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We will be visiting St. Petersburg and are wondering if we should go on an excursion given by the cruise line or hire a tour guide. I'm not sure about visas and wondering if we took the cruise sponsored excursions, would we be allowed to walk around on our own afterwards?

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Cruise sponsored - no way from ship to bus - from bus to museum-from museum to toilet-from toilet back to bus-from bus back to ship.

Private guide - you can have some free time in the city (it is possible with conditions though), but after guide needs to take you back to the terminal.

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On 2/1/2019 at 1:56 PM, jgcruz said:

We will be visiting St. Petersburg and are wondering if we should go on an excursion given by the cruise line or hire a tour guide. I'm not sure about visas and wondering if we took the cruise sponsored excursions, would we be allowed to walk around on our own afterwards?

I believe you would have a much better experience booking with one of the independent local companies - there are many recommended on this forum & on TripAdvisor (personally, I have used Alla Tours: https://alla-tour.com/tours/) and all of these companies receive excellent reviews . You can check-out reviews & ranking here: 

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g298507-Activities-c42-St_Petersburg_Northwestern_District.html

 

If you do not secure a Russian Visa, you are not allowed to wander about on your own. That said, this is interpreted differently from agency to agency and some independent operators allow some free time on your own (example: some time to shop on Nevsky) but you cannot wander off too far. 

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Spend a hour or so reading some of the threads on this forum and you will immediately not want to book anything thru the ship. EVERYONE on this forum will recommend a private tour company over anything the ship can offer you. It's as easy as that. Do some research, contact several of the major tour companies and see which one you feel more comfortable with. They all do about the same thing and people choice their particular one because they felt more comfortable after speaking with them. You just can't go by the recommendation of one person as to whom you might choose.

We used SPB Tours because Victoria made us feel so at ease, others use ALLA for many of the same reasons and it just goes on. 

And, YES, you cannot get off the ship on your own unless you have a Russian visa. The companies, as well as the ship supply you with a temporary visa for 72 hours so you can tour with them, but you always have to be under their watchful eye. You never know when Putin might be eavesdropping. LOL

 

Cheers

Len

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4 hours ago, Giantfan13 said:

Do some research, contact several of the major tour companies and see which one you feel more comfortable with.

Agree - check with several and see which best meets your particular needs. Most people rave about the tour company/guide with whom they booked & I don't think you could go wrong booking with any listed in the top 10 (or maybe 20).

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Definitely make sure you do a lot of research and reading through forums. You want to get the best possible experience while you are there, coz you may not be going back and you want to see anything worth visiting. That's what we did, and we ended up hiring Anastasia Travel Group https://anastasia.travel/. While there are many agencies out there, this one was also recommended by our friends. Make sure you are a small group, at least six as it's easier to get in front of long lines. The Anastasia team will arrange your visas and you don't need to worry about anything else. It's less hustle, they make you feel more special and they are very attentive to your needs. There is a huge difference from booking a ship tour to a local private guided tour.

I hope you enjoy your stay and choose the best agency for you! Have fun!

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4 hours ago, Kate P.C said:

Definitely make sure you do a lot of research and reading through forums. You want to get the best possible experience while you are there, coz you may not be going back and you want to see anything worth visiting. That's what we did, and we ended up hiring Anastasia Travel Group https://anastasia.travel/. While there are many agencies out there, this one was also recommended by our friends. Make sure you are a small group, at least six as it's easier to get in front of long lines. The Anastasia team will arrange your visas and you don't need to worry about anything else. It's less hustle, they make you feel more special and they are very attentive to your needs. There is a huge difference from booking a ship tour to a local private guided tour.

I hope you enjoy your stay and choose the best agency for you! Have fun!

 

We used Anastasia's Travel too! They were fantastic!!

 

jgcruz - I would definitely go with a travel group. It makes things much easier. If you do a tour with the ship, you get off, you do what you are told, and you get back on. If you go with a local tour guide, you can do the "walking around" and truly go see what you want to see. It's well worth it!!

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I second the suggestion to use Alla Tours. Our group had only 11 people, a great guide, and he often took us to the various tourist spots at times that beat the crowds. Highly recommended. 

