Customs and Traditions
Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of size, occupying the area between Europe and the northern Pacific Ocean. It measures 17 million sq. km and covers eleven time zones.
The capital of Russia is Moscow. St.Petersburg is also a very important administrative, business and cultural centre and is often called the second or the Northern capital of Russia. Administratively, the Russian Federation is divided into 21 republics, 6 krays (federal territories), 2 federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg), 49 regions, 1 autonomous region and 10 autonomous areas.
Russia has the world's fifth largest population (148.8 million people) after China, India, the United States and Indonesia. It is populated by approximately 130 nations and ethnic groups, including some 130 million Russians, over 5 million Tartars, nearly 4 million Ukrainians, 1.7 million Chuvashs, 1.7 million Jews, approximately 1.3 million Bashkirs, over 1 million Byelorussians and more than 1 million Mordovians.
The largest cities are Moscow, St Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, Yekaterinburg. Russia is a democratic federative republic with the presidential form of government and two-chamber parliament consisting of the State Duma and the Federation Council. The head of state is elected once in four years. The country possesses a wide array of natural resources including major deposits of oil, coal, natural gas, many strategic minerals, diamonds and timber.
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Climate ranges from the steppes in the south through humid continental in much of European Russia; subarctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north; winters vary from cool along the Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from warm in the steppes to cool along Arctic coast.
In general, the best time to visit is May-September, when the day temperatures are in the 70s-90s F/23-35 C, and nights are in the 50s-70s F/10-23 C. Spring and early autumn, however, are unpredictable: Snow flurries and temperatures in the mid 20s F/-5 C are possible in May and September. Be sure to take waterproof shoes for spring or autumn visits - there's a lot of mud.
What to wear
It is a good idea to listen to the weather reports before you go out so that you can prepare adequately for the weather conditions that day. The weather report can be viewed online or on the 5th TV channel.
Dressing in layers of light clothing, rather than bulky, heavy clothes tends to be most effective. The clothing should minimise the amount of exposed skin, particularly to susceptible areas including ears, nose, fingers, and toes. Make sure to protect your hands, feet and head. You should try and keep your clothing and skin dry, because wet skin freezes more rapidly. If your clothing or shoes get wet, seek shelter immediately and allow the wet articles to dry or change into a dry set of clothing.
A winter clothing checklist:
- Thermal underwear, synthetic
- Insulating clothing (wool sweater, long-sleeve polyester or fleece shirt, wool pants)
- Waterproof, windproof, breathable jacket
- Hat, wool
- Waterproof, breathable boots
Things start cooling down in autumn and the fall months are quite cold and chilly with temperatures coming down to around 2?C. Springtime is a pleasant time during which to visit St Petersburg, although it does tend to rain a fair bit, so if you are travelling in the spring months, be sure to pack a raincoat and an umbrella!
Look for clothes that are easy to wear and easy to clean: cotton, nylon, blends and silk. Think separates: shorts, skirts, easy shirts and the latest thinking in pants. Make sure your t-shirts fit comfortably. Cotton shirts are preferable because the material breathes easier. Bring comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and temple floors are far from even. Take along accessories. Sunglasses, hats and scarves keep the sun off and spice up your outfit.
Summer in St Petersburg is not very hot, but humid, so that it may seem it’s 35 outside when it’s really 25-27. In general, it is usually warm and sunny with gentle puffy clouds; a rain shower can occur at any time, but the warmer months usually only have a few wet days. Indeed, rain can occur at any time of year.
A summer clothing checklist:
- Comfortable shoes
- Bug Reppelent (if you are visitings parks or going outside the city)
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The official language of The Russian Federation is Russian. The alphabet is Cyrillic and has 33 letters. It is completely different from most European languages, but has some similiarities. For example, metro is метро, hotel is отель, park is парк, toilet is туалет etc. If you learn some basic phrases in Russian or learn to recognize letters it is much easier to get around the city.
The Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters, 11 vowels, 20 consonants and 2 letters which do not have a sound (instead they make the word harder or softer). Also hand written Russian looks different to printed Russian.
Hello – Здравствуйте –Zdravstvuitye
Goodbye – До свидания – Da svidaniya
Thank you – Спасибо – Spasiba
Please – Пожалуйста – Pazhalooysta
Yea – Да – Da
No – Нет - Net
My name is… - Меня зовут… - Menya zovut…
What is your name? – Как Вас зовут? – Kak vas zovut?
I don’t understand – Я не понимаю – Ya ne ponimayu
Do you speak English? – Вы говорите по-английски? – Vy gavarite pa angliyski?
