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Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

Dallas
Level Contributor
259 posts
1 review
Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

Hello,

As per this ferry operator, the new Russian rule allows ferry passengers for 72 hr visa free stay. However, after reading the restrictions, I do not know what EXACTLY it means. Can somebody throw a light on this please since I want to visit Moscow besides St. Petersburg (briefly if feasible. go overgight and return same day overnight by train) on a tour conducted by one of Spb-based tour operator.?

stpeterline.com/en/…Visafreerule.aspx.

Is it same as 72-visa-waiver on arrival for cruise-ship passengers (EXCEPT - proof of hotel stay i.e. hotel voucher) ? Will it allow me go to Moscow also as long as I book the combined tour with one of their recognized tour operator and produce a voucher?

Looks like visiting Russia will be a BIG pain in the xxx - so sorry to say.

Thanks a LOT.

Dallas
Level Contributor
259 posts
1 review
1. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

Sorry. the correct link is - stpeterline.com/en/…Visafreerule.aspx

Moscow, Russia
Level Contributor
46 posts
2. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

>Is it same as 72-visa-waiver on arrival for cruise-ship passengers (EXCEPT - proof of hotel stay i.e. hotel voucher) ?

Yes, it is. Tour operator just wants your money, that's why all these hotels and vouchers.

>Will it allow me go to Moscow?

Yes, it will.

>also as long as I book the combined tour with one of their recognized tour operator and produce a voucher?

Well... it's not necessary in reality.

>Looks like visiting Russia will be a BIG pain in the xxx - so sorry to say.

Trust me, it's much easier then obtaining American or British visa ;-)

Edited: 19 June 2011, 09:02
St Petersburg Russia
Destination Expert
for St. Petersburg
Level Contributor
2,758 posts
27 reviews
3. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

You are getting bad and dangerous advice.

You can't leave the region, Moscow does not have a visa waiver.

You must book a tour and have hotel reservations if staying in the city. A a sneaky way around the law, Peterline has a shuttle bus they call a tour operated "tour" which you have to buy, so you can take part in the visa waiver program. Some tour operator, it does not have to be Peterline, any authorized tour operator, who is your official sponsor. You are not supposed to be in the city on your own, you need a supervising sponsor. In the case of Peterline, they just do not supervise you after you get out of the shuttle bus, although they are legally responsible for you. The city administration has told the police to not be too hard on visitors who have no visa and no apparent supervising tour operator representative with them. But if outside of the St Petersburg jurisdiction you are fair game for police to detain you for not having a proper visa. The police can and do detain cruise ship passengers out wandering on their own however.

Moscow, Russia
Level Contributor
46 posts
4. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

A friend of mine (he is from South Korea but lives in UK) visited me in Moscow using this way. He was checked by the police at Leningradsky railway station and he didn't have any problem. So, I can't see why it's 'bad and dangerous'.

London
5 posts
5. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

The visa-waiver for ferry passengers is not, in practice, the same as for cruise passengers (see http://www.discoverthebaltic.com/spb/visas.htm) because ferry passengers don't have to stay with their guide all the time they are ashore. It would not even be possible to make them, because many ferry passengers stay overnight.

There must be an element of shoreside service for ferry passengers to go ashore without a visa. As Stanj says, St Peter Line does this with a shuttle bus from the Marine Terminal to the Centre, which takes you on a brief tour in the process, and which you have to buy with your ferry ticket. But you don't have to take this shuttle bus. You must buy the service but there's no one making you use it.

You might as well, because it gets you to the centre, but last time I went, the bus got stuck in traffic before we reached the end of the tour and we just got off and hoofed it the rest of the way.

London
5 posts
6. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

Correction: I wrote about St Peter Line using the Marine Terminal in St Petersburg, when in fact they've moved to the Passenger Port in the new Marine Facade development. But it's only about 2 mi (3 km) away.

St Petersburg Russia
Destination Expert
for St. Petersburg
Level Contributor
2,758 posts
27 reviews
7. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

Read the visa waiver law....there is no difference in the provisions for cruise passengers and ferry passengers. The only reason ferry passengers are wandering around unsupervised is because local St Petersburg city administration is looking the other way due to insider connections and "considerations" with Peterline being owned by Inflot. That does not change the federal law which is the only applicable to entry into Russia and limits the waiver to a small number of ports, no inland areas. Ask an immigration agent when entering. They will tell you that you have to be supervised while off the ship.

Peterline says right on their web site that you have to buy the "city tour" to allowed access to the city. That is supposed to be a supervised tour but once in the city, they are relying on their connection to an official of the city administration....which has no jurisdiction over immigration or federal laws.

If the OP plans on visiting areas, such as Moscow, where the police and officials did not get in on the "considerations", they better have a legal visa.

This issue has been brought up in meetings with the federal immigration officials and they say they know nothing about tours just dumping people off without supervision. Peterline's own multilingual web site only mentions free time in the city on their English language version, not their Russian language site.

London
5 posts
8. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

Thanks for putting me right on that point, Stanj.

But I'd be interested to know how ferry passengers could be chaperoned in the same way as cruise passengers, because one lot sleep on the ship while the other lot can stay ashore. Would you have the authorised guides waiting in the hotel lobby all night? Or would the ferry passengers be locked in their hotel rooms from 8 pm to 8 am?

By the way, it's not just Spb. Things are just the same in Vyborg, except that the ferry company doesn't even pretend to arrange tours. All the passengers go their own way as soon as they pass the customs. And the Saimaa canal ferry company is not owned by Inflot.

Dallas
Level Contributor
259 posts
1 review
9. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

Thanks a LOT folks. I really do NOT wish to take a chance with the interpretation of these esoteric rules and land up in the jail and being shown on CNN as a USA spy........just kidding.

I will rather apply for a visa and take a train OR just avoid visiting Russia all together. .....this is TOO complicated.

Plymouth, Minnesota
Destination Expert
for Moscow
Level Contributor
6,482 posts
4 reviews
10. Re: Helsinki to St. Petersburg ferry - Visa free rule. Questions

I understand you are frustrated...but the reality is a HUGE # of folks quite successfully and easily visit Russia- and take in not only Moscow and St. Petersburg and other places like the Golden Ring cities. I think your "issue" here is you would have liked to not have to hassle with the whole visa thing...

Yes, it can be a hassle, but if you want to see more than St. Petersburg (which frankly is amazing enough on its own to keep you busy for 2-3 days and get an initial good sense of the country), then the reality is you need a visa...and again, many, many folks have done that and found it well worth the "hassle"...