Practical information Saint Petersburg and the Northwest

  • Saint Petersburg and the Northwest, Russia
    iStockphoto.com / Xantana
  • Saint Petersburg and the Northwest, Russia
    iStockphoto.com / AleksandarGeorgiev
Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Russia
Russia : the key figures

Area : 17075400.0 km2

Population : 4700000 inhabitants

Jet Lag : St. Petersburg is 4 hours ahead of the UK in winter in 3 hours in summer.

Saint Petersburg and the Northwest : Travel Information before you go!

Flights

The flight from London takes approximately 3 hours. St. Petersburg is 1,300 miles from London. In addition to British Airways and Aeroflot, several other European companies offer flights to St. Petersburg.
Air Berlin, Germany's second largest airline, operates flights from London Heathrow with a transfer or stopover in Berlin to the capital of the tsars, Russia's second largest city.

Airports

Pulkovo 2 International Airport is located 10 miles out of the centre (roughly an hour's ride by bus or the metro and half an hour by taxi). It has a bureau de change and an information desk, car rental stands, shops, bars and restaurants. To get to the city centre, take bus n 13 or a minibus to the Moskovskaya metro station for just a few pounds. Getting there by taxi will cost about 20.

Security

Petty crime has noticeably increased in the past few years. Be careful of pickpockets operating in underground passageways, train and metro stations, on night trains, in markets and in tourist areas. Don't tempt fate by walking around with valuables on display (jewellery, camcorders, cameras) or by leaving luggage visible inside cars. In short, just like in most cities, be vigilant.

Languages

Russian is the official language. English is not yet widely spoken but it is nonetheless developing.

Required travel documents for

Valid passport and visa are needed. For the tourist visa, valid for three months, you must drop off a file at the consulate including your passport, three ID photos (size 3 by 4 cm), a form already filled in, dated and signed, a document from a registered insurance company covering medical and repatriation costs, a receipt from your travel agency indicating the name of the hotel you booked (with the dates of arrival and departure plus the reference number of the Russian tourist agency, in charge of the services in the country). Allow a week (two weeks for groups) for delivery.
Since February 2002, the procedure is less strict for stays of less than 72 hours. In this particular case, the visa is delivered upon arrival at the airport, at the counter where they check passports, provided you have purchased an organised trip or booked a hotel room through a Russian travel agency or through a registered hotel, at least 48 hours before the departure date.

Religion

The Muscovites are mostly Orthodox Christians. Few are from minority groups - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim.

Currency

The currency is the ruble (RUB), which used to consist of 100 Kopecks, though these are no longer in circulation. 1 ruble = 0.02 pound Sterling. The main credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted by most shops, hotels, restaurants, and airline companies and can be used to withdraw cash in banks and at cash machines. Travellers cheques, however, are used very little. If possible, bring cash in US dollars, preferably in small denominations and in excellent condition. There are many foreign exchange offices, so you can compare the rates to get the best deal. Avoid black market currency exchange in the street, even if they offer tempting rates, because you are likely to be ripped off. Banks are open from 9:30am to 4:00pm, Monday to Friday, while foreign exchange offices stay open until 7:00pm, even on Saturdays.
Any cash you are bringing into the country must be declared on the customs form when you arrive.

Local transportation

Bus, trolleybus, tramway, underground train and boats, there are many different means of public transport in Moscow. Most are cheap, the main difficulty being to find your bearings in this rather messy web. The complex network is far from easy to understand for a foreigner.
Buses - It is advisable to ask someone which line is the right one before boarding the bus. You have to buy your ticket (?off the stub') from the driver and stamp it in the machine by the window. You can also buy a pass, valid on all public transport, from the booths of the underground train.
Underground train - Fast, clean and cheap, the underground train is definitely the simplest way to travel on the condition that you have a bilingual map on you to help you decipher the station names. The train runs from 5:30 am to 1:30 am and there are peak times - in the morning around 9:00 am and in the evening around 6:00 pm. You can buy a token for each trip or use a rechargeable magnetic card, or else a monthly pass. The underground also links up avenues together and shelters many kiosks and peddlers. The decoration of the underground stations (statues, frescoes, stained-glass windows), either in the proletarian or in the Russian imperial style, is so spectacular that it is worth going down just for the visit.
Omni boats - They sail on the Moskva. The piers are spread out all along the banks. The fares are low and it is the ideal way to get a quick overview of the main tourist attractions. Some big hotels organize river cruises with dinner and show on board.
Taxis - Many official taxis (yellow) and unofficial (?tchastniks') drive around the capital city. You just have to hail one at random by raising your hand (they are available when the small green light is on, near the rear-view mirror). There are not any set fares and the vehicles are not equipped with a metre. This is why you have to negotiate the fare before leaving, knowing that they usually cost 3-6. Many private vehicles become occasional taxis, to make ends meet. It is common practise so do not hesitate to use them, their fares often being very competitive. You can call a taxi by telephone on this number: 927 00 00.
Driving - It is possible to rent a car, chauffeur-driven or not, for a very reasonable price, which varies according to the category of the car. We recommend to hire a chauffeur for comfort as well as for safety. You will find rental agencies (Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Intourtrans, Aerotour) everywhere in town and at the airport.

Health

No particular vaccine is required, but it is recommended to be up to date with the following: typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, hepatitis A and B. Visitors wishing to stay in Russia more than three months must show an HIV-negative certificate. Tap water is not recommended. Despite city water carts that clean the streets energetically every morning, the hygiene conditions are often poor, in particular in public toilets. Most medicines are available without prescription in pharmacies and at metro kiosks. In case of an emergency, contact the European medical centre (Tel: 251 60 99). Insurance covering medical and repatriation expenses is mandatory.

Electricity

220 V.

Tourist numbers

Russia welcomed 20.2 million visitors in 2006.

Taxes and tips

Taxes and services are usually included in hotel and restaurant prices. It is customary to leave a tip for luggage porters in hotels, waiters in restaurants and taxi drivers.

Telephone

To call St. Petersburg from the UK, dial: 00 + 7 + 812 + the 7 digit number. To call the UK from St. Petersburg, dial: 00 + 44 + the number without the initial 0. Useful numbers: 01- Fire department. 02- Police. 03- Emergency ambulance service. Public telephones are operated with tokens or cards that you can buy at the metro counters or from newsstands.

Saint Petersburg and the Northwest : Useful addresses in the country

Before leaving

Russian Embassy
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens
London
W84QP
UK
Tel: +44 207 229 2666
Fax: +44 207 229 5804


At the destination

British Embassy
Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10
Moscow 12 1099
Tel: (7) (495) 956 7200
Fax: (7) (495) 956 7201

Intourist (The official agency for the organization of holidays and cruises.)
Mokhovaia 13
Tel: 292 44 03

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