Where is the…? – Где находится….? – Gde nakhoditsya….?
How much does it cost? – Сколько это стоит? – Skol’ka eto stoit?
I’m lost – Я заблудился/заблудилась – Ya zabludilsya/ zabludilas’ (male/Female)
I’m sick – Я болен/ больна – Ya bolen/ bal’na.
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The ruble is the Russian currency. Banknotes come in denominations of 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 and the 5,000 note and there are 1, 2 and 5Rbl coins. There are 100 kopeks to every rouble and kopeks come in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50. You can convert foreign currency at any bank, hotel or tourist facility that displays an "Authorized Money Exchanger" sign (ATM). The conversion rate is better at banks, which you are strongly advised to use rather than small offices. Please note that it is illegal officially to pay in dollars or euros. ATMs (bankomaty) can be found at subway stations, banks and large hotels. Credit-card use is still not wide spread, so always have cash as back up.
Banking and using credit cards and cheques while in Russia
It is better to use cash while you travel to Russia. Not every place will accept credit cards. Bank machines will accept debit transactions, however, so don't leave home without the plastic. These cannot be found everywhere, so make sure you always have money to last a few days. You may take traveller's cheques if you are going to Moscow or St. Petersburg, but it is advisable not to rely on them. They can be difficult to cash, and, in smaller cities, completely useless. Exchange offices will almost always require your passport for currency exchange.
Tipping & Bargains
Tipping, if done at all, is generally some extra money being added to the bill. It is not customary in bars, but it is the norm in top-notch restaurants. Ten percent is average, but it's up to your discretion. Don't hesitate to ask for all of your change back, if the establishment automatically keeps whatever amount you hand them for the bill. Major restaurants will add a 10-15% service charge.
Bargaining is the rule in markets.
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Customs & Traditions
The biggest Russian holiday is New Year (1 January). During the Soviet time people were not allowed to celebrate Christmas (Russian Christmas is 7 January) and New Year was the most cheerful holiday.
Next is February 23, Soldier's Day, known until recently as Soviet Army Day, popularly viewed as a holiday for all men and closely followed by its female counter-part, Women's Day, March 8, when women receive flowers, presents and are toasted by men.
Mayday, until recently officially termed International Workers' Solidarity Day, is now known as Spring and Labour Day. On some years, it occurs on or close to the Russian Orthodox Easter, so some people celebrate in church, while some attend customary demonstrations.
Russia celebrates Victory Day on May 9 to commemorate the millions fallen in World War II. Flowers and wreaths are laid on wartime graves on this day and veterans come out into the streets wearing their military orders and medals. Alas, there are fewer of them with every passing year.
June 12 is Russia's newest holiday, Independence Day, which commemorates the adoption in 1991 of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Russian Federation.
November 7 - the anniversary of the socialist revolution of October 1917, which established communist power — still survives. The system is gone, but many still cling to the custom.
Church feasts have been reborn. Easter is celebrated nationwide, as of old, and Christmas became a day off. Muslims, Jews and Buddhists also celebrate their feasts without fear of secular authorities.
Men in Russia will always shake hands (or at least offer a wrist if a hand is dirty, wet or otherwise unavailable) when they greet for the first time during the day. However, it is taboo to shake hands with your gloves on. A glove must be removed, no matter how cold it may be. Russia is one of the many countries where this handshake tradition is rigorously upheld.
It is impolite to point with your finger. But if you must point, it's better to use your entire hand instead of your finger.
It is also impolite to put your feet up on furniture with your shoes on. Sometimes, simply showing the soles of your shoes is considered rude.
Traditional Russian cheek kissing is done using three kisses, but it is not widely upheld nowadays.
When someone sneezes you tell them "Bud'te zdorovy" (Russian: Будьте здоровы), which literally means "Be Healthy" (in the formal form of address). It used to be believed that saying this would help the sneezer keep from getting sick. Russian speakers will say it just as freely as an English speaker will say, "Bless you", but the superstitious origins of the phrase have been widely lost in both languages.
Meet more and enjoy Russian people. They are the most valuable treasury in Russia, even more precious than oil & gas or diamonds & gold.
The majority of Russians consider themselves as Christians and belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Christian churches - be they Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic - are a vital part of Europe’s cultural, artistic, architectural, and religious heritage and as such you are likely to visit many of them. However, most of them are even today not only major tourist attractions, but also religious sites where people come to pray. This is something to be respected.
Since both education and culture facilities used to be widely available, Russians can be considered a highly cultured nation. Their general knowledge is very good: they know a little bit about virtually everything. Having a university or college degree is common.
