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Moby St. Peter Line to St. Petersburg Questions

I have been looking at Rick's guides and the website for Moby St. Peter Line ferries into St. Petersburg to try to understand how they and the visa free rule works.

From what I understand, if you travel with them to St. Petersburg, you do not need a visa. They talk about a 25 Euro shuttle service from the ferry to the city center. It seems like that shuttle counts as the "organized tour" that you have to take for the Russia no-visa rule. Is that correct? If I go with them, am I free to travel around the city by myself?

Also, their website does not tell sailing times very clearly. I can see, for example, that I would leave Helsinki on a Wednesday at 19:00 and then return to Helsinki on Friday at 08:00. How long are you actually on the ferry? How long do you actually have to spend in St. Petersburg? You rent a cabin, so are you sleeping on the boat on Wednesday night and/or Thursday night or do you need to reserve a hotel room for night(s) while in St. Petersburg? Their website sends you to booking.com so I am thinking you need a hotel for at least one night.

I'd love to go to St. Petersburg as an offshoot of following Rick's Scandinavia itinerary, but I really don't want to pay for a visa for a very brief visit.

Anyone who has traveled with Moby/St. Peter Line and knows more of how it works, please help. Thanks.

Posted by
4685 posts

There's a long Trip Advisor thread (or two) about this - dig it up, mostly still valid, except that Moby acquired the St. Peterline a year or so ago.

I did the trip from Helsinki and back in 2016. The schedule has been changed a few times since Moby took over (also only one ferry doing the run now - used to be two). Looks like, as of now, it's about the same as it was for me two years ago.

You are on the ferry overnight each way. Exact sailing time is pretty accurate as given on the St. Peter booking website (12-14 hours?) I went alone and had my own little cabin - tight but a more comfortable than expected. I enjoyed the ferry very much, actually, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

The "bus tour" is a bureaucratic nicety to satisfy the Russian law. It's more like an airport shuttle-type of service to get you from the ferry port to the center of town (St. Issac's Square, basically the center of town) - assume it is required, just an extra fee. Once they drop you off, you are completely on your own until you get back on the bus a few days later. I think you still arrive in the morning, spend two nights, and the third afternoon get the bus back to the ferry and sail that night for Helsinki - how I did it. I made my own hotel reservation on Booking.com (I stayed at The Library - modest place, good price, great location.) It all worked out fine. I bought no meals ahead of time while booking the ferry - there are restaurants and snack bars on the ferry.

St. Petersburg is very touristy and relaxed (many Asian tour groups). I don't speak Russian or read Cyrillic at all, but I had no trouble getting around. My Android phone with Google Maps made it far easier to get around - made using the buses a snap (40 Rubles cash, buy a ticket on board from the conductor or the driver). You can walk many places, but St. Petersburg is huge; the cheap bus can save your feet (also the subway, which I didn't use). Try to get out at night (if not in mid-June when it almost never gets dark) and see all the buildings lit up and along the Neva - very beautiful.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you, Andrew H. I did search out those other sites. I also found some of the reviews on Moby's Facebook page to be helpful.

Did you use the ferry option? On their website, I was looking at the "cruise" tab which didn't give times. The cruise option only seems to let you stay in St. Petersburg for most of one day. The ferry option showed travel time.

With the ferry option, it seems that you are booking two one way tickets. I guess you have to make sure you don't try to book something that overstays the 72 hour rule. They talk of not letting people off the boat until 2pm that are staying for the 2 nights in St. Petersburg. Did you experience that?

Thanks again!

Posted by
4685 posts

Ignore the "cruise" option and stick to "ferry trip" bookings on the Moby/St. Peter Line website. I booked mine as a round-trip; I'm sure you can too. It won't let you book a round-trip ticket longer than the 72 hours without providing a visa number during the booking process. I think I tried that as an experiment when booking originally. (You can take the ferry and stay as long as you wish if you have a Russian visa.)

As I said, the schedule has changed a few times, it seems, since Moby took over. I've checked it a few times; maybe it always varies from month to month now. I think I have seen people post schedules where they could stay for three nights, not just two like I did. But to make that work, as you say, you'd have to stay on the ferry long after it arrived in the morning. Makes sense: keep you on the ferry until 2PM, let you stay three nights, and you must be back on before 2PM three days later (probably well before 2PM to be safe) and then wait til evening to depart again. It seems the ferries sail overnight no matter what, so the scheduling and amount of time you must wait to get off will depend on whether you are getting two nights like I did or three.

For example, checking some random dates in June on the St. Peter website: you can depart Helsinki the evening of June 6, arrive the morning of June 7, stay over June 7 and 8th, and depart the evening of June 9th. That's the same kind of schedule I had; you'd get off the ship immediately in the morning on June 7th and need to get back by late afternoon June 9th (sailing at 7PM so probably by 5:30PM very latest to be safe). But if you found a schedule where you arrived on the 7th and departed the 10th...that would be three nights, so they'd keep you on the ferry til afternoon when you arrived, give you 72 hours, and have you back early on the 10th, long before sailing, to keep it a 72 hours.

Make sense?