Russia will soften its tourist visa policy next month. As of October 1, the authorities of the Eurasian giant will allow travelers to cross their border for short trips, for a maximum of eight days, in the Leningrad Oblast (region), to which Saint. Petersburg belongs.
According to the new Russian visa protocol, those interested should apply for a free digital visa before the trip on the website of the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. They will be able to do it by filling an online form that will require a copy of the applicant's and a recent digital photo. According to the Russian authorities, applicants will get a response in four days.
If the free visa application is approved, this new online visa will be valid just for one trip that must be done within a period of 30 days. Applicants will not be requested to provide any specific travel dates or vehicle details.
Through South Karelian border points
These free eight-day online visas will be only accepted at border points in the Finnish region of South Karelia. This means people will be able to cross from Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa and Imatra, on the eastern part of the country.
This is precisely a region with a large traffic of visitors on both sides of the border, which in recent years has experienced a significant increase in trade. That has benefited Finnish cities like Lappenranta and Imatra, where many Russian citizens go shopping every day. Now, the Russian authorities expect to increase also the number of tourists in their side.
By plane and by boat
The draft decision made by the Russian Ministry of Transport states passengers on Finnair flights from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg Pulkovo airport can also use the free eight-day visa. The new regulation will be also applied to travelers to Saint Petersburg ports and Vyborg's Uuras harbour. The draft decision does not include trips by Allegro train in this first stage.
Russian authorities will launch a similar visa-free system through the Estonian city of Narva. In the past, these types of tourist visas have already been successfully tested in the Baltic region of Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania.
Citizens of 43 states will be allowed to use the free new visas. With its launch, the tourist authorities in Saing Petersburg expect a 50% increase in the number of visitors, from 8 to 12 million a year.