By bicycle through the Kaliningrad region

About the project

Since 2007 I’ve received many emails from people who were interested in crossing the Kaliningrad region by bicycle. For many years I've distributed a PDF document with some useful information which helped cyclists from different countries to plan and make their trip from Western Europe to Baltic countries or vice versa in a more comfortable way. I support this project on voluntary basis and I’m trying to give you a weighted and independent opinion. Every year I meet a number of cyclists crossing the Kaliningrad region and information exchange really help me to support the project.

I support this project because I like idea of traveling by bicycle over the different countries. I don't see any changes in the relations between inhabitants of the Kaliningrad region and foreigners who visiting our small territory. Local people in Kaliningrad are open for guests from the EU and other countries of the World. We appreciate your interest in Kaliningrad and we are glad to see you here. Enjoy your adventure and welcome to Kaliningrad!

I want to thank people who help me with this project:

          Detlef Kaden - the maps with bicycle routes

          Fritz Pröve - the translation of information into German

                     In case of any question please feel free to contact me

                     Kind regards, Oleg Alferov

                     Website updated: August 20, 2019

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Crossing the border

From July 1, 2019 citizens of many countries can apply at a specialized website of Russian MFA for single business, humanitarian and tourist visas in the form of an electronic document (e-visa) to visit the territory of the Kaliningrad Region. Electronic visa is free and is issued on the ground of foreign citizen application that is filled online at the above mentioned website no later than 4 days before the proposed date of arrival and with a digital photo added to the application. No additional documents are needed for electronic visa application. Electronic visa is valid within 30 days starting from the date of issue and allow 8 days of stay in the Kaliningrad region.

Very important information (!): there are strange rumors about the rule of a 'single entrance and leaving point' but this information is not correct. I have had a conversation with the Minister for tourism development of the Kaliningrad region and he confirmed that persons who have e-visa can freely enter and leave the region through the any of the border checkpoints listed on the Russian MFA website. On Polish border you can enter the region at Goldap-Gusev, Bezledy-Bagrationovsk, Grzechotki - Mamonovo, Gronowo-Mamonovo. At Lithuanian border you may pass through at Morskoye - Nida, Sovietsk - Panemune, Pogranichny - Ramoniskiai, Chernyshevskoye - Kybartai.

Please be aware that e-visa is a single entry document, so each time you enter the Kaliningrad region, you will need to apply for an e-visa again. For example, you entered the region from Poland and then left to Lithuania. If then you decide to return from Lithuania through the Kaliningrad region to Poland, you will need to apply for an e-visa again. You can get as many e-visas as you need - the limit is not set. The main thing is to follow the rule of staying in the Kaliningrad region for no more than 8 days.

If you plan to travel further to St. Petersburg or another Russian territory outside the Kaliningrad Region you need to have a standard Russian visa. You may apply for it in the nearest Russian consulate in your country. For Russian visa you need an invitation. For most of people it's more convenient to deal with some tourism bureau or specialized companies which are offering such services in most of countries. In Poland and Germany there are companies who even offered on-line services and sending ready visa to you by post at the end.

When you arrive at the Polish/Russian border or Lithuanian/Russian border on your bicycle please do not wait in a car line, just go to the Border checkpoint. Be confident and be polite.

There are no problems crossing the Lithuanian-Russian border at Nida-Morskoe checkpoint in both directions. If you go to Lithuania it’s better to cycle along the Curonian Spit as it is a National Park with exciting nature (sandy dunes, pine-tree woods and interesting sightseeing points) and asphalt road with low traffic.

Situation at the Polish/Russian border looks as follows:

  1. The Goldap-Gusev checkpoint is opened for cyclists and you may pass there freely, but it’s too far to east from the main road which goes alongside of the Baltic Sea. Form the other hand it’s famous Rominta. For centuries it was a hunting wood of rulers of East Preussen. It is really tiny place with low traffic.
  2. The Bezledy-Bagrationovsk checkpoint is for cars, buses and heavy trucks. It is used mainly for lorries so if there is no special need for you to pass border there please try to avoid this checkpoint.
  3. The Mamonovo-Grzechotki checkpoint was finally opened in late 2010 and fully operational.
  4. The Mamonovo-Gronowo checkpoint is for cars, buses and light trucks. There is no walking pass. Cyclists are eligible to pass there as bicycle is considered to be a vehicle. It is worth to note that majority of cyclists want to cross the Polish/Russian border exactly there because it’s a direct way to/from Gdansk (or Elblag, or Frombork), Poland. Since 2006 the Russian Border Guards do let  cyclists to pass this border freely. During last years I’ve no evidences from cyclists that any problems there with border crossing. Opposite people say to me that they cross border smooth and easily.

