a hotel no more than 5 minutes walk from the guesthouse I booked.

What I wasn't sure about before I left was whether an official tourist "invitation" -- showing payment of hotel -- would be required at any point in the trip. To be safe, I asked my guesthouse host about it, and he arranged for an invitation to be emailed to me by a travel agency (at a cost of $15).

It turns out the only place where they asked for this was when I checked in at the ferry terminal in Helsinki with St. Peter Line. I'm not sure what they would have done if I didn't have the letter. Upon arrival in St. Petersburg at immigration/passport check, they did not ask for anything accept the departure/arrival cards provided by St. Peter Line. My advice would be for people booking this kind of accommodation independently: get the letter from a travel agency as insurance. It's only 15 bucks.

Meantime, St. Petersburg was fantastic. I figure the $363 paid for the ferry trip is less than the $200 visa costs plus two nights of hotel (since the ferry trip includes essentially two nights 'hotel' in your cabin), so economically it made sense for me. Not to mention all of the hassle I avoided by not having to wrangle all the paperwork for the visa from back home, plus hoping it would arrive in time.

On the other hand, spending what amounts to about 54 hours in St. Petersburg is a bit of a crime: I barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in that wonderful city. Now I will have to go back!

206 replies to this topic
Oulu, Finland
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41. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Hi, Thanks for all the info provided.

Any body travelled in 2014? Just to get to know if there are any changes compared to the info shared above.

I plan to take this trip sometime in Apr or May 2014

Thanks in advance

Toronto, Canada
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42. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Hi. I see that you took the St. Peter line cruise before. Do you have any idea about the accommodation? I am travelling myself and mulling whether to get Class A or Commodore. If I book Class A for 2 pax, is that room going to be my private lodging? Or is someone else gonna be joining me in that room? Thanks.

Frankfurt, Germany
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43. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Dags M

It's private, or, it's supposed to be.

Colorado Springs...
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44. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

If you follow the excellent threads, advise, and suggestion in this thread you will have a 72 hour visa! This thread is all about the 72 hour paper-less fee-less visa. The other type of visa is the 30-90 day visa, with paperwork, delivery to the Russian embassy in your country, and payment of some large fees well in advance of your trip. Even the hotels do not understand the rules and visas, as it is relatively new the 72 hour visa. Some still operate on the old 30-90 day visa rules only.

Mumbai
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45. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Dear Rasbobbo,

Would like to hav some advice. I hav booked a similar trip whr my first night is on Maria, second night in a hotel booked thru the St Petersline Maria. The question is after my night stay at the hotel the day two can I undertake a tour to Pushkin on my own for Catherine palace ? Or r there other tour operators who offer such tour to Pushkin n drop back to the ferry ? Pl advice.

Oakland, California
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46. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

We really appreciate the great tips and advice in this forum. We had a wonderful visa free 3 day/2 night trip in mid May, using the St. Peter Line ferry to and from Helsinki, the required city shuttle bus tour, and a St. Peter Line hotel package (staying at the Sokos Hotel Vasilievsky). We easily explored on our own - on foot and by the #10 trolley, but we also took a great 4-5 hour walking tour with Peter of Peter’s Walking Tours on one of the days. The Rick Steve’s snapshot guide book is also quite helpful for self guided visits to the Hermitage, Russian Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, Kunstkamera, and other attractions.

Fresno, California
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47. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Ah, glad you're online and answering many of my questions!

I have a big concern about my receipt for the St Peter Line ferry trip from Helsinki. My receipt only shows what I paid. It has NO confirmation of dates, cabin type, City Tour, etc. I have not been able to get in touch with SLP via email, and don't know if this is what I should have in my hand when I arrive in 30 days. Please advise!!

Oakland, California
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48. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

We had a one page "Confirmation" sheet that came as a pdf file in an email from St. Peter Line when we booked online. This confirmation does show the booking number, our dates, city tour, cabin type, and hotel name. I was concerned that we didn't have something labeled "hotel voucher". However, when we checked in about two weeks ago in Helsinki, they simply looked up the booking number and/or names from our sheet and then quickly printed out the credit card sized arrival cards, the departure/city tour cards, the hotel voucher, and the ferry boarding cards/cabin keys for both of us. Presumably, you have the booking number. You could go back to the St. Peter Line website and register (if you didn't already) and look up and hopefully print the reservation details by your booking number.

This is the email message that came with the pdf confirmation file:

"Thank you for choosing to travel with ST. PETER LINE and for using our booking service! Your booking confirmation is attached.

This booking confirmation is required during check-in and boarding.

Welcome on board!"

ST. PETER LINE

St. Petersburg, Liteyny pr. 63

Tel: +7(812)333-52-71

Tel: +7(921)560-21-57

E-mail: online@stpeterline.com

Internet: www.stpeterline.com

Fresno, California
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49. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Thanks so much for your comments! I did not register when I bought my tickets on St PeterLine; maybe that was my mistake. I didn't seem to be able to go back and register later. So, I finally called St PeterLine (Helsinki number worked better for me after trying the St Petersburg number) and they confirmed that my receipt was fine, as it had a booking number. They went ahead and emailed me a more detailed confirmation showing my dates and CIty Tour, and were very nice about it.

Saratoga, California
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50. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Hi--

I was researching this topic and came across your posting.

Did you ever make this trip as you had mentioned in your post? That is , board your ferry from Stockholm --> Tallin-->St.Petersburg --> Helsinki? If you had, would like to know your experience as I'm planning the same trip for September.

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