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Russian Visa guidance

We are going to St. Petersburg on a cruise this summer. The cruise has a two day stop and we are really leaning towards a DIY tour. But where I am struggling is the visa cost and timing I thought it was going to be around $250 to get it all done, but just came one website on here where they claim the processing fee is now $300, plus their addons for doing the work for us.... Anyone done this recently? If we are heading towards $1,000 for Visas for the two of us we might as well hire a private guide!

Also, does anyone know how far in advance you can apply for the visa? 90 days? 60 days? ( would prefer earlier in case something happens to my passport!)


Posted by
4637 posts

Visa procedures are changing quite often. Russians are strictly reciprocal. Whatever US requires of their citizens they require of ours. Australia required to fill application in English. Immediately Australians were required to fill their application for Russian visa in russian. I don't know if you want to go through all that work and expense just for two days. We were there 2 years ago but for 3 weeks. St. Petersburg, Moscow and cruise on Volga River all the way to the Caspian Sea. We had visa invitation and cruise and also some tours in St. Petersburg from . You will find a lot of information on their website, also visa information.

Posted by
11286 posts

You can probably hire a private guide for a comparable price to getting the visas. In addition, my experience was the I didn't need to speak Russian to get around St. Petersburg and the main sights, but I did absolutely need the Cyrillic alphabet. I used the book Teach Yourself Beginner's Russian Script. I see it's out of print, but used copies are cheap on Amazon:

If you don't want to go to the trouble of learning Cyrillic, definitely use a guide. Here are some companies that are highly recommended on Cruise Critic; I have no experience with them:

Alla Tours;
Red October:
SPB Tours:

And do look at Cruise Critic for more information on how to do St. Petersburg from a cruise. Here's their St. Petersburg Port Review:

And here's their Northern Europe and the Baltics Ports Forum:

Posted by
2002 posts

Thanks. We have a Russian friend who will help us with the language. Having done some research it looks like visas will cost around $300. Not sur why everyone keeps saying a tour at well over $1,000 costs the same LOL.

We have decided to skip Catherine's Palace and to focus on just sites in St. Petersburg. We are getting Hermitage tickets on line.....

Posted by
7205 posts

Oh My Gosh - Catherine's Palace is stunning. I'm sorry you're confined to your cruise schedule because that was the highlight of our trip. The Amber Room, although a reproduction, is amazing.

Posted by
11 posts

I would advise getting a local tour company arrange your tour itinerary. We went to St. Petersburg last summer and used Palladium Travel - they were very flexible and arranged everything the way we wanted. Also - we didn't need visas.