Do I need a visa to go to St. Petersburg ? The answer is yes, for most of us.
The Schengen area and UK’s agreements with other countries around the world make the UK passport very interesting for travel. Visa procedures can be scary. In reality, they are not that complex.
Nevertheless, there are some exceptions to know. Here they are!
Going to Saint Petersburg without a visa: bilateral agreements
There is a list of countries that have bilateral visa-free agreements with the Russian Federation. There are former Soviet republics, of course, but also Asian countries and almost all the countries of South America. Well, let’s be honest, becoming Serbian, Brazilian or Thai for a trip to St. Petersburg is a bit excessive.
Cruise to St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is a cruise city for more than 500,000 passengers per year. And this number continues to grow. However, to get started, you need to know all the aspects of this adventure.
Don’t forget your passport
A visa waiver does does not equal a waiver of a valid international passport. There are some serious limitations with the visa waiver. Once you arrive in St. Petersburg, you will go through a checkpoint. Your simple ID card will not be enough. You must show your passport. Not expired, of course.
There are also some other conditions and information you must provide before getting your visa waiver. You must assure the local security office:
- that your presence in the city will not exceed 72 hours;
- spend every night on the boat;
- visit the city, necessarily accompanied, with a fixed return on the boat in the evening;
Guided tours are organized via the cruise company. On the boat, you will be offered visits with the cruise company’s partners. The prices of the tourist services offered are higher than the average rates charged on location. You will visit the city in a group. It may be multilingual. You can use a private guide as well. He will take the necessary steps to get you out of the boat and discover the city with him.
In general, I would recommend this solution only to those who are keen on cruises. People who do not adhere to the concept should choose another method of travelling to St. Petersburg without a visa.
Ferry to St. Petersburg from Helsinki, Tallinn and Lappeenranta
Ferries are considered legally as cruises, therefore they follow the same legal rules for travelling to Saint Petersburg without a visa. When travelling with a ferry, you will also have a visa waiver for a maximum of 72 hours. The most common are the ferries that take you to St Petersburg from Helsinki.
Visa exemption only works for ferries if you come AND leave by a ferry. If you come to St. Petersburg by ferry, but leave by train, the visa waiver does not work.
As the ferry is just a means of transport, you will be able to sleep wherever you want in the city. More freedom, but an obligation to specify your accommodation and be accompanied by a local tour operator or guide. As with cruises, visa waiver only works if you have established a programme of visits with a guide or tour operator. It will therefore be necessary to make a hotel reservation in advance.
How to get a visa to Saint Petersburg?
Obviously, the most convenient way of travelling to Saint Petersburg is getting an actual visa to Russia, that will allow you to travel the city by yourself without any limitations.
There are several types of visas, you will have to choose which one corresponds to your situation. Generally, the most suitable is the tourist visa because it is valid for up to 30 days.
Anyone can obtain a visa to go to St. Petersburg as long as the procedure is well respected: an invitation, repatriation insurance, passport. If you go ahead and can visit the Embassy or Consulate General, it can cost only 36€. If you have to do it remotely, by mail, then the bill can go up to 125€.
In short: do you need a visa to go to St. Petersburg? Yes, if you want to fly there for more than 72 hours and you are not a big sports fan.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments.