Frequently Asked Questions

General

We have arranged tours for tens of thousands of clients over the years and always delivered tour programs that were informative, entertaining and on budget. Importantly we act as a tour operator which means that we do not resell other companies’ tours and dealing with us you are getting direct access to the top tour guiding talent to ensure a tour of the highest quality.

Please check out our page on TRIPADVISOR to see what our past guests have to say about us and our tour guides.

The reason you will not see many posts about us on CruiseCritic is because CruistCritic is used primarily by cruisers looking to share their tour with other travelers. Because the vast majority of our clients opt for our private tours they have no need to advertise on CruiseCritic. It’s that simple!

Fear not however – simply because we are not mentioned on CruiseCritic as often as some of our larger competitors selling you seats on overcrowded tour buses are does not mean we do not exist or offer inferior tours. Quite the opposite! The quality of our tours is legendary and we encourage you to please read our STORIES section and our page on TRIPADVISOR to familiarize yourselves with what our company can do for you!

Finally, we will never be the highest count on TripAdvisor simply because we focus on smaller private and mini-group tours resulting in fewer yet more satisfied customers!!

We do! We offer many interesting tours across the Baltics through a network of our highly reliable partners who have received the highest rankings on TripAdvisor. With us you can book tours in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn. Save time and headache communicating with multiple providers in many ports and contact us today!

Absolutely! We are fully licensed to operate our own tours and to arrange visa-free disembarkation for all our cruise guests. For other travelers staying in hotels we offer complimentary visa invitation letters under our own name (again, we do not need to resell other companies’ visa invitations).

Our registration number in the Russian Registry of Tour Operators is MBT 000585. Also in accordance with the Russian laws, we are bonded and fully insured by one of Russia’s largest and most reliable general insurance companies. Please feel free to contact us to view a copy of our current insurance coverage.

Booking and Cancellations

To book a cruise shore excursion please head over to our BOOKING FORM and follow online instructions provided there. You will need to answer a few simple questions about your desired tour as well as provide your personal information to allow us to process your Tour Tickets. You will also be offered an option to prepay any amount towards your tour and get a discount commensurate with the amount of such prepayment (it is not required by any means!).

10 business days (2 weeks) prior to your arrival in port. This time is required to process the necessary paperwork to arrange your visa-free entry into Russia.

As we would need to be in receipt of personal information for all group members at least 2 weeks prior to tour start date, unfortunately it is not possible to add new guests you meet aboard the ship.

If you are planning to share your tour with other passengers, we recommend using CruiseCritic’s Roll Call section to assemble a group prior to departure

Absolutely! If you have a group of more than 6 and are interested to arrange a Shared Tour, your group is very welcome!

Our 6 person limit is designed to provide ultimate flexibility and enjoyment for those groups which we assemble from the same ship and does not apply to already existing larger groups.

Our guests who paid a deposit can cancel at any time subject to the following conditions:

- FULL REFUND if your ship misses the port or if you cancel for any reason no later than 3 business days before arrival
- 50% REFUND if you cancel for any reason no later than 2 business days before arrival
- NO REFUND in case of no-shows or if you cancel for any reason less than 2 business days before arrival
- NO REFUND on museum, ballet and other entertainment tickets once purchased, as such tickets are non-refundable to us.

Those guests who did not pay a deposit can cancel at any time subject to the following condition:

- 25% TOUR PRICE PAYMENT to compensate us for non-refundable museum tickets. As a courtesy to you, we use our own hard-earned money to pre-purchase all museum tickets so that you could go inside museums without waiting in lines. Once purchased, museum tickets are non-refundable to us. If you cancel after the tickets have been purchased we expect the same courtesy from you that you will cover our loss.

If you cancel after being issued the official Tour Tickets in lieu of Russian visas, it will take 2 (two) business days to void these tickets with the Russian Border Control Service and you will no longer be able to enter Russia using them.

We can only accept written notices of cancellation - sent either electronically or by fax (see Contact details). Please do not leave us voice messages with tour cancellations.