I recommend you to cross the border here by two reasons:

  1. it’s direct way from nice and tiny Frombork (PL) to the border
  2. because 80% of cars are using the Mamonovo-Grzechotki checkpoint (so called Mamonovo-2) it's a high chance that old road from Mamonovo to Kaliningrad will have moderate traffic

Restricted areas

The area of the Kaliningrad Region includes zones with limited or regulated visiting. Border zone is a strip along the state boundary where free movement of people is limited (indicated by a green line on the map). Area closed to foreign citizens is a territory with regulated visiting for foreign citizens (indicated by a purple line on the map).

Foreign citizens may enter the border zone if they possess identity documents and permission (individual or collective) issued by the Russian FSB border control.

Foreign citizens may enter the border zone having only their passports in the following cases:

- If they are registered within the border zone, or are family members of those registered;

- If they are transiting the border zone.

All the open communities and areas of the Kaliningrad Region are accessible by transit by railways or roads. While crossing the restricted areas by transit, the special permits are not required.

In order to enter the zone with regulated visiting, foreign citizens may contact a representative of one of the following travel agencies: Anuta, Baltma, Brisen, Nocturne, Svena Tour, Universalstroy. In order to have the pass issued, foreign citizens should provide their passport information to one of the agencies at least 3 weeks prior to the expected date of entry.

Summary: If you are going by a public road, you are eligible to cross the restricted area. Please follow my recommendations on the route  selection and you will not  meet a problem. In case of unlikely possible situation of checking your identity by Russian officers please inform them that you are on your transit way from point A to point B (of course these geographical locations should be out of restricted zone) and you are not broken the rule because you are following by the public road.

Accommodation

It might be a good idea to spend your time in Yantarny as it’s a place of the biggest open excavation of amber in the World. According to the statistics more than 90% of world’s amber deposit is situated there. There are the widest sandy beaches of the Kaliningrad region and they have a restaurant situated directly on the beach – at this road cross you shall take left road (if you are going from the South) and drive down the hill. The pearl of Yantarny is the Promenade. It’s a 5 kilometers wooden path meandering through the dunes and even salty lake situated on the beach! I really recommend you to go there!

In Yantarny it is possible to set up tent at artificial lake situated close to the Baltic Sea coastline. Lake is very clean and deep – it’s real pleasure to swim there. The place can be crowded in Summer during a daytime because its popularity. The ‘Demersus’ diving club is situated there.  They have toilet and summer shower, place for open fire and barbeque, security, night light, sport tools, playground for kids and access to sandy beach. There are nice café and comfortable toilet 100 meters away from the club. Parking for cars is available. Because ‘Demersus’ is more diving club than campsite please ask them directly for possibility to stay as well as for prices. Nearby to Yantarny lake you may find Valterra eco-camping (see Booking.com for prices).

If you want to stay overnight in your tent in other place I can recommend you a nice place directly at the Baltic Sea – Primorye village. There is no official camping site but in summer time a lot of people visit this place because the road allows you to drive your car or bicycle directly to the beach. Some local people stay there overnight and sleep in cars or tents, so please don’t worry about safety. This place is also considered as a sightseeing point (from the top of the hill).

In general you may sleep in your tent almost everywhere except for seven-kilometer border zone, towns and villages. You may stay at lakes, in a wood or in a wild field.

Svetlogorsk and Zelenogradsk are resort areas so there are plenty of hotels but in summer time it’s difficult to book a hotel because many visitors come from Russia and abroad. In Svetlogorsk it worth to visit promenade. Try to find old Water Supply Tower – the symbol of Svetlogorsk. If you want to buy some food especially when you leave Svetlogorsk going toward the Curonian Spit you may find good grocery shop at the town limits. Some small grocery shops with affordable prices you may find in the center of the town.

If you want to stay in Kaliningrad for a night I can suggest you to look at Villa Severin hotel. It's very cosy hotel situated in tiny park zone close to the city center. Owner of the hotel is very reliable person and his target group of customers are foreign tourists. Price range wide and starts from low-medium margin. It's up to you to choose small cheap room or apartment. They have storage facilities for bicycles. Staff speaks foreign languages. The hotel is very close to Oberteich lake and beautiful park area with bicycle roads around the lake.

