At the moment we are cycling through Finland to Helsinki. We are thinking about visiting Russia on our way to the south.
Does anyone know the road from the border via Kostomuksha to the main road E105/P21? This could be the road where we enter Russia.
We would leave near Sortawala, or we could cycle on the west side of lake Ladoga. Is this good to cycle?
Other idea would be to just visit the area around Wyborg, if we are too slow.
Does anyone know something about the roads in that area? Sand roads, steep hills, ...
Greetings from Inari, Ole
Hello Inga and Ole,
To answer something of your question.
1. Do realize that you need a visa for Russia (or do you have Russian passports). If you are already on the way, I think it will not be so simple to organize it quickly (or you will have to pay a lot extra).
2. In 2009 I cycled Ivangorod - Sosnovy Bor - St Petersburg - Primorsk - Vyborg. My experience then was that most local roads (between the villages / towns) are absolutely not good (big holes) but possible to cycle, if you do not go fast, and have reasonably wide tyres. The main roads between towns / villages are usually "asphalt", the smaller roads might also be gravel (half-pavement).
3. In 2014 I was 3 weeks in Petrozavodsk, and I also made some trips around the city. Same story: roads are absolutely not good, but possible to cycle. Russia is trying to improve the roads, but it depends on the region how fast it goes. Karelian republic government seems not to be the fastest in improving their roads. The main road E105/P21 is not so bad (in my memory).
4. Area around Vyborg: on my 2009-tour I went from St Petersburg -Vyborg - Helsinki. In order to avoid cycling the main highway from Vyborg to the boarder, I took the ferry from Vyborg to Lappeenranta. Expensive but very nice trip. I wanted to avoid the main highway because there is quite a lot of truck traffic, and there are long, long queues of lorries on the Russian side of the boarder.
Have you thought about accommodation? Campings are very rare, and hotels are absent in all but the bigger towns.
And another remark: Outside the really big cities you will not find many people who speak English or another foreign language. Anyway, being able to read Cyrillic alphabet is a great plus, as (almost) all texts are in Cyrillic alphabet.
Advantage of Russia is that Russian life (food etc.) is a lot cheaper than Finland.
I do not want to discourage you from a trip to Russia, as it is a really interesting country, and people can be very friendly (not always) and helpful. But it requires a little bit more preparation than western Europe.
Hi Juuk, thanks for your answer. Bedankt :-)
Yes, we know that we'll need a visa. And you did not discourage us, "possible to cycle" sounds good enough. ;-)
Did you have any problems with (wild) dogs on your trips?
If we travel Russia, we probably go from Sortawala to Wyborg.
Hello Ole and Inga,
I hardly ever had problems with dogs (as far as I can remember). Only one time on my way in Kaliningrad Oblast ( the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania) I was really scared of the dogs.
If you do the way from Sortavala to Vyborg I have 2 remarks:
1. The road A121 is on Google streetview. So, you can make your own judgement of the asfalt. I looked a few points (here and there) and I think the quality of the road is quite good. Better than I expected, and very well cyclable.
2. If you take this route, do not forget to make a stop in Priozersk. I was there in 2008 for a day. Really nice small town to relax, beautifully located on the shores of the lake. Really worthwhile to spend a couple of hours, and probably a good place to do some shopping too.
Enjoy your trip, and if you have questions, ask me. I can not answer everything, but I have a bit of experience.
Thank you for your answers. Priozersk sounds good. We also would like to sankt Petersburg, but I think we don't have enough time for that. Maybe using a public bus? But I dont know if that is possible, because we have a little dog with us.
Your not existing bad experience with dogs is good :-)
One thing I forgot last time: At the moment we sleep in our tent. If we can take our dog in a hotel or something like that, we will use it, too.
But usually we prefer wild camping in the tent. (How much Rubel is an average price for One night, Do you have an idea about that?)
Greetings, Tess, Inga and Ole
Hello Inga and Ole,
Yes, Priozersk is good. You might find a campsite there, though I am not sure. I found there even 2 hotels in the town (on google maps and booking.com). If you can take the dog with you in the hotel, I do not know. you will have to ask.
As said, I doubt that you will find many campsites. My cycling in Russia is 9 years ago now, and I did not use a campsite, as I did not see any. I stayed with private persons via hospitalityclub.org, comparable to couchsurfing.org. So, I can not tell you anything about prices of campsites.
On the one side, prices in Russia are rising rapidly (but still relatively low compared with Western Europe and even lower compared with Scandinavia), on the other hand, the rouble has fallen about 1/3 in the last 2 years, so that makes it cheaper for you. You could expect that it is clearly less than you pay in Finland. But It will be interesting to hear if and where you found campsites. Maybe you have a better chance to ask people if you can camp in their garden. Either they will send you away (being too surprised or scared about your question), or they will receive you very helpfully.
About St Petersburg: I think you can take a little dog in the public bus from Vyborg to St Petersburg. And if not, you can take the train. There are plenty of trains (about 1 / hour). Trip takes about 2h15 min, but there are a few fast trains which do it in 1h15min.
Realize that St Petersburg is an incredible city (big, with many loads of interesting things to see and do, and that you will get tired from walking. So, it is worth to prepare a bit, and make a short list of what you want to do and see. If you want help or advice, feel free to ask, as I have lived in the city for altogether about 2,5 months, so I know it a bit (but not more than a bit, even after 2,5 months!
Good luck with your trip.
Hallo Juuk. Thank you very much for your answer again.
We talked with a finish veterinary today. He said we cannot go to Russia at the moment, because our dog needs medicine against rabies. Of course, our dog got it, but that was done in June 2015. Lasting for two years, so till June 2017.
But to go to Russia, it must not be older than one year. Also, it has to be at least three weeks old.
That is too much time for us to wait, we don't have that time.
Thank you for all your information. Maybe we can use it somewhere in the future, I hope.
just a short information:
About 10 km before we reached the border aVärtsilä, we were stopped by a car of the finnish toll (or something like that). They were not sure if it is possible to cross the border by bike. The problem is on the russian side, they said. But we can try it. And so we did.
At the border, there was no problem, the russian toll didn't even check the microchip number. On the finnish side, there was a sign "pedestrians and cyclists forbidden", but they opened the gate though.
We cycled to Sortawala then. The road 86K-332 was not perfect, but okay. The traffic was also okay. When we reached the A-121 the road was good, but with more traffic. Sometimes we cycled on the area right next to the road.
Because I had more and more problems with my trailer, we decided to go back on the same way to Finnland.
When they checked our dog on the russian side, one of the toll persons said something about "problem" and "velosiped". I think he said: We can go by bike to the russian side of the border, but we must not continue to the finnish side.
Fortunatelly there was one young man at the border this time who speaks English, and after some time, we were allowed to get through.
Again, there was a finnish side "pedestrians and cyclists forbidden" right at the beginning of Finland.
On both ways, we spent about 1 hour at the border. Most of the time, we were waiting for people, who ran away with our passports or pet passport.