Payment & Money Matters

You can pay for your tour by cash or credit card (VISA or MasterCard only). Please note that if you plan to pay for your tour upon arrival, we recommend cash payment as there may be delays processing credit cards in port (due to credit card’s issuing bank blocking the charge coming from Russia). It is up to you how you want to handle payment – you may pay the full amount before the tour to get it out of the way or can pay 50% at the end of each tour day. The choice is yours!

If you elect to make a prepayment to get a discount, such prepayment can be made by credit card.

What you see is what you pay! We do not add any additional fees or levies on top of the tour price you see. The prices you see on our website are all-inclusive gross prices which cover all travel services, port and government dues such as visa-processing paperwork, taxes, port access charges, etc.

We do not charge any extra fee for credit card payments! All credit card payments are processed based on the official Central Bank of Russia exchange rate on the date of transaction. You are advised to use a credit card without a separate foreign currency translation fee.

While it is advisable to have some Russian currency for small incidentals (did you know that some museums charge money to use their bathroom facilities?), usually it is not a problem to get Rubles from one of the many ATMs located in the area

Gratuities are not included in the tour price. Our guides and drivers are experienced travel industry professionals and the amount of tips you may wish to leave should be consistent with Western standards. Our recommended amount is 10% of the tour cost for the guide and 5% for the driver, paid separately. Gratuities will not be included in the credit card invoice so please have some cash with you (USD, EUR or RUB) for this purpose.

Due to extremely high demand for premium venues such as the Mariinsky Theater, tickets must be secured as soon as they go on sale (usually 4 to 6 weeks prior to show date). We will advise you on available tickets and their prices to get your approval before charging your credit card. Please do not leave such decisions to arrival date as it is virtually impossible to buy good seats on the performance day!

Discounts

Children 6 years old and under: Free to join (except Moscow tour)

Children 7 years old and up / Full-time students: Discount depends on the chosen itinerary. Assuming one of our sample tour programs is selected with no additional activities, the following discounts are available

SHORE EXCURIONS
ONE DAY
TWO DAYS
THREE DAYS
Glitz & Glamour
$5pp
$10pp
$15pp
Roll Like a Russian!
$7pp
$15pp
$22pp
The Grand Slalom
$10pp
$20pp
$30pp
CITY TOURS
DISCOUNT
St. Petersburg 1 Day
$5pp
St. Petersburg 2 Day
$10pp
St. Petersburg 3 Day
$15pp
St. Petersburg 4 Day
$20pp
St. Petersburg 5 Day
$25pp
St. Petersburg 6 Day
$30pp
Moscow 1 Day
$5pp
Moscow 2 Day
$10pp
Moscow 3 Day
$15pp
Novgorod 1 Day
$10pp

We regret to inform you that Russian museums do not extend any discounts to senior citizens or AAA members. Consequently our standard rates apply.

Enjoy a 5% discount off any tours across the Baltics that you book with us in addition to St. Petersburg and/or Moscow tours. We help you save time by acting as a single point of contact for a variety of shore excursions in the area. And we help you save money too!

Cannot be combined with other discounts.

If you book not later than 5 months in advance, you will receive a 5% discount off any amount you decide to pre-pay at time of booking. You may pre-pay as low as $50 or the entire tour amount – the choice is yours. The more you pre-pay the more you save!

This discounted pre-payment is entirely voluntary and is not required to book our tours.

NO MONEY DOWN
PICK YOUR DISCOUNT
Due at Booking
0% (no deposit)
0% - 100% (you decide)
Due on Arrival
100%
100% - 0% (depends on prepaid amount)
Cancellation
Free to Cancel at Any Time
Free to Cancel at Any Time
Discount
0%
5% of Prepaid Amount (if booked at least five months before arrival)

We welcome travel agents and compensate them for their time by offering a 10% discount off the price of tours in Russia and 5% discount off the price of tours in other Baltic ports.

Tour Logistics

Upon booking a tour with us, you will be receiving either a Tour Ticket (for cruise ship passengers) or a Travel Voucher (for all other guests).

Tour Ticket serves as your entry ticket into Russia which you will present to the immigration officer at point of entry in lieu of visa. No need to worry – we will inform the Russian authorities about your entry into Russia before your arrival and going trough immigration will be a breeze!

