Will I need a visa for this tour?
Yes! For US (and Canadian) citizens a tourist visa is required to enter Russia. We recommend the single-entry 30-day tourist visa. If you are a citizen from any other country, please check with your local Russian Consulate to verify if you need a visa and how to obtain one.
Where can I find the visa application and processing information?
About three months prior to the start of your tour we'll email you important information explaining how to obtain your visa (you cannot apply for the visa any earlier). We have partnered with visa-service company Passport Visas Express, who will provide you with a Tourist Support Letter (a document necessary to complete an online form), and then, for US citizens, acquire your Russian visa. Non-US citizens can also obtain the Tourist Support Letter from Passport Visas Express, but will have to go to the closest Russian Consulate, or through a local visa processing company, to obtain a visa.
How long will it take and what will it cost to process my Russian visa?
Passport Visas Express can email you the Tourist Support Letter within 48 hours. For US citizens it then takes 7–21 business days after they've received your application materials to process your visa and return your passport with the visa attached inside. The visa, including the support letter, costs about $300, plus shipping. (You can request expedited service for an additional fee.) For all other nationalities the cost varies, depending in part on where you obtain your visa.
How do I get a Russian visa if I live in Europe?
EU citizens need to go through the Russian Consulate in their country. US citizens can either apply for a visa with the Russian Consulate in their country of residence or obtain their visa through Passport Visas Express. Application requirements may vary.
Will I need any vaccinations for this tour?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend any specific vaccinations for this region. They do, however, recommend that you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations, such as tetanus.
What flights should I book?
We recommend getting a "multi-city" ticket, flying into Tallinn, Estonia, and home from St. Petersburg, Russia. Lufthansa, KLM, and SAS fly into both cities. We recommend contacting a travel agent to purchase your airline ticket. See below for contact info for a trusted Seattle agency that's very familiar with our tour program, and a Russian agency that's well-equipped to assist you with post-tour travel in Russia.
How should I budget for personal expenses?
The tour price includes all group sightseeing admissions, all breakfasts, half of your dinners, plus all hotel, guide, and driver tips. We suggest you plan for about $75–$100 per person per day to cover extra and nonincluded meals, beverages, snacks, souvenirs, and transportation costs and/or admissions for sightseeing during free time.
What types of currency will I use, and how much should I bring?
Estonia and Finland both use the euro; Russia uses the ruble. We do not recommend taking along US currency, or any other currency, to exchange en route. We recommend getting local cash after you arrive — ATMs are common and easy to find in the cities we'll visit, including in all airports.
How will I access my money when traveling?
We recommend using an ATM/debit card to access your funds while traveling instead of exchanging currency. Be sure the PIN for your ATM card is a numeric pin (1-2-3-4) and not letters. If you need to change your PIN, contact your bank well in advance of your trip (they will likely need to mail it to you).
Will I have access to phones and Internet?
Yes, most hotels offer Wi-Fi, and Internet cafés are also very popular in the region. Prepaid phone cards are available to make international calls. Your guide will have more information on this at your first group meeting.
What are the hotels like?
Our hotels are centrally located in the old town areas of Tallinn, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg. As on all of our tours, there will be stairs to climb. Many of our hotels have one tiny elevator — one more reason to pack light and be in good shape!
Will there be a lot of walking on this tour?
Yes. Though we will occassionally take public transportation, walking is most efficient and provides the best experience for getting to know a location. Please bring comfortable shoes, and expect uneven sidewalks, cobblestone streets, and several flights of stairs at the places we visit.
Will we visit the Hermitage Museum?
Yes, we'll visit a portion of the Hermitage Museum as a group with a local guide. After our group tour is over, you'll be free to explore the rest of the Hermitage. Please be prepared for a lot of walking during the guided tour.
Can I attend a Russian ballet?
Yes: You have free time available during the evenings on Days 6 and 7 of your tour, either of which work well for an night at the ballet. We recommend either the Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet or the State Hermitage Theatre of Russian Ballet, one of the best chamber ballets in Russia. Please note: The Mariinsky and Hermitage Theatre do not perform on a daily basis, and are also closed for long stretches at certain times of the year. It's smart to check performance schedules in advance of your trip.
Does this tour include Moscow?
No. This tour covers what is known as the "Triangle of the Baltic Sea" — Tallinn, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg. Plenty of tour members opt to Moscow after their tour; it's easily reached from St. Petersburg via train, plane, or a Volga River cruise. If you're considering Moscow, we suggest making all your arrangements with a travel agent. Here are two we recommend:
For pre- and post-tour travel arrangements in Russia:
For flight reservations:
Elizabeth Holmes Travel Agency (Seattle)