Alexander Dybin, Petersburg
Finland lifts entry restrictions for residents of Russia. From July 1, visiting the country for the purpose of tourism will be free, in addition, the acceptance of applications for visas will resume as usual. Novye Izvestia tried to find out how travel agencies are preparing for this, which before the pandemic specialized in trips to Finland. So far, no company has formed a comprehensive proposal.
“We don’t ship to Finland yet, it’s not yet clear how it will all work, plus there are still restrictions on leaving the Russian side,” Fintrip told Novye Izvestiya, “we can offer you a trip to Estonia , this is already a well-established process, and from there you can get to Finland yourself.
Note that since last year, the rules for traveling to Estonia have been relaxed, but good reasons were needed to visit the country. These include treatment, so travel agencies quickly established contacts with medical centers and mastered the issuance of medical certificates that a tourist is going to visit a doctor. According to them, Russian border guards freely let out of the country. Travel agencies even offer a so-called "transit tour" to Estonia - organizing a trip to this country in order to fly from there to other European countries with which Russia has stopped air traffic. Such tours cost 17-20 thousand rubles.
The company "Eclectic", which previously offered several tours to Suomi, also reported that they could not yet offer options for tours to this country.
“We don’t have such proposals, and we don’t plan to,” the company said, “most likely, no one has such options now.”
According to experts interviewed by Novye Izvestia, the problem with a trip to Finland for Russians rests on two limitations: the position of the Russian border guards, who have not lifted the restrictive measures, as well as the almost complete absence of convenient transport in Suomi. Russian border guards let people out of the country to Finland only for good reasons, which include such as the fact that a Russian has Finnish real estate, as well as the need to visit a hospital. So, on June 22, the border guards did not let film director Alexander Sokurov out of Russia, who was trying to drive to Helsinki in order to fly from there to Milan for a conference. The director was kept at the border for several hours and was eventually not released.
A guide living in Finland, Aleksey Boldenyuk , told Novye Izvestia that in recent days there have been more Russian speakers in the country, but as a rule, these are citizens of other European countries.
“There are noticeably more cars with Russian license plates, and from June 30 there will be even more. But these are not tourists, but those who "need", who travel on business, to be treated or to visit relatives, - says the interlocutor. - I see a lot of Russian-speaking people in Helsinki, but these are Russians from Europe who are brought on ships, since the cruise season has opened. There are a lot of such tourists from Germany. There are difficulties with transport to leave Russia, and until they are resolved, there will be no tourist flow. The Allegro train was canceled, it was possible to leave St. Petersburg for Helsinki in the morning, take a walk for several hours and be at home at 9 pm. And the main flow of tourists was from cruise ships from St. Petersburg, they are not there either. I don’t think we should expect a large flow until the restrictions on the Russian side are lifted.”
At the same time, the expert noticed a certain revival of interest in Finland from Russia.
“Today I was in the hospital on business and the Russians called me in front of me, they tried to make an appointment in order to get documents to leave Russia,” the source says, “I think that if someone really wants to visit Finland, there will be no problems, but no one expects a mass flow, as before. As for prices, yes they have gone up. Hotel prices have gone up, of course. Yes, everything has grown. But if you can exchange euros at the current rate, the prices will not scare you. With cash, there will be no problems with payment.
Alexander Kalinichuk , the founder of LAPLAND CAMP from Rovaniemi, told Novye Izvestia that there are requests from Russian tourists after the news about the opening of borders, but so far there is no clarity on entry.
“There are requests, of course, but they are not letting them in yet,” the expert says, “an option like with Estonia, when people receive medical documents en masse, is probably unlikely to succeed, since Finland is aware of this scheme ... As for transport, it is at the level Rumor has it that Allegro trains from St. Petersburg may be resumed in the fall. I work as a guide and tour operator and I would really like the Russians to come. Now we have tourists from Europe, Russian-speaking tourists who live in the EU also come on New Year's holidays, but there are no such volumes as before. The Russian tourists, along with the Chinese, were of great importance. These were the two strongest groups of flows, bringing huge benefits to the country and income. In Finland, there are no bans on Russians yet. Everywhere you can dine, or book accommodation. The Finns are more or less neutral in this regard, although sometimes I see too much inappropriate pro-Western propaganda in the newspapers.
As Novye Izvestia was told by the press service of the Ostrovok hotel booking service, interest in Finland is waking up, but there is no booking wave.
“According to our data, in general , Russian tourists have an interest in holidays in Finland - for example, for June-August 2022, tourists most often book hotels in Helsinki and Vantaa, less often in the cities of Imatra, Kerimäki. However, the country is not yet in the top 30 most popular foreign destinations and only ranks 32nd. Probably, tourists have taken a wait-and-see position for now and want to see if Finland really opens the borders for our travelers and in what format, - the press service of Ostrovok.ru reported, - we have thousands of hotels in Finland available. Most of them can be booked at a rate paid on the site or in a mobile application. In this case, travelers can pay for bookings using any cards issued by Russian banks, including Visa and MasterCard. The user enters into an agreement for the provision of services with a Russian legal entity and transfers funds to the company's Russian account.
Now there are two ways to get directly into Finland. Firstly, by car, and only citizens of the country are allowed through. And a whole business has grown up around this norm. People with both passports look for fellow travelers in telegram chats and take them across the border. The second option is the bus. Every day, several flights start from St. Petersburg, costing from 4200 to 4900 rubles one way. The journey to Helsinki will take about eight hours.
There remains an Estonian window with departure first to this Baltic country, and then by ferry or plane to Finland. But about 20 thousand rubles will have to be added to the cost of the trip.
You can also fly by plane, but through third countries. Ticket search services offer rather exotic flight options. For example, through Tashkent. All such options are long with connections up to 30 hours, and expensive: a one-way ticket will cost from 100 thousand rubles and more.
As for housing, you can try to book hotels through Booking. The service has repeatedly stated that it does not work in Russia and cannot accept payment. But a large number of hotels are booked with payment on the spot, which means that you do not need to transfer money through the service. Prices really bite. So a room in a four-star hotel in the center of Helsinki for five nights for two will cost more than 800 euros.