Russians read a lot, books are cheap and one can afford to buy 5-10 books a month without serious damage to a family budget. Russian people are also very fond of live performances at theatres and, since tickets are affordable (prices in cinemas and theatres are comparable), they enjoy attending theatres: opera, musical, ballet, drama etc.
Russian cuisine is one of the most popular and widely spread in the world. French cuisine is festive and elegant, Chinese cuisine is exotic, Russian cuisine is healthy and delicious. Russian dishes are easy to cook and they do not demand much skill and special ingredients, they do not need exotic equipment and tools and everybody who knows how to hold a cooking knife and how to peel potatoes can cook delicious Russian dishes.
When the guest arrives, he'll find a big table loaded with snacks and savouries. The guest should be prepared to eat and drink a lot, as it is considered impolite to reject the food or drinks. By doing so, the guest tells his host that he's a bad host. So, when in Russia, don't be shy in accepting food and drink. One tip though: the only exception to this rule is to be made when vodka is considered! You should never go to someone else's house empty handed. Alcoholic beverages and/or dessert are a common gift to bring, when invited to someone's home.
• Kasha (porridge) is a staple breakfast dish, made with milk and oats, buckwheat or semolina.
• Blini (small pancakes filled with caviar, fish or jam, melted butter or sour cream).
• Ponchiki (hot sugared doughnuts).
• Pirozhky (fried rolls with different fillings, usually meat and vegetables).
• Borshch, a beetroot soup served hot with sour cream.
• Pelmeni (meat dumplings).
• Chai (tea).
• Vodka (often flavoured and coloured with herbs and spices such as zubrovka (a kind of grass), ryabinovka (steeped with rowan-tree berries), starka (dark, smooth, aged vodka) and pertsovka (with hot pepper). Russky Standard, Stolichnaya and Gzhelka are popular brands.
• Krushon (cold ‘punch’; champagne, brandy and summer fruit are poured into a hollowed watermelon and chilled for several hours).
• Nalivka (sweet liqueur made with fruit or berries).
• Nastoika (fortified wine made of herbs, leaves, flowers, fruit and roots of plants with medicinal properties).
Tea is popular in many countries and each country has own traditions and preferences in drinking of tea. Russia is the country where tea-drinking formed into an individual tradition. The "cup of tea" is not just a tea but lots of cookies, sweets, pirozhkies, sandwiches. Often tea is served with milk or slices of lemon .
Russian national pastime
Russian people are very friendly and active. They love visiting their friends and relatives, going out or hiking.
In summer, Russians enjoy swimming, countryside rambles and fishing. Also, in summer, it is customary for city people to stay at a dacha. Children swim and play at the dacha, while adults fish, swim, tend the garden, walk in the woods and enjoy a life in complete contrast to the busy city.
Winter activities include skating, country skiing and fishing through ice holes.
Outdoor ice-skating has long been a national pastime in Russia for people of all ages. In winter, frozen ponds or flooded artificial rinks attract crowds of skaters, who glide gracefully to piped music. The ice is regularly swept free of snow and heated cabins allow skaters to put on their skates in comfort.
In autumn, people of all ages love to go mushroom picking in the woods. Armed with baskets and buckets, people scour the countryside and even city parks, for the many varieties of edible mushrooms. They take their trophies home to eat straight away or to dry for future use.
Popular sports include soccer, ice hockey and tennis, as well as gymnastics and other Olympic sports. Favorite games include chess and dominoes; older people can often be seen playing these in city parks. Even though most people have modern bathrooms, the weekly steam bath is still a regular event in both the city and the countryside.
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Crossing the border
Before travelling to Russia, a foreigner should verify the latest requirements with the nearest Russian Embassy or Consulate since Russian immigration and visa laws change regularly. In order to cross the border without any difficulties, stick to the following guidance:
• Make sure you have all the necessary documents, including your Passport, which needs to be valid for 6 for months beyond your intended stay; tickets and documents for return or onward travel; Russian visa (if required); HIV Certificate (if required); Medical Insurance (if required); other documents
• Fill out the customs declaration form available in several languages.These completed forms are returned to customs together with a new form on departure.
• Fill out a migration card, depositing one part with immigration authorities at the port of entry and holding on to the other part for the duration of your stay. Upon exit, the migration card, which serves as a statistical tool and a record of entry, exit, and registration, must be submitted to immigration authorities. The card is also necessary to register at hotels.
