Here are the most asked questions and our answers. If you have questions, we would be happy to answer them
We are traveling to St Petersburg on a cruise ship and the ship told us we need a Russian visa of we do not book the ship's expensive tours. Is that true?
If you will tour the city as a member of escorted shore excursion group or private tour as arranged by one of the licensed Tour Companies authorized to host visitors without Visas, such as VJ Services Ltd. Only these tour operators have this authorization which is why the ship can't conduct tours and must contract with one of the few local tour companies to conduct ship promoted tours.
Why should I book independent shore excursions in St. Petersburg?
It is totally your own decision if you wish to tour the city independently or with the help of an expert guide and interpreter. Whichever option you choose, VJ Services will save money plus result in a better experience of St Petersburg than those over-priced programs the ship wants to sell. Some people do not like big crowds, some prefer visiting the Hermitage Museum on their own pace and seeing some special exhibitions, some request tailor-made tours (e.g. Russian home visits, meetings with modern artists, a local nightclub experience, etc…) none of which are not available through the ship. What ever the reason, they are extremely pleased with the VJ Services experience, independence and surprisingly low prices compared with the ship's standard group prices
When is the Russian visa needed?
You must obtain a proper Russian visa if you wish to visit the country without any prearranged tours or excursions unless you are a citizen of one of the 43 countries which have visa waiver agreements with Russia. Cruise ship passengers have the option of entering Russia for up to 72 hours without a visa if they are booking in an organized tour conducted by an authorized tour operator. VJ Services is Authorized for Visa-Free Tours. If you are a cruise passenger and want to explore on your own, or stay overnight in St Petersburg (for instance go to the home of your friend independently), or stay in another place than your ship's cabin, you will need to have a Russian visa in your passport in order to disembark from your ship.
How can I obtain a Russian visa?
You should contact VJ Services, or any properly licensed Russian Tour Operator, and they will walk you through the steps required. Please, check our website:
The exact requirements depend on your country of citizenship because visas are treaty agreements between countries. At a minimum you will need to apply using an application form on-line, a passport style photo, a VISA SUPPORT document which we can provide as your official invitation, and your passport that has at least one blank page and 6 months validity remaining after your planned exit date. We provide the visa support documents for free if you are booked for a tour or other services through us. It inviting tour operator or hotel is your official host so the document is not given without reason.
If we travel visa-free is it true that we can only visit the official tourist locations like museums, palaces, etc…?
No. - If you travel visa-free, and you'll work with VJ Services, you can create your own program. Normally this is developed and honed through a conversations with us months before the arrival, where we try to fulfill all the expectations of our guest. In the past we have received requests for home visits, hospital visits, school visits, city tour with a horse and carriage, helicopter sightseeing, tours outside St. Petersburg(e.g. the Krondstadt naval base, the cities of Vyborg, Novgorod, Moscow, Pskov…), special shopping (Russian furs, jewelry, delicacies, furniture…), visits to special museums (the home museums of Rimsky-Korsakov, Pushkin, Dostoyevski, Ballet Museum, …), nightclub tours, special professional counterpart meetings, arrangements for Birthday Parties and Wedding Anniversaries with entertainment, … The list is endless. Please, tell us what you wish to do, and we'll give you a report what the city can offer.
Is it true that there are huge crowds and endless lines in each location?
Yes, often it is true in the most popular destinations. However, there are ways and means how VJ Services services can save your limited time. Even for individual passengers VJ Services always prebooks an appointment entry time to the venues. Another possibility is to schedule your entry earlier than the official opening hours. This system is called “early admission” and the venues always charge an additional moderate fee for this service. It must be noted that there are early admission tourists in the museums and palaces every day during the summer season, so you are not alone. However, it is enjoyable to see the exhibitions before the huge crowds arrive. We plan the entry times for the smallest crowds of the day.
Can tourists using wheelchairs participate in independent programs?
VJ Services has a large number of thank you letters from mobility impaired tourists. We can arrange any kind of a special transportation needed for instance for wheel chairs. Some of the venues have lifts, some do not, some have ramps, some do not, in some places the toilets are too narrow and do not allow wheelchairs to enter, in some places this problem has been corrected. Normally all these details are negotiated and decided during the program development correspondence between our staff and our guest. St Petersburg is beinging to be more accessible those who are restricted to wheelchairs and VJ Services specializes in accommodating wheel chair access. We can provide "pushers" to assist along the tour so our guest has as much opportunity to fully participate as possible. Our Small Group Tours are not suitable for wheelchairs due to the type of vehicle used but any of our private tours can be selected.
Can VJ Services arrange evening entertainment for individual tourists?
We can arrange all the same evening shows and performances as your cruise ship can offer, normally either ballet or folkloric show, plus much, much more than they can. The cruise ships offer only their own contracted performances in rented theatres, which do not necessarily represent the highest quality and the best talents. For your unique, independent, and once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience in St. Petersburg VJ Services will give you an opportunity to obtain tickets for instance to Mariinski (formerly Kirov) Theatre, St. Petersburg Opera and all the other theatres in the city, jazz concerts, fine dining, theater, evening shopping or further exploring the city. We offer a small group Pub Crawl that is fun and lets our guest interact with friendly English speaking locals.
Is St. Petersburg a safe city?
The answer is simply, yes, it is a safe city in that street crime is low and very little use of guns or violence. But during the summer months pickpockets arrive.
St. Petersburg is a city of almost 6 million people, so understandably it provides a collection of all the imaginable characters, some of them unfortunately not always honest. Use your common sense and general caution, and the same precautionary measures (do not keep all your cash in one pocket, do not flash your cash when making purchases, do not let your wallet show in the back pocket of your pants, hang your handbag and camera strap across your chest and over your head, carry your passport in a zippered pocket, do not leave your belongings unattended, do not hang your coat or purse on the back of your seat in a restaurant if it holds valuables or your passport and use the same precautions you may take in other cities outside Russia. Also remember that in case you are a visa-free tourist it means that our guide-escort will be with you all the time. Wandering out late at night or morning is not considered a very risky activity and is popular with locals and visitors alike.