Travel Voucher is our official confirmation letter of the travel services you will receive.

Ship Clearance:

It takes approximately 30 to 60 min to clear your ship once it touches its berth in St. Petersburg Port. From the moment the ship is cleared the disembarkation process will begin.

Disembarkation Process:

To disembark from the ship you will need to present the following documents to the Russian immigration official:

  • Valid Tour Ticket (which you will have received from us upon booking your tour)
  • Original passport
  • Photocopy of the passport's photo page

Meeting Your Guide:

Your tour guide will waiting for you with a sign bearing your name a few meters away from the immigration control point. In case you have difficulty finding your guide please call personal tour manager number or send a quick message from your phone. We have never lost a single client and for sure will be expecting you on the pier on your arrival day!

Tour starting times:

It is extremely important for all shared tours participants to be on time joining their tour in the morning. Failure to do so may result in catastrophic tour changes that may include cancelled museum visits, significantly shortened inside tours, and extreme levels of dissatisfaction and dispair for those guests who were on time.

Please allow up to 60 minutes to clear custom formalities at the Port of St. Petersburg before joining your tour.

Itinerary changes:

No itinerary changes are allowed in a shared tour unless the entire group agrees to them. If your desired tour change is not possible due to disagreement among group members, please respect your travelmates. After all you traded flexibility for a lower tour price to save money.

Important disclaimer:

Insider Tour cannot be held responsible for ruined tour experience that is caused by laggards joining their tour late. We reserve the right to alter the tour program any way to maximize our guests' experience in the limited time left in the tour. We cannot offer any refunds in cases our guests are late joining their tour.

Signing up for the shared tour indicates your agreement to these terms. If in doubt, please choose our private tours instead.

Many of our past clients reported receiving false information from cruise line personnel regarding private tours. Usually, the story goes 2 ways:

Myth #1: Denied entry to Russia

The claim is that the tour tickets provided by us are NOT a legitimate substitue for visas and "for sure" these tickets holders will not be allowed to go ashore in St. Petersburg.

Upon boarding the ship you may hear things like " What company? What tour ticket? Sorry but this flimsy piece of paper will NOT get you into Russia. You'd better hurry and sign up for cruise ship tours - unless you want to be stuck on the ship while your fellow cruisers are enjoying St. Petersburg. And do it right now - tomorrow it may well be too late!"

Myth #2: Delayed disembarkation from the ship

Another cruise line's favourite is a claim that independent tour participants can ONLY leave the ship after the ship organized tour groups have gone ashore. Often 9:30am or even 10:00am are offered as the earliest time private tour guests can start leaving the ship "due to the latest communication received from the St. Petersburg Port Authorities" or simply because "earlier disembarkation by independent tourists causes major delays for ship organized tours."

Yet, despite these and other similar scare tactics stories we have never had a client who was refused entry to Russia. All our clients with valid tour tickets have gone ashore with no problem!

Your best course of action if faced with a similar communication from the ship is to be prepared.

Please remember the following:

1. Your cruise ship DOES NOT exercise control over your entry into Russia. Only the Russian Immigration Service has such powers under the Russian Law and no commercial cruise line was ever granted the right to decide who can enter Russia and who cannot.

2. Once we send your personal details to the Russian Immigration Service and you get our Tour Tickets, your names will be entered into the Russian Immigration Database so your arrival will not be a surprise to anyone ashore. In fact, the Immigration Service will be expecting you and your disembarkation will be swift.

3. It is not 1986 and there is no Big Brother aboard the ship. Your decision to retain independent tour services does not make you a second-class citizen and so you are free to leave the ship as soon as it clears (usually 30-60 minutes from the moment it docks).

See Visa Section for more information.

Leave your worries behind - Your tour guide is waiting for you on the pier!

