If you are touring Scandinavia with your motorhome and want to experience St Petersburg this guide tells you the options for doing so. If you want to read about our visit to St Petersburg first click here, or wait until the end of this guide.

1.) The Visa Free 'Loophole'
2.) Options, Days and Prices
3.) Booking Via the St Peters Line Website
4.) Budget Accommodation in St Petersburg
5.) Leaving your van in Helsinki
6.) Longer Stay (Visa) and High Speed Rail Link

1.) The Visa Free 'Loophole'

Since 2010 it has been possible to visit St Peteprovided for you at check in with the exception of your hotel reservation which you will be required to show at the same time and may be asked for it at any time. You will also be provided with an immigration form with two parts (entrance and exit) for you to fill out out and hand to Russian Customs on your entrance and exit to Russia. You will also get your passport stamped!


2.) Options, Dates & Prices

You need to take a Monday or a Thursday sailing in order to travel Visa-Free

The ferry departs Helsinki from the Olympic Terminal at 19:00 (GMT +2) and arrives in St Petersburg at the brand new and very smart Maritime Fa├žade Cruise Terminal at 09:30 (GMT +3) local time, departing at 19:00.

If you want to travel Visa Free you have to take a Monday or a Thursday Sailing from Helsinki.

Prices depend largely on the cabin, accommodation and options chosen for your crossing. The cheapest option is a 'berth' or shared (male/female) cabin at €30 but the next up is E class, a comfortable, clean en-suite cabin without a window for roughly €130 each way.

On-Board Facilities

This is a 'Cruise Ship' after all and we were just using it as a means of getting from A to B and I suggest you do the same.

My preference would be to either eat before you depart of take something on board with you, we had buffet breakfast in the Seven Seas (€9pp) which was fair-average. My advice would be to make up your own mind since the 'discount' for pre-booking meal's with your booking is €1.

Cafe 'Bake & Coffee' (€3-€8): Microwaved burgers, pizza, meatballs and mash (or mush as the menu described it!), soup and sandwiches.

Buffet 'Seven Seas' (€30pp): Self service buffet available in the evening for dinner and the morning for breakfast (€10pp).

A la Cart 'Explorers' (€40+): Looked superior to the others, but at that price we didn't bother.

Rabbit Bar & Sky Club (€9+): Same food as 'Bake & Coffee' but twice the price for getting deafened while your eat it.

Duty Free Shop: Soft drinks €1, Beer €2, Bottle Wine €4, Chocolate / Sweets €1, Bottle Vodka €5, Branded Whisty €5, 200 Fags €15*.

* See non-eu import restrictions comment further down.

There is also a Cigar Bar, Cinema, Casino, XXXX Bar, Sauna / Pool / Gym for extra cost.


3.) Booking Via the St Peters Line Website

The St Peters Line website is fairly poor and doesn't make nearly enough fuss about the 'Visa Free' element of the trip. As a result there are several travel agents setup with excellent websites that provide all the necessary reassuring information when searching for those terms. However, they also charge a fee for the privilege and in addition they are not even linked directly to St Peters Line so are unable to offer real time availability. Avoid them -  having read this far in the guide you should be well equipt to use it and a small discount is likely to be applied on your final screen depending on the lead.

The website is: http://www.stpeterline.com


4.) Budget Accommodation in St Petersburg

I cannot recommend Sky Hotel enough, by far the cheapest accomodation we could find at €55 euro a night for a room with a shared bathroom or €65 with your own. Located just off the main through fair Nevsky Prospect down a back alley but wonderfully modern once you get inside. Staffed 24 hours and English speaking we couldn't find a hostel this cheap when we booked just a few days before we were set to sail. Don't forget to print off a copy of your booking confirmation - it is best to choose pay in advance rather than on arrival.

http://nevskyhotels.com/en/st_petersburg_hotels/skyhotel/


5.) Leaving Your Van in Helsinki

There are a number of options available to you, however it is worth checking with your insurance company to see if they will cover your vehicle while you are effectively out of the country.

