Survival Guide

Banking Hours

Banks in Russia are generally open from 9 a.m. to 17 p.m., Monday to Friday. All the banks have a standard hour for lunch, which is usually from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. or from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Most banks are closed on Saturday and Sunday, as these days are common days-off in Russia. In most banks in larger cities, like St. Petersburg and Moscow, one can gain access to ATMs, cash traveler's checks and send or receive money. Many Russian banks house Western Union and MoneyGram offices. These popular companies allow you to send or get money very fast.

Credit Cards and Traveler's Checks

Credit cards and traveler's checks are widely accepted only in large cities. However one must remember that Russia is a country, which operates mainly on a cash-only basis. So it-s recommended that you always have some cash in case your card won't be accepted. Moscow, St. Petersburg and other big cities have wide networks of ATMs. To obtain money through automated teller machines won't be a problem. However note that the most popular credit cards in Russia are Visa, MasterCard and EuroCard. We recommend that you withdraw money from the Savings Bank's ATMs as a commission rate is lower than in commercial banks.

Currency

The ruble is the only legal tender in Russian Federation. There are one hundred kopecks for one ruble. This is illegal to pay for goods and services in establishments. But dollars, euros and other hard currencies can be easily exchanged at currency exchange offices. Large cities have wide networks of such offices, and it won-t be a problem to exchange money.

Gratuities/Tipping

Tipping is usually required in restaurants and can be 5-10% of your bill. Do not tip in fast food eateries and cafes. You don-t need to tip hairdressers either (as they do in France or Britain). As a rule, it is not required to tip taxi drivers and tour guides, but you can always tip for a good service whatever it can be if you really like the person and that job he or she does for you.

St Petersburg Metro

St Petersburg has a good system of underground trains connecting all parts of the city. In Russia the subway is called "Metro". The Metro sign (the capital letter M) means that there is the entrance to the metro station. To use metro, one should use a token or a metro pass. You can buy this in a kiosk at metro station. If you intend to use metro often, it is advisable to buy a pass that will often save your time and money using St Petersburg's metro.

At the end of the month, as well as at the beginning and in the midst, there is often a long line of people you wouldn't like to join. So it is better to have some tokens at hand if you going to use metro such busy days. Even if you will not use metro, it is recommended to see it. The metro in St Petersburg is very different from many Western subways. Metro stations often remind of palace halls and have real architectural value.

When to Go

Today Russia’s two largest cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, are of great tourist interest. Late spring to early autumn is high tourist season. During the summer, all hotels increase rates considerably and sometime it’s difficult to find a free room at affordable cost. If a main purpose of your visit is sightseeing and walking through the city, summer is the best time to go though. To avoid crowds, you can also choose late spring and early autumn. Winter can be quite cold, but if you are not afraid of being cold, your trip in winter can be quite fascinating as well. If you like museums and theaters, perhaps, winter will be the best time to visit.

Entry Requirements/Visas

A Russian travel visa is required to enter Russia. There are several types of visa you can apply for, including tourist and business. You can obtain your Russian visa from the Russian Consulate General in your country. Travel agencies can help by issuing tourist invitations. Visa processing takes at least three weeks. To obtain a visa, you will have to submit a visa application form, photos and consulate fees.

Customs Regulations

No customs duty is required for personal use items, including clothing, perfume, sports equipment, and other goods for a total price up to 2,000 USD. You can bring duty-free the following items: 1,000 cigarettes or 1 kg of tobacco products, 1,5l of spirits or 2l of wines, gifts at the total price not more than 10,000 USD. You can also bring your own car for the period of stay in Russia.

It’s advisable to declare all valuable items on your customs form when you pass through customs in Russia. Fill the form with the amount of currency you bring, computer equipments, video equipment, and jewelry. Remember that you cannot take home more than 3,000 USD without special permission. Money in Travelers’ Checks shouldn’t be declared at the Russian customs. Remember that the declaration form should be retained before your departure.

It’s prohibited to import weapons, explosives, narcotics, materials directed against the Russian Federation. One mustn’t import into Russia plants and live animals without special permission.

Cultural valuables (works of arts, precious metals, manuscripts, audio and video archives) cannot be taken out of Russia without permit issued by the Committee of Culture. Most souvenir and gift items don’t fall into this category. Before making a purchase a valuable item in art gallery, ask for all the necessary arrangements and formalities.

Russian customs regulations may change. So we recommend you to contact the Consulate for more information before you go on your trip.

Languages

Russian is an official language of the Russian Federation. Many people speak or study English in St Petersburg, Moscow and other big cities of Russia. You can have problems with communication in smaller towns where people don't speak English much. As of other foreign languages, German and French are most popular. Use English in hotels, large stores, business offices and don't hesitate to speak English in the street if you need something. Most people are friendly to foreigners in St Petersburg and will try to help (even if they don't know a single word in English).

Safety

Perhaps, it is difficult to believe but most Russian cities are much safer than large cities of the USA. Most crimes suffered by tourists in Russia are nonviolent and can be avoided if one will be aware of pitfalls of traveling abroad (not only to Russia, but almost any foreign country).

Electricity

Electricity in Russia is 220 V 50 Hz. The plug-and-socket connection is different from that in the USA. Sockets require a European type plug (two round pins) or a special adapter. If you want your devices work properly, do not forget to take a converter and a plug adapter on your trip to Russia.

Water

Tap water is chemically safe in Russia but it contains elevated level of lead and other elements. So it is not recommended to drink it without boiling. We recommend that you buy a bottled water in supermarkets and use it.

Buses, Trolleybuses, and Trams

Buses, trolleybuses, and trams are widely in use in St Petersburg. These vehicles are the cheapest way to get around. You should buy a ticket from a controller on a bus. Sometime it is quite difficult or almost impossible to get into a bus during peak hours.

Mini buses in St Petersburg

A good alternative to buses and trams is mini-buses that are widely in use in St Petersburg. The network of mini-buses is developed thanks to private owned companies that provide city transportation services. The fare for using mini-buses is just a little more than on regular buses. Mini-buses allow you to travel around the city not using metro as connect the central parts of St Petersburg with its sleeping areas.

St Petersburg Weather

Weather in St Petersburg is quite changeable. It is not as cold as in Siberia in winter but sometime the temperature in January and February can come up to 30 degrees Celsius below zero. As a rule, there are only a few such cold days in the whole season. The average temperature is -10 C. Winters in St Petersburg are snowy with beautiful frozen rivers and bright days. Summer weather varies greatly from year to year. Only one month (July or August) is really hot. The temperature during the summer is about 20-25 degrees Celsius above zero. Rain can be quite unexpected. Warm weather can last till the middle of September.

© 2004-2017 TravelPetersburg.com - St Petersburg Airport Transfers, Private Tours, and Tickets. All rights reserved.