I will be on a cruise the end of July that will be visiting St. Petersburg. Does anyone know about touring on your own (not through the cruise line)? I was told I could not go ashore unless I was on a ship's excursion - is that true? Can I secure a visa and travel on my own? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I will be on a cruise in May that will be stopping in St. Petersburg and we have been working with a tour operator for private tours. If your ship is in port for less than 3 nights you can go ashore without a visa - only if you book an excursion through the cruise line OR with one of the gov't approved Tour operators. We are using DenRus (www.denrus.ru). Can't attest to their services as we have not yet used them, but there website has all the info you need on seuring visas, tours for cruisers, etc.
Both DenRus and Red October have good reputations as alternatives to the cruise line. DenRus will match you with others if you want to lower your cost. Any private tour with 8 or fewer people is better than the large cruise tour groups. All excursions in St. P. are expensive (almost $200 US per person per 8 hour day, more for couples and quartets). The visas are almost $200 for US citizens (less for others)if you use a visa service -- remember that a letter of support(for a fee from Russian tour agencies) is needed for the visa and the cruise lines do not supply this. For two days, the visa is hardly worth it, especially if you consider that cruise ships dock at Kanonersky Island, which is very isolated -- no public transport to town except by taxi, which is surcharged to go near the ship (it is a two mile walk to the nearest bus/metro station). Visiting St. P. on a cruise is a bittersweet proposition, much less appealing in my estimation than enjoying a real Russian visit, but at east it gives a taste for future visits. efschlenk
Tom is correct about the visas. The government was supposed to vote in April regarding the policy, but as yet I have not heard how or if that vote was taken. If I hear anything I will pass it along.
Thanks everyone. I will check out the private companies you mentioned - I just hate to do things with a whole bus load of others. So, now that you have told me HOW to do it - Any recommendations for "must-sees or do"?
Having not yet been there, I can only share what has been recommended to me. I have been told that Hermitage,the Winter Palace, Peter&Paul Fortress & Spilled Blood Cathedral are all "Must-sees". I will provide details of my trip and my suggestions after my visit in May.
Interesting you should mention Olga. She has beeen helping to plan my upcoming trip to St. Petersburg and I, too, have been impressed with her prompt and professional service thus far. I can't wait for this cruise to begin (19 days and I will be on my way to Amsterdam).
I would also add that the shopping in St. Petersburg is awesome. Items such as nested dolls, ceramic dolls, collectible boxes and so on are so reasonable that you lose all sense of value. Plan on buying a lot. Take small bills (lots of them) and have a ball.