Once you have exited passport control, check to make sure the Arrival/Departure Card, which you received at the consulate alongside your visa, is stamped by the officer. The stamp must indicate the current date with an arrow directed towards the date [DD MM YY D], where DD means day, MM - month, YY - year, D - just any digit. If you have a single entry visa, the officer will take the card away. If you have a double or multiple entry, you will keep the Card for your future visits.
• On the departure date make sure you have a Registration Mark in your Migration Card – otherwise you may be fined. State fee is about $50 or 1500 rubles.
• On departure Your passport should also be stamped with the so-called "exit-stamp". The arrow after the date should look to the right, outwards from the date.
Items of considerable value such as diamond jewellery and computers should be noted on the customs form on entry. All such valuables must be reexported or import duty will be charged.
Travellers, who overstay their visa’s validity, even for one day, will be prevented from leaving until their sponsor intervenes and requests a visa extension on their behalf.
Russian laws & policies
Not having a visa registration: the fine is usually around 1000-3000 rubles and a tourist has to spend time in a police station (not more than 3 hours). The chances that one gets checked are not high. What you can do in case a policeman stopped you is to kindly ask him to call your hotel or embassy for further comments. Pretend you don’t have cash. In any case, there's a law that a policeman can only look at your passport from your own hands. If you show you know the law, the policeman will not make problems.
Recently the rules have become more strict in big cities – Moscow and St. Petersburg, but the checks are targeted more towards people from CIS and Caucasus. There is no reason to worry, it's just a check-up.
Urinating on the street. Urinating in the street is prohibited. Although, official fines are not high, you might spend a lot of time at the police station proving that there are no public toilets around.
For stealing one can get a fine from $600 up to two years in prison. Stealing is never a good idea, even if you know nobody is watching you.
Drug posession (including marijuana). Drugs are illegal in Russia, but still are widely used. The law changed in May 2004 and now if you carry maximum 2 grams of marijuana or 0.5 grams of hash and can prove it's for your personal use, nobody can fine you, but you may be put in as a patient in a drug clinic and also asked where you got it. The laws on drugs are extremely strict, and it's better not to take a chance. You’re also not allowed to bring drugs over the border and on the plane. It also concerns strong medicines and you should seek advice from the Russian customs before bringing them in.
Also, we advise tourists visiting Russia to take into account the country's laws when buying antiques and works of art as souvenirs. Russian law bans cultural valuables such as art and religious objects, musical instruments and any museum exhibit from being taken out of the country without special permission. The fine is up to $40,000 or several years of prison.
Basic rules of personal safety
A foreign tourist might seem an easy victim, but - forewarned is forearmed. Use your common sense. Do not do things you would be afraid to do in your home country. Do not show you have cash or valuables. Also, stay away from deserted places during the day and avoid walking alone at night. Avoid associating with strangers. There is no need to be scared, though. Just be careful. Russian people are very friendly and easy-going, but there are criminals in Russian society as well, and it would be careless to attract their attention.
In St Petersburg, as in any large city, you should watch out for pickpockets working in public places, such as on crowded public transport (especially at metro trains) or in markets and other tourist spots. Keep money and documents in inner pockets, try not to flash around money and valuables, don't leave your baggage unsupervised, have an eye on your handbag (it could be cut up and you will lose your purse). Stand as far as possible from Gypsies, including the children. Don't give them money and the like. You won't even notice when all your valuables have disappeared. Walking out late alone in deserted dark areas (courtyards and parks) or after drinking would make you a good target for offenders.
Thus, watch your step, as you go, to be safe and sound.
1. When you need help, seek help from young people: they are more likely to speak English or other foreign languages.
2. Avoid any lotteries, especially those near subway stations and markets.
3. Try not to wear jewellery in the evening
4. Whenever you are taken to the police station, request an interpreter and a lawyer or make a call to the Embassy. Refuse to sign any papers till your lawyer arrives.
Be warned about persons representing themselves as police, often around metro stations, and wanting to check your pockets, as you may find you lose money. Police are allowed to inspect you only at the police station. If you are stopped in the street, dial (on your mobile phone):
* Your consulate helpline (make a note of this before you leave your own country):
for example for the British Consulate in St Petersburg, a British national should ring:
Tel: 320 3200 (Out of hours emergency telephone: mobile: 8-921 937 6377).
* special police help-line for foreigners: 578 30 94 (9:00 - 18:15) (The 24hr hotline is 702 21 77). If you ring this number you need to ask for a translator. However, if you ring this number, you will most likely need your own translator to help you. If at first you don't succeed in getting the information you want or need, persist, because legally the police are obliged to help.
