Useful to know while planning your St Petersburg travel

Frequently Asked Questions about travel in St Petersburg

How safe is it in St Petersburg? Where is better not to go?

Safely. However, everything is relative. There are countries with zero crime; Russia is not one of them, like most countries in Europe and America. With reasonable precautions, walking the streets, using public transport, going to events, bars and restaurants is perfectly safe. Especially in the city center, where there are always many people, even at night. The main danger for tourists is pickpockets in crowded places. So just put your most valuable items in your inner pocket and keep an eye on your handbags. Cases of open attack for the purpose of robbery are extremely rare. However, in the evenings, do not carry a lot of cash and credit cards with a large limit. To be honest, this is already beyond precaution, the locals do not even think about it. Do not go with strangers to unpopular places or private apartments; do not get involved in illegal or semi-legal adventures. If you feel anything suspicious, go to a place where there are many people around. Use official taxi services through a dispatcher or via a mobile application. In St. Petersburg, as in most cities in Russia, there are no so-called disadvantaged areas with a high criminal danger. There are no places of compact residence of socially unreliable population. People of different material and social status live in the neighborhood. A striking example is the city center – real estate costs a lot of money by Russian standards, but at the same time, there live very rich people who bought pre-revolutionary apartments, poor people who got a room in a communal apartment from their grandmother and just visitors or tourists who rent an apartment or room. In most residential areas, walking the streets and going to bars and restaurants is safe also, just what to see there?

How to pay for goods and services? Where can I exchange cash?

Throughout the territory of the Russian Federation, cash can be paid only in rubles, with extremely rare exceptions – in some souvenir shops. But I would not advise – prices there will be two or even three times higher. Currency exchange is best done in bank branches – the largest and most common – Sberbank, VTB, Otkritie, St. Petersburg or at official exchange offices. Also, everywhere you can find ATMs that will issue the required amount. The main thing is to warn your bank that you will be abroad and may be withdrawing cash. Bank cards are accepted for payment in most shops, cafes and restaurants, the rate is determined by the bank that issued the card. Cash may be needed in taxis, public toilets, street stalls, sightseeing tours and other services outside of fixed points of sale. Do not exchange currency on street! It is illegal. Always be clear about the final cost of goods and services. All taxes under Russian law must be included in the final price that the buyer sees. Thus, you do not need to add VAT or anything else in your head. Most often, you will see in the check – amount = …… including VAT 20%

Can I pay with a guide in dollars or euros? Tips?

As I mentioned earlier, on the territory of the Russian Federation, all payments by law are made in rubles. I can’t speak for everyone, many may happily accept foreign currency in cash. I personally don’t do that, because in that case I would put myself and my clients outside the law. People are different and, if we assume that the bills turn out to be fake, I will not be able to turn to the police for help, since I myself went to break the law. And it’s okay if I just didn’t get paid for my work, but almost always, I also prepay agencies for tickets to museums, transport, etc. Therefore, my rule – if you don’t want trouble – don’t take unnecessary risks. In the case of a tip, everything is simpler – after all, this is a gift, an optional payment – and in this case it can be anything: rubles, foreign currency, a book, a scarf … We are all happy to receive a tip in gratitude from a satisfied client.

What to do in case of an emergency?

If you are in an emergency, call the single emergency number 112. Calls are free from all numbers, even with a zero or negative balance. If there are people nearby, ask them for help, the easiest way is to contact the nearest hotel or store, in the city center their employees most often speak English. There are separate emergency numbers:
101 Fire
102 Police
103 Ambulance.
As for medical care, emergency assistance in case of a threat to life is necessarily provided free of charge to everyone, regardless of citizenship. However, most likely you took out health insurance when planning your trip – in this case, call the number indicated by the insurance company. In most cases, the contract is concluded with a private clinic and the arrival time of the ambulance is significantly reduced. The same should be done if you are injured or feel unwell. If insurance is not issued, contact a private medical institution – many of them are run by European companies and the level of medicine and service is at a high level at relatively low prices due to the exchange rate of the ruble against the dollar and euro. Prices are announced before the start of treatment, so you can assess your financial capabilities.
If you are detained in the police, you must be provided with an interpreter and the possibility of a free call. Do not sign any documents if you do not agree with its content or do not understand the essence. If the problem cannot be solved on your own, contact the consulate or embassy of your country.

