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Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
15 posts
39 reviews
Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Because I had a lot of questions about this before I went, I thought I would share my experience:

I booked the Helsinki-St. Pete-Helsinki ferry trip on St. Peter Line, leaving Wednesday May 22 in the evening, and departing STP Friday evening May 25.

- I booked via website a B-class private cabin for myself, both ways, at a total cost of $363 (including the mandatory city tour). The cabin was fine and I was even impressed with the pressure and temperature of the shower. Be sure to immediately turn the air-conditioning up to full blast upon check-in, because I think they turn it off when room is cleaned. Without, the room got stuffy.

For my three days and two nights in St. Petersburg (your stay must be less than 72 hours), I arranged accommodation privately via airbnb.com. This was partly because hotels are expensive there and partly because I prefer a bnb-type experience.

Now, I believe the visa-free program is set up so that ferry passengers book both tours and accommodation via St. Peter Line. But this is not entirely necessary. The only real requirement is that you book the "City Tour" on the St. Peter site at the same time as you book your ferry trip. This city tour is actually no more than a shuttle from the ferry terminal into the center of historic St. Petersburg. Along with times for you to catch the return shuttle two days later. It just so happened that one of the shuttle stops was a hotel no more than 5 minutes walk from the guesthouse I booked.

What I wasn't sure about before I left was whether an official tourist "invitation" -- showing payment of hotel -- would be required at any point in the trip. To be safe, I asked my guesthouse host about it, and he arranged for an invitation to be emailed to me by a travel agency (at a cost of $15).

It turns out the only place where they asked for this was when I checked in at the ferry terminal in Helsinki with St. Peter Line. I'm not sure what they would have done if I didn't have the letter. Upon arrival in St. Petersburg at immigration/passport check, they did not ask for anything accept the departure/arrival cards provided by St. Peter Line. My advice would be for people booking this kind of accommodation independently: get the letter from a travel agency as insurance. It's only 15 bucks.

Meantime, St. Petersburg was fantastic. I figure the $363 paid for the ferry trip is less than the $200 visa costs plus two nights of hotel (since the ferry trip includes essentially two nights 'hotel' in your cabin), so economically it made sense for me. Not to mention all of the hassle I avoided by not having to wrangle all the paperwork for the visa from back home, plus hoping it would arrive in time.

On the other hand, spending what amounts to about 54 hours in St. Petersburg is a bit of a crime: I barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in that wonderful city. Now I will have to go back!

212 replies to this topic
Moscow, Russia
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12,409 posts
223 reviews
31. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging


Level Contributor
38 posts
34 reviews
32. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this post. It is the most informative place I have yet found for several of my questions. I am working on my itinerary and hope to visit three locations by ferry. We hope to depart from Stockholm and visit Helsinki, Tallinn, and St. Petersburg. We are scheduled to fly out of Helsinki.

WIth so many different ferry options I am unclear about the best routes and schedules to take. I was intially planning to take a ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki (want to go through the Archipelago), then take the ferry to Tallinn, ferry back to Helsinki, then ferry to St. Petersburg, and back to Helsinki.

It now seems that I might be more efficient by going from Stockholm to Tallinn ( will we still see the archepelego?) Tallinn to Helsinki, Helsinki to St. Petersburg, and then back to Helsinki.

Is that the best option or are there others I haven't thought of? Please forgive me if this isn't the right forum for my quesion and point me in the right direction. I have not found a travel agent who is conversant enough in these locations and ferry options to advise me.

Thanks for any help you can provide.

St. Petersburg...
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2,442 posts
20 reviews
33. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging


Princess Anastasia cruise goes Stockholm - Tallinn - SPb - Helsinki - Stockholm (you can catch it in any of these cities but it goes in the same order only) …stpeterline.com/en/Schedule/Schedule.aspx

If you need more time in each city you can take not "cruise" but "return trip" option - but again, the ferry would visit the cities in the order above.

if you'd like to go to Tallinn from Helsinki (or vice versa) you'd take one of the few local ferries that travels only between the two cities.

if you still want to do Hel - SPb - Hel you can take Princess Maria www.stpeterline.ru/en/Schedule/Schedule.aspx

Pordenone, Italy
Level Contributor
154 posts
152 reviews
34. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

I have selected 4 hotels in SPB for my visa-free stay at the end of April. However one of them states in its website that guests without visa are not accepted if not being part of a group. I have emailed the hotel and they have confirmed we cannot stay at this hotel (we are 2 couples on our own). Is it possible?

Should I contact the other 3 hotels I was considering and ask for confirmation that we can stay even if we have no visa?

Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
15 posts
39 reviews
35. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

paopao2 - I would check with the other hotels to be safe. Another option -- which is what I did -- is to book a room via AirBnB. These are small private places that will provide more personal information about what is required to stay there if you do not have a visa: https:/…Saint-Petersburg--Russia

I stayed here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/434046, a very nice place which is very close to one of the stops for the shuttle from the St Peter Line ship.

Pordenone, Italy
Level Contributor
154 posts
152 reviews
36. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Thank you Rasbobbo for your prompt reply. I'll check with the hotels. One of them belongs to the Sokos chain and it is proposed by the St. Peterline in their No-Visa package.

Monrovia, California
Level Contributor
2 posts
37. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

So I am doing to same thing going from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, but can I fly out of St. Petersburg to Armenia for 2 weeks then go back to St. Petersburg and then take a ferry back to Helsinki. I would only be in St. Petersburg for 3 days, but my return ticket would be 2 weeks after I arrive in St. Petersburg.

Would having copies of all our airline tickets to and from St. Petersburg sufficient to qualify for the the 72 hour visa free?

I have tried calling the Russian consulate to try and find out but i cannot get through.


Moscow, Russia
Level Contributor
2,677 posts
38. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

No. You need to arrive by a ferry and leave St. Petersburg no later than 72 hours after arrival by a ferry. For your itinerary, you need to get a Russian visa.

New York City, New...
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52 posts
112 reviews
39. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

This thread is so excellent . I was trying to figure out exactly how to do this HEL-SPB-HEL visa free and the St Pete Line website is not very helpful. However, the information here is terrific and what makes it worthwhile to be a member of the TA community. Thanks everybody!

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
4 posts
40 reviews
40. Re: Visa-free trip to St. Petersburg - with private lodging

Hello. Question about the private cabin at St. Peter's Line. I do not see that as an option in their website (https:/…travelclass) unless I interpret it the wrong way. I am planning to get A2 (Class A for 2 pax) and do I get the room for myself though it says good for 2 pax? I am travelling alone. Thanks for the info.

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