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St-Petersburg: Some useful facts and insights

04.05.2016

St-Petersburg: Some useful facts and insights

Basic data: Russia is the biggest country in the world, covering an area of more than 17 million sq km, of which 13% is developed and 51% is virgin territory. St. Petersburg is in Russia ’s Northwest Federal Region.

Population: Russia 144 million, SPb 4,6 million. Ethnic groups in Russia: Russian 81,5%, Tatar 3,8%, Ukranian 3%, Chuvash 1,2%, Bashkir 0,9%, Belarusian 0,8%, Moldavian 0,7%, other 8,1%.

Local time: Russia has 11 time zones, and St. Petersburg is in the same zone as Moscow: GMT +4 hours.

Electricity: The electrical current in Russia is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Most sockets are standart European size with double round-pin plugs. It makes sense to bring an adapter just in case.

Rivers: The 4,400 km long river Lena in Siberia is Russia's longest river. St. Petersburg ’s river Neva is 74 km long, 32 km of which flow within the city ’s boundaries.

Climate in St. Petersburg: Summer temperatures can vary between about 15 and 30 degrees C or 60 and 85 degrees F. Please also remember your sun screen if you have sensitive skin, as you may well need it for protection against the blazing Northern sun (we are serious!).

Customs: If you don't carry drugs, billions of euros or weapons with you, you do NOT need to complete the Customs and Currency Declaration Statement upon arrival or departure. This applies even if your cabin crew gives you this form. Just collect your luggage and simply go to the GREEN [nothing to declare] channel.

Cash: You can bring in up to 3000 USD in cash without declaring it. ART: Anything resembling art should be cleared before departure at the Ministry of Culture: Malaya Morskayaul., 17. tel: 571 5106.

Money: The national currency is the rouble [Rbl] Banknotes come in denominations of 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000, and there are 1,2,5 and 10 Rbl coins. There are 100 kopeks to every rouble. The value of the rouble changes by the hour, so we give you a rough indication of what you should expect to get for your Western cash: 1€= 34/35 Rbl, 1 USD = 24/25Rbl. Credit-card use is still in its infancy and not all establishments will take them, even if they have signs that say they will. Always have cash as back up! ATMs can be found at most metro stations, banks and large hotels. 


FOREIGNER PRICES: The Foreigner Price is a hangover from the good old days of Intourist-organised Soviet travel. At some theatres and museums, foreigners are required to pay 6 to 20 times more than what Russians pay. These institutions insist that Russian tickets are subsidised and that foreigners pay the real price. This dual-pricing system is operating at most museums, boat trips and even some hotels.

24 hours: One of the good things about Russia is that it is never difficult to find a place to get food or drink, even in the middle of the night, whether it is a simple shop or an expensive nightclub. If you see the 24 sign, it means this place is open around the clock. Even experienced global travellers are astonished at the number of supermarkets and kiosks open all day and night long.

Alcohol: Stereotypes about Russian drinking habits are all true, so if you somehow find yourself enmeshed in a vodka session with locals, don't try to keep up. They've had way more practice. Vodka is cheap and there are oodles of different brands with cool labels to choose from. Russky Standard Vodka is very good. Russian pivo [beer] is good stuff too, which is why Russians consume more beer than any other alcoholic drink. Locally brewed Nevskoye, Baltika and Bochkarev are usually on tap and are mainstay for most Petersburgers.

Restaurants: The restaurants we recommend you are the ones that we have checked ourselves and which we liked. We don't get a free drink from them! Most of them you won't find in the guide-books, as they are too local: Sunduk [Russian food], Granat [Orient and European], Robin-Bobin [Russian], Orient Express [Russian and Georgian], Hermitage [Russian and European], Russian Fishing [Russian], Idiot [Vegetarian Russian], Shinok [Ukranian], Elki-Palki [Russian], Na Zdorovje! [Russian].

Tipping: 10% is average, but it's up to your discretion. Don't feel pressure to tip if the service is atrocious. Some restaurants automatically add on a 10% service-charge, so check your bill first. Tipping in other places [like to hotel staff, guides and drivers, at the cloak-room or WC in the museums] is welcome, as the average salary in Russia is very low.

Health and safety: We recommend that all visitors take the same precautions against crime in Spb as they would in any major city. Violent crime against travelers is rarer. The famed Russian mafia has bigger fish to fry than your average tourist. Like in every big city, pickpockets are a big problem and SPb is unfortunately no exception. Pickpockets often work in professional groups and use tricks to disorient, distract and confuse their victims. Pickpocket places are Nevsky prospect and other busy downtown streets. It can happen in the street, in subway, in the museum, around the coatchecks and during the intermission at theatres. Watch your belongings at internet cafes or any other place where you set your things down.

Russian Drivers are your biggest danger, so cross the road carefully, and don't assume cars will stop just because you are on a zebra crossing.

The city's Water is treated with chlorine to clean it from bacteria, parasites and heavy metals, so you can use it to brush your teeth or wash fruit. For drinking or to make tea, it is better to stick to bottled water, or clean the tap water with a filter and give it a good boil first.

 Museums

Alexander Nevsky, Monastery: www.lavra.spb.ru | Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood, St. Isaac ’s Cathedral: www.cathedral.ru | Great Choir Synagogue: www.jewishpetersburg.ru | Peter and Paul Fortress: www.spbmuseum.ru | Kunstkamera: www.kunstkamara.ru | NavalMuseum: www.museum.navy.ru | Russian Museum: www.rusmuseum.ru | Dostoevsky House: www.md.spb.ru | Nabokov Museum: www.nabokovmuseum.org | Pushkin Museum: www.museumpushkin.ru | Pavlovsk: www.pavlovsk.org | Peterhof: www.peterhof.ru | Pushkin | Tsars ’ Village: www.tzar.ru | Hermitage: www.hermitagemuseum.org | Yusupov ’s Palace: www.yusupov-palace.ru


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