Do I need a tourist visa to come to St. Petersburg?

Depends on the citizen of which country or countries you are. All tourists arriving in St. Petersburg can be roughly divided into four categories:
1. Citizens of countries with which Russia has an agreement on visa-free border crossing
2. Citizens of countries for which the provision on the possibility of online registration of an electronic visa without applying to consular authorities is in force
3. Citizens of countries who arrive by air or land and are required to obtain a tourist visa before arriving in Russia
4. Citizens of countries who arrive on cruise ships and are required to either apply for a visa before arriving in Russia, or can use a visa-free visit in case of booking a visa free shore excursion accompanied by a guide (getting a tour ticket) before leaving the ship
You can find out if your country has a visa-free regime with Russia or the possibility of applying for an electronic visa on-line on the website of the Russian Embassy. If your country is not on the list, then you must apply for a tourist visa or arrive in St. Petersburg on a cruise ship and book in advance a visa free shore excursion with a private guide in St. Petersburg, one of the travel companies in St. Petersburg or with a carrier company.

The cruise line tells us that we can’t get off the ship without a visa until we book their tour, is that true?

No that’s not true. If your country requires a visa to cross the border with Russia, and you do not want or cannot apply for it, then you have every right to leave without a visa by booking a visa free shore excursion in any travel company approved by the customs service of the sea passenger port. Cruise lines say that to be selling their travel packages. I cannot judge their quality, but I know for sure from tourists who have already ordered free tours from me many times that the price differs significantly not in their favor. I work as a private tour guide with general tourists and as a tour guide from such an accredited company in the case of tourist liner passengers. However, we work out and approve the entire program directly with customers by e-mail, taking into account all wishes.

How do I book your private tour?

It’s pretty simple. Write to me by e-mail, any convenient messenger or Instagram about when and for how many days you arrive in St. Petersburg and how many of these days or hours you would like to spend with a guide, what would you like to visit (if you already know). I will write a version of the program and all the necessary expenses in return. In the process of correspondence, you can make any adjustments. I buy tickets to museums in advance, so there are no queues at the box office. In some cases, if there are many people in your party and a large number of tickets are required, I will ask for a small prepayment for tickets in any way convenient for you: bank transfer, transfer to a card or PayPal. All other payment is made upon the tour. I guarantee that your program will be ready and I will meet you at the place and time when we agreed. Even in the most urgent cases (if I have broken my spine and cannot walk) I will find a replacement among my professional and equally responsible colleagues. If for your dates I am already busy, then I will also prepare everything, discuss all the details, buy tickets and book transport (if necessary), just instead of me on the tour you will be accompanied by another professional licensed guide full of knowledge, interesting stories and readiness come to the rescue for any reason.

What will the weather be like?

The weather forecast in St. Petersburg is rather difficult. Of course, if the air temperature is 23 degrees Celsius, then minus 23 degrees will not be. It will be around 20, but you always need to make allowances for the wind, it happens often, i.e. it will feel like 18 degrees. As for the rain, if it says rain is possible, then most likely it will be. In such cases, I stock up on disposable raincoats. In general, in summer the temperature is between 18 and 25 degrees. It is very rare 28-30. In late spring and early autumn from 10 to 15. Winter is the most unpredictable period – it can be around zero, and maybe minus 25, the proximity of the Gulf of Finland and northern latitudes are to blame.

What are the prices in St. Petersburg?

In general, for residents of Europe, America, Australia, etc. everything is quite inexpensive due to the ruble exchange rate against foreign currencies. I will give some examples to understand the order of prices.
Taxi in the city center 300-400 rubles per trip
Public transport 55-60 rubles per trip
Ticket to the Hermitage 800-900 rubles per person
Average bill in a cafe / restaurant 1300/2500 rubles for two
A bottle of water 25 rubles
A bottle of good beer 250 rubles

Do I need a local SIM card?

If you have advantageous roaming, then there is no need. But in general it is convenient – unlimited Internet at a good speed is at hand and the ability to call any Russian numbers. In this case, you need to take a tariff without a monthly fee, for example, 30 gigabytes of Internet and 100 minutes of calls for 400-450 rubles. You will need a passport to get a SIM card.