When you make your call, you need to explain the situation. You should obtain the officer's name, badge (ID) number, patrol car number and note where it happened.
If stopped in the street and requested to pay a fine, you should ask the officer's name, ID and ask to contact the Embassy. Your country’s Embassy can provide assistance, including raising such incidents with the appropriate authorities.
Police in Russia is a structural part of the Ministry of the Interior (MVD). The policemen or Militsiya wear blue-grey uniforms with red bands on their caps. They might be spotted around metro stations, in parks and most public places where they perform ID checks. When stopped by a policeman present only copies of the documents not the originals. Make sure you have a copy of your passport, visa, migration card and the registration verification. Also, write down emergency phone numbers and your consulate phone to be able to contact it when needed. Beware of thieves dressed as militiamen.
The other branches of Militsiya are GIBDD or DPS (former GAI) – traffic police, OMON - a paramilitary force, RUOP - Regional Force against Organized Crime. FSB (former KGB) – Federal Security Service.
Stores, clubs, restaurants, banks and parking aeas are guarded by private security guards.
01 – Ambulance
02 - Police
03 – Firefighters
07 - Domestic Directory Assistance
08 - Domestic Operator Assistance
09 - Telephone Information service
060 – Speaking clock
764-9787 – Special police service (for foreigners)
326-9696 – Information line
578-3690 - Lost and Found Office
8-194 - International Operator Assistance
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Public phones called taksofons may be found in the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The use of taksofons requires a special prepaid phone card that can be bought at metro stations or in newspaper kiosks. If you live in a hotel it is a good idea to use a prepaid card as well, since the tariffs for international calls are pretty high. International or long-distance calls can also be made at post offices and telegraph centres. Write on a piece of paper the number you need to call and the approximate amount of minutes; pay a deposit to the operator. She dials the number and shows the booth where your call is forwarded. After your call is finished go back to the operator to pay the difference (if you talked long) or get money back if the call was less than anticipated.
Faxes may also be sent from post offices and telegraphs.
Making calls within Russia
For domestic long-distance calls dial 8 (and wait for a tone) and area code before the number. Remember that digits in an area/cellular code and a number itself must total 10. For calls within Russia just dial 5-7 digit subscriber number.
Calling Internationally from Russia
When calling internationally from Russia dial 8 and wait for a tone, then dial 10 and country code followed by a phone number.
e.g. for a call to UK, dial 8-10-44-xxx-xxxx.
Calling to Russia from abroad
Remember not to dial 8 before the area code when calling internationally.
E.g. +011-7-9xx-xxx-xx-xx for a call to a cellular phone
When calling from abroad to a land line in Russia, always dial the area code for the city you are calling. Don’t forget the international access code and country code too!
e.g. +00-7-495-xxx-xx-xx for a call to Moscow from London
Toll-free numbers in Russia usually start with 800. To call a toll-free number dial 8 (and wait for a tone) and then the number. Toll-free numbers are free when you call from Russia.
Russia uses the GSM network so it is quite comfortable for European tourists, but not for American ones. However, it is quite easy to purchase a cell phone at a reasonable price from one of the mobile phone shops that you can find everywhere in city. Your Russia SIM Card will require a SIM-unlocked GSM cell phone that supports the 900 and 1800 frequencies. The Russia SIM card is a simple and affordable way for any traveller to make and receive calls while in Russia. This will save you lots of money, if you plan on making a lot of local calls. No yearly contract, monthly charges or credit check is involved. The most popular operators are MTS, Beeline and Megafon. In St.Petersburg, for example, Beeline SIM card will be the best deal. It is common to buy prepaid phone cards for cell phones. They usually come in $5, $10 or $50 equivalent unit denominations. To deposit money on your account scratch off the code on the back of the card and follow the instructions. Another way is to pay through the payment terminals located nearly in every store and metro station, but in this case you might need help of a native since the interface of the terminals is in Russian. Passport, visa, migration card and registration proof are required to buy a SIM card. There exist 2 types of cell phone numbers. The 1st one is a 9-digit federal number dialed using the long distance prefix +8 (or +7) before the 9 digits. It’s a bit cheaper to have a federal number, but not always convinient. The other type of number is a local, direct 7 digit number like a regular telephone number.
Public toilets in the centre are located in small cabins of green or blue colour. Also, innovations are toilet buses (10Rbl) parked at public events or outside the Hermitage. In general, some random cafes and hotels are your best option. Most station public toilets do not have toilet paper and hand dryers. It might be a good idea to bring along your own toilet paper and tissues.
