If one flies in on Finnair and returns to Helsinki before 72 hrs is the no visa rule the same as for the ferry arrivals?
No you can't fly into Russia without a visa, airlines here won't even let you on the airplane.
I should add though, this method of entry does have conditions. You will need to book return ferry and shuttle bus tickets.
Pretty sure too that this is for use in the city you arrive, so no side trips to Moscow.
72-hours visa-free rule stpeterline.com/en/…Visafreerule.aspx
as far as "side trips to Moscow" - theoretically the visa-free rule has it "..stay in Russia.." and "If a passenger stays within the Russian Federation territory..." It doesn't say anything like "in St.Petersburg only". But in reality it's not worth doing Moscow time-wise, even with an express Sapsan train it's barely doable....
Besides, and may be most important, St.Petersburg definitely deserves 72 hours of visit! :)
Svetakoshka, here's the government's regulation: http://www.travel.ru/law/173026.html
As you see, it requires a visitor to stay 'on the territory defined by a group tourist program'. As most people coming by ferries use Stpeterline's 'bus tour', I'm sure, their program filed to immigration office is the same, and their legal status depends on what is written in that document. As Stpeterline does not advertise any inner-country tours, I guess, its program does not mention any locations other than St. Petersburg and suburbs. So, going out of the city is purely illegal.Edited: 11:49 am, September 13, 2011
So I presume that the best way to arrange things is through the ferry company in Helsinki. Can anyone recommend the best company with which they have had a good experience? Thanks in advance. Carlo
Stpeterline is both the best and the only company on the line. :) This year, a bunch of reviews was posted there about it, may be easily found by the search.
To clarify, the 72 hour rule applies only to passengers arriving by sea (to the best of my knowledge ferry and cruise liner alike), and only to pre-booked, organised tours around St Petersburg (or further afield, so long as that is what was pre-booked). You cannot wander about SPB at will, even if you do meet the ferry/cruise liner qualification. And you cannot decide on the spur of the moment - you have to pre-book.
The interpretation of the law is quite skewed by Peterline, stretches the law well into unrecognizable. The visa free passenger is to be supervised and under the control of the authorized tour operator at all times off the ship, just as it is with the cruise ship passengers. The fake "city tour" shuttle bus is supposed to be a set itinerary organized tour, with supervision. The visa free promotion of wandering around on your one is omitted from the web site in language the immigration officials know.
So, is is all legal? Opinions depends in which language you read about it. The actual published law restricts one to a pre-submitted itinerary. It is certainly legal to go to Moscow on the program but it requires your tour operator host and sponsor you on a prearranged tour itinerary that includes Moscow and accompany you. Cruise ship passengers do it, usually to work it requires flights and wasting a lot of time getting to and from airports, and bucket of cash. It would be better to save Moscow for the next trip, with a personal visa in your passport.