Please sign in to post.

Russia visit

Is it possible to arrive in St Petersburg by ferry but depart by plane? It would save us a lot of time to fly out of St Petersburg back to Seattle rather than return to Helsinki by ferry then fly home.

Posted by
1068 posts

Yes, you can arrive in St. Petersburg by ferry and fly home.

Posted by
37 posts

That's great news! It won't matter that we don't have visas? For some reason I'm assuming there will be some kind of snafu by doing this!

Posted by
2932 posts

SSSNNAAFFUU !!! Big time !!!! Unless you are joining an organized licensed tour upon disembarking the ferry ( which will limit you to a 72 hour visit ) you cannot enter Russia without a valid VISA - no ifs , ands ,or buts !

Posted by
37 posts

Hmmm. According to the most recent Rick Steves guidebook, you can enter Russia by water (ferry) and are not required to have a visa. That is the only way to enter the country without a visa.

Posted by
2932 posts

I am willing to stand corrected , but I think if you read the book more closely , there will be information pertaining to the rules about traveling with an organized tour . Which of the books are you referring to ?

Posted by
37 posts

It's the St Petersburg, Helsinki & Tallinn book, October 2015. I have read various places that you don't need to join an organized tour when arriving by ferry if you take a City Bus Tour shuttle bus. Doing that satisfies the requirement for an organized tour.
I will check the link you sent. Thanks!

Posted by
2932 posts

I just checked the book , and I assume you are referring to the St Peter Line tour bus . Round trip from port to downtown and back to port . The book says " you are likely to be able to purchase this product " That is a disclaimer which translates to " no guarantee " . Also it is quite clear that you will need to return to the boat at the end of the day ( round trip ) and the paperwork that they provide will be restrictive in that manner ( It does not turn you loose in the city for an indeterminate period of time ) It is also stated that it exploits a loophole that could close at any time . Given the recent International concerns over terrorism ( the Russian plane shot down a few months ago , and the ISIS arrests just yesterday ) , Making an attempt in this direction is poor judgment at the least . Without a Visa , I highly doubt that you will be allowed to roam through the city at will .

Posted by
2932 posts

One further logical conclusion - assuming you are in downtown and make your way out to the airport and attempt to board a flight . You will have to pass border control without a VISA ( the Russian Visa is stamped both upon entry and departure ) You now have no entry stamp , no Visa and cannot get a departure authorization . You will also not have a valid migration card to turn in when you try to leave . ( a requirement of Russian law ) I wouldn't count on being able to board a plane

Posted by
5700 posts

When we were flying out of St. Petersburg, the young men in front of us, elicited first a manager summoned by the exit agent, then some uniforms, then they were escorted out by what looked like soldiers -- or maybe a different set of police uniforms. Something was amiss with their papers. We were held up for about 15 minutes as next in line by this -- they wouldn't allow us to change lines.

I wouldn't want to be trying to exit Russia without the right papers. We had in addition to the stamped passport with Visa, also a paper that attested to our having been locally registered. All of these were carefully reviewed.

Posted by
145 posts

I would really not try my luck guessing what would be "okay" related to visa issues. Especially in Russia. As a Russian citizen, I was helping my Japanese friend to get a tourist visa to Russia. At the consulate, they stressed time and time again two things . 1) when you ask for a visa for say a 7-day trip, you should definitely add another 24-48hours to the margin. Just in case there is a weather related delay (which is obviously not something you can control), you would not be stuck at the airport without a visa. 2) whenever you move and check into a new hotel, you will need to register their. Usually hotels take care of that for you and as tourists we don't have to worry to much, but the fact is that everyone is registered with the proper departments at all time. You can't just start wandering around Russia as you please ;)

So, what I guess I am trying to say is that I would feel so much easier if I had a proper visa and would not have to worry about it later on. Also, I appreciate how helpful most of the replies are on travel forums, but when it comes to the question of visas, entry permits, etc etc (anything to do with the immigration / regulations), I would go to the original source. So I would either write or call a Russian consulate in your region (or anywhere else, even a different country if you don't have one) and ask them for the official and correct information.

