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From 1 October free e-visas can be used to reach Saint Petersburg - but not on the train

Free electronic visas can now be used to travel to the Saint Petersburg region, but not if you cross the border on a train. 

Passi, jossa leimoja ja viisumi Venäjälle.
Tourists in the Saint Petersburg region can now use electronic visas rather than paper ones. Image: Heikki Haapalainen / Yle

Citizens of Finland and certain other countries can now travel to the Saint Petersburg region using a free electronic visa, avoiding costly bureaucracy and easing entry to Russia.

The visas are valid for a period of 30 days from the date of issue, with trips of up to eight days permitted.

The visas only allow travel within Saint Petersburg and the surrounding region, not the Republic of Karelia bordering Finland further north.

The new rules came into force on 1 October, but they only apply to border posts located on roads, at sea ports or airports.

That excludes travellers on the high-speed Allegro service linking Helsinki and Saint Petersburg. On the other hand it makes life considerably easier for those looking to cross the border by car, ferry or plane.

The e-visas are available to citizens of 53 countries via a Russian Foreign Ministry website.

Russia has high hopes for the new e-visas, with plans afoot for a new passenger rail connection between Imatra and Saint Petersburg to be used mainly by travellers holding the digital document.

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