Russia is one of the few countries located on European territory that requires a visa for citizens of the European Union to cross its borders. However, there are some alternatives to enter the country without one. In this article, we tell you all the different ways to visit the city of Saint Petersburg and, if you need it, which visa to apply for.
Travelling to Russia from Finland
Many tourists who visit Helsinki or any other city in Finland consider making a visit of one or several days to the Russian capital, Saint Petersburg since the distance between the two is only about 400 kilometres.
The Russian government has tried in recent years to facilitate the entry of tourists to the country, allowing access without a visa or with an electronic one that can be requested easily and quickly. In the case of visa-free entry, this only applies to those who enter via cruise ship or ferry. Therefore, it is highly recommended to visit Saint Petersburg while you are in Helsinki.
Before going on to see all the alternatives that exist, it is important to remember that the information provided when booking a means of transport must exactly match the one that appears in your passport since it is sent to the border authorities. In addition, citizens of many countries do not need a visa to visit the country. You can check the list of these countries here.
Arriving by ferry or cruise: travelling to Russia without a visa
The only alternative to visit Russia without having to apply for a visa is using a ferry or cruise ship as a means of transportation. In addition to the cruises whose route has a stop in Saint Petersburg, there is a company that makes this route by ferry directly connecting Helsinki and Saint Petersburg.
The ferry that allows you to access Russia from Helsinki without a visa is managed by the company Moby SPL and its ships depart from Finland at 18:00 or 19:00 and arrive at their destination at 9:00 in the morning the next day. The round trip ticket costs between 100 and 300 euros, depending on the time of year in which you travel, and the sleeping cabin is included in the price.
The company makes the same route from Stockholm and Tallinn, so it is possible to extend your trip and make a stop in one of these two cities before or after going to Saint Petersburg.
Regarding the visa, this trip allows you to stay in Russia for 72 hours without having to request one, as long as you meet some conditions, such as having a hotel reservation if you plan to stay in the city or hire a guided tour. The other option especially recommended for European citizens, is to apply for an electronic visa that allows you to be in the country for 8 days without having to book a guided tour.
Getting to Saint Petersburg by train: the fastest and most comfortable way
Allegro is the name given to the train that connects the capitals of Finland and Russia. The journey only takes about three and a half hours, making it the fastest means of transport to get to St. Petersburg. Besides, it departs from Helsinki Central Station, located in the city centre, and arrives at Finlyandsky Station, which is also in a fairly central location in the Russian capital.
The round trip is done 4 times a day, so it is very easy to organize the trip, and it is even possible to go and return on the same day. The train also stops in several Finnish cities, so it is not mandatory to be in Helsinki for this trip. The price of the ticket starts at 29 euros but may increase depending on the time of year you travel, the type of ticket chosen or the services included.
In this case, you will need a traditional visa, since the Russian border authorities do not yet have the necessary technological equipment to verify the electronic visa on the train. However, it is expected that throughout the year 2021 the necessary technology will be implemented to allow the use of the electronic visa on all trains from Finland.
The easiest way to purchase tickets is through the Finnish railway website since payment is made in euros. There is, however, the option to buy them on the Russian website, although the payment, in this case, will be made in Russian rubles. The price is the same, so the easiest option is the Finnish website.
Going from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg by bus: the cheapest option
The trip from Helsinki to St. Petersburg by bus costs about 30 euros, including the round trip ticket, which makes it the cheapest way to travel. The main disadvantage is the duration of the trip since this will be about 7 or 8 hours. Among the advantages, we find the possibility of travelling with both a traditional and electronic visa.
There are a large number of companies, such as Lux Express, that make this journey, so you will not have problems finding a ticket. With so many options, the number of daily departures is very large both during the day and at night. The bus usually departs from the central Kamppi bus station in Helsinki and arrives at the Saint Petersburg bus station, located on the outskirts of the city.
Car and plane: other alternatives to travel to Saint Petersburg
If you want to make the journey by car, you must bear in mind that not all car rental companies allow you to cross the border and, in addition to the traditional or electronic visa, you will need to have a valid international driving license. The 390 kilometres of distance can be covered in about 4 and a half hours taking into account the tolls that you will find along the way.
The plane is a not recommended alternative in this case, since the airports of both cities are very far from the city centre and, although the trip only lasts one hour, the time to travel to the airport and the wait there is the total duration of the trip skyrockets. The round trip ticket is usually between 150 and 200 euros, depending on the time of year. The electronic visa is accepted when travelling by plane.
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