In very rare cases (we can only remember a handful in over 15 years!) your ship may be moved to a pier which is different from the originally scheduled one. This may happen due to your original pier being unexpectedly unable to receive new ships. In such circumstances we will act quickly and re-direct our tour team to meet you at the correct location. As one of the very few tour companies having full clearance to arrange visa-free disembarkation in Russia, we have the necessary systems in place to monitor docking schedule of all ships in the St. Petersburg Harbour and you are guaranteed we will not miss your ship! Similarly on our departure day – we will get you back to your ship satisfied, safe and on time!
If you are unable to participate in our tour because your ship misses the port altogether, we will offer a refund.

Certain sights and activities on our tour itineraries are listed as either “Optional” or “Upon Request”. “Optional” activities require advance booking and usually entail a separate fee (e.g. Gold Rooms at the Hermitage Museum, private or public boat ride, etc.). “Upon Request” items are free of charge and can be accommodated by merely discussing this with your tour guide while on a tour.

In the event of unforeseen changes to the itinerary (caused by a museum being off-limits due to official delegation’s arrival or an emergency situation) we will do the best we can to offer a comparable replacement to fill your time with good experience. If you decide to skip a museum or other sight with already pre-paid admissions, we will not be able to refund the cost of such admission as it is not refundable to us.

Most museums in Russia charge a separate fee for the interior picture taking and video shooting. Depending on the museum and type of your equipment, the charge may vary from $3 to $12.

Our tour prices include the cost of such “photo permits” and allow usage of 1 camera per couple or a solo traveler in all museums but the Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg (where it costs $5 extra per camera). Please note that video shooting is not provisioned for in our tour calculation and should be paid for extra. If you wish to shoot video inside museums please notify us in advance of your arrival and we will make the necessary arrangement beforehand (so as to ensure quickest entry into museums with no delays).

All our vehicles are clean, Western made (Mercedes, Audi, Setra, Volvo, etc.), air-conditioned and in perfect mechanical condition with all safety features in place. All cars, buses and vans are insured and undergo regular mechanical compliance tests. No smoking is allowed inside our vehicles.

Available vehicle sizes: Sedan (1-2 persons), van (3-6 persons), mini-bus (7-10 persons), medium bus (11-16 persons), large bus (17-25 persons), jumbo bus (26-42).

All drivers undergo regular health tests. Some of them speak English and will be happy to keep an eye on your belongings while you are inside museums.

URGENT VEHICLE REPLACEMENT GUARANTEE:

In the unlikely event of a mechanical failure or a traffic accident, we will arrange for a replacement vehicle or get a taxi for the remainder of your tour day at no cost to you.

The vehicle choice will depend on your exact location and the time we find out about the need to replace the vehicle - if within 3 hours of your ship's departure your best bet is getting a cab ride back to the ship.

We can arrange child seats for those traveling with infants, toddlers and small kids. Please be sure to send your request in advance to ensure availability.

Please note that while we do not offer a wheelchair rental service, sometimes it is possible to get a wheelchair at major museums when you arrive (like the Hermitage, for example). In this case the wheelchair is meant to be used while on a tour of that museum only and must be returned upon exiting the museum.

If you need to use a wheelchair for the entire duration of your tour, your best bet is to rent one from your cruise ship.

We regret that our tour guides are unable to push your wheelchair during the tour and you are strongly advised to either have your group members help you or, should you travel solo, request such assistance from your ship.

Meals are optional to give you the added flexibility to choose your preferred meal option.

Eat-on-the-go:

Bring your own packed lunch from the ship

Grab a snack:

Enjoy a quick lunch or a sandwich at one of the city bistros. Our tour guides can take you to authentic Russian eateries where you can enjoy real Russian food.

We recommend pirogi at the Stoll Bar, blini at Teremok and U Teschi Na Blinakh, soups and cakes at Shokoladnitsa, etc.

Price: $8-$16 per person.

Lunch reservation:

Savour the ultimate in Russian cuisine by pre-booking a table at the leading restaurants.

Price: $25-$80 per person (depending on your wine choice).

IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR TOUR GROUPS:

Tour groups of 10 people or more must reserve lunches in advance as it is impossible to eat quickly as a group by simply showing up at a restaurant as there may not be enough tables vacant.

Thank you for your inquiry

You will receive a response from us within 24 hours of your initial request.