Another guest house with reasonable prices is ‘Paraiso’, situated on Turgeneva str., 32A.

Some cycling tourists stay in the hotel ‘Tchaikovsky’, which is located close to the city center, two kilometers away from the Victory Square.

Of course I’ve indicated only few hotels and we have hundreds of them. On Booking.com and Tripadvisor.com you definitely will find more opportunities. AirBnB.com and Couchsurfing.com also might be a good solution for some of you. It’s up to you to explore Internet and to choose where you prefer to live.

Curonian spit

The Curonian Spit (your way to/from Lithuania) is the National Park under protection of UNESCO so it’s not allowed to set up your tent there and to use campfire. But there are hotels and guest houses on this wonderful peninsula.

At the entrance to the National Park there is a checkpoint where small ecological fee is charged from cars and motorcycles. Please note: in 2018, cyclists and pedestrians should pay small fee which is approx. 3 EUR by current exchange rate.

For small money  you may get here a booklet with most interesting places worth to visit. The Efa dune near Morskoe is a great sightseeing point where you may watch the Curonian Gulf and the Baltic Sea at the same time.

It's a true pleasure to cycle alongside of the Curonian Spit as it is flat and the traffic is low. Helpful info on Kuronian Spit is here. The official website of the National Park is here.

Infrastructure

There are no special roads for bikes in the Kaliningrad region so you must use the road for cycling. Please keep eyes on vehicles going in your direction. Bright visible clothes and flash lights on your bicycle may be a good idea.

Traffic rules in Russia are similar to EU countries. Bicycle is a transportation vehicle and it is allowed to use a standard road. It is not allowed to use highways (autobahns). Cycling by roads is allowed for persons who at least 14 years old. In reality, nobody check this. If you use a standard road you need to keep as right as possible. You not allowed to turn left if road have more than 1 pass in each direction. In that case you need to walk through a road on opposite side of it. It is allowed to use side of the road if it is not disturbing pedestrians. It is not allowed to cycle by sidewalk. But in reality it is not a big problem and I’m pretty sure police should be lenient to you (especially in zones with a high traffic). So in every case you may take decision what is more safe – to take a road or occasionally a sidewalk.

In the Routes section you will find some recommended tracks for bicyclists.

In case if transit cyclists are limited in time and want to go from Kaliningrad to Curonian spit directly the fastest and more safe way is to use A-191 road. It's old road from Kaliningrad to Zelenogradsk. Now we have a new highway (A-217) going in parallel so car traffic was migrated from the old road to the new one. Please note that it is not allowed to cycle by the A-217 highway.

In some parts of Kaliningrad city we have bicycle roads. There are plans for building a new bicycle road at the coastline between Svetlogorsk and Zelenogradsk. It was constructed only 3,5 km, but we hope in will be extended in the future.

Information

If you have any questions related to the tourism in the Kaliningrad region try to visiting official website of the Regional Tourism Info Center.

The Tourism Information Center in Svetlogorsk is situated at K.Marx str., 7a. The website is available in Russian.

Here is a helpful information on where to repair a bicycle in Kaliningrad and at the seaside.The website itself is interesting and you may find here some practical information.

In 2016 two German cyclists tried to leave Kaliningrad region by a bus. Here is an info, I’ve received from them: ‘KoenigAuto’ #254 bus offers Kaliningrad to Potsdam on Thursdays at 7pm. ‘Ecolines’ running to Potsdam on Thursdays at 3pm doesn't allow bicycles. We bought boxes for our bicycles and will put them on Koenig bus running every day from Kaliningrad to Gdansk at 6:30AM. Onward travel to Berlin with ‘Flixbus’.

Here is a website of international bus station in Kaliningrad.

Not too many Russians speak foreign languages. Please take it into account. Try to learn a few common Russian words. Young people in general speak some English.

Please note that some of GoogleEarth satellite photos are very old (3-4 years) and do not reflect the current situation as the Kaliningrad region is developing rapidly.

Routes

Below you may find maps with recommended bicycle routes through the Kaliningrad region. These maps (except one) were created by Detlef Kaden who hold consultations with me during development of it. Detlef has visited Kaliningrad and he passed all thought the Kaliningrad part of the route. He published interesting reference book for cyclists and I found it interesting and helpful. Besides maps and GPS-tracks there are good drawings and a route description.

The map above is correct, but I suggest you to use other road on the section Pionersky – Svetlogorsk – see below