I am planning a 72 hour visa free visit to St Petersburg via a roundtrip St Peter Line (now owned by Moby SPL Ltd) ferry trip from Helsinki. I will purchase the St Peter Line “Bus Excursion” required for the visa free visit. I plan on using Timofey Kruglikov’s ( referenced in Rick’s St Pete book) 2 day St Petersburg tour. The Moby SPL LTD booking system provides hotel options for room booking (cost of which is significantly higher than independent booking) when booking the ferry fare. And, the Moby SPL Ltd visa free rule on their website states that Moby SPL Ltd reserves the right to refuse check-in at port of departure to anyone booking a St Petersburg hotel outside of the Moby SPL system. So my question: From experience subsequent to the Moby SPL Ltd purchase of the St Peter Line, can anyone tell me if they had any difficulty with departure from Helsinki when they booked their hotel on their own outside of the Moby SPL Ltd website?
I'm not sure nowdays.
In 2016, I used Booking.com to book a hotel on my own without using the St. Peter website, and at check-in in Helsinki, I simply showed them a printout of the reservation. The agent barely looked at it. (FYI, I stayed at the Library hotel close to St. Issac's Square, which is where the "tour" bus drops you off. It's like a hotel shuttle bus, not a "tour" LOL.)
I've since read that they have tightened up the language on their booking website about making your own bookings. I seem to recall they specifically don't want people using AirBnB. But it's not clear whether they are simply trying to scare people into booking through them to make more money or whether they would really turn you away in Helsinki if you haven't booked through them. I'm guessing they wouldn't turn you away - but I would be nervous about that too! It's hard to imagine they'd at least not let you book a hotel on the spot instead through them, obviously at some expense. At very least, I would use a well-known booking service like Booking.com and not AirBnB - and have a printed copy of your reservation not just a view on your phone or something.
I have never used that agency but it seems like it might be part of the rules. You could try to reach someone from the agency for clarifications. This would save you a lot of stress.
I had that same question! I think I read online at adventurouskate.com that she said you do not have to book through the Moby Line. She didn't and she didn't have any issues. She also mentions that the hotels they want you to book are more costly and farther away from the St. Isaac area. If there are others out there that know the answer to this question, I would definitely like to know. Thanks for posting this question.
I am trying to book the hotel through the Moby site for a trip in May, only because the terms & conditions explicitly require it. However, even though we will arrive in St Petersburg on May 24, the hotel reservation defaults to May 23 and I can't seem to change the date on the Moby website.
We would certainly prefer to book our own hotel but I don't want any difficulties. We are pretty seasoned travelers and always plan our own itineraries but this process is a bit daunting.
I sent an email directly to the St. Peter Line website and this was their response:
MOBY SPL LIMITED guarantees accommodation in hotels only if its booked through booking system of MOBY SPLLIMITED. If the hotel is booked through other booking systems not affiliated with MOBY SPLLIMITED and the hotel refuses to accommodate the passenger, MOBY SPL LIMITED shall not be liable and shall not reimburse any of the passenger expenses, moral compensations or any other losses.
You need to book the hotel through our booking system.
How would you interpret this?
I would interpret that to mean they make more money if you book a hotel directly through them - so they try to make it sound like you must, even though they really can't force you to.
Otherwise, why wouldn't they force you? When you check in in Helsinki, if they see you don't have a hotel reservation made through them, they could just deny you a boarding pass then and there. Why wouldn't they say that in the response? Why does their booking engine even allow you to book passage without booking a hotel too? (unless you have a visa and have provided a visa number)?
I suppose it's possible that you make a reservation with some hotel in St. Petersburg that doesn't know how or want to deal with a passenger without a visa - and then you wouldn't have a place to stay. That doesn't mean you couldn't simply book another place on the spot. But if for some reason, St. Petersburg was completely booked up and you had nowhere to stay while there, Moby would not be responsible for you being stuck without lodging. You can't demand a refund - you've been warned.
If you are worried about this, contact the hotel ahead of time and make sure they will accommodate passengers arriving without a visa. When I did (stayed at The LIbrary), the front desk had to fill out some form using the slip of paper I was provided when going through passport control after getting off the ferry (also had to pay a small visitor tax to the hotel - in cash). Otherwise, there was no issue. I booked it through Booking.com. The place is a block away from where the "tour" van dropped us at St. Issac's square; assume it's still the same today.
I booked a hotel on the " Moby partner list" on the Moby website from Expedia. I booked this in May for travel in October. I got confirmation from Expedia and even a welcome letter from the hotel. I verified with Moby that I can book through 3rd party. When the hotel asked me if I am traveling on the 72 hour Visa free they basically told me I have to rebook through Moby. By this time I had my hotel added to my Moby reservation and was told I was good to go. Iv'e sent numerous emails and irritated a lot of people in Finland and Russia. The language used by everyone is vague and confusing and they do not answer my direct questions. Is it completely up to the hotel if they accept 3rd party booking if they are part of the 72 hour Visa process? If booking a hotel through Moby is mandatory does the website not force this selection? Why is there a list of places not to book, if all booking has to be done through the website? I have received two responses that this season some things have changed but that is as specific as it gets... There is a disclaimer that accommodations are only guaranteed if booked through Moby, in the same area is specifically lists which hotels not to book. Perhaps additional things were added to the website without removing others?
Based upon what I have now, the ferry in Helsinki has no issue with what is booked but it appears to be an issue in Russia. I am going to rebook through Moby.
You could also try contacting other hotels on Moby's hotel list and see if they have an issue with how you book or with whom. Things may have changed since 2016 when I booked my hotel (The Library) directly through Booking.com - but at that time, the hotel didn't ask me how I had booked. Maybe they have tightened regulations since then.
So far, I have booked two hotels through booking.com. I have contacted both of them to ask if it is okay that we stay visa-free through the St Peter program. The first hotel was not one of Moby's approved hotels and they just said no, according to a specific Russian provision. The second hotel was one of Moby's approved hotels (Hotel-M), and they also said no. They were more specific; they said that they have recently become unable to honor any reservations for Visa-free passengers that were not made through the St Peter Line. Whether they would really turn us away if we arrived without asking, I don't know... But, I am going to book through St Peter, as annoying and costly as it is.