72 (Visa Free) Hours in Russia

Are you sure it’s legal?” Is a question I got from a lot of people when I said I was going to Russia without a visa. “You’re visiting Moscow and St Petersburg both?” was the next question. In 72 hours? To all these three questions, the answer was YES.

For citizens of most countries, you need a visa to visit Russia. Unless:

You go by ferry or cruise to a number of selected ports, and  You stay for 72 hrs or less and You are part of a group tour

This is exactly what we did. I booked a tour with Go Russia which ticked all these boxes. In this post I will tell you the itinerary and highlights of our trip. In later posts I will give a day by day account of our trip.

Day 1:

Arrive in Helsinki, board the St Peterline ferry, the Princess Anastasia to St Petersburg. The Princess Anastasia leaves Helsinki at 1900 in the evening and arrives in St Petersburg at 0800 the next morning.

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The Princess Anastasia

Day 2:

Arrive in St. Petersburg, through customs and immigration, and meet with our guide and driver.

Tour of the Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, Russia, founded by Peter the Great. The fortress contains the Peter and Paul  Cathedral the tallest bell tower in the city centre and a gilded cupola. The cathedral is the burial place of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III, with the exception of Peter II and Ivan VI.

Peter and Paul Fortress
Peter and Paul Fortress across the Neva River
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Inside Peter and Paul Cathedral

Tour of Tsarskoye Selo,

Also known as Catherine’s Palace, Tsarskoye Selo was the residence of the imperial family and visiting nobility. It is located 15 miles outside the centre of Saint Petersburg, and has a lavish palace and beautiful gardens.

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In front of Catherine’s Palace

 

Board the Grand Express sleeper train to Moscow

The Grand Express train leaves St Petersburg around 2340 and arrives in Moscow the next morning about 0800. It is a luxurious trains with comfortable beds, TV screens and breakfast in bed.

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Day 3:

We arrived in Moscow, about 0800. Our driver met us at the station and took us to our hotel. We refreshed and had breakfast at the hotel, after which our guide came to pick us up for the tour of the day.

Visit Red Square, Lenin’s Mausoleum and St Basil’s Cathedral

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Visit the Kremlin, Museums and Gardens

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Tour of Moscow Underground Train System

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We returned to the hotel in the evening and relaxed for a few hours. Later on we boarded the sleeper train back to St Petersburg.

Day 4:

Arrive in St Petersburg about 0800. Our guide and driver picked us up at the station and took us for breakfast at a fantastic cafe.

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Visit the Church of the Spilled Blood and Kazan Cathedral

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Visit Hermitage Museum

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Boat tour on the river Neva

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In the evening, we boarded the ferry to back Helsinki, after 2 and a half days in Russia.

Day 5:

Arrive in Helsinki, short stop at the Helsinki city centre.

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Early afternoon, we boarded the flight back to UK.

Thoughts:

It was a 5 days whirlwind tour of two great cities and countless attractions. I love trips where I can see and do a lot, but this one surpassed any such trips I have undertaken before (see my China Trip) or since (See my Europe Trip). But I don’t mind telling you, by day 5 we were knackered, so it is definitely not for the faint hearted.

Tune in over the next few weeks to find out more about each day of our trip.

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