Electricity throughout Russia is 220 volt/50 hz. The plug is the round two-pin thin European standard. Make sure to pick up a transformer for 110 - 220 volts at a local hardware store in your own country before arriving.
Weights and Measures
Russia uses the metric system. Below you may find a conversion table: 0.6 liters 1 pint
1 liter 1 ? pints
1 kilogram 2 lb 2 oz
1 kilometer 5/8 mile
1 meter 39 ? inches
1 hectare 2.5 acres
1 gallon 4.5 liters
1 mile 1.6 kilometers
Shot glass 100 grams
Large glass 200 grams
Beer bottle 500 grams (0.5 liters)
Business hours for government offices are usually from between 9:00 and 18:00 or 8:00 and 17:00, private companies and stores are typically open from 10:00 to 19:00. Some stores and mobile centres are open till late or round the clock. As for the hospitality sector, cafes, restaurants and bars close 1a.m. or 2 a.m. A lot of groceries, gas stations and pharmacies are open 24/7.
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Transportation in St. Petersburg
The public transport network in St. Petersburg is very extensive. The resources for public transport are quite over-stretched and most public transport is not particularly user-friendly. Nonetheless, the metro is a very reliable and cost-effective way of medium and long-distance transportation. It is also good for journeys within the central area. For the shorter trips you are more likely to use trams, buses and trolleybuses, or taxis (if you have money to spare). If you come on business or with a large family, you might also consider renting a car or a van (with driver or without).
Metro: St. Petersburg has a very good metro system. Trains run every 3 minutes or so and the metro's coverage is quite good. Whilst visiting St Petersburg, it is well worth experiencing the metro. You will be surprised at the beauty of many of the stations - they are really quite fantastic. To find the metro look for signs with a big "M". Remember that, in the metro, most signs are written in Cyrillic, so you should bring a map with you and study the words and letters carefully. The St. Petersburg metro is quite interesting in that it is extremely deep because the city was built on a swamp. So you end up riding virtually endless escalators down, down, down into the depths of the system. In fact, St. Petersburg is the deepest metro system in the world. Rides cost 17 roubles. During rush hour, the cars can be quite crowded but off-peak you can usually find a seat. As in most countries, remember it is always polite to give your seat to an elderly person, middle aged woman or parent with children.
To buy tokens or metro cards, go into the metro station, where you will usually see 1 to 3 ticket windows open with short or long lines in front of them depending on the time of day. Stand in line, decide how many rides you will need over the next few days and when it gets to be your turn, ask the lady (in Russian) for tokens, that look like coins (called zhetoni) You can also buy tickets but this tends to be more complicated. She will take your money and hand you your change and the tokens. Then, proceed to the turnstiles, insert your token in the coin slot, then continue through the turnstile. If an alarm sounds, it may be because your token has been rejected. Do not panic if this happens. Just look for the reject slot, find the token and reinsert it. All should be fine this time!
Next, go down the escalator and into the magical world of the Russian metro. Signs for the stations are written on signs in the centre of the hall and along the walls by the track. To understand which direction you need quickly, it is good to know the last stop of the train so you can quickly identify it at the bottom or end of a list.
Trains usually come quite often (every 2-3 minutes) and can be very crowded depending on the time of day. After you enter and the doors close, you can look around at all the other happy people riding the train! A recording announces what the next stop will be. It is a good idea to also count your stops if you don't understand Russian.
When it is your turn to get out, exit the train and walk towards the exit of the metro. Remember that, if the train is overcrowded, you will find yourself somewhere in the middle of the car but if you want to get out you should ask people around if they are planning to get out at the same station as you. This way, people will know that you want to get off the train and will let you get through. If you are standing in the overcrowded car and don't say anything, you might miss your stop. Frequently, the stations will have more than 1 exit. To find the one that you will need, follow the signs in the hall which have arrows pointing to orientation points for each exit (such as street name or name of shopping centre, etc.). Get on that escalator, ride up towards the surface and you have succeeded in riding the metro. The metro opens around 6am and closes at 12 midnight.
Trams: St. Petersburg has the largest tram system in the world, consisting of over 400 miles of track and with over 2000 cars. To ride on a tram is relatively inexpensive (16 rubles). You can buy the tickets onboard from the conductor. Tram stops have a sign with the letter "T" which hangs over the road. Most trams run from about 06.00 to 01.00.