Edited by gretschwhtfalcon

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On 2/1/2019 at 11:56 PM, jgcruz said:

We will be visiting St. Petersburg and are wondering if we should go on an excursion given by the cruise line or hire a tour guide. I'm not sure about visas and wondering if we took the cruise sponsored excursions, would we be allowed to walk around on our own afterwards?

I would recommend to go with a private tour. it is even cheaper than to go with a cruise ship tour. I see many people here go with Alla and SPB tours. Seems they are busy tour companies with hundreds people every day. If you prefer less mass tourism i can recommend to use a smaller company. We had a tour with a company called Red Sun Tours. Honestly we felt as Royalty passing by a crowd of 100s people who were in the line to check in with those big companies. You will see.  And attitude and care of a company who has  one - two groups a day i think is different. Our van was nice and clean. Our guide was  the best what we have ever experienced.

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For our Baltic cruise last summer, we wanted to spend a full day in the Hermitage on our own schedule, not shuffled around according to the plans of a guided group, so we arranged for our own visas.  It wasn't as much of a hassle as people had warned, but there is a Russian visa office in my city where I was able to drop off the applications and pick up the visas, so that streamlined things.  Cost-wise, the visas can be expensive, especially if you want one for a full three day port stop like we did  (freedom comes at a price!) so most people conclude they would rather spend their excursion money going along with a tour guide the entire time.   

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6 hours ago, maddocfamilyu said:

We did a group tour with Best Guides. No waiting in lines as well. I saw a huge line at the entrance to Catherine Palace in the garden, when we left the Czarine's apartments. We had entered at another entrance skipping the line.

 

Isn't that the best? You feel so special getting in front of the line, and not having to wait. This can only be done if you are a small group and use a travel agency.

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If you read through the threads here, you see that no one recommends taking a ship’s tour, and everybody is happy with independent tour operators. That’s definitely the way to see St Petersburg if you want to go with your own pace, see what you wish to see and don’t have any desire to be herded in a group of 50 tourists. Contact a few companies, see what they offer and choose what works best for you. Don’t hesitate to tell them what you want to see and do, and they will arrange it. When we were there, we had some very specific requests, like a visit to Smolny Palace, Political history museum and Kirov museum. We toured with Anastasia Travel, like some of the posters above, and were absolutely happy too! So you can take a ship’s tour only if you want to totally ruin your stay in St Petersburg.

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We have been looking at the different options for tours of St Petersburg and are planning to book with Best Guides. Like ship tours a visa is not needed and they appear to be far more cost effective than Princess' own excursions.

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13 hours ago, rihallix said:

We have been looking at the different options for tours of St Petersburg and are planning to book with Best Guides. Like ship tours a visa is not needed and they appear to be far more cost effective than Princess' own excursions.

yes visa not required with any of the well recommended private tour guides of which Best Guides is one

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We are at going with SPB tours or Alla tours. As this a once in a lifetime trip we are going with a private tours. Both agencies have been very helpful in planning our September trip.

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You should definitely hire a good guide because ther is just so much to see. You will surely enjoy top museums st petersburg with a good guide who knows a lot about city history and curious anecdotes about it - make sure to hire a guide who knows a lot about Saint Petersburg's colorful history. That's what we did ad it was amazing.

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We just came back from a cruise to the Baltics.  We used TJ travel in St. Petersburg for 2 days and their guide Maria was fantastic for the 8 of us.  We saw as much as we could possibly see and I found them great to work with.  They are very responsive through the internet and you can pay in St. Petersburg or online if you are more comfortable.  I also went with them for small group tours in Helsinki and Tallin.  Our groups there were 7 and 9 people though the website said there could be more.  I found the vehicles very comfortable and quite new and on none of the tours felt crowded.  Our guides spoke very good English and very experienced.  If we go back to that area, I will be touring with them again, though maybe to other places/things.

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Does anyone know whether there would be a problem on a 3 day cruise stop in St P in doing a 2 day private tour followed by a cruise line's tour on the third day?

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There shouldn't be a problem, since you are covered for a visa. The first 2 days with your local tour, and the the 3rd with your cruise ship tour.

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