Good luck! And enjoy St. Petersburg. A dream of a city!

Posted by
4437 posts

If you want to take advantage of the 72 hour visa free on St Peter Line, you must both arrive and depart on the St Peter Line ferry.

Unlike cruise ship passengers, you do not need to sleep on the ship nor do you need to be accompanied at all times by a licensed guide. You do need to book the St Peter Line's "city bus tour" which is just a shuttle bus that picks you up at the port and drops you off at either St Isaac's Square or one of two hotels used by St Peter Line.

If you book your hotel through St Peter Line, they will supply you with all the paperwork that you need when you arrive to immigration, including the voucher that shows your hotel stay is paid. You can choose to book the hotel on your own, but then you will need to get the documentation that shows your hotel stay is paid from the hotel yourself.

We did the trip using St Peter Line round trip from Helsinki in 2014. We stayed at the Hotel Sokos Vasilievsky which is one of the ships that the ferry offers. It is a bit out of the way, but the shuttle dropped us off and picked us up at the hotel. We used the metro a few times and other times we walked. We stayed two nights, so had basically three days on our own. The first day we visited various sights along Nevsky Prospect. On the second day, we booked an organized tour that took us to the Peterhof Gardens, St Catherine Palace, and the Peter and Paul Fortress. On the last day, we visited the Hermitage.

Posted by
7 posts

This thread has so many misstated or just plain wrong information. The previous post got it right. The law says one thing and Peterline does another with the tacit ok from local officials for the shuttle bus to pass as an organized tour. The law is pretty specific and the intent was to allow ferry passengers the same visa waiver as cruise ship passengers. But the rules got bent seriously and no agency has put a stop to it. So, yes, despite the wording and intent of the law, you can go off and do as you please, no one is going to bother you. One provision of the law is that entry and exit must be by ferry or cruise ship depending on which you arrived on. Flying out is not an option, you can't by a ticket at the counter and can't pass security without a visa.
It is a popular method of Europeans and Scandinavians to visit St Petersburg, a few hundred thousand have done it. It is not as popular with those who have a lot more invested in getting here to St Petersburg, where is stops being a bargain.
I have taken the ferry a couple times and it was fine, dinners pretty high for the quality. Much better dinners and options are had by other ferries like Viking and Silja Lines but they do not come here. Silja used to with modern ships but that ferry bases in Finland was purchased by Tallink who, being based in Estonia was not allowed by Estonia to serve St Petersburg anymore. My biggest gripe about the ferry was their security finding every bit of snacks I tried to sneak in, like fresh fruit and had to pay $31 for a salad on the ferry.

Posted by
13930 posts

Interesting story, James. I missed it - must have been during the stressful preparations for Passover. BTW, Israelis get free automatic Russian toursist visas on arrival. It's because there are apparently more Russian Orthodox tourists visiting the holy sites here than Israelis going to Russia (even though about a million Israelis speak fluent Russian and have friends and relatives there). Since the singer got a new passport from our embassy in Moscow, I presume he did get into the country.

My only visit (so far) was off a cruise ship in St. Petersburg. On our first morning, the immigration clerk didn't want to give us our visas. Her co-worker came over, and the argued rather heatedly for some ten minutes. The clerk finally, and obviously reluctantly, stamped our passports. No idea what her problem was. The second day, it was very routine.

Posted by
9 posts

So if I understand the previous post, I will not be able to bring a sandwich or any thing else edible onto the ferry either in Helsinki or St Petersburg? I was planning something to munch without paying the prices the ferry wants. Not possible?

Posted by
10885 posts

Chani, who knows. I spent a few days in Moscow a few years back and it was interesting. Okay, more than interesting since I am of the "duck and cover" generation. I feel guilty about that trip and wont be repeating it anytime soon.