Trolleybuses: St. Petersburg has a relatively extensive system of trolleybuses, which are fairly inexpensive. Most trolleybus stops have yellow signs with dark lettering which are distinguished by a "T". Trolleybuses generally run from 06.00 to 01.00. Russians like trolleybuses as being more 'ecologically friendly' than the regular buses, as they run on electricity. Some of them have curtains, making for a pleasant, home-like journey (when they're not bursting at the seams and leaking). Rides usually cost 16 roubles. You can buy tickets onboard from the conductor.
Buses: Buses serve a large area within St. Petersburg. Commercial buses, which are somewhat more expensive but less-crowded, are distinguished by the letter "K." Bus stops have yellow signs with dark lettering which are distinguished by the letter "A". The buses are slowly being updated, but you can still ride in the old, cold, smelly ones, if you are unlucky. You can buy tickets onboard from the conductor.
Taxis: In St. Petersburg you will see taxis all over the place, especially along the major thoroughfares. You can flag down a taxi, which is usually distinguished by a chequered bar on the rooftop. They are usually overpriced. As with taxi drivers all over the world, keep track of what they are doing and don't trust the meters so much. It is always better to negotiate the price before you get in rather than relying on a meter. You can order a taxi cheaply if you speak some Russian by phoning 089. A great alternative to official taxis are gypsy cabs. These are just regular people in their regular cars that are out to make a few rubles. It is the Russian equivalent of 'hitch hiking' but in Russia, you always pay. This is how it works; stand at the curb and put your arm out. Cars will begin to stop for you. As with taxis, always negotiate the price beforehand. Also, be a little careful, it is best to not get into a car with more than 1 man in it or not to get into a car with suspicious looking characters. Furthermore, if you are a single female, it is better to call or flag an official taxi if travelling at night just to be on the safe side.
When to visit St Petersburg?
Hotel prices and itineraries of many tour programs change depending on the season. Peak season is from May to September. Alternatives are to come in spring (1 April-15 May) or autumn (1 September-31 October) when prices are lower and the city less crowded. The summer White Nights in St Petersburg are spectacular but, at the same time, summer may be humid and dusty. An Indian summer in the autumn is lovely. If you do not mind the cold and snow, the winter season is cheapest and accommodation most readily available. These are some of the events that annually take place in the city in the winter season: "Christmas musical meetings in the Northern Palmyra", "Art Square" winter festival, international jazz festivals, sport tournaments, international cinema festivals and theatre first nights. All the hostels can provide everything from invitations and accommodation bookings to theatre tickets, restaurant advice and general help and advice should something go wrong.
Walking around the City
The first thing a visitor should do is pick up the “St.Petersburg: The Official City Guide”, an excellent full-colour quarterly freebie, or buy the pocket edition of the Traveller's Yellow Pages. The Friday edition of The St.Petersburg Times and the monthly Pulse are both free and have good listings and reviews. The City Tourist Information Office at 41, Nevskiy prospect is just beginning to improve how they cater for tourists. Another useful source of tourist information is hotel staff. Both big and mini-hotels have a concierge, a person in charge for booking tickets, transportation and excursions.
If you live outside the hotel you might also try for information at the City Information Centre (Nevsky pr. 41).
You are also more than welcome to contact us at The St Petersburg Traveller if you have any questions!
You should always have identification with you when travelling around the city. It is advisable to carry photocopies of your passport and visa, showing that they have been registered (see how The St Petersburg Traveller can help with your Visa Registration here. Frequent random checks by police are taking place, more usually on men. Besides passport and visa are needed for changing money, to buy train tickets, book hotel rooms and in numerous other situations. See SAFETY in Russia for more useful information.
www.infoservices.com Yellow Pages
www.russianhostel.ru Accommodation in St. Petersburg
www.russian-visas.net Russian visa information
www.rusmuseum.ru Russian Museum
http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/ Alexander Palace Time Machine
www.sptimes.ru St.Petersburg Times
http://www.raiffeisenbank.co.yu/english/ Raiffeisen Bank
www.mussorgsky.narod.ru Mussorgsky Opera and Ballet Theatre
www.pulkovo-express.ru Pulkovo Express
www.scandinavian.net SAS Scandinavian Airlines
Post International 570-44-72
TNT Express 718-33-30
Central Post Office
9 Pochtamskaya str., 312-83-02
Operating hours: 9:00 -19:30, SUN 10:00 – 17:30
Metro station: Nevsky Prospekt, Gostiniy Dvor
Internet Cafes in St. Petersburg
Nevsky pr. 76
entrance from Liteyny pr.
