Since 2012, Russia grants foreign yachts access to its internal waterways. But Russian bureaucracy with its complex rules is making this feat complicated and tiring. Even though the entering of foreign yachts is allowed, these ships are still looked upon with a high degree of suspicion and mistrust.
If you still want Russia to be your cruising destination, read on, as we will explain to you how to manage this and which routes are more available than the others.
Before you embark on your cruise, you need to know that one of your crew members needs to be a Russian speaker. This is a must since not many people speak English in Russian ports. In case of emergencies and complicated regulations, having a person who speaks Russian can be a lifesaver.
Obtaining permissions for crew members and ships, including visas, is still a fairly time-consuming process. You will also need an invitation from an authorised body, such as yacht club. This is essential if you are planning to travel by your own ship.
Make sure to list all your passengers in the invitation letter. Russian consulate will issue visas for all people that are named, including the permissions to enter ports that are stated on the application form. In case you stop in a port which you did not name in your application, you can expect some difficulties.
Next section will be dedicated to all possible entries and routes.
For simple trips, the area between St. Petersburg and Kronstadt island is a usual route.
For anybody interested in visiting Finland, the detour can be done through the Saimaa Canal.
Trips can also be organised to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
For those more adventurous, a route from north to the Black Sea is also possible. When it comes to entries, they can be made from the city of Arkhangelsk on the north, or from the Black Sea via Azov or via St. Petersburg.
Ports: Kaliningrad, Kronstadt, St. Petersburg, Vyborg
Besides the high charges and ever-present bureaucracy, ports on the Black Sea are not equipped to welcome yachts.
You should also avoid Crimea due to the political situation on this peninsula.
Black Sea: Novorossiysk, Sochi, Tuapse
Arctic ports are not accessible to yachts since the weather is unsuitable. Another problem that arises here is the international water. If you wish to sail from Vladivostok to Sakhalin island, or from Sakhalin island to Kamchatka peninsula, these routes are considered long distance. For these travels, you will need a multi-entry visa, but a multi-entry tourist visa isn’t something that the Russian government offers. You can only apply for a double-entry tourist visa and you also need to make sure you will leave the Russian territory only once.
Far East: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Nakhodka, Vladivostok
Travelling as a Passenger
As a passenger on a booked cruise, you have a lot of options. Cruise passengers can also stay on the Russian territory without a visa for up to 72 hours, but only if they have booked tours with companies that are licensed by the Russian government.
Passengers can pass the customs with a tourist voucher, tourist confirmation and with a valid passport without any problems. But, passengers are required to leave and return to the port with the tour. You are not allowed to stay in St. Petersburg and then return to the ship on your own.