View over Kholmsk from the harbor

Kholmsk (Russian: Холмск, khohlmsk; Japanese: 真岡, mah-oh-kah) is a port town in Sakhalin Oblast facing the Tartar Strait, with a population of some 35.000 people. An utterly drab city, the only reason to visit here is the ferry connection to the mainland.

Get in

Kholmsk in winter

Sakhalin is a special designated border region, movement of foreigners is limited. See "Disembarkation procedures" at right.

Disembarkation Procedures

To enter Sakhalin you are required to register with local authorities. During disembarkation you are required to provide your ferry ticket, passport and registration stamps. After all passengers have exited you will be taken to the customs office for an interview, and your passport will only be handed back to you after the interview is completed. During the interview you have to provide information on the purpose of your visit, exit point and date, and accommodation. No English is spoken, so having the above information written in Russian is advised.

By ferry

There is a daily overnight car ferry from Vanino on the mainland, nominally departing Vanino at noon, and arriving in Kholmsk the next morning; however, sailing schedules are often disrupted by bad weather. In Kholmsk, ticket sales are at the office of SANES. Ask people at bus or railway station for direction. In Vanino, tickets are bought inside the train station. Prices start from 600 RUB. Continuing from Vanino, there is a daily train connection to Komsomolsk-on-Amur that continues further south to Khabarovsk and Vladivostok for access to the Trans-Siberian mainline.

By bus

Mini- and regular busses depart for Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the parking lot, right outside the ferry terminal. Minibuses are the most convenient and take 45 minutes to connect with Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (300 RUB), however normally you will have to wait for the minibus to fill up. There are also some scheduled public buses:

Get around

Map of Kholmsk

Banks, buses and places to eat - are all only a few minutes walk from the ferry station, along the main street. As with most other minor cities in Russia, intra-city transportation is mainly provided by a fairly disorganized network of minibuses. If you need to get outside the city center, your best bet is to ask a local.

See and Do

There is a small beach northwest of the ferry terminal. If you made it this far, the Soviet style house blocks probably aren't that much of a novelty anymore.


There are a few uninspiring – but as authentic as they come – restaurants and cafes along Sovetskaya Street, the main drag.


There do not seem to be expats living in Kholmsk, and tourists in this area are few and far between. If you really need a drink, jump into a local pub, and enjoy the startled look on everyone's faces as you place your order.


The island of Moneron off Sakhalin's southwestern coast

Go next

The unpopulated areas of Sakhalin have some stunning scenery. However, independent travel in these regions are only for the truly adventurous; an alternative is paying shameless amounts of rubles for one of the fairly frequent organized tours provided by travel agencies in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

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