A.) The Cheapest Option (€10/weekday)

The long term parking at the Olympic Ferry Terminal is expensive at €30/day with discounts the longer you stay. Payment is by credit card and is pay and display, but no security is offered. We saw a fair few vans parked there, however.

Just as you pass the Olympic Terminal on your left hand side there is a small municipal off street car park with about 15 extra wide spaces with grass at the back which could easily accommodate a 7m van. Despite being next to the terminal it falls into Helsinki Zone 3 which is €1/hr 9am-7pm, free evenings and weekends. We acually wild camped here for 3 days and it was fine, although the ticket machine only accepts coins so bring some change! I would arrive the night before as you may need to hover around to get the best space. There are a number of similar car parks around the other ferry terminal but we didn't explore these ourselves so can't recommend any specifically.


B.) The Maximum Security Option (€30/day) - http://kluuvi-service.fi/

'Special Parking' is located just inside the port, having to pass through a security barrier and into a manned/CCTV garage within the port. Only suitable for van conversions but they have a number of 'big car' spaces that even the Jumbo 6.3m Ducato would fit into. Pre-booking advised. They may require you to leave your keys as if they get busy they block-park cars, but they have a good reputation and given the numberre date from Russia).
2.  Two copies of Russian visa application form, completed and signed (right click, save as)
3.  Two passport-size photos signed on the back.
4.  Confirmation of hotel arrangements from an authorized Russian travel company, or directly from the Russian hotel, showing reference number and confirmation number for the visa.

If you have done the above, it opens up another method of getting to St Petersburg via High Speed Rail taking just 4 hours but costing a similar amount to the Ferry. For more information visit http://www.vr.fi/fi/
reliably informed if you turn up at the Russian Embassy for 9am with the relevant documentation you'll have your Visa by lunchtime.


The following documents should be submitted to the Russian Embassy or Consulate to obtain a Tourist Visa to enter Russia:

1.  Your original passport with at least 2 blank visa-designated pages (passport must be valid for at least 6 months after intended departure date from Russia).
2.  Two copies of Russian visa application form, completed and signed (right click, save as)
3.  Two passport-size photos signed on the back.
4.  Confirmation of hotel arrangements from an authorized Russian travel company, or directly from the Russian hotel, showing reference number and confirmation number for the visa.

If you have done the above, it opens up another method of getting to St Petersburg via High Speed Rail taking just 4 hours but costing a similar amount to the Ferry. For more information visit http://www.vr.fi/fi/

Other Tips:
When you leave the ship, make sure you queue for the "EU Citizens Only" customs booth - this one moves CONSIDERABLY quicker than the "All Other" and thus Russian Queue's!

Plan you time in S26nbsp;maximize the duty free / bars which is fair enough.

Restaurants are expensive but cafe's are very cheap as are the stalls selling food so look to eat here if you want to maximise your budget. If you do want to eat out, look at the reviews on Trip Advisor first and have a few ideas of where to target first as it can be difficult to choose.


For our trip to St Petersburg, click here:
http://www.europebycamper.com/2011/06/st-petersburg-russia.html

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Post a Comment

  1. Thanks so much for this informative article. I was wondering if you could tell me if you're allowed to choose hotel accommodation anywhere in St Petersburg or if you're restricted to choosing a hotel close to the 'City Bus tour'. I was a bit confused by the website. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anywhere is fine, the 'City Bus Tour' is just a formality to get the Visa Free entry, it isn't actually a tour but a shuttle bus from the Ferry (for the purpose of the visa free it is in fact a Cruise Ship!).

      Hope that helps!

      Delete
  2. Yet I read somewhere the hotel accommodation should be in City Center, and not in the suburbs.
    Do you know the exact allowed perimeter?

    ReplyDelete

 
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