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!

How to get a tourist visa to travel to St. Petersburg?

Visit St. Petersburg without a visa: bilateral agreements

There is a list of countries that have bilateral agreements with the Russian Federation and can visit St. Petersburg visa-free. 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 visiting Russia with no visa is a bit excessive.

St. Petersburg cruise visa

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.

Once you are in St. Petersburg, make sure to visit one of the top touristic attractions there: The Peter and Paul Fortress.

Don’t forget your passport

A visa waiver 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 72 hour visa to Russia. 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 traveling 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 traveling to Saint Petersburg without a visa. When traveling with a ferry, you will also have a waiver. The most common are the ferries from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, which allow you to enter Russia visa-free.

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 program 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 visit St. Petersburg?

Obviously, the most convenient way of traveling 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.

St. Petersburg Visa Cost

Anyone can obtain a St. Petersburg visa in UK 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 ~32 pounds. If you have to do it remotely, by mail, then the bill can go up to ~110 pounds.

In short: do you need a visa to visit 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.


  1. Maya Thomas Reply

    Thank you for the article. We were thinking about traveling to St. Petersburg without a visa, but it seems really restrictive. We are going to get tourist visas and stay in the city for a week, without any restriction, I think it is the most convenient way.

    • Anna Orlova Reply

      Hey, I agree. If you are not a big fan of cruise ships and want to have an unrestricted time in St. Petersburg, a tourist visa is the best choice for you.

  2. Joseph Howarth Reply

    Do I have to book the hotel before applying for the visa for St. Petersburg?

    • Anna Orlova Reply

      No. You can just buy the invitation letter from an agency and write down a random hotel in St. Petersburg in the order form. After you receive the invitation letter, you can start your visa application process.

    • Anna Orlova Reply

      Hello, it depends on a variety of factors. How many times do you need to enter Russia? How fast do you need the visa application processed? Do you have the rest of the documents ready (passport, invitation letter, passport-sized photos)? The standard, one-entry visa will cost you around 100 pounds. This includes 38-pounds consular fees.

      • Eva Gilbert Reply

        Thanks for your answer! I already have my invitation and the rest of the documents ready. The processing time doesn’t matter, and I will just have one entry into Russia. If I understood correctly, the price in this case would be around 100 pounds?

        • Anna Orlova Reply

          Exactly, in your case the visa will cost around a hundred pounds.

  3. Alan Dziegiel Reply

    Recently booked a cruise that involves stopping at St petersburg Russia we will be there overnight we plan to have one organised trip only so would we need a visa
    Kind regards

    • Anna Orlova-Watson Reply

      Hey Alan, you can stay in St. Petersburg without a visa for up to 72 hours. Keep in mind that you have to come AND leave with a cruise ship from the city. You are allowed to visit the city via organized city tours. I don’t know the details of your trip, but if you comply with the rules mentioned in the article you don’t need a visa. Please check with your cruise-tour provider.

  4. I am planning to join baltic cruise and will spend 2 days in st petersburg but will sleep on cruise. Do i need a visa in this case

    • Anna Orlova-Watson Reply

      Hey William, you will not need a visa in this case. Keep in mind that you can visit the city ONLY with organized city tours. Please double check with your tour provider.

  5. Mary Hopkinson Reply

    I am looking to go to St Petersburg in May 2020 and have reserved a room on Booking. Com. They hotel have advised an invitation letter is only need if staying over 7 nights. Is this correct?

    • Anna Orlova Reply

      Hey Mary,

      You can now get an electronic visa to St. Petersburg, which does not require an invitation letter. However, with the e-visa you can only stay in St. Petersburg, and for not more than 8 nights. I’ve written a comprehensive article on this topic, you should check it out.

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