For information call: (+7812) 330-0708
M.: Nevsky prospect
Nevsky prospect, 90-92
For information call: (+7812) 273-6655
Nevsky prospect 85-а
For information call: (+7812) 336-3436
M.: Ploshad Vosstaniya
St. Petersburg, Italianskaya St., 1
Phone: +7 (812) 325 73 33
191028, St. Petersburg, Furshtatskaya St., 43
Phone: +7 (812) 275 05 02
Address: St Petersburg, Nevski Prospekt, #111/3.
Phone: (812) 277-2742.
St. Petersburg, Bonch-Bruevicha St., 3
Phone: +7 (812) 273 41 64.
190000, St. Petersburg, Nabereznaya (Quay) r. Moiki, 75
Phone: +7 (812) 327 12 34.
191000, St. Petersburg, Pyleev St., 27
Phone: +7 (812) 273-6969
Fax: +7 (812) 272-5718.
198013, St. Petersburg, Malodetskoselskiy Avenue, 32B
Phone: +7 (812) 325-8448
Fax: +7 (812) 325-8393
Czech Republic/ Чехия
193015, St. Petersburg, Tverskaya St, 5
Phone: +7 (812) 271 0459, 271 4612
Fax: +7 (812) 271 4615
190121, St. Petersburg, Naberezhnaya of Griboedov's Canal, 134
Phone: +7 (812) 713-7605, +7 (812)714-7670
191123, St. Petersburg, Ryleev St., 37
Phone: +7 (812) 272-5303.
St. Petersburg, Bolshaya alleya K.O., 13
Phone: +7 (812) 703 39 02.
Address: St Petersburg, Monetnaya B. ul., #14
Contact: (812) 238-1804.
191194, St. Petersburg, Ul.Tshaikovskogo 71
Phone: (990-7-812) 273 7321
Fax: + 7 (812) 272 1421
190000, St. Petersburg, Nabereznaya (Quay) r. Moiki, 15
Phone: +7 (812) 332 22 70
191123, St. Petersburg, Furshtadskay St., 39
Phone: +7 (812) 320-2400, +7 (812) 273-4075
Fax: +7 (812) 327-3117, +7 (812) 579-3242.
191073, St. Petersburg, Mihaylovskaya St., 1/7
Phone: +7 (812) 329-6407, 329-6409
Fax: +7 (812) 329-6466.
191186, St. Petersburg, Nabereznaya r. Moiki, 11
Phone: +7 (812) 334-0200,
Fax: +7 (812) 334-0225
191025, St. Petersburg, Marata St., 15
Phone: +7 (812) 312-6458, 312-6753
Fax: +7 (812) 312-6432
191123, St. Petersburg, Ryleev St., 35
Phone: +7 (812) 272-1731, 272-1988
Fax: +7 (812) 272-2473
190125, St. Petersburg, Teatralnaya Square, 10
Phone: +7 (812) 312-3217, 118-8095
Fax: +7 (812) 311-5150
190000, Nabereznaya (Quay) r. Moiki, 29
Phone: +7 (812) 314-1434, 314-1418, 449-4770
Fax: +7 (812) 710-6970
Address: St Petersburg, Gorokhovaya ul., #4.
Phone: (812) 314-5857.
St. Petersburg, Nevsky Prospect., 25
Phone: +7 (812) 336 64 20.
Address: St Petersburg, Moika River embank. #11
Phone: (812) 315-0197.
191036, St. Petersburg, 5 Sovetskaya St., 12/14
Phone: +7 (812) 336-3140, (812) 336-3141
Fax: +7 (812) 274-4318
E-mail: email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org.
194223, St. Petersburg, Orbeli St., 21-2
Phone: +7 (812) 244-3666
191025, St. Petersburg, Rubenshtein St., 7/ Graphskiy Pereulok (Lane), 4
Phone: +7 (812) 325-8470
Fax: +7 (812) 325-8177.
191186, St. Petersburg, Malaya Konjushennaya St., 1/3
Phone: +7 (812) 329-1440
Fax: +7 (812) 329-1450, 329-1445
St. Petersburg, Bolshoi Prospect (Avenue), 9
Phone: +7 (812) 325-6271.
Address: St Petersburg, Morskaya M. ul., #6, off. 5
Phone: (812) 312-1048.
191124, St. Petersburg, Proletarskoy Dictatury Sq., 5.
Phone: +7 (812) 320-3200
Fax: +7 (812) 320-3211
191028, St. Petersburg, Furshtatskaya St., 15.
Phone: +7 (812) 331-2600
Fax: +7 (812) 331-2852
24 hour phone+7 (812) 331-2888
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.