The 72-hour visa free ferry to visit Russia can save hundreds of dollars for US citizens traveling to the country. But it was bittersweet for Andrea and I, as we recently spent 4 nights at the grandiose InterContinental Moscow – and paid dearly for it via the substantial time and money required to obtain a visa.
By routing through Helsinki, Finland, passengers can use the Nordic Ferry Center to visit St. Petersburg, Russia – without having to worry about the hassle of getting a visa. For the adventurous ones, adding a day trip to Moscow is also not out of the question.
Here are the important details to consider:
- Four items are required to do this: passport, migration card, hotel voucher (if staying overnight), and shuttle bus ticket (more details below)
- Passport must have 6 months validity from arrival date in St. Petersburg
- Migration card is given on arrival in Helsinki
- U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Finland
- Passengers board the round-trip ferry in Helsinki
- Visa and MasterCard are accepted onboard and there are no moneychangers
- 72 hours starts from moment of disembarkation in St. Petersburg
- There are no destination restrictions (i.e. passengers can visit Moscow)
- The ferry company also operates a shuttle bus to main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg
- Carry your original passport at all times when traveling in Russia without a visa
Itinerary & Prices
The ferry operates overnight and takes 10 hours 30 minutes. This is closer to a cruise than a traditional ferry experience, so don’t worry – you won’t be sleeping on a bench. The Nordic Ferry Center offers a variety of packages for transportation and lodging, both on the boat and in St. Petersburg. They even offer excursions once in Russia.
The cost varies dramatically based on the month and day of week you will be departing. To see a full price list, visit this page or look at the breakdown below. As you can tell, prices range from 101 euro (about $110 USD) for a regular cabin during low season all the way to 939 euro (about $1,050 USD) for a deluxe cabin during peak times.
There are three ways to make a booking: online, by telephone or email. Visit their online booking portal for the easiest method, payable by credit card (Barclays and Capital One points should cover the cost, but that's unconfirmed). The telephone number is +358 09 2510 2025 and email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, both of which have English speaking representatives.
If you experienced taking the Nordic Ferry Center service, share your thoughts below. I have yet to take advantage of it, but Helsinki and St. Petersburg are on my bucket list – this visa free service is a no brainer then.
So for those like me that haven't done it and plan on visiting Russia, try searching for flights to Helsinki and using the ferry. This could save you hundreds of dollars in visa fees, instead using that money to see both Finland and the major sights of Russia.