St Petersburg is considered the cultural capital of Russia, home to the Hermitage museum, stunning imperial architecture, and world-famous summer festivals.
International tourists have several options to enter St Petersburg:
- By plane, via de Pulkovo International Airport
- By train from a variety of regions including Central Europe, Finland, the Urals, Central Asia, Belarussia, Moldavia, Ukraine, Crimea, and more
- By boat with an international cruise or ferry
- By bus or car, usually from Finland, Estonia, and Ukraine.
Arriving in St Petersburg by Air: Pulkovo Airport
Located 20km south of the city, Pulkovo serves as the Leningrad Oblast and St Petersburg international airport. The state-owned airport is the 4th busiest airport in Russia and the Post-Soviet States.
In 2018, over 18 million passengers used the airport. Although the majority of passenger traffic comes from the Moscow air route, Pulkovo airport is still a major point of entry into St Petersburg for international passengers. If you’re using St Petersburg as the first point of entry into Russia, you will need to show your St Petersburg visa or other relevant visas to the local border authorities together with your passport.
How do I Get from St Petersburg Airport to the City?
There is no express train going to the city center. However, tourists can choose between a variety of bus routes, coaches, and taxis to reach St Petersburg. These are the most direct ways to get from Pulkovo airport to St Petersburg:
- Buses number 39 (terminal 1) and 13 (terminal 2)
- Shuttle buses number K39 (terminal 1) and K3, 39A, K113 (terminal 2)
- Taxi (starting at $30-$40).
Traveling to St Petersburg by Train: St Petersburg Main Train Stations
There are 4 main stations serving long-distance routes in St Petersburg that are also conveniently located for tourists exploring the city center:
- Moscow Station (Moskovsky Vokzal). As the name suggests, this is the go-to station for travelers wishing to go to Moscow. However, long-distance trains from and to Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan), Caucasus (Azerbaidzhan, Armenia, Georgia), and Crimea also depart from here.
- Vitebsk Station (Vitebsky Vokzal). Here, passengers can find trains from and to Ukraine (Kiev, Odessa), Belarussia (Minsk, Brest), Moldavia, and Central Europe.
- Finlyandsky Station (Finlyandsky Vokzal). The Russian-Finnish jointly operated “Allegro” fast train connects St Petersburg with Helsinki from this station.
- Ladozhsky Station (LadozhskyVokzal). This is the most modern train station in St Petersburg, with 24h luggage storage, internet access, car rentals, and inexpensive accommodation. Trains from Ladozhsky station connect St Petersburg with Helsinki, the Urals, and Kazakhstan.
How long does it take to travel by train from Moscow to St Petersburg?
There are more than 700 km between Moscow and St Petersburg. Fortunately, the route is well served by planes, trains, and coaches.
Train passengers can choose between 2 options:
- The high-speed daytime Sapsan train (3:30-4 hours). You can purchase tickets ($30-40) online in advance or at the station.
- An overnight train. There are several sleeper trains available. The cheaper ones will be less comfortable. The most popular luxury options are the Red Arrow and the Grand Express, taking about 8 hours. These can be more expensive (from $50 to over $200).
Visiting St Petersburg on a Cruise Ship: St Petersburg Passenger Port
Many travelers decide to experience St Petersburg and Russia from a different point of view and book a cruise. The Marine Facade is the new passenger port in St Petersburg, built specifically to receive large cruise ships, where most international passengers arrive.
There are also regular ferries from Stockholm and Helsinki (operated by St Peter Line) arriving at the Marine Facade.
Do I need a visa to visit Russia from a cruise ship?
Cruise and international ferry passengers can visit Russia visa-free for up to 72 hours.
Cruise passengers to St Petersburg can go ashore without a visa during port calls only if they are accompanied at all times by a tour operator officially licensed by the Russian authorities. Cruise and ferry companies often organize visits that meet these conditions.
Passengers who want to visit the city on their own or arrive by boat but plan to leave by plane, train or other means of transportation must obtain a visa for Russia. They need to show their travel documents and passport to the Russian border authorities every time they leave or board their ship during port calls.
River cruises are also very popular with international visitors. These ships depart from the river terminals of Obukhovskoy Oborony and Oktyabrskaya during the Russian summer and sail to inner Russia, arriving at destinations like Valaam, Kizhi, Yaroslavl, and Moscow. Visa exemptions do not apply to riverboat passengers.
Fortunately, the Russia eVisa for St Petersburg allows foreigners to apply for a visa for Russia in advance from anywhere in the world. If you’re planning a cruise to Russia and need a Russian visa, you can complete the application online in minutes by submitting all the relevant documents and information and obtain your visa in less than 4 days.
Affordable Transportation to St Petersburg: St Petersburg Bus Station
Foreigners who wish to save money on their ticket to St Petersburg can also book a seat on a bus or coach to Russia. The most traveled routes are:
- From Helsinki to St Petersburg (8 hours, $12-16)
- From Tallinn to St Petersburg (8 hours $12-16)
- From Minsk to St Petersburg (14 hours, $20-30)
Most international buses and coaches arrive in St Petersburg at the Central coach station, very conveniently located in the heart of the city. However, many international private coach companies prefer to use their own stations.
Land points of entry to St Petersburg include Ivangorod, Brusnychnoe, Svetogorsk, and Torfyanovka.